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Which clippings match 'Elementary School' 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
17 MARCH 2013

Finland's school system accomplishes some impressive feats: so what makes Finnish students so successful?

"Students get plenty of teacher interaction: Finland and New York City have the same number of teachers. But Finland has nearly half the number of students. Standardized testing is kept to a minimum: before a New York student reaches high school, he or she will have taken 10 standardized tests. Collectively, US students take 100 million standardized tests a year. Finland's only standardized test is taken when students are 16 years old. Kids have more time to be kids: an average us 5th grader has 50 minimum of homework per day. Finnish students rarely do homework until their teens. And while us elementary students average 27 minutes of recess students in Finland get about 75 minutes a day). Finland knows good teachers are essential: teachers in Finland are all required to have a Master's degree (which is fully subsidized by the state)."

(OnlineClasses.org, 21 January 2013)

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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