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robertogreco : adventureplaygrounds   12

What It Would Take to Set American Kids Free | The New Yorker
"My trip coincided with the publication of “The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids Play!” in the Times Magazine, a masterful bit of parental trolling whose comment section reached a symbolic two thousand and sixteen entries before it was closed. The dozens of adventure playgrounds in Tokyo offer, as a public amenity, what Mike Lanza (the “anti-helicopter parent” in question) says he created in his private Menlo Park, California, back yard: a challenging and unscheduled place for physical play that is largely free of parental supervision. Lanza is far from alone in believing that American children have a play problem. Take a look at Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids blog, which is peppered with reports of cops and child-protective services being called when parents leave their kids to play unsupervised. Lanza’s own book, “Playborhood,” describes the kids-can’t-play problem as both a social one and a spatial one. Without broader community support, such back-yard attempts at free play like his are doomed to become exercises in vanity. Look at them on the roof! My kids are more resilient than yours!

The overprogrammed, oversterilized, overprotected lives of (some of) America’s youth are the result of a nexus of changes to work life, home life, and street life that have made bringing up babies into a series of consumer choices, from unsubsidized day care forward. It is the public realm—where the Tokyo playgrounds operate—that needs to change for American children to have unstructured afternoons and weekends, for them to bike and walk between school and the playground, to see packs of kids get together without endless chains of parental texts. Kawasaki City, where Kodomo Yume Park is located, created its own Ordinance on the Rights of the Child, in 2001, which includes an article promising to make “secure and comfortable places for children.”

But independence requires infrastructure. Hanegi Playpark was founded in 1975 by Kenichi Omura, a landscape architect, and his wife Shoko Omura, an English teacher. They translated the key book on adventure play into Japanese and then travelled to Europe to meet with the woman who was their prime mover from the nineteen-fifties on: Lady Allen of Hurtwood. Lady Allen had seen the first such “junk playground” in Emdrup, outside Copenhagen, where it became a refuge for youth then under German occupation. She spent subsequent decades as a “propagandist for children’s play.” In Tokyo, a low crime rate and a society accustomed to community ownership of public space has created, around Hanegi and approximately thirteen other such parks, a city where there is more room for innocent error.

The road to Kodomo Yume Park (which means “children’s dream”) was narrow and winding, and there was no sidewalk for much of the way. And yet it was safe, because the tiny cars knew to look for pedestrians and cyclists, and drove at slower speeds. There were people in the houses and stores along the route, and few of the buildings were more than three or four stories tall, offering “eyes on the street” as well as adults who might be appealed to for help. The neighborhood, like the adventure playground, operated as a safety net, ready in case of trouble but not often deployed. A mother who was camped out at Yume Park with five children, the youngest a three-month-old, told me a story—hilarious for her—that would have been a nightmare for me. Her two-year-old, who had observed his five-year-old brother being sent to the corner to buy bread, decided he could do the same, and turned up at the shop with an empty wallet. I looked around at the protected bike lanes, the publicly funded playground workers, and the houses where people are home in the afternoon. Do I wish that my kids—who are five and nine**—**could roll on their own from school to the park, meet friends, and appear on the doorstep at 5 p.m., muddy, damp, and full of play? I do, but then I think of the Saturdays dominated by sports schedules, the windswept winter playgrounds, the kids hit by cars in crosswalks, with the light. It isn’t the idea of my kids holding a hammer or saw that scares me but the idea of trying to make community alone.

At the adventure playgrounds, the kids build the equipment they need under the hands-off supervision of play workers trained to facilitate but not to interfere. I’ve read the diary of the first play worker, John Bertelsen, who ran the adventure playground that Lady Allen visited at Emdrup. His account of the day-to-day in 1943 sounds quite similar to what I observed in 2016.
At 10:45 am today the playground opened . . . We began by moving all the building material in the open shed. Bricks, boards, fireposts and cement pillars were moved to the left alongside the entrance, where building and digging started right away. The work was done by children aged 4 to 17. It went on at full speed and all the workers were in high spirits; dust, sweat, warning shouts and a few scratches all created just the right atmosphere. The children’s play- and work-ground had opened, and they knew how to take full advantage of it.

The do-it-yourself rule is, to a certain extent, self-limiting, as towers built with simple tools are shorter than those ordered from catalogues. I saw plenty of children up on roofs—the rule was, if you can climb up without a ladder, relying on your own strength and ingenuity, it’s O.K. In a documentary on The Land, a Welsh adventure playground, a play worker describes the difference between risk and hazard: a risk you take on knowingly; a hazard is unexpected, like a nail sticking out of a board. The play workers are there to remove hazards and leave the risks.

