Most of our efforts to construct swing sets and other playground equipment in isolated locations around the world have revolved around fabricating and installing new equipment. But I think it’s time to start looking at additional approaches including: fabricating with used and recyclable parts (including old tires), repairing and adding to existing installations, and using more eco-friendly construction materials.
Recently, I drove by the storage yard for the White Mesa Band, Ute Mountain Utes, whose reservation is located just south of Blanding UT. They had some interesting abandoned playground equipment stacked in their yard including:
- a toy backhoe-like shovel,
- the frame for a stationary toy car,
- dome-shaped devices for climbing, and
- a metal climbing ladder
The White Mesa Utes donated these and other items to our outdoor playground cause.
At a church near Holiday Mesa (near Monument Valley), there was a cheaply-made, broken-down swing set. Some parts were salvageable. One day, someone in the Blanding UT area dropped off some interesting large plastic cubes that are probably the remains of some past playground area. South of Bluff, there is an abandoned day-care center with a collection of small-fry playground fixtures. In many areas of the developing world, stacks of old tires are a disposal nuisance and eyesore. Old tires have many possible applications for playgrounds.
In addition, new ideas for playground equipment need to be developed. For example, in areas like Africa and The Navajo Nation where sun exposure is a serious issue, the feasibility of installing mesh or vinyl shade coverings needs to be investigated. In Africa near the equator (where the days and nights are of equal length), the possibility of using solar-powered lighting needs to be explored.
Another area that needs to be pursued is the adding of cultural features to playground areas. For example, in The Navajo Nation it might be fun to add items that are inspired by the shapes and features of hogans and shade huts. In Africa, native structures could also be inspirations.