FREE THE CHILDREN! DOWN WITH PLAYGROUNDS!

Denis Wood

Abstract


"Just put up the fence - the kids'll find something to do inside it." This remark was made recently by a parent serving on a committee overseeing the design of a neighbourhood playground. The committee had asked a group of students in a senior design studio to come up with a decent playground. Working with the residents and drawing on recent environmental design research, the students coughed up five plans. At a neighbourhood meeting, the residents rejected them all. The reason? No fence. During the meeting the residents unanimously supported this fence, described enthusiastically as a ten foot-high chain link fence with barbed wire along its top. After heavy debate, they decided they could skip the barbed wire. When informed by the designers that, given the budget, they could have either the fence around or the play equipment within the playground, the residents were overwhelmingly for the fence. The students castigated these parents as Neanderthals. I disagree. As far as I can see, their attitudes toward playgrounds differ from those of others only in being less hypocritical. Armed with their mandate, the students retumed to their drawing boards to do fence details.

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