Journalism about adventure play tends to emphasize the danger, but these spaces actually need to be seen as exceptionally porous community centers, in which lots of social activities, for parents and children, occur. “Risky play” is a way for children to test their own limits, and because the parks are embedded in residential communities they can do so at their own pace. Hitoshi Shimamura, who runs the organization Tokyo Play, told me that he has sessions to teach parents to use the tools, because their fear derived from their own lack of experience. Kids also need time to ease into the freedom and figure out which activity most appeals to them. If adventure play were to become permanent in New York, it would do better as a permanent fixture in a neighborhood than as a weekend destination. At a temporary adventure playground set up by Play:Ground on Governors Island this summer, a sign on the fence read, “Your children are fine without advice and suggestions,” though legally, children under six had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The “adventure” can be with water, with tools, with real fire, or just with pretend kitchen equipment, allowing the parks to appeal to a broad array of children, and over a longer period of time. What this means, in practice, is a range of activity during days, weeks, or even years. In the morning, adventure playgrounds become settings for an urban version of a forest preschool, where small children learn the basics of getting along outdoors. In the afternoon, they become a place for older kids to let off steam between school and homework; many communities in Tokyo play a public chime at five in the afternoon—a mass call that is it time to go home. On the weekends, Yume Park might ring with the hammers of children, but for teen-agers there are other options: a recording studio with padded walls; a wooden shed piled with bike parts for the taking; a quiet, shaded place for conversation. Bertelsen wrote in his diary,
Occasionally, complaints have been made that the playground does not possess a smart enough appearance, and that children cannot possibly be happy playing about in such a jumble. To this I should only like to say that, at times, the children can shape and mould [sic] the playground in such a way that it is a monument to their efforts and a source of aesthetic pleasure to the adult eye; at other times it can appear, to the adult eye, like a pigsty. However, children’s play is not what the adults see, but what the child himself experiences.

One of my favorite moments in Tokyo occurred late one afternoon at a smaller adventure playground, Komazawa Harappa, a long sliver of space in a tight residential neighborhood, masked from the street by a simple hedge. Three kids fanned the flames in a fire pit; a baby padded about a dirty pool dressed in a diaper; two small boys, hammering on a house, had remembered to take their shoes off on the porch. But not everyone felt the need to be busy. Two teen-age girls had climbed up on the roof of the play workers’ house, via a self-built platform of poles and planks, and seemed deep in conversation. Suddenly, they began to sing, their clear voices ringing out over the open space."
alexandralange  children  unschooling  deschooling  community  2016  infrastructure  parks  playgrounds  adventureplaygrounds  risk  risktaking  hazards  japan  parenting  openstudioproject  messiness  johnbertelsen  kenishiomura  ladyallen  emdrup  copenhagen  tokyo  kodomoyumepark  srg  urban  urbanism  play  lenoreskenazy  hanegiplaypark  tools  dirt  order  rules  mikelanza  supervision  safety  independence  us  shokoomura  diy  risklyplay  lcproject  tcsnmt  sfsh 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Urban Omnibus » City as Playground
"How does the design of your childhood environment affect you? For the better part of a decade, painter Julia Jacquette has been excavating memories of her childhood playground on the Upper West Side. Her family history dovetails with a chapter in New York’s built environment that has been largely forgotten: a “playground revolution” in the 1960s and ’70s. Designers like Paul Friedberg, Richard Dattner, and Jacquette’s own father created innovative adventure playgrounds, child-size cities for imaginative play.

Adventure playgrounds appeared all over New York City, from Central Park to residential buildings and vacant lots. They were part of larger changes in the design and use of the city’s public spaces during the Mayoral administration of John V. Lindsay (1966-1973) that responded to accelerating suburbanization, changing demographics, displeasure with the functionalist environments of urban renewal — in short, a sense of impending “urban crisis.” The playgrounds were meant to make the city more inclusive, more attractive, and more malleable: a place where everyone could thrive.

What happens to a playground when it’s torn down? Many of the playgrounds are now gone, others have been renovated beyond recognition. In her graphic memoir, Playground of My Mind, Julia Jacquette revisits and reconstructs the playgrounds that marked her childhood and have stayed with her ever since. We are pleased to publish an excerpt of Playground of My Mind in the slide show above. Then, Jacquette and writer James Trainor, who is also at work on a book on the city’s playgrounds, explore their childhood memories and grown-up investigations of a critical chapter in the history of New York’s public spaces."
cities  urban  urbanism  2016  jamestrainor  juliajacquette  publicspace  playgrounds  sfsh  glvo  nyc  illustration  childhood  paulfriedberg  richarddattner  sesamestreet  rossryanjacquette  adventureplaygrounds  children  play  aldovaneyck 
march 2017 by robertogreco
What It Would Take to Set American Kids Free - The New Yorker
"“Play freely at your own risk,” a well-known sign at Tokyo’s oldest adventure playground, Hanegi Playpark, reads. All three elements—play, freedom, risk—are in ample evidence at Kodomo Yume Park, a newer addition to the city’s play infrastructure. There’s an open space where young kids are building a village with their own hands, and a mesa of dirt, donated by a construction company, that has been riddled with canyons and holes. I was in Japan to visit adventure playgrounds for book research, and at every playground, at some point, a child poured a bucket of water down a trench, just to see where it would flow. News articles about adventure playgrounds tend to focus on the hammers and the saws, but for many urban children simply mucking about can be a pleasurable way of spending an afternoon. I was reminded of my own younger brother, who never found a stream or puddle too small to fall into. If Hanegi Park had been down the street, he would always have known where to go looking for mud.

My trip coincided with the publication of “The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids Play!” in the Times Magazine, a masterful bit of parental trolling whose comment section reached a symbolic two thousand and sixteen entries before it was closed. The dozens of adventure playgrounds in Tokyo offer, as a public amenity, what Mike Lanza (the “anti-helicopter parent” in question) says he created in his private Menlo Park, California, back yard: a challenging and unscheduled place for physical play that is largely free of parental supervision. Lanza is far from alone in believing that American children have a play problem. Take a look at Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids blog, which is peppered with reports of cops and child-protective services being called when parents leave their kids to play unsupervised. Lanza’s own book, “Playborhood,” describes the kids-can’t-play problem as both a social one and a spatial one. Without broader community support, such back-yard attempts at free play like his are doomed to become exercises in vanity. Look at them on the roof! My kids are more resilient than yours!

