End of year thoughts- 2016- finding a path forward

As 2016 ends, I wanted to update the website with the sad reality that this year has been a tough one, for so many reasons. And to report there is one less playground in the world, thanks to the inspectors from the Massachusetts EEC. I was forced to remove the indoor playscape from the Care Center in Holyoke in November.

Here’s the email I sent out at the time:

I spent a sad afternoon in Holyoke yesterday, taking apart the playscape for the Care Center, and leaving them an empty room where a playground used to be. The Massachusetts Early Education Commission (EEC )had threatened the Care Center with legal action and loss of license to operate if the playground were still in place on November25th. Because of Thanksgiving, and my own work schedule, this was the only time I could get it done and be sure to protect the Care Center by removing the playground before the deadline. Though it has been a painful time for me, and feels like a step backwards for my project, what pains me more is what those children and teachers will face when they come back to school Monday morning. We have the EEC to thank for this. They are clearly not interested in what is best for the children at the Care Center. The playscape had been functioning exactly as was intended since August 2015. It was safe, sturdy and the children and teaches loved it. It made a difference in their lives.

I have been grateful for many letters and gestures of support from friends and colleagues, and believe me, this fight is far from over. The playscape only took a little over an hour to dis- assemble, and is safely stored in my barn until we get permission to put it back. It could be re- installed just as quickly and easily, and I will continue to fight to make that happen. I am especially grateful to Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse and State Representative Aaron Vega for attempting to intervene, and I am still hopeful we can find a path to someone at the State level who can convince the EEC to stop following policies that hurt children. The issue here is far bigger than one playground. The EEC’s excessive policies regarding how child care centers are inspected , and how these policies limit opportunities for children to climb and play and move are a huge obstacle to raising healthy children. Ask any child care provider in this state and they will agree. I know because I have met so many of them during my training sessions for teachers on early motor development over the last 10 years. These teachers and child care providers know what children need, and yet the EEC makes it impossible for them to do what needs to be done. We need more indoor playscapes, we need to get more architects and designers working on ideas for this, and we need support from our government. Instead, the State agency that purports to protect young children has made it impossible for any non- commercial manufacturer to build and install anything in the State of Massachusetts. If it is a policy issue, the policy can change. It needs to happen, so we can work together to help our children. Somehow we need to get the ear of the governor and get this issue out in the open statewide. I also want to thank Anne Teschner, director of the Care Center , for her unflagging support and efforts thus far. To all those who have written in support, I thank you. To those who have not yet written, we still need your support.
Thanks,
Tom Murphy
Founder- Bogin Playscape Project

Please continue to write Mayor Morse of Holyoke (morsea@holyoke.org) and Aaron Vega (Aaron.vega@mahouse.gov) to encourage their efforts to help!!

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Ball ramps and ball stomps for Community Action

This summer I have been building duplicates of some of small toys and equipment to donate to child care centers.  Arlene Spooner and I did several trainings for the Community Action Agency, who run child care centers in Amherst, Northampton and Turner’s Falls. I was so impressed by the energy from the staff, that I decided to donate to  these centers, where I know the equipment will be used and appreciated.  I am also hoping to get some feedback on how the toys work with kids, and if any of the designs need changing or improving. Each center got a set of ball ramps and a ball stomp, and another set of each was also donated to Barbara Kellogg’s child care center in Amherst.

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Playground Dedication- The Care Center, Holyoke MA

 

Playground Dedication

We gathered at the Care Center in Holyoke for a short ceremony to dedicate the new playground on Tuesday September 29th. We chose a morning time so that we could see children playing, and it was wonderful to watch!! We had a good crowd of pediatric therapists Christine has mentored over the years, as well as several parents of children Christine worked with, and other friends and connections. Special thanks to Carlos Santiago, who attended and also made a generous donation to the playground project in Christine’s honor.

What follows is the dedication “proclamation” that now hangs in the room where the children play.

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Christine’s Playground                                September 2015

This playground for The Care Center was built to honor Christine Sharkey, and her long career as a pediatric physical therapist at Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Every hospital, school or strong community organization has special people who form the heart and soul of the place, and Christine has played that role for Cooley Dickinson. While she has never sought attention for herself, and consciously avoids the spotlight, she has been an inspiration and mentor for so many others who have worked with children in rehabilitation.  Those of us who have been around her understand how important a role she has played over so many years. Christine’s work has stood as an example for every positive value a community hospital tries to uphold.  She is a collaborator, a listener, and holds onto the joy that comes to those of us lucky enough to work with children every day. I am proud to have worked with her, and I hope her spirit and energy is reflected in the opportunity for fun and playful exploration this playground provides for the children.

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Playground for The Care Center is complete!

The second playground for children was installed on August 1st 2015 at the Care Center in Holyoke, MA. The Care Center is a wonderful program that allows young mothers to complete their high school education while providing day care and a learning environment for the infants and young children in the same building.  The design for this playground is similar to the first playground built for the REACH Early Intervention Program, and will be used by children up to age three.  I expanded the mat surfaces for this new one, so that there is a safety mat completely surrounding the structure.  I am excited to see how the children respond, and this playground will get more foot traffic than the first model, as the children are present four full days per week.

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A huge thanks to Brian Gulick who traveled up from New York to help with the installation.  Thanks also to Anne Techner and Aida Diaz and the staff at the Care Center, who will be giving me feedback on how it works.

This new playground is dedicated to my dear friend Christine Sharkey, who recently retired from Cooley Dickinson Hospital after more than 20 years of dedicated and inspired work with children. Christine has always been a mentor to me, and her energy, creativity and work ethic have been an inspiration to a whole generation of pediatric therapists she helped bring together at Cooley Dickinson.

We will set a date soon for a dedication for the new playground, and to honor Christine and her work

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Animal matching game is complete!

In January 2015 we added a new game for helping develop visual skills. Helen Murphy painted a series of wonderful animal blocks, and they are hidden around the playscape. The children choose an animal block (tiger, lion, giraffe, elephant, monkey, zebra) from a small shelf and then search around the room for the matching animal. Thanks to Helen for her wonderful artwork!!

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Playground for REACH Early Intervention program- October 2014

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Here is the first playground installed for the REACH Early Intervention Program in Amherst, MA.
It has been up and running for a few weeks, and I got the chance to watch kids play on it last week, which was quite a thrill… fun to watch and see how kids are playing, and how they are both doing the things I expected them to do, as well as some unexpected play that I can learn from as I work on the second version of the playground.

I want to thank Brian Gulick and Chun Lai who helped me install the playground, and thanks also to the REACH staff who are watching closely and giving me suggestions and feedback.

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August 2014- the baby cube is done!

These are some photos of the “baby cube”, designed for the REACH Early Intervention program, for use with the toddler play groups. It features a platform swing, slide, “bottle baby” ramp and truck, and places to climb, as well as some fine motor block games with wood blocks. Once finished, it will be set up for extended trial to see how it works…P1010122

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