Tuesday, September 04, 2018

"Let's Do It Again!"

There is a large dog crate on our junkyard playground. It often goes neglected for weeks at a time, then, when I've about decided it's time to shift it to the dumpster, it re-emerges as the centerpiece of some game or other.

Usually, it's used as a kind of fort or hideout or house or cage, but because of its size it very often presents itself simply as a challenge in that the kids decide they need to move it from one place to another. No single kid is capable of shifting it any significant distance on her own, so when it must be moved it becomes a community project.

Recently, someone decided it needed to be moved the top of what we call "the concrete slide," a steep slope of concrete poured generations ago for the purpose of erosion control. The ultimate "goal" was to get it to the top and to then release it "to see what happens." Much of what occurs on our playground is "to see what happens."

It was a significant struggle to get the crate to the top, a task requiring many hands, lots of talking, and collective ingenuity, which is true of most projects. In the adult world, however, we so often, in a knee jerk fashion, connect things worth doing to hierarchical-style leadership, but playground projects generally start with the doing, with someone saying, "Let's . . ." which is an invitation rather than a command, and completion is made possible only through a web of agreements. Indeed, the surest way for these projects to "fail" is for one of the kids to get too "bossy," a guarantee that the others will throw up their hands and walk away.

The surest way to guarantee success is to find something cool to do and make space for others to join you. In this case, a couple kids had the idea and started wrangling the crate. As they did, others joined them, not even because they were invited, but because they saw they were needed. By the time they finally got it to the top, a dozen different children had taken part, some for only a few seconds, others fully engaged.

The original plan, as I mentioned, was to now let it slide (or tumble) down the concrete slide, but once it was in position, some of them figured that if it was going to go down, they might as well be inside. One boy found that he could hold the crate in place single-handedly by clutching a rope that was tied from the top of the slide. He called out, "Okay guys, get in!"

He quickly learned, however, that while he was strong enough to hold the weight of the crate plus his own, the addition of a second child was too much and down they went, a dramatic, noisy slide ending in a bump.

There was laughter, some cheering, and then a chorus of, "Let's do it again!" an invitation both issued and accepted by all.

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