Home Indian Education A Peak Inside India’s DIY, Sustainable Playgrounds

A Peak Inside India’s DIY, Sustainable Playgrounds

A Peak Inside India’s DIY, Sustainable Playgrounds


This text was revealed in collaboration with EkStep Basis.

When Pooja Rai was a pupil of structure on the Indian Institute of Expertise (IIT), Kharagpur, she would volunteer at Disha Seema Care Centre, a faculty for underprivileged kids positioned on campus. Throughout one go to, she noticed a number of ladies taking part in on damaged cement pipes whereas some building work was happening close by. 

“It was extraordinarily unsafe since you had wires popping out of the pipes and there have been damaged items of cement mendacity round. I additionally noticed some boys in school attempting to play a sport of badminton with their slippers. Although there was a lot pleasure in that area, it simply made me assume that these kids don’t even have entry to one thing so simple as a playground. Speaking to my buddy that night, we mentioned how we may use all of the design information that we discovered to construct a playground for these children,” says Rai, chatting with The Higher India

Provided that Pooja and her batchmates have been college students, they didn’t have some huge cash. As a substitute of constructing a traditional playground with a jungle fitness center, merry go spherical and slides, they received modern, introduced a number of tires collectively, and constructed a special type of playground. 

Playgrounds for children
Playground on the Disha Seema Care Centre.

A ‘DIY’ playground 

“Initially, we struggled to gather tires, however we received fortunate after reaching out to a couple firms. Michelin, a world tyre producer, sponsored the very first playground we constructed. They despatched us used tires, with which we constructed swings and different play parts for youngsters. Additionally they sponsored part of the mission, whereas the remainder of the funding got here from our faculty alumni. We constructed our first playground in 2015 and it was utterly DIY (‘do it your self’),” she remembers.  

What Rai and her batchmates constructed right here was a low-cost (barely Rs 20,000) and sustainable playground for underprivileged kids. In response to Rai, mass produced leisure gear for constructing a playground on the time would sometimes value about Rs 2 lakh. What adopted was quite a lot of media protection and inquiries from throughout the nation to construct comparable buildings.  

Quick ahead to January 2017, Rai and her associates stop their jobs full time and established a Bengaluru-based non-profit known as Anthill Creations, which “transforms areas into interactive and sustainable playgrounds by upcycling waste supplies like tyres, oil and cable drums.” Up to now, they’ve constructed round 380 low-cost and sustainable playgrounds for youngsters throughout 22 states together with Karnataka, Maharashtra, Delhi, Odisha, Meghalaya, Tripura, amongst others.  

However why are playgrounds necessary for youngsters within the first place? Educationists be aware that on the coronary heart of early childhood care and training (ECCE) is play-based studying.

Why play-based studying issues 

“Primarily based on science and what we all know, and from quite a lot of expertise, play is a vital means for the kid to study. On this context, it’s not simply ‘taking part in’ as we all know it. It consists of singing songs, conversations, tales, music, puzzles, dancing, and so forth. It’s what the kid does naturally, or as we are saying, ‘play is baby’s work’. When a toddler is taking part in, they’re studying,” stated Shankar Maruwada, CEO and co-founder of EkStep Basis and member, Nationwide Steering Committee for the Nationwide Curriculum Frameworks (NCF), in an earlier interplay with The Higher India.

This line of considering has been emphasised by policymakers in India with the New Schooling Coverage (NEP) 2020 and the Nationwide Curriculum Framework for Faculty Schooling (NCF) 2023. 

(You may learn extra about play-based studying right here and right here.)

Whereas there are totally different modes of play, a playground presents one of many key platforms the place a toddler can have interaction in play-based studying for cognitive and behavioural improvement. However practically half of all public-funded colleges in India don’t have playgrounds, notes authorities knowledge. 

In response to the Unified District Info System for Schooling (UDISE) 2017-18 survey, lower than 57% of faculties have playgrounds. In states like Odisha and Jammu and Kashmir, lower than 30% of faculties have playgrounds. Different surveys point out that even main cities don’t have sufficient playgrounds. Take Bengaluru, for instance. 

