With almost 10,000sqf of outdoor play area, The Lil’ School has a very large grassy play area and children have a lot of space to run, but lacked a fun and challenging structure to climb on. Rather than getting generic equipment, we wanted a fun community project that would carry an educational meaning. Our research led us to the work of Curt Flowers, a graduate in Geodesics, Computer Science and Environmental Design from the University of Illinois Springfield who built a geodesic structure with used tires in the early 70’s.
He graciously provided his plans and we gathered some tips from Rob Beezer (Professor University of Puget Sound, WA). With 23 used tires donated by local tire shops, our team made of parents, teachers and the owners set out to work. Our objective: to build a turtle with the geodesic dome as a shell. After a few awkward moments and a lot of laugher, the geodesic dome took shape.
The tires are bolted together at the points of contacts and the geodesic structure gives it an impressive sturdiness while keeping flexibility enough to be fun. The bottom-most tires are partially buried to provide anchorage.
The very next day, the structure was fully tested and approved by the children. Even though they still have access to all the other playground equipment, the Tire Turtle has become their favorite.
Building something new and fun with discarded things is rewarding in itself, but it also demonstrates to young creative minds that the ready-built solution is not the only option they have. This small community project was a real success and we sincerely thank all the parents and teachers involved!
Here is a link to the work of Curt Flowers (including plans) on the page of Professor Beezer, http://buzzard.ups.edu/playdome.html