Feature Article - November 2011
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Finding the Way to Fun

Big Ideas to Help Create Your Superior Playground

By Jessica Royer Ocken

The Queenie Slide at Candy Cane Playground         

Ask anyone in Regina, Saskatchewan, who Queenie is, and they're bound to give you a smile. Queenie is—or was, actually—a Canada Goose who, along with her mate Hiawatha, was presented to Wascana Centre (the local park system) in the 1950s to begin a bird sanctuary. Most of the geese in the area today are this couple's descendants.

This historical tale is popular in the community, and a wooden Queenie-shaped slide, created by a local artist, had been a fixture at Candy Cane Playground for decades. However, over the years, the Canadian weather wore away at Queenie, and she was finally unable to be repaired. "Our old goose play element became an icon," said C.K. (Ken) Dockham, FCSLA ASLA, who is a landscape architect and director of operations for Wascana Centre. "We knew without a doubt that we needed to replace her with a new and improved version—longer lasting, better looking, more challenging and safer. We soon learned that there were no options for meeting these goals other than finding someone to custom create her to our basic specifications."

So, as part of an overall upgrade to the playground, Wascana Centre commissioned a Minnesota-based playground firm to imagine and create a brand-new version of the Queenie slide. After months of design and fabrication work, Queenie flew north and arrived at her new home in winter 2010. However, she had to wait for the warmth of spring to take up residence on her nest in the park. Queenie was finally installed and opened to the public in summer 2011.

She is 12.5 feet tall and almost 29 feet long. Her wingspan is just over 21 feet, and she now features four different slides (one is a 12-foot tunnel!), as well as several eggs in her nest, a secret entrance and an assortment of critters for sharp-eyed kids to find. Dockham said it's difficult to gauge exactly the effect Queenie has had on playground use, because the whole playground was redone at the same time. But the feedback about her has been constant and positive.

"[Queenie] is a great value for the funds expended," he said. "It's such a homogenous situation out there with playgrounds all looking the same. It's a delight for kids to see something totally different that they can relate to and adopt—things that speak to local geography, flora and fauna. Anytime park planners can get away from the cookie-cutter world, the more they can deliver something that will energize all the senses."

Creative Play Guidelines

According to the Bay Area Discovery Museum, if creative play is happening on your playground, you'll find kids:

  • Being challenged and taking risks.
  • Staying with an experience and repeating behaviors.
  • Acting independently.
  • Being delighted with their play experience.
  • Collaborating with others.