The overprogrammed, oversterilized, overprotected lives of (some of) America’s youth are the result of a nexus of changes to work life, home life, and street life that have made bringing up babies into a series of consumer choices, from unsubsidized day care forward. It is the public realm—where the Tokyo playgrounds operate—that needs to change for American children to have unstructured afternoons and weekends, for them to bike and walk between school and the playground, to see packs of kids get together without endless chains of parental texts. Kawasaki City, where Kodomo Yume Park is located, created its own Ordinance on the Rights of the Child, in 2001, which includes an article promising to make “secure and comfortable places for children.”

But independence requires infrastructure. Hanegi Playpark was founded in 1975 by Kenichi Omura, a landscape architect, and his wife Shoko Omura, an English teacher. They translated the key book on adventure play into Japanese and then travelled to Europe to meet with the woman who was their prime mover from the nineteen-fifties on: Lady Allen of Hurtwood. Lady Allen had seen the first such “junk playground” in Emdrup, outside Copenhagen, where it became a refuge for youth then under German occupation. She spent subsequent decades as a “propagandist for children’s play.” In Tokyo, a low crime rate and a society accustomed to community ownership of public space has created, around Hanegi and approximately thirteen other such parks, a city where there is more room for innocent error.

The road to Kodomo Yume Park (which means “children’s dream”) was narrow and winding, and there was no sidewalk for much of the way. And yet it was safe, because the tiny cars knew to look for pedestrians and cyclists, and drove at slower speeds. There were people in the houses and stores along the route, and few of the buildings were more than three or four stories tall, offering “eyes on the street” as well as adults who might be appealed to for help. The neighborhood, like the adventure playground, operated as a safety net, ready in case of trouble but not often deployed. A mother who was camped out at Yume Park with five children, the youngest a three-month-old, told me a story—hilarious for her—that would have been a nightmare for me. Her two-year-old, who had observed his five-year-old brother being sent to the corner to buy bread, decided he could do the same, and turned up at the shop with an empty wallet. I looked around at the protected bike lanes, the publicly funded playground workers, and the houses where people are home in the afternoon. Do I wish that my kids—who are five and nine—could roll on their own from school to the park, meet friends, and appear on the doorstep at 5 p.m., muddy, damp, and full of play? I do, but then I think of the Saturdays dominated by sports schedules, the windswept winter playgrounds, the kids hit by cars in crosswalks, with the light. It isn’t the idea of my kids holding a hammer or saw that scares me but the idea of trying to make community alone.

At the adventure playgrounds, the kids build the equipment they need under the hands-off supervision of play workers trained to facilitate but not to interfere. I’ve read the diary of the first play worker, John Bertelsen, who ran the adventure playground that Lady Allen visited at Emdrup. His account of the day-to-day in 1943 sounds quite similar to what I observed in 2016.
At 10:45 am today the playground opened . . . We began by moving all the building material in the open shed. Bricks, boards, fireposts and cement pillars were moved to the left alongside the entrance, where building and digging started right away. The work was done by children aged 4 to 17. It went on at full speed and all the workers were in high spirits; dust, sweat, warning shouts and a few scratches all created just the right atmosphere. The children’s play- and work-ground had opened, and they knew how to take full advantage of it.

The do-it-yourself rule is, to a certain extent, self-limiting, as towers built with simple tools are shorter than those ordered from catalogues. I saw plenty of children up on roofs—the rule was, if you can climb up without a ladder, relying on your own strength and ingenuity, it’s O.K. In a documentary on The Land, a Welsh adventure playground, a play worker describes the difference between risk and hazard: a risk you take on knowingly; a hazard is unexpected, like a nail sticking out of a board. The play workers are there to remove hazards and leave the risks.

Journalism about adventure play tends to emphasize the danger, but these spaces actually need to be seen as exceptionally porous community centers, in which lots of social activities, for parents and children, occur. “Risky play” is a way for children to test their own limits, and because the parks are embedded in residential communities they can do so at their own pace. Hitoshi Shimamura, who runs the organization Tokyo Play, told me that he has sessions to teach parents to use the tools, because their fear derived from their own lack of experience. Kids also need time to ease into the freedom and figure out which activity most appeals to them. If adventure play were to become permanent in New York, it would do better as a permanent fixture in a neighborhood than as a weekend destination. At a temporary adventure playground set up by Play:Ground on Governors Island this summer, a sign on the fence read, “Your children are fine without advice and suggestions,” though legally, children under six had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The “adventure” can be with water, with tools, with real fire, or just with pretend kitchen equipment, allowing the parks to appeal to a broad array of children, and over a longer period of time. What this means, in practice, is a range of activity during days, weeks, or even years. In the morning, adventure playgrounds become settings for an urban version of a forest preschool, where small children learn the basics of getting along outdoors. In the afternoon, they become a place for older kids to let off steam between school and homework; many communities in Tokyo play a public chime at five in the afternoon—a mass call that is it time to go home. On the weekends, Yume Park might ring with the hammers of children, but for teen-agers there are other options: a recording studio with padded walls; a wooden shed piled with bike parts for the taking; a quiet, shaded place for conversation. Bertelsen wrote in his diary,
Occasionally, complaints have been made that the playground does not possess a smart enough appearance, and that children cannot possibly be happy playing about in such a jumble. To this I should only like to say that, at times, the children can shape and mould [sic] the playground in such a way that it is a monument to their efforts and a source of aesthetic pleasure to the adult eye; at other times it can appear, to the adult eye, like a pigsty. However, children’s play is not what the adults see, but what the child himself experiences.

