How can an outdoor area better support the diverse ways in which children learn through play?

The Parent Teacher Organization of Greeley Elementary School launched a project to reimagine the school’s outdoor play area. Emphasizing a lack of natural materials and the value of play in learning, the PTO partnered with The Third Teacher + to redesign the outdoor space.  

Rendering of outdoor classroom by Rebecca Freise at 4TonDream

Storage shed and deck section

Fence post detail

 Students design their ideal playground

Students design their ideal playground

The Third Teacher + Process Components:

  • Desk research on cognitive development and play as learning
  • Observation of activities and behaviors in current outdoor area
  • Interviews with parents, faculty and leadership
  • Surveys distributed to parents, faculty and leadership
  • Student Workshop exploring types of places children respond to and asking them to design an imaginary world for their outdoor area
  • Faculty Workshop to explore types of places they see as valuable for students and asking them to define the types of uses they would use for teaching
  • Family Workshop

Rendering of solar system and totem poles by Rebecca Freise at 4TonDream

This graphic, developed by teammates Sarah Malin & Melanie Kahl, shows how character qualities become spatial qualities, and finally, verbs to inform the playground program.

Drawings for concessions & lightning shelter for nearby high school

This project was created in collaboration with Mary Cavanaugh & Jason Meyering (Quality Control), Gustavo Mendoza (Concept), Sarah Malin (Ethnography), Melanie Kahl (Graphics), 4TonDream (Rendering). Eriksson Engineering (Civil Drawings), at The Third Teacher + by Cannon Design.


Code Research
Construction Documents (AutoCAD & Revit)
3D Modeling (Revit)
Engineering Coordination