Tuesday, March 25, 2014
playing with Crow
Crow and I (and a few friends) have been working on a new picture (possibly painting). This is how far we'd got by this afternoon. Since we're expecting a new blizzard tomorrow, more may be accomplished while we're stuck inside.
This morning I came across a great article in The Atlantic about an adventure playground in Wales called 'The Land'. This was not so much discovering something new as the re-discovery of something very very old. Children’s play. Those of us born in earlier times than modern children were often lucky enough to have enjoyed a lot of unstructured time as children and, if we were luckier still, there was open countryside for our games and daydreaming. More recently, children rarely have freedom from the constant scrutiny of adults.
After reading the aforementioned article I decided to investigate the woman who began the adventure playgrounds in England (there are several dozen similar to The Land), It was after WWII that Lady Allen of Hurtwood, a long time advocate for children's well-being, visited Copenhagen in 1945 where she was introduced to Emdrup, the very first deliberately made adventure playground in the world. Emdrup was the brainchild of the landscape architect C.Th Seorenssen. Even before the war, he'd been dissatisfied with the playgrounds that he had created once he noticed that children preferred to play on building sites rather than the neat municipal playgrounds that had been designed for them. These ad hoc playgrounds were messy spaces, using a lot of left over junk bits that the children found lying around and the children loved them.
Emdrup playground, established in 1943, was generally agreed to have been a benefit to the neighbourhood from the beginning. During the Nazi occupation the difference between sabotage and delinquency was not obvious, and many of the children had become unruly and anti-social. Once they had their own playground, where they could do what they liked, the surrounding social climate took a turn for the better.
Lady Allen returned from Copenhagen determined that all children would benefit from unstructured play areas and set about the business of establishing them throughout England. She had a number of interesting things to say, including, 'Better a broken leg than a broken spirit', but my favorite quote of hers was this one:
.’.. Municipal playgrounds are often as bleak as barrack squares and just as boring. You are not allowed to build a fire, you would head straight for juvenile court if you started to dig up the expensive tarmac to make a cave, there are no bricks or planks to build a house, no workshops for carpentry, mechanical work, painting or modelling and of course, no trees to climb…’
At first glance, The Land, a Welsh adventure playground, seems like a modern-day parent’s worst nightmare. The Land is riddled with what looks like trash and the walls are covered in graffiti. There are children jumping over unsteady barrels and mud puddles, and youngsters poking sticks into fires or hammering wood with (eek) sharp nails. The Land, in my opinion, is exactly what’s been missing from most childhood experiences for at least a decade now.
Anyway, what follows is a brief video introduction to a documentary called 'The Land'. Just in case you wonder these places do have adults lurking in case of need but so far there have been no serious injuries to anyone at an adventure playground.
The Land, Promo from Play Free Movie on Vimeo.
Some parents may not be quite ready:
'My can kid go outside alone when he turns 14.'
'My 16 year old can ride the city bus, so long as a parent is with her.'
'18 years of age is a good time to let kids go off on their own.'
'I’d NEVER let my kid go outside without an adult.'
Not everyone would agree:
“Play deprivation is bad for children. Among other things, it promotes anxiety, depression, suicide, narcissism, and loss of creativity. It’s time to end the experiment.”
~ Dr. Peter Gray
“The child amidst his baubles is learning the action of light, motion, gravity, muscular force….”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.”
“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning…They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.”
~ Fred Rogers
“Men should learn to live with the same seriousness with which children play.”
“Play is the highest form of research.”
~ Albert Einstein
What do you think?