Thursday, April 29, 2010

Glamis Adventure Playground, Shadwell, London

One playscape with 'real stuff' is Glamis Adventure Playground, where a boat lies beached on sandy shaols near the entrance. The kids get to do real stuff as well; roasting courgettes over a fire, learning to repair bicycle tires, and adding to the playground themselves. A delightful cacophony of self-build and self-color, noise, dirt, and madness beckons from way down a street of plain brick facades in a challenging area of East London. Glamis is a registered charity, always in need of support and facing funding cuts for next year.  They've already disappeared once, and been recreated, so add your support!  I'm told they'll soon have the ability to make a donation through their website...

Thanks to reader Daniel Bigler for the introduction to this never-never land where the kids are well-supervised by a commited staff and allowed to do and build about anything that doesn't destroy the existing structures, though grown-ups are called upon to help with advanced construction.  Daniel is also helping me with blog construction...adding searches, maps, announcements, etc, per your requests,  so watch this space!  And be happy - happy - happy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Back to Reality

So, the million-dollar-microscope has achieved sub-nanometer resolution (hooray! hats-in-air!) so I will hopefully be back to blogging more regularly. And flight cancellations from the volcanic ash cloud in the UK, where I'm visiting, are providing me with some rare and welcome unscheduled time for writing and research...

But this past summer I was showing my electron microscope (the old one, not the new million-dollar one) to a group of five year-olds and explaining to them how the bug we had just put into the chamber was now visible on the screen, only bigger, and comparing it to a television and saying "you know how you can see the people on your TV but they're not inside the TV, are they, they're somewhere else" when it became quite clear that they had, in fact, thought that those people were indeed inside their televisions, not somewhere else, and I had blown their little minds.

All that to say, that children need to know how the world works, and knowing is often a relief to them,  and so I like having real things on the playground for them to examine.

"Real stuff" on the playground seems to have been common in the past but almost completely absent in current designs (the City Museum of St. Louis being a notable exception).  Which is surprising since it could represent a unique and low-cost option, and it's recycling! Here are some inspiration shots from my files; some sources unknown. Enlighten me if you have them!

The British Admiralty donated this 22-foot sailboat to the Kennington adventure playground in the 1950s. 


 An engine at the Dansom Land Playground, 1967.

Antique fire engine at the previously-blogged Riverside Park Playground in Independence, Kansas.  [source is Michael Bates' flickr]

Decommissioned navy plane placed on a New Jersey playground in 1956 [Getty Images]

P.S.  If you know of other playgrounds with 'real stuff' I'd love to hear about them.