One of my favorite moments in Tokyo occurred late one afternoon at a smaller adventure playground, Komazawa Harappa, a long sliver of space in a tight residential neighborhood, masked from the street by a simple hedge. Three kids fanned the flames in a fire pit; a baby padded about a dirty pool dressed in a diaper; two small boys, hammering on a house, had remembered to take their shoes off on the porch. But not everyone felt the need to be busy. Two teen-age girls had climbed up on the roof of the play workers’ house, via a self-built platform of poles and planks, and seemed deep in conversation. Suddenly, they began to sing, their clear voices ringing out over the open space… [more]
japan  children  tokyo  parenting  alexandralange  2016  adventureplaygrounds  risk  helicopterparenting  diy  johnberthelsen  ladyallen  1943  lenoreskenazy  mikelanza  kenichiomura  shokoomura  play  playgorunds  risktaking  helicopterparents 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Dream cities: the New York that never was, the playgrounds we don't have.
"And finally: How many people sent me this article from the New York Times Magazine on "the anti-helicopter parent"? Many many, including my own father. What is he trying to tell me? It's a masterful troll, but one which, unfortunately, leaves out much historical and contemporary context on the role of playgrounds in urban life.

As it happened, the day it popped up online, I happened to be visiting one of Tokyo's dozens of adventure playgrounds, which offer all the community, risk and autonomy of Mike Lanza's Menlo Park backyard, without the misogyny, gender stereotypes and high price. At the adventure playgrounds, the kids get to make the equipment they need, under the hands-off supervision of play workers trained to facilitate but not interfere. Rather than emphasizing only risk (though I saw plenty of children up on roofs), the adventure playgrounds are open for all kinds of play: with water, with tools, with real fire and pretend kitchen equipment. Articles on adventure play tend to emphasize the danger, but these spaces actually need to be seen as exceptionally porous community centers, in which lots of types of social activities, for parents and children, occur. One playworker told me he had sessions for parents in how to use tools, because their fear derived from their own lack of experience.

For there to be a real revolution in American children's lives, leading to greater independence, it can't come down to individual consumer choices and Lanza's mom-shaming. Independence requires a whole infrastructure of changes, from protected bike lanes to publicly-funded playground workers, to eyes on the street in the afternoon to less homework. Did I wish my kids could roll, on their own, from school to the park, meet friends, and appear on the doorstep when the clock chimed five, muddy, damp, full of what they played? (There are literal chimes at 5 p.m. in Tokyo.) But one sanitized backyard, in one of the wealthiest towns in America, won't make that happen. It's going to take a village, public funding, and broad cultural change."
alexandralange  parenting  adventureplaygorunds  playgrounds  publicspace  tokyo  japan  children  play  cities  mikelanza  menlopark  2016  adventureplaygrounds  learning  fear  risk  risktaking  communitycenters  lcproject  openstudioproject 
october 2016 by robertogreco
fieldnotes.in: On Adventure and Play
"Recompiling a list of a few resources on Adventure Playgrounds as it has recently come up in conversation."
play  playgrounds  adventureplaygrounds  adventure  children  parenting  society  thomassteele-maley 
july 2016 by robertogreco
The Minecraft Generation - The New York Times
"Seth Frey, a postdoctoral fellow in computational social science at Dartmouth College, has studied the behavior of thousands of youths on Minecraft servers, and he argues that their interactions are, essentially, teaching civic literacy. “You’ve got these kids, and they’re creating these worlds, and they think they’re just playing a game, but they have to solve some of the hardest problems facing humanity,” Frey says. “They have to solve the tragedy of the commons.” What’s more, they’re often anonymous teenagers who, studies suggest, are almost 90 percent male (online play attracts far fewer girls and women than single-­player mode). That makes them “what I like to think of as possibly the worst human beings around,” Frey adds, only half-­jokingly. “So this shouldn’t work. And the fact that this works is astonishing.”

Frey is an admirer of Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Prize-­winning political economist who analyzed the often-­unexpected ways that everyday people govern themselves and manage resources. He sees a reflection of her work in Minecraft: Running a server becomes a crash course in how to compromise, balance one another’s demands and resolve conflict.

Three years ago, the public library in Darien, Conn., decided to host its own Minecraft server. To play, kids must acquire a library card. More than 900 kids have signed up, according to John Blyberg, the library’s assistant director for innovation and user experience. “The kids are really a community,” he told me. To prevent conflict, the library installed plug-ins that give players a chunk of land in the game that only they can access, unless they explicitly allow someone else to do so. Even so, conflict arises. “I’ll get a call saying, ‘This is Dasher80, and someone has come in and destroyed my house,’ ” Blyberg says. Sometimes library administrators will step in to adjudicate the dispute. But this is increasingly rare, Blyberg says. “Generally, the self-­governing takes over. I’ll log in, and there’ll be 10 or 15 messages, and it’ll start with, ‘So-and-so stole this,’ and each message is more of this,” he says. “And at the end, it’ll be: ‘It’s O.K., we worked it out! Disregard this message!’ ”

Several parents and academics I interviewed think Minecraft servers offer children a crucial “third place” to mature, where they can gather together outside the scrutiny and authority at home and school. Kids have been using social networks like Instagram or Snapchat as a digital third place for some time, but Minecraft imposes different social demands, because kids have to figure out how to respect one another’s virtual space and how to collaborate on real projects.

