A challenge for playwork: The scary world of 12 year olds

One of the many things I find curious about the playwork field here in UK is the extent to which it ignores the world of parenting. I’m not sure why, although I have some ideas (which I won’t share now for fear of annoying my playwork chums).

I wonder how we can blithely talk about providing play opportunities and the importance of risky play and all that, when we take no notice of the family life of twelve year olds like this one? Some women playwork writers have talked about a marginalised female perspective within playwork, and I agree largely, but my point is this – are we aware enough of these phenomena? And if we are, are we doing enough to offer a safe place for girls within our play provision?

I guess my comments are aimed more at the rufty-tufty adventure end of the provision – after-school childcare schemes might provide more girl-friendly spaces. Perhaps. And it’s not just about girls: boys have similar pressures, though they tend to act out in different ways, perhaps.

I’m not saying this to be contentious, I’m just saying that consideration of these questions might lead to us modifying some of our ‘offerings’, as the jargon has it.

Parenting And Stuff

alicia and grace

It was an evening last week when I learned that my Tween, a very sensitive and empathic girl, is chatting with a friend who is, at the same time over the phone with another friend escorting the local police searching for another (fourth) friend suspected of trying to commit suicide, per her FB.

In case you’ve lost me, this is the situation: My kid is sitting on her bed trembling and crying, while I am staring at her I-pad unbelievably, chat lines running extremely fast saying:  “Diane is not at the living room… wait, looking for her at the kitchen…not there! Perhaps she already did it! Wait, the police is entering the bathroom… Here she is! She is alive! She tried to kill herself!” Etc.

Once I was sure that Diane (which my daughter is not familiar with) is ok, and that her parents are aware of what’s happening in…

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Arising in the playspace: what is the role of the playworker?

Thank you to Morgan for sharing this quote:

“I am of course employed as a leader, but on an adventure playground this is hardly the same as the accepted idea of a leader and organizer who works, as it were, from the outside. Rather, mine is a function which arises within the actual framework of the playground where I am in a position to give the children every opportunity of putting their plans into practice. This initiative must come from the children themselves and when the necessary materials are to be had these give the children the inspiration for play. I cannot, and indeed will not, teach the children anything. I am able to give them my support in their creative play and work, and thus help them in developing those talents and abilities which are often suppressed at home and at school. I consider it most important that the leader not appear too clever but that he remain at the same experimental stage as the children. In this way the initiative is left, to a great extent, with the children themselves and it is thus far easier to avoid serious intrusion into their fantasy world.”

from John Bertelsen’s “Early Experience from Emdrup” in Adventure Playgrounds,p.20-1.

Now, note the word: ‘arises’.

Something that arises is something that is emergent.

He is not saying his role is mandated by his employer, nor is it subservient to, or defined by, his ‘customers’. Rather, it is, from my complexity perspective – an emergent phenomenon within the playspace.

Which brings me right back to my presentation in 1997 at PlayEd: ”Designing PossibilitySpaces – the key task for playwork“. It is this emergent quality of the playspace, which is not a simple linear result of the staff and the physical environment, that determines and creates the playspace. Yes, it is circular. And yes, it is emergent from many interactions between many humans – mainly the children with each other, but also with adults.

(Author’s note: I’ve added single quotes around the phrase ‘the child’, just like that. I did this just now: Thursday, April 18, 2013 14:27.  The reason being that I wanted to clarify that I am focussing on the concept we point to when we use the phrase, and I am indebted to Morgan for pointing up what I was doing. I was taking for granted that my audience would know what I meant, which is always dangerous. Like Morgan, I wince when ever I encounter the idealised child in print.)

 

Yet we continue to talk about children in the singular. Playwork is not about ‘the child’. As I have said before, and been mightily  misunderstood and majorly castigated for: playwork is not about helping children. Playwork is about providing playspaces (a term that needs to be defined, but not now, but see below*)  for children – PLURAL, not helping ‘the child’. SINGULAR.

Playwork is not about ‘the child’. Leave that bogus concern to social services, who have discarded all they knew about families as interactive systems in favour of a tabloid-driven heroic rescue mentality.

Playwork is about children en masse. Groups of children. Large numbers of children.

If we focus on individual children and we neglect to focus on the playspace*, – the culture being continuously recreated autopoietically, the resulting emergent behaviour of the denizens en masse – then we stop doing playwork and become rescuers.

 

The role of the playworker

is an emergent responsiveness

to the playspace.

 

§

Thanks again Morgan, for sharing that Bertelsenic nugget. More please.

http://playeverything.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/on-the-shoulders-of-giants/

A calm defence of adventure playgrounds in the midst of extremism…

 

… the extremists being the short, sighted politicians on Wandsworth council: telling lies and treating peaceful protest as if it were a bomb scare…

 

 

Kiburn AP  deceased 2012

Kiburn AP deceased 2012

(That’s a picture of another AP, closed last year. You never see children in these pictures, because play projects have been bullied into believing that it is illegal to take pictures of children without the consent of all parents. It is not against the law to take pictures of children, although if you do you may be assaulted by stupid people who think you are a bad person, and even detained by a plastic policeman who doesn’t know the law. As a result, even nice people, like a photographer working for the play project itself, with the consent of management and parents, are put off.  So the consequence is that no-one knows what a joyous place an AP in full flow looks like, they just think it is some sort of deserted half-baked unused play sculpture.)

 

Please read this considered and considerate perspective on the closure of the Battersea Park adventure playground by Wandsworth council.

Despite what the media tell you, these Occupy people are sensible and grown-up. This is how the item opens, I love the deference of the opening words:

 

“If I may I would like to start with a quote from my mother who worked with children and parents at one of the first adventure playgrounds in London at Notting hill.

Notting Hill AP: A screen grab from the1960s  film

Notting Hill AP: A screen grab from the film

“The adventure playgrounds from the beginning and relevant now were where children were able go out of school hours to try out challenging play opportunities in a safe environment using and developing their own imagination and practical skilled designs for the new playgrounds in their areas. Parents were able to be proactive in becoming involved and so gain an understanding of the adventure playground concept – in several cases they became champions and worked tirelessly on the adventure playground model in their local communities after having spoken to local residents and neighbours on their vision and explaining children wanted somewhere to play where they could have an adventure and take a few risks not just a playground with swings and slides. The community did not want them in the streets.”
Mary Cousins.

”The community still does not want them in the streets and why would they? Nor do children want to be on the streets. What Wandsworth council are doing by removing the adventure playground at Battersea park is directly removing a safe environment for those children where they can be free after school, hang out with their friends and give younger children further opportunity outside school to learn through play, something which is still part of our schools national curriculum and has been for many years.“

Read it all at:

http://occupynewsnetwork.co.uk/wandsworth-council-give-order-to-destroy-community-banners-and-other-dirty-tricks/