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Combatting Trauma with Playful Spaces

Every child is entitled to prosper, engage in play, and flourish in a secure environment. However, our society is riddled with places, emotional strains, and even global health crises (i.e. COVID-19) that jeopardize these safe havens. Children who have been subjected to traumatic events need thoughtfully crafted play spaces to mitigate the effects of these adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

The area of trauma-informed design is a burgeoning field that aims to meet the environmental and psychological needs of those who have experienced trauma. The discussions in this course will concentrate on design elements that can assist this group in overcoming their obstacles and thriving.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to:

Outline the extent, nature, and influence of trauma on children in today’s society.
Explore the principles of trauma-informed design for outdoor play spaces, which aid in combatting the harmful effects of ACEs.
Present real-life designs that foster physical, psychological, cognitive, and social development for children who have experienced trauma.

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About this course

What will I learn?

Trauma is a series of events, or set of circumstances, that has a long-lasting impact on a child’s well-being. It can be caused by various factors, such as death, homelessness, abuse, or bullying. As designers, we must consider children who have experienced trauma when designing our playgrounds. By doing so, we can have a positive impact on combatting their trauma.

In this course, Chad Kennedy of O’Dell Engineering describes the impact of trauma on children in our current society. In addition, he outlines how you can transform outdoor spaces into a therapeutic and healing escape from trauma.

  • Spaces that Encourage a Sense of Safety: Quiet spaces, like crawl tunnels, gives children a place of refuge from physical play. In addition, fencing sets a safe boundary for kids to play in.
  • Spaces that Encourage Self Empowerment: Cause and effect activities, like play panels, makes kids feel accomplished. They are in control of their own play and decide what to do next.
  • Spaces that Encourage Social Behaviors: Places on the playground that encourage kids to do activities together. Examples include wide bed slides, game boards, or picnic areas.
  • Spaces that Encourage Stress Management: Engaging multiple sensory systems helps to relieve and remove stress. Also, using simple designs and calm colors can help manage stress.
  • Spaces that Encourage Nature/Restoration: Items in the natural environment, like leaves and rocks, that kids can manipulate. In turn, they gain an appreciation for their surroundings.

Who is my instructor?

Chad Kennedy possesses over two decades of experience in the landscape architecture industry. He is a licensed landscape architect, ISA certified arborist, NRPA certified playground safety inspector, and LEED accredited professional. He is the Principal Landscape Architect for O’Dell Engineering, a design firm that supports public and private development projects in Northern California.

Chad has worked with a variety of public agencies in the states of California and Utah, designing and overseeing countless community improvement projects. This includes everything from parks and playgrounds to recreational facilities and transportation systems. He has also helped numerous municipal and federal governments create construction document packages.

In addition to his responsibilities at O’Dell Engineering, Chad is also an active member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Currently, he serves as the society’s representative for the San Joaquin area. He is a former Landscape Designer for the Center for Persons with Disabilities, having worked on several inclusive and accessible projects.

Chad’s first-hand knowledge in the horticulture and arborist fields lends him a unique perspective of urban development projects. He has a deep understanding of the maintenance levels for a variety of plant types, including the best ones to use in harsh urban settings. In every project Chad is involved in, he is focused on making a positive impact on the community through inclusive and sustainable design principles.

Who is this course for?

The great thing about our courses is that they’re designed for all levels of experience. Whether you’re a parent on a PAC planning your first playground, or a landscape architect with decades of experience, there’s always something new to learn. Plus, our courses offer a quick way to stay up to date with the most recent trends in playground design.

Our courses take into account multiple groups and audiences, all of whom have different needs for their playground. A few groups that will benefit from taking our courses include:

  • Parents: Parent volunteers will learn the most important aspects to consider when planning their playground project.
  • Teachers: Teachers will learn about the educational benefits of play and how to incorporate them on the playground.
  • Landscape Architects: Architects will learn innovative design ideas that they may use in their upcoming projects.
  • Parks & Recreation: Parks professionals will learn about recent advances in safety, inclusion, and sustainability.
  • Property Managers: Property managers will learn how playgrounds can attract families to live in their neighbourhood.
Chad Kennedy, course instructor for "Combatting Trauma with Playful Spaces."

Chad Kennedy

Principal Landscape Architect, O'Dell Engineering

Chad Kennedy is the Principal Landscape Architect for O'Dell Engineering, a design firm that promotes wellness and sensitivity to children's developmental needs. He holds a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from Utah State University.

More Courses?

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