“We’re increasingly constraining youth’s ability to move through the world around them,” says Barry Joseph, the associate director for digital learning at the American Museum of Natural History. Joseph is in his 40s. When he was young, he and his friends roamed the neighborhood unattended, where they learned to manage themselves socially. Today’s fearful parents often restrict their children’s wanderings, Joseph notes (himself included, he adds). Minecraft serves as a new free-­ranging realm.

Joseph’s son, Akiva, is 9, and before and after school he and his school friend Eliana will meet on a Minecraft server to talk and play. His son, Joseph says, is “at home but still getting to be with a friend using technology, going to a place where they get to use pickaxes and they get to use shovels and they get to do that kind of building. I wonder how much Minecraft is meeting that need — that need that all children have.” In some respects, Minecraft can be as much social network as game.

Just as Minecraft propels kids to master Photoshop or video-­editing, server life often requires kids to acquire complex technical skills. One 13-year-old girl I interviewed, Lea, was a regular on a server called Total Freedom but became annoyed that its administrators weren’t clamping down on griefing. So she asked if she could become an administrator, and the owners said yes.

For a few months, Lea worked as a kind of cop on that beat. A software tool called “command spy” let her observe records of what players had done in the game; she teleported miscreants to a sort of virtual “time out” zone. She was eventually promoted to the next rank — “telnet admin,” which allowed her to log directly into the server via telnet, a command-­line tool often used by professionals to manage servers. Being deeply involved in the social world of Minecraft turned Lea into something rather like a professional systems administrator. “I’m supposed to take charge of anybody who’s breaking the rules,” she told me at the time.

Not everyone has found the online world of Minecraft so hospitable. One afternoon while visiting the offices of Mouse, a nonprofit organization in Manhattan that runs high-tech programs for kids, I spoke with Tori. She’s a quiet, dry-­witted 17-year-old who has been playing Minecraft for two years, mostly in single-­player mode; a recent castle-­building competition with her younger sister prompted some bickering after Tori won. But when she decided to try an online server one day, other players — after discovering she was a girl — spelled out “BITCH” in blocks.

She hasn’t gone back. A group of friends sitting with her in the Mouse offices, all boys, shook their heads in sympathy; they’ve seen this behavior “everywhere,” one said. I have been unable to find solid statistics on how frequently harassment happens in Minecraft. In the broader world of online games, though, there is more evidence: An academic study of online players of Halo, a shoot-’em-up game, found that women were harassed twice as often as men, and in an unscientific poll of 874 self-­described online gamers, 63 percent of women reported “sex-­based taunting, harassment or threats.” Parents are sometimes more fretful than the players; a few told me they didn’t let their daughters play online. Not all girls experience harassment in Minecraft, of course — Lea, for one, told me it has never happened to her — and it is easy to play online without disclosing your gender, age or name. In-game avatars can even be animals.

How long will Minecraft’s popularity endure? It depends very much on Microsoft’s stewardship of the game. Company executives have thus far kept a reasonably light hand on the game; they have left major decisions about the game’s development to Mojang and let the team remain in Sweden. But you can imagine how the game’s rich grass-roots culture might fray. Microsoft could, for example, try to broaden the game’s appeal by making it more user-­friendly — which might attenuate its rich tradition of information-­sharing among fans, who enjoy the opacity and mystery. Or a future update could tilt the game in a direction kids don’t like. (The introduction of a new style of combat this spring led to lively debate on forums — some enjoyed the new layer of strategy; others thought it made Minecraft too much like a typical hack-and-slash game.) Or an altogether new game could emerge, out-­Minecrafting Minecraft.

But for now, its grip is strong. And some are trying to strengthen it further by making it more accessible to lower-­income children. Mimi Ito has found that the kids who acquire real-world skills from the game — learning logic, administering servers, making YouTube channels — tend to be upper middle class. Their parents and after-­school programs help them shift from playing with virtual blocks to, say, writing code. So educators have begun trying to do something similar, bringing Minecraft into the classroom to create lessons on everything from math to history. Many libraries are installing Minecraft on their computers."
2016  clivethompson  education  videogames  games  minecraft  digitalculture  gaming  mimiito  robinsloan  coding  computationalthinking  stem  programming  commandline  ianbogost  walterbenjamin  children  learning  resilience  colinfanning  toys  lego  wood  friedrichfroebel  johnlocke  rebeccamir  mariamontessori  montessori  carltheodorsorensen  guilds  mentoring  mentorship  sloyd  denmark  construction  building  woodcrafting  woodcraft  adventureplaygrounds  material  logic  basic  mojang  microsoft  markuspersson  notch  modding  photoshop  texturepacks  elinorostrom  collaboration  sethfrey  civics  youtube  networkedlearning  digitalliteracy  hacking  computers  screentime  creativity  howwelearn  computing  froebel 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Playground Project | Art & Education
"Until the 1980s—and in rare cases until today—playgrounds were places for social experiments, risky projects, and spectacular sculptures. Architects, urban planners, artists, parents, and children were invited to leave their comfort zone and to venture something new. Curated by Gabriela Burkhalter, The Playground Project at Kunsthalle Zürich brings many of these exemplary, but nowadays forgotten initiatives, pioneering acts, and adventures back, and installs three playgrounds for children to run, hide and climb. May our cities invent new playgrounds!

The place and the idea of the playground also raises questions about the relationships between different generations. The experiences, memories, and stakes of our changing lives and times do overlap at the climbing poles and sandpits: toddlers’s games, youth folly, parental worry, grandparental bliss…The playground blends together what elsewhere seems restricted to succession. Therefore, the theory and educational program of The Playground Project focuses on joint activity: A room full of things to design your own playground, physical excitement at our monthly yoga classes in the exhibition, public guided tours about the playground’s own biography, and a look behind the scenes of playground production and discourse at a day-long symposium with international guests.

