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Building Playgrounds, Engaging Communities

Creating Safe and Happy Places for Children

Marybeth Lima

Publication Year: 2013

We accomplish extraordinary things when we do ordinary things together. This heartfelt and hopeful conviction led LSU professor Marybeth Lima to begin the LSU Community Playground Project in an attempt to involve her students in the larger Baton Rouge community. Fifteen years and over seven hundred students later, Building Playgrounds, Engaging Communities tells the story of the Playground Project’s ongoing partnership with area public schools to build safe, fun, accessible, kid-designed playgrounds. Lima’s experiences with the Playground Project range from outright failures to hard-won victories. Overcoming the challenges of working with scarce resources, Lima persevered despite many setbacks. Her accounts brim with hope, humor, and dedication. Building Playgrounds, Engaging Communities emphasizes the major impact people can have when they work together for the common good—whether by building playgrounds, establishing neighborhood gardens, or having honest, respectful conversations. To this end, Lima provides an appendix with practical advice for local engagement. People wanting to get involved in their communities can use this book as a road map; those active in long-term endeavors can draw on it for ideas and inspiration.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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p. vii-vii

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pp. ix-x

I am a professor in biological and agricultural engineering at Louisiana State University, and I have the best job on the planet. I came to Louisiana in the fall of 1996, in the middle of a U.S. Senate race that pitted Mary Landrieu against Woody Jenkins. The charged campaign, narrow victory by Landrieu, and ensuing furor ...

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1. How to Fit a Playground through the Back Door

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pp. 1-17

My heart pounded in my throat, and I could feel the blood rushing through my ears. The twelve laughing children were suspended in air, defying gravity as they gripped the steering wheel and railings of the model fire truck, which balanced precariously at a 45-degree angle from the ground. “Turn!” the leader ...

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2. You Can’t Make a Playground Gumbo without the Ladies

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pp. 18-35

The secret to good playground design—and really any kind of design—is knowing, understanding, and embracing the people who will use it. The true experts in play are children; the true experts in the community that the playground will serve are the members of the community. Experts in playground ...

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3. Playgrounds Rule and Playground Rules

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pp. 36-59

Everyone knows the basic rules of playgrounds, which go something like, “Wait your turn, listen to your adult caregiver, and don’t bully anyone.” There are of course more detailed rules, and plenty of important information about playground safety that many adults should and don’t know. Some of this information ...

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4. Triumphing over Murphy’s Law on Steroids

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pp. 60-87

The playground collaboration between Howell Park Elementary School and the LSU Community Playground Project tested my mettle like no playground ever has. This project bludgeoned my will, laid bare my lack of patience, and almost broke my heart. As always, the partnership itself was inspiring, but ...

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5. Community Stone Soup: Breaking the Myth of “Broken” Schools

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pp. 88-105

“How do you define community?” I was once asked this question in a job interview. I gave a straightforward answer—something along the lines of being united in mutual respect and working together for the common good—but I’ve thought about the definition of community ...

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Illustrations [Image Plates]

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pp. 119-132

Pages are unnumbered

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6. A Brief Survival Guide for Community Engagement Marathons

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pp. 106-131

One’s perspective changes when engaged in a community pursuit for a long time. My involvement in community has shifted over a period of years as I’ve worked to integrate my professional and personal interests, but now it is focused with laserlike intensity. Playgrounds are so much a part of my everyday life ...

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7. Getting Involved: Advice from Community Fire Plugs

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pp. 132-153

Welcome! Whether you plan to spend a total of two hours engaged with your community, or two hours a week for the rest of your life, your contribution is necessary, important, and appreciated. Becoming an engaged citizen can be a critically important way to address community issues and to serve ...

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pp. 154-158

The LSU Community Playground Project is still making forward progress on our quest to provide children with safe, fun, accessible playgrounds. On our seventh try for funding, we received a $10,000 grant for the White Hills Elementary playground from the Cogburn Family Foundation, and we recently found ...

Appendix 1: Information on Playground Safety

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pp. 159-165

Appendix 2: Volunteer Organizations

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pp. 166-168

Note on Sources

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pp. 169-173

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pp. 175-180

First and foremost, I acknowledge all the community partners and community members with whom I have had the privilege of collaborating to design and build playgrounds. Thanks especially to all the former and current students, faculty, and administration in the East Baton Rouge Parish Public School ...


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pp. 181-185

E-ISBN-13: 9780807149812
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807149805

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2013