From urban jungle to school playground

From urban jungle to school playground

To cope with its growing number of pupils, the primary school of the German School in Lisbon opened a new building in spring 2008 and for head Thomas Strobl it quickly became obvious that the children required an attractive play area. So he turned to the Spacenet Inventors from Corocord. At the start of March 2010 the play landscape, whose multi-coloured ropes were even coordinated with the interior colour scheme of the new school building, was handed over to the children.

Since 2010 the primary school children at the German School in Lisbon have finally been able to really let off steam at break time: after many years with no play space on site for the approximately 200 children in the school’s primary section, this shortcoming was finally remedied following the move to a new school building with larger grounds. The then head Thomas Strobl brought Corocord Raumnetz GmbH on board to provide its services. In the shape of its “Rope Parkour” product line the Berlin-based rope play equipment specialist offers the ideal solution for creating an attractive play space for a large number of children in a limited area. At this school around half of the pupils spend the entire day from 08.00 to 18.00 in the classroom and at the on-site after-school club. This means there is an enormous need for movement that must be well channelled under the intense Portuguese sun.
After a joint planning phase, in March 2010 the Berlin-based Spacenet Inventors from Corocord installed a versatile Climbing Combination consisting of Rope Parkour elements and large Amusement Nets on the playground of the school site newly established two years previously.

Corocord Rope Parkour has evolved as a playful reinterpretation of the trendy French sport “parkour”, the breathtaking obstacle course undertaken by athletic French youths through the urban jungle. With its many innovative elements, this completely new type of rope play structure also spurs the children to try new routes while improving their skills and coordination. It is possible to choose from 14 different elements during the planning of such a play structure, which can then be combined with the Berlin Spacenet manufacture's other modular product lines. In recent years several hundred of these exciting play structures, each one entirely unique, have been developed around the world.

While the real-life “traceur”, as the parkour runner is known by insiders, powers their way across walls, fences and rooftops in a thrilling fashion, in a Corocord Parkour easy-to-grip play ropes, rubber membranes and wooden steps replace the at times seemingly insurmountable steel and cement obstacles. And the similarities between the motion sequences of the older and younger traceurs are often striking. Jumping, balancing, clambering, and running: these are the main motion sequences of a parkour runner. The German School’s children can now practice these movements and emulate the great parkour runners to their hearts’ content on five building blocks from the Corocord Rope Parkour range. On Crossed Ladders and a Climbing Ramp they can enhance their endurance, coordination and fitness, while the Tensegrity, Rope Slalom and Rope Screw elements also help to foster imaginative play and spatial thinking.

These features certainly significantly influenced the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft für Haltungs- und Bewegungsförderung e. V.’s decision to award its “particularly conducive for development” quality seal to Corocord Raumnetz GmbH’s Rope Parkour equipment in 2009. On the playground of the German School in Lisbon these prize-winning Parkour elements have been supplemented and linked with two large Amusement Nets and various Balancing and Hand-over-Hand ropes from the eponymous product family. These form a wonderful extension of the versatile rope play landscape because they both foster dexterity and coordination and satisfy the children's need for movement after long hours in the classroom.
Meanwhile, anyone wishing to rest during break-time and perhaps have a chat with their best friend can take a seat on one of the two Triangular Amusement Nets in the middle of the climbing structure. These tautly-stretched Amusement Nets also serve as places for a breather after a strenuous climbing session. At break-time on the carefully planned school playground there are always lots of children playing on these elements.

To make this spacious climbing structure even more appealing, all the Rope Parkour elements for this project were produced in two colours, which has resulted in the playground becoming a real eye-catcher in sunny Portugal. As a further embellishment several slender trees were also integrated into the play landscape − naturally in close consultation with safety specialists. In just a few years’ time these living “components” will have reached an impressive size and serve as a much-needed source of shade.

A summary of use

More than four years after the new school site opened, deputy head Mrs Gabi Freitas could report that the climbing landscape was a real hit with the primary school children. To obtain a more precise picture, she asked the children at the school herself what they thought of the equipment. And what she discovered is more than satisfactory for all parties:
Many children confirmed that they use the equipment every day and find it very appropriate for their capabilities and needs.
Most said that the equipment was “really good!” or “ok!”
The children praised the effective spatial concept, for example, remarking: “I think it’s good that so many children can play together at the same time.” The versatility and appearance of the climbing equipment also gets the thumbs up: “I like the fact that there are so many things” or “I like the rope and the black mat” are two of the comments reported.

Only the safety requirements that must be satisfied with such a play structure resulted in criticism such as: “I don’t like it that the little stones always go in my shoes.” Since the children’s safety when they play is naturally the priority, an appropriately soft impact attenuating material must be fitted under the apparatus. Unfortunately, this means that small stones are bound to find their way into the children’s shoes.
And “even more” would of course be “even better”: for some of the children another slide or swing would be very welcome. The limited available area on such a playground unfortunately means that it isn’t possible to satisfy all children’s typical expectations of a playground straightaway. Nonetheless, all parties and observers can ultimately agree on one thing: the children can certainly really let off steam in the rope play landscape. And the fact that children are also improving their dexterity and coordination without even noticing that they are being encouraged to learn even during break-time is sure to bring a satisfied smile to the face of every teacher.

Photos: CConan, Johannes Zappe, Corocord
Text: Corocord Raumnetz GmbH

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