The symposium “Free and daring! Play(grounds) as a place of identification, community, and disorder in the city” takes place on Friday, April 22 from 9:30am to 6pm at Kunsthalle Zurich, and gathers activists, designers, and researchers to discuss and define the conditions for autonomous, free, and daring play within urban space. What does the creation of places that challenge kids require? And what must be the contribution of the given community towards it?

With Gabriela Burkhalter (curator of the exhibition, Basel), Marion Ebert (activist, Kinderbaustelle Biel), Tim Gill (activist, author, scholar, London), Axel Fischer (Head of Maintenance Grün Stadt Zürich), Sven Goebel (Pro Juventute, Divisional Manager “Free Space and Participation,” Zurich) and Petra Stocker (Pro Juventute, Project Coordinator “Play and Social Space,” Zurich), Karl Guyer (Director GZ Wipkingen), Alberto Nanclares da Veiga & Manuel Polanco Pérez-Llantada (Basurama, artist collective, Madrid), Helle Nebelong (landcape architect, Copenhagen), Sam Roth (Director open youth work Wattwil/Project Coordinator Kinderbaustelle Wattwil), Sreejata Roy (artist/pedagogue, Delhi), Xavier de la Salle (Group Ludic, artist collective, France), and others.


Entry: 50 CHF / 30 CHF members / 15 CHF reduced (incl. exhibition ticket), final panel discussion free

More information, detailed program and registration here.
For more information on the exhibition and full artist list please click here.
For dates and more information on other public programs please click here.

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive catalog: The Playground Project, edited by Gabriela Burkhalter, with contributions by Daniel Baumann, Gabriela Burkhalter, Vincent Romagny, Sreejata Roy, and Xavier de la Salle, German/English, Kunsthalle Zürich/JRP|Ringier 2016

Preview: RATZ FATZ ZAUBER WAS – Fairs and Fairy Tales
a project by Luca Beeler, Cedric Eisenring, and Carmen Tobler
Liste Art Fair Basel, June 14–19, 2016
Children’s books are narratives brought into nurseries by parents. Yet those books also transgress the protected private space towards a broader social sphere. Children’s books carry a peculiar set of expectations and aspirations: romantic ideas of the primordial, the “childishly naive,” as well as enlightenment models of education, or the discovery of the child as utopian matter. RATZ FATZ ZAUBER WAS – Fairs and Fairy Tales presents the stories and didactics of numerous examples, from the historical avant-gardes until today. At Liste Art Fair Basel the collection takes shape as a group of sculptural beings out of whose bellies the books are to take. Each day at 3pm special guests will read from their favorite examples.

Luca Beeler (*1985) lives in Zurich and works as a curator. From 2012 until 2014 he ran the art space Muda Mura Muri together with Lorenzo Bernet and Yannic Joray. Cédric Eisenring (*1983) is an artist living and working in Zurich. Carmen Tobler (*1985) is a book designer (a.o. Studio Marie Lusa) and works at Galerie Gregor Staiger in Zurich. Together they run the publishing house Bleach.

Kunsthalle Zürich is regularly supported by:
Stadt Zürich Kultur, Kanton Zürich Fachstelle Kultur, LUMA Foundation, Whale Foundation.

The exhibition is supported by Ernst Göhner Foundation and Graham Foundation."
playgrounds  children  play  lucabeeler  adventureplaygrounds  cities  architecture  urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  gabrielaburkhalter  art  design  timgill 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Playworkers, Ph.Ds, and the Growing Adventure Playground Movement | Atlas Obscura
"More and more people are considering a new degree: Ph.D in Playwork.

Why? Because children’s play has lost its way. Across the world, according to a pair of academics, adults have become stifling and engineering, domineering and overcalculating in their oversight of how kids bide their time. Urbanization has certainly played a role, limiting “playgrounds” to rigid metal structures lacking the magical potential of backyards, fields and forests. But parenting trends have also been moving in an increasingly hands-on direction, influenced in part by practical concerns such as safety and bullying, but also by a hungry desire for measurable results and a general distrust of children’s abilities to teach themselves—to control the content and direction of their own play, whether it involves crayons or saws.

Morgan Leichter-Saxby and Suzanna Law are working on PhDs in Playwork at Leeds Beckett University in the UK, which recently appointed the world’s first Professor of Playwork. Their PhD adviser, Dr. Fraser Brown, describes playwork as “non-judgmental, non-directive and largely reflective.” The “three Frees” of play require that it be freely chosen, free of charge, and that children must be free to come and go as they please.

Adventure play can take a variety of forms, ranging from natural spaces with treehouses and twine forts reminiscent of Huck Finn or Pippi Longstocking, to dump-like playgrounds filled with old tires and plastic junk, to temporary arts and crafts gatherings. One of the most critical components of adventure play are playworkers, a group of trained staff who are able to trust the children and watch their progress and learning, adults who guide, monitor and support without intervening.

Leichter-Saxby and Law are currently on a six-country world tour promoting Pop-Up Adventure Play, an organization they founded in 2010. Registered as a charity, Pop-Up Adventure Play functions under the belief that “children have the right to play as they please, and that a place that supports children’s play benefits everyone.” It doesn’t seem like a revolutionary concept, but some are realizing that in some ways, it is. The values behind adventure play have caused a growing number of adults to recognize the ways in which they are constricting children’s creativity.

