Park of Joy
A cost-effective upcycled playground for children!
Park of Joy is a playground built using recycled tires and scrap for children in a rural school in Tamil Nadu. The entire project was completed in less than $350 by leveraging local community resources and mobilizing volunteers. The project was implemented on the tenets of Participatory Design where the stakeholders were involved in every phase of the design process. The community members of the school, especially the children, played a significant role in choosing the playground designs, and collecting the necessary material, even during the construction. Currently, the park is being used by more than 150 children every day.
I served as the Designer and the Project Manager for building the playground from scratch.
Jan 2019 - Mar 2019
Infant Jesus MHSS, Kalpakkam
While play is an integral part of childhood that facilitates multifaceted development in children, the school lacked safe playing spaces for children to explore active and creative play. The school is attended by around 500 rural children from ages 4 to 10. Given the low-income nature of the community, the school couldn’t afford the resources to construct a full-fledged playground.
The process started with open exploratory research and stakeholder interviews to learn about the various possible solutions for constructing a playground. Through the research, it was identified that while the community lacked the financial resources to hire a third-party contractor to construct a playground, it was rich in social capital. The explorations proceeded with the goal to leverage the resources within the community itself to construct the playground.
Based on the exploration, the following strengths were identified:
Strong community support
Open knowledge resources
Easy access to tires & scrap
The members of the school community were involved in the design process right from the inception of the project to ensure collective ownership throughout the process. The designs for the play equipment were designed in consultation with the students, teachers, and based on the availability of the resources. The students and the parents were then actively engaged in collecting the resources such as tires for the project. Majority of the resources were contributed by the community members themselves as donations.
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The community played a significant role in the construction of the playground. The students, teachers, and parents were all a part of the construction process. The students were involved in painting the tires and the play equipment. The teachers and parents were involved in the construction of the play equipment. The community members were also involved in the construction of the park by painting the walls and the play equipment. The community members were also involved in the construction of the park by painting the walls and the play equipment.
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Park of Joy
The efforts of the community resulted in the Park of Joy. Currently, the park is being used by more than 150 children every day.
By the Community. For the Community.
The park is now entirely maintained by the community. Students enhanced the park further by planting trees and growing a garden.
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Cheerful Wall Arts
Most of the artworks painted on the wall were conceptualized by the students and the volunteers together on the spot.
The park is also incorporated with simple educational concepts to signify the importance of learning even through the process of play.
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Fun Play Structures
All the play structures were designed to facilitate open and exploratory play. Children keep creating their own games around the play structures all the time.
The park is now used by over 150 children everyday for safe and engaging play. The project also got covered in SportsDev.org.
Before & After (Drag the slider to see the difference)
Play in progress
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The project resulted in several important learnings that I always look back upon.
Power of communities
Communities can be extremely powerful. Leveraging the power of the community can result in phenomenal results especially in financially under-resourced settings.
Importance of team morale
Apart from two volunteers, none of us had never engaged in a large-scale painting project. Despite the uncertainties, nobody ever got demotivated because the team morale was always high. Sharing few words of timely appreciation to the team members can do magic to their morale.
Knowledge is distributed
The most important learning from this project is that knowledge is distributed and the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Making the whole process participatory made design approach more robust by bringing very unique ideas to the table from different members in the community.