Friday, March 02, 2018

How A Junkyard Playground Works

She hadn't come looking for me, but when I passed where she played with a friend, she said, "Teacher Tom, look at our play area." They then gave me a tour of junk they had purposefully arranged, explaining to me how everything worked. There was a slide and a merry-go-round and several other things that adult play area designers haven't yet, and probably never will, invent.

After admiring their project for a bit, a project that was still in process, I made my way up the hill to where the "bad guy" trap has taken up residence. This is a well-established project undertaken mostly by a partnership of two boys that has been literally months in the making. 

I keep expecting them to lose interest, but they have persisted. It has been disassembled, partially and totally, by other children several times, but they have rebuilt it again and again, bigger and better than before. Every single item has a purpose and they will happily explain it to anyone who shows an interest. The latest addition is radar.

Not far from the bad buy trap some girls were playing "birds." It's a game that one of them has been playing at least since last year, but lately her passion for playing birds has inspired her playmates. Normally, their game has involved chirping, flapping, and jumping off of things to simulate flying, but today they had built something from the junk at hand.

They had arranged orange traffic cones atop a small hill, surrounding what's left of an old shipping crate. "It's our nest, Teacher Tom." There was a kind of gangway, so I asked, "Is this how you get in?"

"No, this is the kid's nest. The trampoline is where the adults sleep. The wood is how we get to each other's rooms. Tweet tweet tweet tweet." They then went on to explain the purpose of everything in their nest.

Then down at the work bench I found a pair of brothers using PVC pipe to build a "machine" that performed such miraculous feats that they couldn't even explain it.

Our junkyard playground was in full swing, with every corner being used for purposeful collaboration, deep meaningful play that no adult could have imagined, although some might find echoes in their childhood memories.

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