Preserve Sand Play for San Francisco's Playgrounds!
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To Phil Ginsburg and the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department:
We are parents, grandparents, nannies, professors, therapists, consultants, ECE experts, STEM learning specialists, teachers, and pediatricians living or working in San Francisco.
We understand that parents have been told by SFRP project managers, on repeated occasions, that sand is a problematic feature requiring removal during playground renovations. As individuals enthusiastic about play, as practitioners in the field, and as teachers working with kids, we are asking you to sincerely and meaningfully explore the possibility of retaining some sand access while you design and adopt accessibility-minded renovations.
While we understand the absolute importance of considering a wide range of visitor-abilities in terms of renovations and park design, we don’t understand why this would necessitate the removal of all sand play opportunities. While we want renovations to occur, it is simply inappropriate to deprive children of this incredibly rich and rewarding experience of open-ended, sensory play.
Sand enables children to touch, to feel, to create, to invent, to experiment, and to make meaning every day, on their own terms and with their own agenda. Sand play epitomizes child-led learning and enables representative play, cooperative play, and solitary play. As a "loose parts" material, it allows children to create according to their own desires and abilities. As children scoop, pour, sift, mold, create, compare, and transport sand, they experience a type of sensory engagement that is both deeply joyful and profoundly regulating for busy bodies and busy minds. (A play structure--while capable of being represented alternatively through imaginative play--is one, finite, material presence. Sand, conversely, has infinite presence; it is open-ended.) Aside from the creative power of this material, we ask that you remain aware of its calming potential; sand play is regulating, relaxing, and centering for children and adults alike.
Mr. Ginsburg, you have communicated (via Twitter) that decisions surrounding sand are considered on a "site by site" basis. We feel that this is incredibly inappropriate. As you know, we live in a city with vast disparities of income, resources, and advocacy. To say it plainly: there is an enormous advocacy gap. A child's right to valuable, authentic, multi-sensory play should not be contingent upon the level of advocacy in his or her neighborhood. All children deserve engaging, rich experiences for play and learning! We wholeheartedly hope that you agree.
Specifically, we ask that:
1. An accessible sand element ought to be seriously considered and offered as a possibility in every redesigned playground with sensible solutions for maintenance.
2. The benefits of sand play ought to be clearly and concisely communicated to community members during community meetings and planning workshops.
Thank you for your consideration.
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