Magical Bridge Foundation Visits Hillview Art
Hillview art teacher, Anna Kogan, has had students design playgrounds for middle schoolers in her sixth grade art classes. This year she wanted to expand the unit to include more engineering and math, empathy, and inclusion. A perfect partner to collaborate with in this effort is Magical Bridge Foundation, which is known for its inclusive playground for all ages and all abilities in Palo Alto, and its other inclusive playground construction projects up and down the peninsula. As part of its mission to foster inclusive communities, Magical Bridge Foundation is currently prototyping lessons that combine awareness of inclusion with playground design. One hoped-for outcome of these lessons is that walking students through a classroom simulation of mindfully designing play spaces to meet a wide variety of physical and development challenges will help school communities become more inclusive. Hillview, and sixth grade in particular, is a model school to further this work as its Achieving Independent Minds students works alongside typical peers in class. Sharing a space and collaborating with students with autism makes other students aware of differences and understanding of the variety of ways people use public spaces.
Jay Gluckman, Magical Bridge Foundation’s Director of Education, came to Ms. Kogan’s class to engage the students in a pilot lesson that included overviews of different abilities, medically fragile needs, and awareness that disabilities can’t always be seen. He discussed the different ways to make spaces - quiet spaces for those with Autism or developmental or processing delays, wheelchair transfer stations, swaying and movement areas that can accomodate all children, no use of sand or bark as it can interfere with medical devices. The students put their math skills to work figuring out how long ramps need to be for the desired height as they learned about ADA requirements. Everyone realized how much thought goes into the design of a truly inclusive space.
The students prototyped their playground models including at least one of the design elements that Magical Bridge considers. After prototyping, students presented their models to Mr. Gluckman who gave feedback on the design goals and how the students addressed them. After the initial lesson, students made sturdier models using the scale of 1 foot to one inch and Magical Bridge staff saw full presentations by student designers via video.
Ms. Kogan feels this is a fantastic partnership and that the students are learning a great deal about sculpture, design, engineering, thinking three dimensionally, collaboration, empathy, and inclusion. And sixth graders are still young enough to enjoy playgrounds themselves, so they design with the sense of fun and exploration that all children desire.