Research Summary

Playground development in Papua New Guinea: Creating new play, learning and research environments

A new, culturally appropriate and locally-sourced playground provides a safe, stimulating environment for play, learning and research

Children, Youth and Environments
2016

This field report describes the activities involved in planning and developing a playground for a primary school on the campus of a university in Papua New Guinea. Also discussed in this report are some of the beneficial outcomes of this project for children, teachers, families, and others in the community.

From the beginning, all stakeholders including children, parents, teachers (both in-service and pre-service) and skilled local tradespeople were encouraged to contribute to the project. The process included pre-playground development consultation meetings involving the school, the university, and the community. Parents and teachers participating in focus groups provided input for playground design. While they offered ideas on what they considered important for stimulating play, they also shared concerns they had regarding physical safety and shade. Children, too, were asked to provide input for the new playground. Their ideas focused on what they wanted for games they enjoyed and for new equipment such as a tunnel, sand pit, water, and a slide.

Multiple partnerships and wide community engagement helped in the creation of this playground. Contributions from the community included an indigenous thatched house constructed by local tradespeople and garden beds developed by local gardeners and cared for by neighbors. The entire playground was made from local materials, including recycled materials from the university.

Initial observations indicate that developing the playground not only created a safe and stimulating place for children to play, but a vibrant community hub, as well. The wider community makes frequent use of the playground, including a once-a-week playgroup for preschoolers.

Early findings indicate that since the introduction of the playground, some children are attending school more frequently and – as reported by the teachers -- are more engaged in class. Additionally, teachers indicate that they themselves are becoming more appreciative of the potential of the playground for both informal and formal learning. They’ve expressed interest in integrating playground activities into curriculum topics and removed the “no play” rule at recess. Some of the pre-service teachers who assisted in constructing the playground have volunteered to conduct monthly observations of children’s behavior as a part of ongoing research. These findings offer support for establishing local community partnerships and using locally sourced materials in creating playgrounds that can provide safe, culturally appropriate and stimulating environments for children while also serving as community hubs.