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Youth Participation in Playground Design

Involving youth in the playground design process not only empowers them, but also results in a design that’s more meaningful. Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun! This course will discuss the benefits of youth participation in playground design for the project, the youth themselves, and the community at large. We’ll also introduce a range of tactics and exercises for involving children of all ages in different stages of the design process.

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

Describe how involving youth in the playground design process enhances the project and builds human and social capital.
Pinpoint tactics that can be used to orchestrate a rewarding youth engagement process.
Identify suitable youth participation activities, based on the design phase and age group of the participants.

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About this course

What will I learn?

When designing a playground, it’s important to consider the needs of multiple stakeholders. This includes the end customer, the larger community, and any contractors involved in the project. But what about the needs of kids? After all, they’re the ones actually playing on the playground. So, it’s important to get their feedback too.

In this course, Katherine Melcher of the University of Georgia will highlight the factors that matter most to kids when designing a playground. In addition, she’ll provide you with several strategies for engaging youth in each phase of your project.

  • Phase 1 (Envision): Get children to draw or write what their ideal playground looks like. Also, give children a map of the current playground site and get them to mark what they like and dislike.
  • Phase 2 (Co-Design): Provide 2D cut-outs or 3D models of the equipment in your proposed design. Get children to select what equipment they like, and place it where they think it would best fit.
  • Phase 3 (Evaluate and Strategize): Provide multiple design options for your playground. Have children rank each option and point out what they like and dislike. Then, create a final design option based on their feedback.
  • Phase 4 (Plan and Build): Integrate art projects into your playground that kids can participate in, like sculptures and murals. Also, schedule “build days” where children can work alongside the installation crew.

Who is my instructor?

Katherine Melcher serves as an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia’s College of Environment and Design. There, she teaches courses on participatory design, social theory and design, healthy places, and urban design. Her research primarily focuses on two areas: landscape architecture theory and the social aspects of design. In particular, Melcher is enthusiastic about actively involving communities in the design process.

Melcher’s academic contributions can be found in several accredited publications such as Landscape Journal, Landscape Review, Landscape Research Record, Town Planning Review, The Plan Journal, and New Geographies. Her 2018 research paper “Three Moments in Aesthetic Discourse” was honored with the Outstanding Paper Award from the Council of Educators of Landscape Architecture.

Melcher also possesses a license as a landscape architect, boasting over 15 years’ experience with community-driven development projects. In her role as a practitioner, she has collaborated extensively with community groups across various sectors including private companies, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.

Melcher’s work has taken her to diverse locations such as Togo (West Africa) and Thailand (Southeast Asia). In addition, she has also helped local communities in North America, including San Diego and Oakland, CA. At UGA, she leverages this experience to lead service learning studios, design-build courses, and lectures that explore society’s interaction with design.

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.
Katherine Melcher, course instructor for "Youth Participation in Playground Design."

Katherine Melcher

Associate Professor, University of Georgia

Katherine Melcher is an Associate Professor at the University of Georgia, where she teaches courses on social theory and urban design. She is also a licensed landscape architect whose work focuses on the interaction between design and community needs.

More Courses?

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