By Pop-Ups Morgan

Every adventure playground is unique. There are definitely trends across them – longtime fans will recognize patterns of handmade wooden constructions, enthusiastically painted. More mud than grass. Weird trash, emerging from the landscape. Often a fringe of tall grasses or overgrown greenery, attraction wildlife and worrying the neighbors. But one important indicator of quality is a particular feeling of ‘otherness’. The very best APs feel like no other place on earth.

We’ve been honored to have helped grow the US adventure playground/playwork movement since 2010. That movement depends deeply upon work in the UK, particularly through texts such as the Playwork Primer (funded by the US-based Alliance for Childhood, and written by Penny Wilson in East London). Both Suzanna and I are UK-trained and Suzanna is still based in the UK. Those roots go deep, which is why we’ve always brought over Brits we love to the Playwork Campference (including Prof. Fraser Brown, Ali Wood, Simon Rix, Chris Martin, Laura Walsh just to name a few).

The US national scene is very different today than during our 2014 tour, and we’re humbled by the thoughtful, deliberate, innovative practice we’ve seen taking shape in this country. We have been honored to have worked with so many people hosting pop-ups, starting sites, growing projects, showing up every day to actually do the work of supporting children’s play. Now, with enormous excitement, we’re announcing a new way of helping that movement flourish.

The Playwork Collective is a new gathering of founding senior playworkers from our favorite adventure playgrounds coast to coast! Together, we’ll be sharing resources to help each develop as a unique site of best practice, and hub for playwork training. More broadly, we want to be gathering stories and resources from amazing practitioners, and sharing that information widely. Together, we want to enrich and grow this incredible approach and community.

You might know member sites from the Prioritizing Play Conference 2018, media, TV and print publicity, or from Campferences 2017 and 2019. We’ve worked with these folks for years, helping to knit them together with one another and great playworkers and advocates such as Alex Cote (who is also now coming aboard!). They are:

  • Jill Wood of Adventure Play at The Parish School in Houston, Texas; and also of Bayou City Play based in Houston too.
  • Yoni Kallai of The Yard on Governors Island, New York hosted by play:ground
  • Kelsey Langley of KOOP Adventure Play in Champaign, Illinois
  • Erica and Jeremiah Dockray of Eureka Villa Adventure Playground in Santa Clarita, California

At Pop-Up Adventure Play, we support playworkers. That means listening to what they need and want, and the opportunities they identify for transformative practice in their communities. More than ever, site seniors have been telling us they need coordinated efforts to hold the core of what makes this approach unique – to share resources, staff and best practice as it evolves. Together, we made so many plans that (of course) COVID has now turned upside down! Many things are looking different now, and we don’t know what the future will bring. One thing that’s the same though, is our desire to support every single playworker, student and play advocate, wherever you are, whatever your place on this journey. As we’ve said a thousand times, no one can do this work alone.

Our first Collective event is this Friday with a live online panel talking about playworking online. We’ll learn about one to one efforts, video play prompts, and an adventure playground on Minecraft.

Playworking Online Panel – this Friday, 5th June at 8:30pm GMT / 3:30pm EST / 12:30pm PDT. The room will be open for mingling 15 minutes before the session begins.

If you have questions but can’t make it, please email us so we can ask the experts! Sign up here and get the Zoom link, access to a recording available after and be connected with the Collective. What resources do you need, to feel more supported and connected in this community? Whatever your current engagement with children or playwork, we want to hear from you!