When Leichter-Saxby came across her first adventure playground, she says “the vibe was like nowhere else on earth.” She and Law became play rangers, a type of playwork which involves bringing play into play-deprived communities. The more work they did, the more they felt that this was something that America really needed.

With Pop-Up Adventure Play, they wanted to create an accessible model of an adventure playground and provide the basic ideas to get people started. Anyone can access their free Pop-Up Play Shop Toolkit and Resource Pack, and ask for advice on how to get started. There have now been pop-ups in around 17 different countries, temporary projects intended to create momentum for long-term objectives.

Across different countries and neighborhoods, Leichter-Saxby and Law have observed that while governments have different initiatives, the main issues stay the same. “In Bogota, they're saying the militia moved the drug lords out, and nobody knows their neighbors,” says Leichter-Saxby. "In Park Slope, it's concerns about childcare, educational agenda, and testing that are overwhelming parents; kids aren't playing outside, and nobody knows their neighbors. All around the world, there are shared problems of standardized testing, collapsed social networks, a mistrust of public space... From people in wildly different circumstances, you have the same stories about barriers to play.”

The two women have helped to create pop-up adventure play in museums, parks, parking lots, and empty shops. “We meet people where they are, rather than asking them to come to us,” says Law. Adventure playgrounds evolve organically to meet a community’s immediate needs, meaning that no two playgrounds will be the same. It’s a matter of incremental risk and cultivating awareness. “I think a lot of adults today think that they’re afraid of fire and sharp tools with children—but they’re really afraid of letting children do what they please,” says Law.

Erin Davis is the director of a short documentary about The Land, an adventure playground in Wrexham, Wales known for its edginess and unconventional levels of autonomy.

At The Land, children can climb trees and make fires, work with saws and hammers, and very much build their own adventure. The reason this can work is that The Land is a very insular community, and the riskier elements are possible due to the playworkers who eliminate real safety hazards like stray nails, as well as their intimacy and familiarity with the same group of kids. “Something like The Land would not be safe in a place like New York City, where people are playing once, if they’re visiting, or come with a school group for an afternoon,” explains Davis.

Compared to hundreds across the UK and Europe, there are only five or six adventure playgrounds in the U.S. Perhaps the most high-profile for its incorporation of both moving parts and playworkers is Manhattan’s Imagination Playground, established in 2010, which rejects the fixed equipment model and instead offers oversized foam blocks that kids can move around.

“What captured my attention was the idea of playwork, and what it takes for an adult to support play,” Davis says of her time working on the film. “I was definitely reminded how competent children are; they get no credit for being smart creatures—clever, wise, and creative when given the opportunity.”
“It is how children explore and experiment, testing themselves, taking risks on their own terms and discovering how they function—what they like and don’t like—as much as discovering how their world works and how it responds to them,” she says.

England and Scotland have both launched campaigns for children’s play, but in the U.S., playwork has struggled to gain footing. “Ultimately, adult agendas have gotten in the way of adventure playwork blossoming in the U.S.,” says Law. She says Americans seem to prefer the “carefully curated baskets of joy” you get at preschools to the dirtiness and chaos of an adventure playground.

Jeremiah Dockray and his wife Erin Larsen are spearheading Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play in their community of Val Verde, 30 minutes north of Los Angeles. Dockray came across adventure play in an article from a ways back where adventure playgrounds were described as a parable for anarchy. He thought the playgrounds were extinct, but he found the concept amazing and wanted something similar for their five year-old son. The couple discovered an abandoned park in their neighborhood, saw it was for sale, fell in love with it, and bought it. They signed up for an online class offered by Law and Leichter-Saxby and began started to adopt the pop-up model for outreach to their community. For nearly two years, the couple has been doing pop-up playgrounds at least once a month, as well as working to make some inroads with local parks and recreation officials and public and charter schools, trying to get some adventure play concepts into schools and recess.

Right now, their permanent spot is being very slowly developed. “We’re trying not to head into it so fast that we make something that nobody actually asked for,” says Dockray. “What we’re trying to do is basically get to know as many of the families in the area.” They want to offer a physical and mental space that kids aren’t usually allowed in more regimented environments. “It’s a local idea, to help each other, look out for each other, day in and day out, for kids to come in and work on projects for weeks and weeks, months and months,” says Dockray. “To change the playground as they change—that’s the romantic vision, anyway.”

The community response has been positive, but they’re still navigating partnerships with the official entities and have yet to handle the legal side of things. Dockray says that when you sit insurance companies down and let them see data, adventure playgrounds are often more safe than the “bubble-wrapped playgrounds that they kind of cut-and-paste across America, where kids have a kind of an illusion that they can’t hurt themselves,” he says. “In the adventure play situation, kids can be in such a higher state of play, so focused that they’re in fact very careful, and aware of own bodies and space.”

Playworkers are one of most important aspects of having an adventure playground that truly does what it should, says Dockray, which is one reason that funding is important. They want to create something where people can make a living doing their playwork and helping out the community at no cost to them. Dockray and Larsen are working on several grants and partnerships, though they’re encountering a lot of regulations. Dockray says it’s actually easier to have an adventure playground if you don’t call yourself a playground.

Thanks to the individual efforts of people like Dockray and the support of organizations like Pop-Up Play, playwork is gradually gaining more traction in the U.S. There is now an annual Play Symposium held in Ithaca, New York, though no American universities yet offer degrees in Playwork. Leichter-Saxby and Law are hoping they can jumpstart a “play revolution.”

