Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Things We Lack

Even before we built our outdoor classroom last spring, our space was not conducive to such typical playground activities as riding trikes or even sustained running of any kind. 

Not only was our area small, made even moreso when slammed by 20+ kids, but the uneven, cracked asphalt surface created a frustratingly challenging terrain for pedaling and a deceptively treacherous one for running. Rarely a day went by that we didn't have to break out the bandages or ice packs. 

Today trike riding is entirely out of the question.

I can't remember the last time we needed a bandage or ice pack while playing outdoors, except by way of emotional comfort. I also can't remember the last time I've heard an adult caution children about using their "walking feet," something we once said to the point of it having almost no meaning.

Indeed, we did keep our "unicycle merry-go-round," which gives kids an opportunity to get up a head of steam, and our gym provides an indoor space that allows for running and riding, so the children of Woodland Park are not entirely bereft of opportunities to go, but for all intents and purposes, we've been forced to slow down when outside. We spend our time moving about in a "real" terrain, one that requires a certain level of diligence and even caution in which to go from one place to another. It's no longer a space comprised, the way it once was, of the apparently smooth, flat planes that characterize urban life.  I love watching the 2-year-olds, in particular, totter their way across the ground, eyes down, navigating steps, toys, ledges, rocks, stumps, and other people, developing their sense of balance, pulling up frequently to investigate something they would have missed had they been sprinting from place to place.

We have a lot of opportunities for balancing, clambering, jumping, hopping, and traversing. I feel that I've witnessed an overall improvement in gross motor skills, even without the running and riding.

In my ideal world, of course, we would have a large undulating field in which to run. We would have hills of grass down which to roll and a track of some sort upon which to ride trikes. But we are not going to ever have those things at Woodland Park. No school can provide the entire range of experience a child requires for a complete education. These are the things we lack and Woodland Park, but I would not trade them today for the things we have gained.

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MOM #1 said...

Oh, I definitely think you came out ahead in the deal. Woodland Park looks awesome!

Deborah said...

We have a very large playground at each of our schools with a set of swings, a big slide, sandbox, plenty of grassy areas, and cars that the children can drive around on tracks...

And yet we lack a water wall, a sound wall, a garden, large and small rocks, stumps, flowers, ledges, and other parts of a natural environment that would require a 2 year old to look down and watch where he or she walks... We lack the parents who will come in everyday and invest their own time and resources to build a place to play and explore...

The title of your post should read "The things you lack"!

Play for Life said...

I think your post title should read "The things we DON'T lack"!
Donna :) :)

Amy A @ Child Central Station said...

What a transformation!!! You have an amazing play/learning space. There is always going to be "something" missing, but you seriously have so many great gifts and opportunities to offer the children.

Deborah said...

LOL - I Sherry and donna - I didn't think of that title!

SquiggleMum said...

I often think about the things my children lack in their backyard. Due to the steep slope we cannot have bikes, or trampolines, or even a traditional cubby house. But what we do have is a creek, and bridges, and trees, and rockwalls, and a sandpit. And then I realise that my children, like yours - don't really lack at all.

Juliet Robertson said...

I think Woodland Park pre-school community has done itself proud. It looks like an enticing space to be in.

However a place is only as good as the people who use it. You could have the "perfect" outdoor space...yet if it isn't used, loved and looked after, then quite frankly it's a waste of space.

Furthermore, a decent education is based upon developing trusting, caring positive relationships. So, your ability to be a sensitive facilitator of children's play is crucial to the whole outdoor experience.

So, I think it's time you gave yourself a pat on the back in this post too.

Juliet Robertson said...

Oh I also forgot to say, if you know other pre-schools nearby, then why not "go visiting" with your children? It's a great way to share resources and develop wider friendships and share ideas about activities and resources for the outdoor area. I've just blogged about Achnasheen Primary School - we clocked up 1500 miles worth of school visits and trips each year! Once a fortnight we went places!

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