Keyword Site Search

Getting Physical



The Walter G. Byers Elementary (K-8) near downtown Charlotte, North Carolina has two traditional sets of playground equipment (top right) designed to meet standards that apply to children ages 2 to 12. The sixth through eighth grade students, however, had outgrown those play structures. It was time to create something more physically challenging that would encourage them to be more active before, during and after school.

In this issue LASN highlights a playground that incorporated "learning outside the classroom" (see First United Methodist Church). But what about sheer physical fun for kids a little older and more physically mature, playgrounds with apparatuses that challenge strength, balance and coordination? This short feature shows a couple examples of recently built playgrounds that epitomize the physical.

Walter G. Byers Elementary, Charlotte, North Carolina

Challenge Course Equipment Manufacturer: GameTime, a PlayCore company

Walter G. Byers Elementary is a K-8 school near downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. Like most schools that serve middle school-aged children, Byers faced a student population that was less active once they grew too old for the traditional playground. Unless the students were involved with organized sports, they tended to engage in very little physical activity during the day.


The first challenge on the course is the Ninja Steps. This launching point requires leaping from one side of a punched steel surface to the other side, with vibrant-colored HDPE plastic beneath.

Project L.I.F.T. (Leadership & Investment for Transformation), a public/private nonprofit partnership that operates as one of five learning communities in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, sought a new way to engage older students in physical activity. While Byers has two playgrounds on the campus, traditional playground equipment is designed to meet a standard that applies to children between the ages of 2 and 12. The sixth through eighth grade students at Byers had simply outgrown the playground they had grown up with. It was time to create something more challenging for them, something that would encourage them to be active before, during and after school.


The U-Turn ramp complements the style and form language of the Ninja Steps with its punched steel and HDPE design. The ramp directs the course runner to the return path.

The team at Project L.I.F.T. selected Challenge Course equipment manufactured by GameTime of Fort Payne, Alabama, because it provided activities similar to obstacle courses. The bold lines and aggressive forms really attract and hold the interest of the older students. The challenges are much more physical than a typical playground, and provide an experience that was is more age appropriate. Physical education classes, as well as free time before and after school, are now much more active times.


The Sway Steps are suspended and tricky to navigate. Youngsters have to grasp the cables for support as they make their way across the steppers.

With the addition of the Challenge Course app (iOS and Android), students and teachers have the ability to create student profiles, record individual and group times and compare the results to determine the progress of a student or an entire class. Because all Challenge Courses are designed to the same specification, the students and teachers at Byers can even compare their progress against other schools in Charlotte and across the country.



The Traverse Wall combines rope and a rock wall climbing within an appealing, modern curvilinear form. The older youths love climbing challenges and are drawn to the varied routes of travel. Students can climb either side of the Traverse Wall, but the inverse side has a steeper angle and lacks the upper rail grip supports.

Project Participants
Challenge Course equipment manufacturer: GameTime, a PlayCore company; Fort Payne, Alabama
Challenge Course sales, service and installation: Cunningham Recreation, Charlotte
Challenge Course application development: PlayCore, Chattanooga
Project L.I.F.T. Executive Coordinator: Susan Norwood, Charlotte
Public Information: Danielle Grano; Kelso Communications; Charlotte

Climbing to the Top, Out on a Limb

Play Equipment by Playworld, Inc., Lewisburg, Pa.

For kids who have grown up in forested areas, you can bet they have climbed their share of trees. It's natural. It's part of being a kid. Of course, kids living in urban environments may not have had the tree climbing experience. Back in the day, about the only climbing on the playground was mounting the steps to the slide. These days, playground manufacturers offer all sorts of climbing structures.



'Branch Out' is the playground's central structure. Visually complex, this new post and platform climber from Playworld has an open layout that encourages kids to move in multiple directions and to various levels. The climber has nets, ropes and flex treads to facilitate climbing, crawling, hanging and even sitting or lying down. The absence of an obvious play path calls for conscience decision-making, testing one's strength and coordination, and engaging in a certain amount of "risk assessment." Children can go from the central play structure to the other four structures on the playground without touching the ground. The structure also incorporates a fabric shade.

Branch Out - Midd-West Middle School, Middleburg, Pa.
Many childhood memories are made on the playground. Besides being associated with fun and joy, it's a place where some important physical skills are developed. To help kids along in that development playgrounds need to offer some equipment that requires a bit of strength, balance and coordination of the hands and legs in tandem.

On Sept. 2, 2015, The Daily Item, a morning newspaper and online news operation covering Pennsylvania's central Susquehanna Valley, reported that the Middleburg Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) had over a period of 10 years raised about $30,000 to purchase new playground equipment for Midd-West Middle School.

In the midst of the PTO selecting playground equipment for Midd-West Middle School's new playground, Playworld, Inc., of nearby Lewisburg, Pa., worked with the school to help stretch its budget for the new playground structures, including premiering its latest new structure--'Branch Out,' the climbing challenge centerpiece of the playground. The Daily Item, reports the playround manufacturer has also been quite generous in supplying play structures to other area playgrounds: East Snyder Park in Penn Township, Snyder County, and Hufnagle and Lewisburg Area Recreational parks in Lewisburg.

'Branch Out' is a play component inspired by nature play. The post and platform climber integrates nets, ropes and flex treads to facilitate climbing. The open layout offers endless play possibilities and movement in multiple directions and at various levels. The absence of an obvious play path calls for conscience decision-making, weighing the physical challenges, testing one's strength and coordination, and engaging in a certain amount of "risk assessment." The children can also go from the central climber to the other structures on the playground without touching the ground. Children can observe and see play from multiple angles, while parents and caregivers can readily observe the action from a distance, or get up close by just walking through the ropes.



Connected to either side of the Branch Out climber and behind it are climbing platforms with Roller Slither Slides. The slides are extra wide and have aluminum rollers built into the middle of the slides. As the kids slide over the rollers, they feel the spinning metal and hear the fun sound they make. The 'Rushmore' element (top right) is part climber, part balance beam. The slanted planks on either side of the play piece are firm but flexible conveyances, allowing children to walk, run, sit or bounce on them. One video shows a child run up the plank and summersault over the top to the opposite plank. Across the top is a balance beam from post to post, with an overhead cable rope to assist balance. Some kids enjoy hanging from the cable.

Volunteers helped install the new climber, under the supervision of Playworld employees. The other new play equipment connected to the central climber, offers plenty of varietal play: climbing walls; ladders; slides; ramps; a balance beam with a suspended line to assure balance and stumps.

Playworld, Inc., is a multigeneration, family-owned and operated manufacturer of fitness and playground equipment that introduced its playground equipment in 1971. Its play products are made in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Ropes used in its play equipment have been developed through a partnership with Berliner Selifabrik of Germany.

As seen in LASN magazine, June 2016.

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...

Related Stories

November 19, 2019, 11:01 pm PDT

Website problems, report a bug.
Copyright © 2019 Landscape Communications Inc.
Privacy Policy