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17.02.2021 - Ausgabe: 1/2021

More than fresh air and exercise - new playground equipment for the Travemünde City School

© Berliner Seilfabrik GmbH & Co.

"We look for treasures, find them and preserve them". This guiding principle is the main focus of the educational concept of the Travemünde City School in Lübeck, which is shaped by the idea that every pupil harbours a talent, a treasure that needs to be explored and nurtured. The Lübeck primary school, which caters for pupils of grades one to four, wants to accompany, support, encourage and challenge its pupils in such a way that they develop themselves into independent learners and critical thinkers. The school focuses on quality both during lessons and also outside school hours. 

"The children of our time spend most of their waking hours in an educational context. Here, the actual measurable time in minutes and hours is not always accurate - albeit that is also true for over 50 per cent of the student body in Travemünde," explains Michael Cordes, headmaster of the Travemünde City School. "It is rather about the concentration, energy and endeavour that the children put in during the course of a day, the effort of which mostly takes place at school. For this reason, today more than ever, school is also an important living space that needs to be shaped responsibly." 

This idea is also reflected in the redesign of the schoolyard, which in future should be considered a play yard, learning yard, gymnastics yard, event yard as well as an attractive offline meeting place. 

In the area of playground equipment, the decision was made for a combination of a seven-metre-high play and climbing tower with slide and a Trii tree house from the Berlin based company Berliner Seilfabrik. In addition, the two pieces of play equipment are equipped with the add-on elements of a slide bar and the rotating play point Duck Jibe, on which a figure from surfing can be recreated. This provides the pupils with a wide range of different forms of physical activity such as climbing, sliding, hand-over-hand, jumping or spinning. 

The highlight of the climbing tower is a three-dimensional climbing net made of ropes that is stretched inside an external steel scaffolding. As space nets offer enough space for many children playing there at the same time, they are perfect for schoolyards. Besides, playing together in the space net promotes the social behaviour of the pupils by inevitably leading to interactions. Climbing in a three-dimensional space also trains the children's psychomotor skills and three-dimensional imagination, which, inter alia, has a positive effect on mathematics lessons. On a neuronal level, the same wiring patterns are stimulated in the brain that are also needed for three-dimensional arithmetic. 

"When we redesigned the schoolyard, it was about more than just fresh air and exercise," says Michael Cordes. "It was important to us that there are spaces that objectively have a low potential for danger, but in which pupils can experience a subjective sense of danger through play, in order to learn something about their own competence and risk assessment. This helps us to cope with the ups and downs of life because we get used to our fears and how to deal with them through risky play. 

Research in this area suggests that risky play may even protect against anxiety disorders. Gordon Burghardt of the University of Tennessee, for example, stated: "If we protect children from every conceivable danger, they become less resilient and don't know how to help themselves." 

A climbing tower like the DNA Tower with a three-dimensional climbing net provides the perfect space to gain experience about one's own risk assessment in a safe environment. "This DNA Tower is just over seven metres high. Of course, it looks dangerous at first when you look through the meshes from above," says Karl Köhler, managing partner at Berliner Seilfabrik. "But that's exactly what makes the risk visible to the user and allows them to consciously behave in a more cautious way." 

It is therefore a paradox: a dangerous-looking piece of play equipment influences the user's behaviour in such a way that the risk of serious injury is contained. Since a child climbing in a space net is always forced to look for at least three back-up points in order to advance, it can be assumed that the security level is comparatively higher than, for example, when standing freely on a surface. Furthermore, due to the adherence to a certain mesh size, it is not possible to fall lower than 1.53 metres and this despite the fact that it is possible to climb to a height of more than six metres, which definitely demands courage from the children. 

The Trii house connected to the climbing tower can be reached either via the wobbly bridge from the DNA Tower or via an access net. While the space net and the add-on elements encourage a wide variety of forms of physical activity, the pupils find space for role play and recreation in the Trii. It provides a place of retreat for the children and thus meets an important requirement related to the new playground of this Lübeck school.  

In addition to the numerous opportunities for physical activity and recreation, which are beneficial for the children on different levels, it was also the design which was decisive for the choice of the equipment. "We wanted playground equipment that would invite to various creative interpretations in free play and have deliberately refrained from restrictive playground equipment such as pirate ships or the like, whose outer form already deprives the player of many play options," says Michael Cordes. It is the abstract shape of the DNA Tower in combination with the Trii playhouse which leaves exactly this room for creative freedom. Sometimes the play equipment might be a castle with a bridge and a lookout tower, some other time it might be a pirate ship or a space shuttle. The decisive factor, however, is that the children are allowed to develop their own play ideas. 

Regarding the choice of colours, which resulted in blue and red pipes, silver-coloured rope as well as red façade elements, the close coordination with the school building behind is striking. In particular, the blue colour of the thicker pipes creates a visual connection to the blue school building. 

However, the best proof that the Travemünde City School has made a good decision in choosing its playground equipment is given when looking at the faces of the schoolchildren during the opening event: because this is what enthusiasm looks like. 

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