In response to Janaagraha, a Bengaluru-based think-tank, “With a inhabitants of 12 million (unofficial estimate, 8.4 million as per 2011 census) and an space of 709 sq.km, town of Bengaluru has solely 19.31 sq.km devoted in the direction of open areas like parks and playgrounds. This interprets to 2.2 sq.m of open area per particular person, which is considerably in need of the advisable 10-12 sq.m by the URDPFI (City and Regional Growth Plans Formulation and Implementation*) pointers set by the Ministry of City Growth (MoUD), India.” What’s worse, solely 39% of playgrounds within the metropolis have taking part in gear and services. 

Srikanth Viswanathan, CEO at Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, notes that though the survey was taken in 2017, “issues haven’t modified a lot since”.  

That is an unlucky actuality even if the Proper of Youngsters to Free and Obligatory Schooling Act, 2009 (RTE) legislated by Parliament mandates that each one school-going kids between the ages of 6 and 14 needs to be assured entry to playgrounds.  

Playgrounds in India

Accessibility for all 

What does it take to construct a playground? Talking to The Higher India, Rai begins with first rules. “The essential precept we observe is that the place there’s a want for a playground and folks can not afford it, we’re completely happy to construct these buildings in these areas,” she says. 

“What we’ve got seen in the previous few years is that even when we construct one or two playgrounds within the space, it motivates different folks within the surrounding areas and creates consciousness across the significance of play and the way a lot good it could do. The playground can be normally shared by close by communities or colleges. It’s not restricted to the one faculty the place we constructed it,” she provides.

To date, Anthill Creations has constructed playgrounds in main cities like Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai to the distant corners of states like Meghalaya and Tripura. Right here’s an instance of how they constructed playgrounds for 4 authorities colleges in rural Meghalaya.     

Talking to The Higher India, Abhishek Gowda, the sub-divisional officer (civil) of Dadenggre [subdivision] in West Garo Hills district, Meghalaya, remembers the work Anthill did.  

“In January 2023, Anthill Creations approached me to facilitate the location choice course of for these playgrounds underneath their mission titled ‘Convey Again Play by Making it Accessible to All’.  Their crew visited round 10 rural colleges in my sub-division, and finalised on 4 the place they’d construct playgrounds. By the tip of March, the Anthill crew started constructing these playgrounds utilizing previous rubber tires and different scrap materials. You had see-saws, elephant-shaped play parts and swings manufactured from scrap rubber tires,” says Gowda.  

After establishing these playgrounds, the Anthill crew performed an in depth high quality verify course of to make sure that these buildings are secure for youngsters to make use of. 

“As soon as the standard verify was finished, they handed over the playgrounds to their respective colleges and communities. By the tip of April, these playgrounds have been constructed and able to use. At this time, kids are literally utilising these playgrounds with quite a lot of enthusiasm and happiness. These playgrounds have additionally remodeled the surroundings in these colleges,” he provides.  

Gowda and his administration’s job in constructing these playgrounds was easy. They supplied any administrative and logistical help the Anthill crew wanted. Funding for this mission got here from the Nationwide Funds Company of India (NPCI)’s CSR fund and all of the work of really deciding on the websites and constructing these playgrounds was finished by the Anthill crew. 

“Though the primary goal is to develop play-based studying infrastructure for early childhood improvement, we’ve seen enhancements at school enrolment numbers and discount in dropouts. On account of these vibrant playgrounds, the environment in these colleges really feel much more welcoming to kids,” notes Gowda.  

Round 80% of the playgrounds Anthill has constructed are in authorities colleges, however in addition they construct them in public locations. “We’ve constructed quite a lot of public park playgrounds in Bengaluru like in Agara Lake, for instance. We additionally partnered with one other organisation known as Recity to start out constructing playgrounds in vacationer hotspots Nainital and Darjeeling in order that there’s extra consciousness round recycling. These are locations the place lots of people go to, so that they generate quite a lot of waste,” says Rai. 

“But it surely’s difficult for us to work in public areas since you’d need to work with a number of authorities. It’s troublesome to get permission from all stakeholders on the similar time,” she provides.  

