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Which clippings match 'Open Spaces' keyword pg.1 of 1
17 NOVEMBER 2014

Mapping the geography of childhood playscapes

"In 1972, the British–born geography student Roger Hart settled on an unusual project for his dissertation. He moved to a rural New England town and, for two years, tracked the movements of 86 children in the local elementary school, to create what he called a 'geography of children,' including actual maps that would show where and how far the children typically roamed away from home. Usually research on children is conducted by interviewing parents, but Hart decided he would go straight to the source. The principal of the school lent him a room, which became known as 'Roger's room,' and he slowly got to know the children. Hart asked them questions about where they went each day and how they felt about those places, but mostly he just wandered around with them. Even now, as a father and a settled academic, Hart has a dreamy, puckish air. Children were comfortable with him and loved to share their moments of pride, their secrets. Often they took him to places adults had never seen before–playhouses or forts the kids had made just for themselves.

Hart's methodology was novel, but he didn't think he was recording anything radical. Many of his observations must have seemed mundane at the time. For example: 'I was struck by the large amount of time children spend modifying the landscape in order to make places for themselves and for their play.' But reading his dissertation today feels like coming upon a lost civilization, a child culture with its own ways of playing and thinking and feeling that seems utterly foreign now. The children spent immense amounts of time on their own, creating imaginary landscapes their parents sometimes knew nothing about. The parents played no role in their coming together–'it is through cycling around that the older boys chance to fall into games with each other,' Hart observed. The forts they built were not praised and cooed over by their parents, because their parents almost never saw them.

Through his maps, Hart discovered broad patterns: between second and third grade, for instance, the children's 'free range'–the distance they were allowed to travel away from home without checking in first–tended to expand significantly, because they were permitted to ride bikes alone to a friend's house or to a ball field. By fifth grade, the boys especially gained a 'dramatic new freedom' and could go pretty much wherever they wanted without checking in at all. (The girls were more restricted because they often helped their mothers with chores or errands, or stayed behind to look after younger siblings.) To the children, each little addition to their free range–being allowed to cross a paved road, or go to the center of town–was a sign of growing up. The kids took special pride, Hart noted, in 'knowing how to get places,' and in finding shortcuts that adults wouldn't normally use."

(Hanna Rosin, April 2014, The Atlantic)

Roger Hart (1979). "Children's Experience of Place", Irvington.

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TAGS

1972 • ad-hoc geographies • alone but not lonely • being allowed • childhood agency • creating imaginary landscapes • dissertation project • elementary school • environmental psychology • environments for children • fifth grade • free range playgrowing upHanna Rosin • how children learn • how children play • kid-oriented experienceslearning by doing • making places • modifying landscape • New England • observation (data collection) • open spacesopen-ended play spaces • overprotection • patterns of usepersonal autonomypersonal freedompersonal responsibility • places for children • play fort • playhouses • playscapes • riding bikes • risk-taking • Roger Hart • route mapscriptible spaces • second grade • smooth phenomenal spacesocial constructionismsocial geographysocial researchspaces for childrenthird gradeurban mapping

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
16 NOVEMBER 2014

The school which encourages risk-taking through open-ended play

"It sounds like a child's dream and a parent's nightmare – a school with no rules. But at Swanson School in Auckland, New Zealand, a blind eye is turned at break time while the kids run amok outside. Dani Isdale joins the children as they climb trees, skid around on bikes and fire makeshift weapons – it's all allowed and even encouraged.

'The need to wrap up our kids in cotton wool and not give them an opportunity to hurt themselves – you are actually taking away a lot of learning opportunities,' says principal Bruce McLachlan. When playtime ends, serious learning begins and he says the children are much more receptive, confident and cooperative after their 'free range' play. But he does admit to Dani that there is just one rule – the kids aren't allowed to kill each other. They love it, but do parents think he's gone too far?"

(Dani Isdale, 21 October 2014, SBS Dateline)

[Bruce McLachlan, the principal of Swanson School in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand believes that 'wrapping children in cotton wool' is more risky in the long–term than giving them the freedom to set their own rules in the playground]

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TAGS

Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) • ad-hocagency of access and engagementanarchic freedomAotearoa New ZealandAuckland • breaktime • Bruce McLachlan • climbing trees • cobbled togetherexploration of unfolding possibilitiesexposure to riskfree range play • Grant Schofield • health and safety cultureimpromptu playimprovisationjerry-builtjunk playgroundlearning by doingmake-do playgroundsmakeshift • makeshift weapons • no rules • open spacesopen-ended play spacesparticipatory processpersonal responsibilityplace for childrenplay spacesplayscapesplaytimerisk-taking • SBS • SBS Dateline • school principal • scriptible spacessmooth phenomenal spacesocial constructionismspaces for children • Swanson School • turning a blind eye • universal no-fault personal accident injury scheme • wrapping children in cotton woo

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
15 APRIL 2013

The Imagination of Playgrounds

"The following images begin with make–do playgrounds (as in the photographs by Helen Levitt, Henri Cartier–Bresson and others), but are followed by some unique and creative playground structures, some of which are mid–century modernist designs. As these images attest, playground equipment can be as simple as a tractor tire or mimic the amorphic abstraction of Jean Arp. So whether you are a landscape architect, a designer or just an inventive kid, all that really matters boils down to one simple question: do children like to play on it?"

(John Foster, 14 April 2013)

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ad-hocadventure playgroundagency • Bob Cassilly • children • climbing structure • Design Observer (magazine) • Ed Kashi • Egon Moller-Nielsenexploration of unfolding possibilitiesexploratory experimentation • Helen Levitt • Henri Cartier-Bresson • imaginationimpromptu playimprovisationIsamu Noguchi • Jean Arp • Joe Brown • John Foster • jungle gymKuro Kanekolandscape architecturelandscape designmake-do playgroundsopen spacesopen-ended play spacesPaul FriedbergPaul Hoganplace for childrenplay • play sculpture • play spacesplaygroundplayground spacesrisk-takingscriptible spaces • sliding board • space and objectstyre swing

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
03 FEBRUARY 2006

Claustrophobic spaces of German modernity and agoraphobic spaces of American post-war film genres

"Running throughout our essay as its leitmotif is the opposition between the claustrophobic spaces of German modernity (epitomized in Expressionist cinema and in the noir films directed by Germans in Hollywood) and the agoraphobic fear of wide open spaces, exemplified by post–war American space (suburbia and the urban "superblock") and by the post–war film genres of the western and the road movie. Lacking a frontier myth, Germans fantasized about an expansive sense of space and dreaded a claustrophobic one. By contrast, the American cinema developed a morbid fear of open spaces devoid of human community and fantasized about the possibility of a tightly–knit urban community."

(Ed Dimendberg and Anton Kaes)

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TAGS

agoraphobia • American • Anton Kaes • claustrophobiaclaustrophobic spaces • Edward Dimendberg • expansive sense of space • expressionism • Expressionist cinema • filmfrontierfrontier mythgenreGermanGerman Expressionism • German modernity • Hollywood • human community • modernist architecturemodernityopen countrysideopen spacesperiurbanisationpost-war • post-war American space • post-war film genres • postwar • road movie • suburbia • superblock • tightly-knit urban community • urban • urban superblock • Westernwestern film genre • wide open spaces

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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