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Community Engagement: A Case Study

Kids Cove, a cherished local playground in Marquette, MI, showed distinct signs of decay after serving two generations. Recognizing the need for an updated, inclusive playground, a team of volunteers stepped up. They secured the backing of the city, on the condition that they take the lead on fundraising and organizing. In under 20 months, the team hired a landscape architect, rallied community support, and designed the playground with feedback from key stakeholder groups.

All in all, they amassed over $1 million for this undertaking! So, what’s their secret? In this course, Mara Kaplan will interview three community members from the volunteer team. She’ll discover how they accomplished their goals, how they utilized crowdfunding in their campaign, and the important role that the landscape architect played in the success of the project.

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

Explain how a landscape architect can assist the community in gathering feedback from diverse stakeholder groups.
Recognize the advantages and disadvantages of embarking on a high-value project in a small community with a 26% poverty rate.
Pinpoint various apps, programs, and concepts that can help engage the community in the project.

We promise to NEVER misuse your email. On occasion, we’ll send a little fun to your inbox to break up those work emails. Exciting things like design tips, funding resources, upcoming events, and more! In addition, enter your email once and you’ll gain access to our full collection of course videos.

About this course

What will I learn?

Kids Cove was an outstanding community endeavor completed in the summer of 1996. Parents came out with hammers in hand to build a playground for their children. However, after serving Marquette for over 25 years, Kids Cove became outdated and unsafe. Recognizing the need for a new playground, the community set their sights on fundraising an all-inclusive park.

In this course, Nheena Ittner of the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum describes how she assembled a team of volunteers to fundraise Kids Cove. In addition, she outlines eight distinct play zones that sets Kids Cove apart from other playgrounds.

  1. Toddler Zone: Ground level activities, like tunnels and playhouses, allow toddlers to engage their imaginations.
  2. Quiet Zone: A secluded space nestled in nature where kids can play with multiple sensory and manipulative objects.
  3. Proprioceptive Zone: Freestanding climbers and an in-ground trampoline develops kids’ body awareness.
  4. Spinning Zone: This zone includes wheelchair accessible spinners, allowing all kids to feel the thrill of motion play.
  5. Swing Zone: A mix of belt seats, toddler seats, and inclusive seats lets kids of all abilities swing together.
  6. Climbing Zone: This zone features a range of climbers at different skill levels for toddlers, youth, and teenagers.
  7. Music/Free Play Zone: Children are free to play their favorite songs, or create brand new compositions.
  8. Hill Zone: Race down the group of embankment slides, or read your favorite book at the seating area.

Who is my instructor?

Nheena Ittner is the former Director of the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum in Marquette, MI. The UP Children’s Museum provides cultural and educational exhibits for children aged 1-13, and also hosts special performances and programs. Nheena founded the Museum in 1992 and served as its Director until her retirement in 2022.

From 1977 to 1987, Nheena worked as an art teacher at Dundee Elementary School and Ishpeming High School. During this time, she came up with the idea of opening a children’s museum in Marquette after seeing a lack of after school programs. She then went to work writing various business plans and presenting them to interested members of the community.

In the early 1990s, Nheena received non-profit status for the UP Children’s Museum project. In addition, she received a planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which allowed her to purchase an old storage building. With funding and a location secured, Nheena started developing the Museum itself.

To do so, Nheena invited local children to give their input of what they’d like to see in the Museum. After several years of planning, the Museum finally opened to the public in 1997. Almost 30 years later, the UP Children’s Museum is still a Marquette institution, providing a fun educational experience for generations of children.

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.
Nheena Ittner, course instructor for "Community Engagement: A Case Study."

Nheena Ittner

Director, Upper Peninsula Children's Museum

Nheena Ittner is the Director of the Upper Peninsula Children's Museum in Marquette, MI. The museum offers cultural and educational programs for children aged 1-13. It also hosts special performances that reflect the diverse history of the area.

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