Faculties, nonetheless, are the place most youngsters are current. “And sometimes, what I’ve seen in authorities colleges is that they preserve their playgrounds open to neighbouring kids. So, it’s not likely simply the college kids who’re taking part in in these playgrounds,” says Rai.  

Playgrounds for young boys and girls

From elephants and horses to rockets on the playground 

When Rai and her colleagues began constructing playgrounds, they didn’t need to construct the everyday parts that exist already like a jungle fitness center, see-saw, merry go spherical, and so forth. 

“The proper solution to go about any design is asking the consumer what they need to do. Within the early days, we’d discuss to the kids. A number of the very first designs that we developed have been due to kids. We used to go to those colleges in Bengaluru, conduct actions and play video games with them. Youngsters used to give you wonderful concepts. They might need a slide from their classroom to the playground or a water fountain popping out of a slide. We didn’t precisely translate what they stated however we received a way of what they wished in a playground,” she says.

A number of the play parts you see on playgrounds constructed by Anthill like octopus, elephants or horses got here from kids. Different kids wished a rocket of their playground. 

“We tried to include a few of these main structural designs, but additionally preserve actions in thoughts once we have been designing these remaining parts. It took quite a lot of iterations. Not all of our design parts turned profitable within the first go, however we search to make sure a relentless suggestions loop that occurred. We nonetheless have interaction in these processes, however in the present day we’ve got round 100 totally different designs in our design library though we nonetheless take requests,” explains Rai.

“Since we’re working at a a lot bigger scale in the present day, we’ve got this written web site survey kind that both we fill once we go to a web site or there’s a area people or a trainer who fills it out for us. That principally captures what kids want and if there’s something in particular that like that exact group or faculty desires to do, we take a look at our design library and see what suits properly into this playground. We attempt to depart some area for designing new parts as properly as a result of we need to give some distinctive contact to most of our playgrounds,” she provides. 

Innovative playgrounds
Fake Play Component within the form of an elephant.

How do they make these playgrounds inclusive? 

As acknowledged earlier, there are playgrounds with parts that didn’t come from their design library. In spite of everything, they need to cater to a wide range of kids, together with these dwelling with disabilities.  

In October 2021, they constructed a playground in collaboration with the Sankalp Studying Centre in Chennai for youngsters with autism and mental disabilities.  

“We didn’t have a playground designed for autistic kids in our library. For tasks like these, we hung out with the kids, understanding what works for them, what’s going to assist in their remedy and use tactile sensors within the playgrounds which could assist them. By way of design, we wished to do one thing tactile. We wished kids to simply really feel totally different sorts of senses and construct one thing that they’ll contact with their palms and in addition play with,” says Rai.  

“We included a xylophone for sensory stimulation, parallel pay bars for wrist and finger actions, a seesaw to encourage steadiness and physique coordination, and a low peak climber to make sure muscular motion and security for the kids whereas at play,” she provides.  

Rai admits that Anthill’s playgrounds aren’t utterly inclusive but, however they attempt to make them accessible. “We’re incorporating play parts utilized in playgrounds constructed for the visually-impaired in all our playgrounds. For instance, we’ve got launched sound parts like xylophone or bells in all our playgrounds. The purpose is to make playgrounds inclusive,” she says. 

Playgrounds for blind children
Anthill lately constructed a playground for the Calcutta Blind Faculty.

Constructing ‘group champions’ 

What Anthill has learnt through the years is that it’s higher to contain the group early within the course of proper from the location choice to what they’re designing. Once they contain the group from the start, they take better possession of the playgrounds. Sometimes, what Anthill does is construct a playground, and palms it over to the group to care for it. 

However how do they acquire group buy-in for these playgrounds? “Once we work in a brand new geography, there’s at all times a neighborhood organisation or NGO who might need been working in these communities for years and have already got that relationship constructed with them. Once they convey us in, there’s that sense of respect and belief already established once we go in. On our finish, we additionally spend time with folks explaining to them what construction goes to return up right here,” says Rai. 

To keep up prices, Anthill largely procures supplies domestically and employs native labour. 

“Given the weather that we’ve designed are easy and primary like tires and metallic drums, and interact in recycling and upcycling, it doesn’t make sense to move issues from Bengaluru to Tripura. We procure supplies domestically as a result of it saves value, obtainable domestically. The place it turns into difficult is to make sure the standard that we would like in these parts,” she explains. 

