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15.10.2016 - Ausgabe: 5/2016

Playing and moving at a refugee camp in Berlin


Playing promotes education and helps children to develop their personality and to overcome socio-cultural limitations.

The German Workers' Samaritan Association (Arbeitersamariterbund), an operator of emergency shelters for refugees in Berlin, has asked the company Ulrich Paulig & Co. merry go round OHG to create a concept of game and activity offerings for children and adults from different countries. The special challenge of this project was that all devices – tailored to the different needs of the residents – had to be installed onto a paved court with an underground basement structure beneath, while at the same time the system had to be moveable in case of emergency. The mobility aspect was important because in the very probable case of having to change locations the play facilities should also be moved to and installed in the new refugee camp. Taking into account the idea of inclusion, the objectives of the project were to bring the residents outdoors by offering a manifold portfolio of games and physical activities, to encourage them to play, practise some physical exercise and have fun together. Motoric movement processes were also to be considered and integrated in the game objects.

The sealed and barrack-like courtyard of the camp offers not a single green spot. Originally, it was clearly not intended to serve as a leisure venue. Nevertheless, for the current residents it is the only place to stay outdoors, especially as it is to be expected that newly arrived and often traumatised refugees will, at least at the beginning, be hesitant to leave the camp and go and discover its surroundings or use the offerings provided outside.

The idea of the concept is to offer a diverse and attractive leisure portfolio through the installation of temporary and complementary playing and movement platforms. Merry go round has gained intensive experience in this field over the past 15 years by creating individual and complete solutions and both unique large and small play and movement systems. Hence, a modular platform system with different functions and designs was created. The modular system contains recreation platforms, movement platforms and motoric and balancing platforms, each of them having a basic size of 5 x 2 metres.

The ABC wooden pole platform consists of a labyrinth of wooden poles fixed at different distances for the users to run through. The complex arrangement of these poles offers both narrow or wide paths through the platform labyrinth. Small children can use different ways through the wooden poles from those that bigger children or adults would, because due to their physical dimensions the latter would not fit through the often narrow courses. Here again, the idea of inclusion has been taken into account. Every wooden pole displays one letter of the alphabet. The letters are fixed to different parts of the poles so that the person playing there must find the hidden letter. Thus the alphabet can be learned playfully and names and terms may be created by running through the labyrinth. Regardless of whether this game is played alone or in groups, it is always fun and can be played by people of nearly every age while at the same time it creates joy and promotes communication.

Playing on the balance platform with its hanging and wobbling boards of different shapes and difficulty levels will improve the motoric skills. Both is possible, playing alone on the suspended boards or with others and have fun playing together.

The motoric movement platform offers a chaos path, 100 footprints, wooden trails and oblique worlds as well as precision handrails. On this platform, it is especially the cognitive abilities that can be improved.

The game platform consists of climbing and balancing elements. The so called step-through elements are meant to invite people to pass through narrow openings, but in a controlled and motor-abilities demanding way. The flow of the game is of highly stimulating character.

A colourful platform with some stools, two big table tops and two benches on it, invites the users to meet there and just relax. As a meeting point for both old and young players and spectators it rounds off the mobile playing concept.



In the context of a similar project, two of 350 existing mobile playgrounds in Germany, namely "Welcoming Culture by Playing" and “Play-Mobiles for Refugee Camps"- have recently been installed at the emergency shelter in Smetanastraße 31 in Berlin.  "For children, playing is the key to the world", says Berlin's State Secretary, Dr. Ralf Kleindiek. "Playing promotes education and helps children to develop their personality and to overcome socio-cultural limitations". Every child has the right to play. Children need protected open spaces to exercise this right, especially the children from refugee camps.

The modular system developed by merry go round covers all requirements a modern and inclusive playground system should meet. The concept is a high- quality contribution to the integration and inclusion of disadvantaged vulnerable population groups and proves the statement of the State Secretary: Playing helps children to overcome their limitations.



Picture: Ulrich Paulig & Co merry go round OHG

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