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Multisensory Exploration

by Sara Zahm, ASLA, LEED AP




Exterior surfacing using SofTile (SofCRETE) is an important orientation material. Blue bands of rubber tiles with raised bumps are located between play areas to help the children safely navigate between different play zones. Tactile warning strips at the end of the sidewalks teach children to stop before walking onto the bike track.
TLE
Land F/X
East Jordon Valmont
Playworld The Cedar Store
TLE

The playground design for a new preschool for blind and visually impaired children balances safety with multisensory exploration. The New Mexico School for the Blind and the Visually Impaired (NMSBVI) in Albuquerque opened the Early Childhood Program facility, designed by Dekker/Perich/Sabatini in 2009. The program serves over 100 three to five-year old blind or visually impaired students. Many students have multiple physical or cognitive impairments that require them to use canes, wheelchairs, and special communication devices.

From playground equipment to interior materials, the new facility helps staff assess each student’s ability to process sensory information and provide an environment that ensures brain development and maximizes the potential for future learning.

 




Playground equipment from Landscape Structures and Playworld provides a variety of fun and educational experiences for the children at the New Mexico School for the Blind and the Visually Impaired in Albuquerque.


Classrooms open onto a secured playground area with resilient surfacing, special equipment for children with mobility limitations and a bicycle track to teach
safety skills.

The playground design facilitates active and passive play and teaches orientation skills. Exterior surfacing using SofTile (SofCRETE) is an important orientation material. Blue bands of rubber tiles with raised bumps are located between play areas to help the children safely navigate between different play zones. Tactile warning strips at the end of the sidewalks teach children to stop before walking onto the bike track.

A variety of pathway surfaces, including concrete and crusher fines and play areas of turf and rubber tile, help children learn to walk and use canes on different surfaces with varying textures. Sidewalk intersections are marked with exposed aggregate concrete to help guide navigation.

 




Classrooms open onto the secured playground area with resilient surfacing, special equipment for children with mobility limitations and a bicycle track to teach safety skills. The lawn area is a sod mix of Kentucky and Texas bluegrass, ryegrass and a tall fescue blend.


Playground equipment from Landscape Structures and Playworld provides a variety of fun and educational experiences. Playground features include:

  • A splash circuit water play zone with basins that capture water at different heights.
  • The PlayBooster® (Landscape Structures) has a balance beam and uneven surfaces to help the children develop better stability.
  • An outdoor music center comprises drums, chimes and horns.
  • A multilevel climbing structure encourages collaborative play.

 




The outdoor music center comprises drums, chimes and horns.

 

Wheelchair accessible elevated sand tables are integrated along the edge of the sand play area. This tactile-oriented play allows children to have fun while engaging all of their senses and learning valuable skills.

 




A variety of pathway surfaces, including concrete and crusher fines and play areas of turf and rubber tile, help children learn to walk and use canes on different surfaces with varying textures. Site amenities here include "air cooled" benches and trash receptacles (Landscape Forms).


The playground’s hands-on learning opportunities extend into the surrounding landscape, designed as a sensory garden where children and visitors can learn to focus on using senses other than sight. Separate garden rooms defined by landscaping and differentiated by pattern give users directional sense as they move throughout the garden. Sounds, fragrances, and textures, such as the sound of crackling leaves, the smell of herbs and the feel of soft ornamental grasses, encourage a hands-on approach that fosters learning and exploration.

 




The splash circuit water play zone has basins that capture water at different heights.


Raised planters also allow students to plant their own selections, feel the texture of soil and track the progress of their plants.

 




Raised planters also allow students to plant their own selections, feel the texture of soil and track the progress of their plants.


After a year in the new facility the playground has already proven a success in reinforcing NMSBVI’s mission.
“The sensory garden and playground could be a school themselves!,” enthuses NMSBVI Superintendent Linda Lyle. “We hardly need fieldtrips anymore. There is so much to do inside and outside the school!”

 




Albuquerque averages more than 300 days of sunshine a year, so you have to have shade (Cooltoppers) on the playground.


About the Firm

Dekker/Perich/Sabatini is a multidisciplinary firm with offices in Albuquerque, N.M., Las Vegas and Amarillo, Texas. New Mexico, Nevada, and Texas. The firm provides comprehensive architecture, interiors, planning, structural engineering and landscape architecture to a variety of public and private clients.

The author, Sara Zahm, ASLA, LEED AP, is a landscape architect with the firm and specializes in sustainable site and landscape design.

 




Ground cover grasses include thread grass (Nassella tenuissima), foreground, plus maiden and regal mist grasses.

 

 

Project Team
Owner: New Mexico School for the Blind and the Visually Impaired
Architect/Landscape Architect/Structural Engineer/Interior Design:   Dekker/Perich/Sabatini
Civil Engineer: Isaacson & Arfman
Contractor: Gerald Martin
General Contractor: Gerald Martin
Landscape Contractor: Accent Landscaping
MEP Engineer: Bridgers & Paxton

Vendors
Benches/trash receptacles: Landscape Forms
Playground Structures: Landscape Structures, Playworld
Play Surfacing: SofTILE, SofCRETE
Shade Structures: Cooltoppers

 




The PlayBooster(R) (Landscape Structures) post-and-clamp system combines ground-level components with climbing events and overhead activities for kids ages 5 to 12. This one has a balance beam and uneven surfaces to help the children develop better stability.



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November 20, 2019, 1:59 pm PDT

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