Picture it: on a major artery in Toronto, all the surfaces of the former playspace were paved and terraced to remove the slope. The walls of the building acted as amplifiers of the road noise, rendering the space unsuitable for conversation or quiet play. Our new design celebrated the grade change, shifted to rolling and organic topography and surfaces and maximized tree and shrub cover to buffer noise. We built a visually stimulating solid fence of acrylic panels, blackboards, murals and plant material so the children could see the road but not feel as if their space was dominated by the noise. The result was a drop in decibel levels of 500 percent and a transformation in the children’s behaviour. Teachers’ job satisfaction, program enrolment and academic performance all skyrocketed.
The sand area with the water stump is a great place for sensory engagement, allowing children to dig, mix, scoop and pour. It’s a fantastic spot for exploration, making fun sculptures and creating “sand pies.” It also has a small stump table allowing children to have the choice to stand rather than sit in the sand while playing. There is a mirror mounted on the side of the building for children to watch themselves dig and play. The trees and shrubs transform the space providing shade, mottled light, fragrant breezes, wildlife engagement and loads of loose parts.