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Whooosh! A Physics-in-Action Playground

CuriOdyssey is First Museum to Build Magical Bridge Playground

Project Led and Inspired by Two Mothers Dedicated to Inclusivity for their Children

Palo Alto, CA  August 4, 2021 — The launch of CuriOdyssey’s new innovative inclusive playground Whooosh! is underway and plans to open in October 2021. The physics-in-action playground was made possible thanks to Laurel Miranda and Olenka Villarreal, two mothers passionate about making it a more welcoming world for their disabled daughters.

Designed by Magical Bridge Foundation, the inclusive playground will be the first of its kind to be built in a zoo and museum. Its completion in Fall 2021 is part of a new and exciting campus plan for expanding CuriOdyssey’s state-of-the-art science museum and zoo. CuriOdyssey champions early science learning in San Mateo county and beyond, and chose to work with Magical Bridge Foundation because the playground far exceeds industry standards by removing physical and social barriers of today’s traditional playgrounds.

Miranda and Villarreal met 14 years ago at a developmental class when their children were three years old. While Villarreal left her Silicon Valley career to create playgrounds uniquely designed for those of all ages and abilities, Miranda took on the leadership role of running CuriOdyssey’s board of directors. Their commitment to creating more inclusive spaces that would welcome their girls, was at the core of this truly “magical” union! The building of this playground showcases the dedication of these two women who recognized the urgent need for more places where their families could enjoy together.

“It’s difficult to bring someone with a disability to most public playgrounds because of not only physical, but social barriers too.” says Olenka Villarreal, Co-Founder and CEO of Magical Bridge Foundation. “For families like mine and Laurel’s, it is often a struggle to be part of our communities when we aren’t able to take both our children to a public playground. Sadly, most public parks still do not recognize that tanbark and sand surfaces are unfriendly to wheelchairs, that curbs are tripping hazards for many and that the sizing of play equipment does not consider older children and adults who also want to play.

By removing the physical barriers, the social barriers melt away too and open possibilities to a community which values everyone’s needs. “My family is constantly looking for places we can all enjoy together,” says Laurel Miranda, Board Chair for CuriOdyssey. “CuriOdyssey has long been a favorite destination because its size, structure, and content create an inclusive experience that engages our entire family. However, CuriOdyssey does not currently have an outdoor playground. When we discussed the capital campaign, inclusivity was an important criterion for the new design. I can’t wait until the Whooosh! Physics-in-Action Playground is open to welcome visitors of all abilities to swing, spin, and slide together.”

The opening of Whooosh! exemplifies CuriOdyssey’s commitment to removing physical and social barriers to science learning for all abilities and ages within the museum, zoo and in its programs.

Magical Partnership. The project is a partnership between Magical Bridge Foundation, CuriOdyssey, Sares Regis Group of Northern California, Whiting-Turner, and San Mateo County Parks. Under the design leadership of Magical Bridge Foundation these organizations are dedicated to building a playground that is intentionally and mindfully designed to meet the needs of everyone, including the 1-in-4 of us living with visible or invisible disabilities. The 4,000-square-foot playground will be built near CuriOdyssey’s zoo and will include a tot lot and spin, swing, and slide areas set in a grove of trees.

Each partner on the project offers unique expertise to ensure a safe, healthy playground for all abilities:

Magical Bridge Foundation is recognized as a thought leader of innovative and inclusive designs, creating playgrounds and play spaces that thoughtfully meet the needs of everyone at every stage of life, including those living with visible and invisible disabilities.

CuriOdyssey’s scientific expertise will infuse the playground with design elements to provide an understanding of the physical forces such as angular momentum to gravity that make play possible.

Sares Regis Group of Northern California, a privately held, Bay Area commercial real estate development, project management, investment, and property management firm, is providing pro-bono project management services to lead the playground project from concept to completion.

Whiting-Turner provides construction management, general contracting, design-build and integrated project delivery services on projects large and small for a diverse group of customers. Its Pleasanton office’s employees and trade partners are volunteering their time and donating materials for the creation of the Whooosh! playground, ensuring that the play area will open in time for the summer season.

San Mateo County Parks’ leadership has enthusiastically supported the playground since its inception.



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