Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Playing In The Fallow Field

The bane of many school playgrounds, even the most beautiful ones, is that they tend to be fixed in time. In other words, their reliance on climbers and slides and other large, fixed pieces, means that they struggle to evolve along with the children's play. On the other hand, the "junkyard chic" style of playground of the sort favored by our Woodland Park community may not be as beautiful, but, by the same token, it is not nearly as prone to stagnation.

For instance, there is a corner of our space right now that's in transition. It used to be home to a sort of temporary greenhouse that a family donated, but, sadly, we never got around to using it to grow things so it instead became additional storage. The kids figured out how to open the zippered doors and would occasionally play in there, but because there were things inside that we adults didn't necessarily want them getting into, there was quite a bit of chasing them out, which was pretty much the main game we played over there.

With the advent of our new greenhouse, the plan has been to remove the old one and fill it's footprint with a deck that kids can use as a stage or whatever. The longer term plan is to then surround the platform on two sides with an installation of large, sturdy doll/fairy houses. I removed the greenhouse cover at the beginning of the year to signal the start of the transition, leaving only the frame, but that's as far as the project has gotten. In the meantime, however, we adults still use the area as a place to stash things that are in our way, like old tables, planks of wood, plastic tubs, and other largish things that don't have a proper home. 

Naturally, the children are drawn to this junky transitional corner of our space so much so that I'm beginning to wonder if we even need to proceed to our bigger plans. Maybe this is our destiny.

As I watch children play there these past couple months, swinging on the greenhouse frame, jumping from table top to table top, piling up junk into fortresses and castles, I'm reminded of the magic and power of truly free play. The adults hardly ever go over there because, frankly, its hard to walk around with all the junk, but there are always kids there in this corner of our playground that has been left to go "wild." The metaphor that occurs to me is the farmer who rotates his crops, leaving certain fields to lie fallow for a time before again planting them. 

I reckon we will eventually carry out our plans, but there is certainly no hurry. A good playground needs corners like this.

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