Category Archives: Flickr Galleries

Teetering on the Brink of Extinction?

In some jurisdictions a longish trek is needed to teeter your totter on a see-saw. They are not as common as they once were in PlayGroundology’s Halifax home. It’s quite possible that the genteel wilds of Kejimkujik National Park’s campgrounds about 2 1/2 hours out of the city have a healthier and more robust see-saw population.

DSC01739Keji National Park playground – Nova Scotia, Canada

I hope Keji’s red see-saws have protected status. Their well-being and continued existence should be championed if ever public pressure due to misguided fears related to safety results in calls for their removal.

See-saws are one of the mighty trio of conventional playground equipment along with slides and swings. They have been much maligned in recent years as harbingers of injury. Granted kids have to be taught not to get off and let their friend plummet to earth. Likewise it’s important to ensure that one’s chin is nowhere near the upward trajectory when sending the equipment whistling up and down with the force of one’s arms while standing on the ground. Then I guess we shouldn’t discount the fear of falling off while at the top of the game…

Not all is lost, in some places the see-saw is flourishing. If big is a public display of affection and acceptance then Berlin is a safe habitat. Potsdamer Platz’s Tilla-Durieux Park offers rides on super-sized see-saws possibly the largest scale in the world. This space teeters on imaginative ups with none of the tottering associated with overly cautious downs.

1499502228_6eb078314a_oPotsdamer Platz, Berlin. Photo credit – Sebastian Niedlich. License – (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Despite their standard lever and fulcrum make-up, see-saws do come in various guises as depicted in the Teeter-Totterus flicker gallery. Eighteen fine photos from flickr photographers.

Before dispensing with the ups and downs completely I thought it worthwhile to share some research. Behold a class experimenting with physics. Where was this school when I was a teenager?

Long live the see-saw – respect their right to rise, fall and rise again.

Playgrounds from the Land of St. Patrick

Play and playgrounds from Eire and Northern Ireland in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day.

265140989_d75aceccfd_zPhoto credit: jump by Fittzer. License – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Get to the St. Patrick’s Day Flickr Gallery by clicking through on the green.

For more on play in Ireland visit Sugradh and Playboard.

Playground Menagerie

We are the only species that sets aside dedicated space to be used exclusively for play by our young. But in many countries throughout the world humans are not the only ones populating playgrounds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlayground in Sofia, Bulgaria. Source: Snezhka Karatoteva.

It’s as if some of Noah’s precious charges were peppered across playscapes to watch over and amuse the human young. There are African and Australian animals from the wild, barnyard favourites and mythical creatures.

DragonDragon playground with designer Mr. Khor in Toa Payoh, Singapore. Source: Mosaic Memories – Remembering the Playgrounds Singapore Grew Up In by Justin Zhuang.

The playground animals serve multiple roles – slides, teeter-totters, climbers and springriders. They are also a friendly reminder that there is a natural world for us to engage with and care for.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlayground in Sofia, Bulgaria. Source: Snezhka Karatoteva.

There are more great photos from Zemen, Bulgaria to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in the PlayGroundology curated gallery ‘Animal Farm’ right here.

Editor’s note – thanks to Snezhka Karatoteva from Sofia, Bulgaria who recently dropped in on the PlayGroundology FB Page and offered to share playground photos with PlayGroundology readers. Check the blog here.

War or Peace

Recently, I posted the photo below on PlayGroundology FB commenting that I thought the tank had found a better purpose than for what it was originally intended. One of my regular readers didn’t agree. She thinks war machinery has no place in kids’ playgrounds.

A couple of days later I came across articles in the San Francisco Chronicle about a fighter plane that had been a play structure fixture for more than three decades in San Francisco’s Larsen Park. It got me thinking, would I allow our three young kids to play on a tank, or in a fighter jet?

2232931829_6456a00e50_bMonstrum playscape in Nørrebroparken, Copenhagen. Photo credit – Jan Ingemansen. License – (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Back in the mid-1960s as a young lad in grade school getting the bi-monthly short back and sides at the barbers, I was an avid after school and weekend warrior. I lived in Toronto then and our apartment block bordered on a 10 to 15 acre green space. The hills were dotted with unmanicured shrubs and a valley plain served as a soccer and baseball field, bike rodeo and a gathering place for war games. It was a green oasis but no pastoral idyll. On the other side of a six foot high Frost fence at the southern extremity of our play zone, the 12-lane 401 highway roared by. Our activities continually played out to the droning buzz of fast flow traffic.

Along with sports and playgrounding, war games were a recurring part of our play menu. Even though real life conflicts in Vietnam and Biafra raged on newscasts we chose our recreations from contemporary pop culture. Sgt. Rock, who seemingly single-handedly won the World War II for the allies, was one of our primary inspirations for mid-century warfare. James Bond was of course our role model in the world of spylike skullduggery against our Cold War foes. A number of us were packing the 007 spy attaché case.

Sgt. Rock

Reaching further back in time, we pretended we were fighting in the American Civil War. There wasn’t much left to the imagination from the scenes depicted in the Topps Civil War News card set. Then there was also the Hollywood fueled reenactments of epic Cowboy and Indian clashes. No matter the historical period, we had the rifles, machine guns, helmets, knives, canteens, grenades and other necessary accoutrements to vanquish the enemy whoever that might be.

medium_2972446979Topps Civil War News Trading Card, 1962

We played regularly taking turns being the ‘bad’ guys. We were killed, resurrected and played on. There was one family of five brothers whose parents’ religious convictions had them attending an evangelical church. There only stricture was no war games on Sundays. At the time, it was the only opposition I was aware of to our grade school warrior play.