But it all comes down to the question: Are we willing to relinquish control, and let children direct themselves? "
playgrounds  adventureplaygrounds  children  play  2015  safety  parenting  society  adventure  fear  creativity 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The Value Of Wild, Risky Play: Fire, Mud, Hammers And Nails : NPR Ed : NPR
"Something that's hard for us to accept is that safety, security, is a myth to a degree. There's no such thing as complete safety; it's impossible, unfortunately. But we are interested in being as safe as possible. So that is reflected very obviously in children's culture in America these days. Certainly fear culture is a barrier to adventure play in the U.S. But my sense is that people are growing bored of that. [They are] exhausted by worrying about everything all the time, constantly trying to preempt disaster and enjoying the permission to let go that comes from this adventure play movement."



"Children are an indicator species, in a way. And if kids are stressed out and confined and constrained, they're living in the world we created for them. So really this should really be an opportunity for us to look at ourselves and what we're doing in a larger cultural capacity.

[Q] It's still weird to me that we just don't have more of these in the U.S.

The biggest barrier now is staffing fees. The key ingredient to an adventure playground is a staff that is specifically using a playwork approach to support the kids. You never see a parent at a European adventure playground. But you see parents all over the America play sites.

Another serious barrier is the ugly factor. Junk playgrounds are junky and they don't look cute. They aren't tidy. So for that reason it's a tough sell — even to people who easily get on board with the self-directed and risky play ideas. Of course, that's where the fence comes in. The Land is surrounded by an 8-foot privacy fence that protects neighbors from an eyesore while enabling kids their own independent experiences — playful ones like we remember fondly from our own childhoods."

[Embedded video is here: https://vimeo.com/89009798 ]
children  play  society  culture  fear  parenting  danger  risk  risktaking  playgrounds  adventure  securiy  wales  fire  erindavis  adventureplaygrounds 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Where The Wild Things Play : NPR Ed : NPR
"There are only a handful of these "wild playgrounds" in the country. They embrace the theory that free, unstructured play is vital for children and offer an antidote to the hurried lifestyles, digital distractions and overprotective parents that can leave children few opportunities to really cut loose.

"It's really central that kids are able to take their natural and intense play impulses and act on them," says Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychologist and the founding director of the National Institute for Play.

Children need an environment with "the opportunity to engage in open, free play where they're allowed to self-organize," he adds. "It's really a central part of being human and developing into competent adulthood."

Brown says this kind of free-range fun is not just good; it's essential. Wild play helps shape who we become, he says, and it should be embraced, not feared.

Some educators advocate "dangerous play," which they say helps kids become better problem solvers.

Patty's Place

In Europe there are lots of these kinds of free-range public playgrounds. They flourished after World War II. Europeans more readily embraced spaces for children to engage in what developmental psychologists like to call "managed risk."

But in the U.S. today there are barely a half-dozen. There are the Anarchy Zone in Ithaca, N.Y., which is just two years old, and a handful of others including a few in New York City.

This one in Berkeley is run by the city's parks and recreation department. It's funded largely by docking fees from the adjacent marina.

But, in many ways, this is Patty's place. "I've been involved here at the adventure playground since its inception — about 35 years," says Patty Donald, the playground's longtime coordinator.

Donald has been on a crusade to promote kid-driven, hands-on play. "A lot of people learn by touching and feeling and doing, and they excel that way," she says. "People drive two, three hours to come here."

Five staff members handle everything from replenishing the zip line's dirt landing zone to facilitating wood-painting and other play activities.

They keep a careful — yet mostly distant — eye on the children and what they're doing. If kids turn in wood with splinters or with a nail sticking out — called a "Mr. Dangerous" — they can earn paint and tools.

"You got it! Yay, Aly!" one staffer yells to a young girl as she makes her way across an old surfboard precariously balanced on a barrel.

The Cellphone Problem

So ... why are there so few of these wild playgrounds in the U.S.?

Fear of litigation is certainly an issue. But there are other factors, too, experts say. Among them are safety-obsessed, overprotective parents shepherding hyperscheduled children, and the fact that in America's cities and suburbs, play itself is in decline.

Donald worries that today's kids are controlled, coddled — and overscheduled. And some parents, she says, are often too distracted. "I find there are a lot of adults who don't know how to play with their kids."

Wait a minute, I ask: What do you mean there are parents who don't know how to play with their kids? I'm imagining awkward, distracted parents, fiddling with their iPhones because they don't get that they can actually interact with their children.

"Probably 75 percent of the parents that come in do that," Donald says. "The cellphone probably is the biggest problem we have. The parents are standing here, they're physically here."

But ... they're not really present, she says.

'Like A Pillow'

"This is awesome; this is a neat little place," says Dave Davirro. He and his 11-year-old son, Nicholas, are in from Hawaii visiting relatives in California.

He says kids need more places like this. "They're tearing down swings in my city," because they're dangerous, Davirro says. "We're way overprotective. I want my child to experience that, you know, there is some danger in everything.""
play  playgrounds  children  2014  adventureplaygrounds  wildplaygrounds  problemsolving  overscheduling  parenting 
august 2014 by robertogreco
'Adventure Playgrounds' a Dying Breed in the U.S. : NPR
"At so-called adventure playgrounds, kids are given hammers, nails, paint, scrap wood — anything they want, really — to make whatever they want. These playgrounds are popular in Europe, but in the United States liability issues have made them a dying breed. Kristin Wiederholt reports on the Berkeley Adventure Playground in Northern California."
2006  playgrounds  litigation  parenting  society  adventureplaygrounds  us  liability 
december 2013 by robertogreco

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