“To beat these considerations, we’ve got a set of distributors in Kolkata, Delhi and Bengaluru, and we transport these joineries from one central hub to wherever we’re constructing playgrounds. Components like tires and metallic, we procure domestically as a result of these are like the larger bulk of what we type of use to design these playgrounds. Given we’ve got now constructed playgrounds in 22 totally different states, we’ve got recognized distributors and all of those communities,” she provides. 

Additionally, as acknowledged earlier,  Anthill doesn’t take possession of the playgrounds they construct. 

“We’re simply facilitators who’re enabling the local people or the college to construct a playground. We herald funding with the assistance of a company and supply our experience in the right way to assemble the playground. However after these six days of intervention, our main position is full in constructing the playground and we hand it over to the group,” she says. 

Whether or not this handover interval is over one or three months, it varies based mostly on the place the playground is positioned. They usually full constructing the playground in six days. 

“On the final day, we do a high quality verify with the company who’s funding the mission and the native headmaster, and be sure that the playground we’ve constructed meets all the fundamental high quality measures. After which we proceed in the direction of our adoption plan. We determine one group champion. It may very well be anybody from a headmaster to a trainer or an alumni of that college, who was concerned in constructing that playground and is completely happy to volunteer their time. We preserve correspondence with them. After one month, we contact them to do a primary verify on how kids are taking part in in these playgrounds. We’ve a questionnaire that they reply to assist us assess the impression of this playground. We get each quantitative and qualitative suggestions and each time we’re constructing a brand new play aspect, we obtain some additional suggestions,” she explains. 

Innovative playgrounds in India
Revolutionary play areas.

‘Our playgrounds are like IKEA blocks’ 

Other than handing their playgrounds over to communities, annually (or as soon as in two years) Anthill organises a drive the place their crew travels and conducts checks to determine the state of our older playgrounds. Making issues simpler, their playgrounds are low-maintenance. 

“Since our playgrounds are DIY, we don’t refabricate (play parts like) a traditional merry go spherical. If there’s a screw coming unfastened, it’s a must to substitute the merry go spherical solely. Our playgrounds are like IKEA blocks. You may repair them, take them off once you need and put them in one other place held collectively by nuts and bolts,” claims Rai. 

To facilitate play for younger kids, Anthill Creations has give you a wide range of improvements to facilitate better inclusivity and work throughout the confines of various circumstances. For instance, they got here up with the idea of a Play Library. “So, we used smaller tires to create seating areas in a extra attention-grabbing means the place the whole area felt very inviting for youngsters to play. We had principally transformed a library right into a play space,” remembers Rai.  

Nonetheless, one among Rai’s favorite improvements lately is this idea known as ‘Playground on Wheels’ which Anthill has developed. “And this concept truthfully got here once we have been going round discovering areas in Mumbai and Bengaluru on the place we are able to construct these playgrounds for colleges that contained three or 4 storeys and nothing else,” she says.   

Building innovative playgrounds for children
Constructing modern playgrounds for youngsters.

In Mumbai, she remembers a trainer telling her that her college students actually wanted area to play. 

“So we got here up with this idea of Playground on Wheels, which is principally a truck transformed right into a playground. It may be shared amongst totally different neighbourhoods and it could go from one place to a different. As soon as the truck playground arrives at a location and opens up, you’ll discover climbers, sandbox and different tactile parts that enable kids to play in teams. At any time when the truck arrives, it turns into play time for these kids,” she explains.

“It’s a bit like ice cream vehicles coming round, but additionally signifying to kids that that is their playtime. Within the subsequent couple of months, we are going to construct our first prototype of that truck. We additionally gained an award from the Authorities of India for designing this Playground on Wheels and hoping it is going to be carried out very quickly,” she provides.

Have you ever come throughout any modern concepts or building executed in playgrounds in your metropolis? We’d love to listen to all about it. Ship footage and details about the playground to editorial@thebetterindia.com with the topic line “Childhood Dialogues”.

(Edited by Divya Sethu; Photos courtesy Anthill Creations)



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