About 15 years later I was back in Toronto working in the peace movement organizing short term international youth exchanges focused on volunteer activities with a social justice twist. The early 1980s was a time of demonstrations in Toronto trying to raise awareness about conflicts in Central and South America, South Africa and about militarism in our own backyard such as work being done in support of the Cruise Missile. At the time I was an ardent and righteous anti-war toys guy and pro ‘arms are for hugging’.

Not a lot has changed for me since then except perhaps that the certainty of black and white solutions has become more grey. I’m as passionate as ever about arms being for hugging. I’ve never bought toy guns for any of our kids and never will. Regardless the kids fabricate them with different materials – sticks, blocks, lego. Just yesterday, Noah and Nellie were scooting around the house ‘shooting’ at each other. When I gave them my one minute exposition on what guns do to people, Noah quipped, “these are pretend water guns papa”.

The war toys debate has been on for decades. Though not toys per se, these pieces of decommissioned military hardware in playgrounds are seen as birds of a feather. Here is a young David Halton on Canada’s CBC TV in December 1965 reporting on a Voice of Women campaign.

CBC Archives 1965xxxlCBC TV, December 1965 – Voice of Women Campaign

It was easier when I was a kid. I was embroiled in the moment and the ethos of the times. I loved my Daisy air rifle and my Hong Kong machine gun that made the noise and sported a facsimile flame of red plastic at the barrel tip. I don’t think I was desensitized. I would argue in fact that many of today’s video games are far more graphic and violent than anything we experienced as kids.

If an old CF-18 dropped into our neighbourhood playground tomorrow, I’d let the kids play on it. I’d also let them know what kind of machine it was. In a way, I think we’d be beating swords into ploughshares. What are your thoughts?

The British Columbia Teacher’s Federation has produced an excellent resource – War Toys to Peace Art – that you can download here.

Around the World

I love flickr galleries. They allow you to curate photos from Around the World.

8022577017_83eaf26340_cLicense – (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Darfurian refugees in Eastern Chad (Original caption)

Chad / Darfurian refugees from Sudan / Oure Cassoni camp (Head of Office in Bahai said 31 800 refugees, december 2011), 18 kilometers north from Bahai UNHCR sub-office located 361 km north-east from Abeche, located 900 kilometer east from N’Djamena the chadian capital. The camp is located 17 km from the sudanese border, and was opened in july 2004. Children play on a slide on a playground in Oure Cassoni. / UNHCR / F. Noy / December 2011

Play Is Play For A’ That

Robert Burns Day is a fine time to share a flickr photo gallery of Scottish playgrounds. Though playgrounds per se were not part of Burns’ 18th century cultural landscape, I have a feeling that in today’s context Scotland’s Bard would be a vocal and formidable supporter of children’s right to play.

4525711335_43b32dd33e_bMake-shift Climbing Frame, Kingussie, Scotland. Photo credit – Dunnock D. License – (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Burns personified the independent mind which is also a characteristic of parents, teachers, advocates, designers, artists, playworkers, landscape architects, planners and community organizers involved in making possible creative play for kids. Free play and independent minds, I’m sure there is a correlation…

Raise a dram for Rabbie tonight and rest assured he’d be speaking out for the bairns if he were with us today. In his absence, we have the fine folks at Play Scotland to carry the torch and fight the good fight – kids everywhere have a right to play.

Here’s leaving you with a wee bit o’ Burns.

To a Mouse

Small, sleek, cowering, timorous beast,
Oh, what panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With a hurrying scamper!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With a murderous spade!

I’m truly sorry that Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes you startled
At me, your poor, earth-born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not that you may steal;
So what? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear from twenty four sheaves of corn
is a small request:
I’ll get a blessing with the rest,
And never miss it!

Your tiny housie, too, is in ruin!
Its feeble walls the winds are strewing!
And nothing now, from which to build a new one
Of foliage green!
And bleak December’s winds ensuing
Both bitter and keen!

You saw the fields laid bare and wasted
And weary Winter coming fast,
And cosy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Until crash! the cruel plow passed
Right through your cell.

That tiny heap of leaves and stubble (grain stalks)
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out for your trouble
Without house or home (belongings),
To endure the Winter’s sleety dribble,
and frosty cold.

But Mousie, you are not alone
In proving that foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes (plans) of mice and men
Go oft astray (oft go awry)
And leave us nothing but grief and pain
Instead of promised joy!

Still, you are blessed, compared with me!
Only this moment touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye
On prospects turned to sadness!
And though forward I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

It’s Starting to Feel a lot like Christmas – Snow Playgrounds

NORAD has the market on tracking Santa just about cornered. Kids all over the world follow St. Nick’s Christmas Eve progress online.

In just over a week, the jolly old guy will launch his sled and Christmas 2012 will be here. Kids will be dreaming of a white Christmas where climate makes it a possibility and wondering perhaps what the white stuff is really like if they live outside of the snow zones. Here in Canada’s far east we’re buffeted by Arctic and Atlantic winds at this time of year. So far they’ve only brought us a few dancing flakes that haven’t amounted to anything lasting.

3137172_a6ca8c2550Tisdall Elementary School playground, Vancouver, Canada. Photo Credit – gillicious. License – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The ‘It’s Starting to Feel a lot like Christmas – Snow Playgrounds’ gallery is a selection of 18 photos created by looking through 1000s of images of snowy playground posted by flickr members. Each one of these 18 tickled my fancy in some way. I hope you will get some enjoyment out of them too.