Why don’t high schools have playgrounds?

With Coldplay’s “Violet Hill” stuck in my head, I left my house early this morning, grabbing some breakfast before taking my bike off of its stand in the garage and heading off in the direction of my local BMX track. Once I got there, however, I found the track too muddy to ride, and was therefore left with two choices: I could simply ride home, or I could embark on an epic adventure. I think it’s pretty clear which one I chose.

Because we just moved, I have yet to explore my new surroundings very well. Therefore, I still had the park, and the city, to explore, so I set off across the park, and experienced that awesome feeling of being somewhere that surprised me at every turn. (One of the many reasons I had asked my parents repeatedly if we could move was that I knew my old city inside and out; every last road, park, trail, and otherwise had been explored well enough that I had to ride my bike for an hour or more before I’d find  somewhere new to ride.) After exploring the northern end of the park, I went back down to the soccer fields, when a few playgrounds caught my eye.

They reminded me of a conversation I recently had about playgrounds, and how cool our elementary schools’ playgrounds were. Thus, I made it my mission today to seek out and play at every elementary school’s playground that I could find. On my way home, and without any sort of map, I found about eight or nine playgrounds, most of which I had some good times at.

I swung on the swing set at one school, marking the line to measure how far I jumped and continually trying to beat my previous record (I think I jumped about a half dozen times before leaving), walked across the top of and swung from my hands on monkey bars, and revelled in the awesomeness of my local elementary school’s rock climbing wall. I made it from one end of a playground to the other without touching the ground, repeatedly took my shoes off and tapped them against a pole to get the little rocks out, and slid down countless slides.

Why don’t high schools have playgrounds?P5080092_jpg We’re too old for it, we’d never use them. I can’t remember how many times my friends and I have crossed the street at lunch to go to the playground there, and although it may be good to wean us from playgrounds as we get older, nobody is too old for monkey bars or jungle gyms.

10 thoughts on “Why don’t high schools have playgrounds?

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Sure we have organized lunch hour sports but no non-structured play areas. It’s a good question, one I may ask the administration at my school tomorrow.

  2. Thanks for sharing this glimpse into your explorations of your ‘new’ home, Kiko. I can definitely relate to the need to occasionally embark on a solo-adventure, either on foot, bike or otherwise, as it seems to provide time to think, reflect and remind me who and what I am.

    Other than running with my cross-country and track teams around Little Rock’s streets and trail systems, I used to ride my bike around my adopted home town, visiting the Capital buildings and the Arkansas River, as well as Pinnacle Mountain and a host of other locales that weren’t necessarily anything to rival my summer, seaside home in (suburban) Vancouver, but still places to discover, explore and see with fresh eyes. And I think there is something tied up in this kind of recreation (a word slyly composed of the verb re-create) that is connected to playgrounds, and how much we miss them as we grow up.

    Any time the TALONS find ourselves in a playground, I am always surprised at how passionately and enthusiastically everyone (seriously, everyone) becomes engaged in childhood games like tag and grounders, swinging competitions, and the revelry of play. But I don’t know if I should be so surprised… after all, I spend a good bit of time on skis, attached to the ends of climbing ropes, riding a bike, or otherwise behaving ‘childishly’ (none of which, of course, do I consider a bad thing).

    I think our high schools don’t have playgrounds because of this view of ‘play’ as a frivolous pursuit; secondary schools are places of learning, productivity, and training for the ‘real world,’ which, to be sure, values more ‘serious’ endeavors than recreation, exploration and discovery. But if our high schools were to have playgrounds, what would\should they be like?

    In my adult life, I try to make my weekends and vacations ‘playgrounds’ of my own: I take road trips into the obscure corners of our province, and beyond, and hike, bike and ski around my local environment with a glee that is decidedly younger than my years would attest. No doubt teenagers feel this same wanderlust, as your post confirms, and I often wonder how we might better serve this most common human need during our schools’ lunch hours, and before and after the days’ bells.

    Thanks for beginning such an important conversation (that will no doubt show a distinct ripple in your clustermap dots)!

  3. BWahahahhaha! Mr. J on the swings!

    Well, I definitely need to explore my neighbourhood. I fail at knowing where everything is, other than a few roads and trails I regularly use.

    I wish Gleneagle would get a playground, then we can play grounders everyday!

  4. Love the photo 🙂
    I agree with you; everyone’s got a little kid inside just dying to come out!

  5. Great post. Well done for choosing to explore and have fun, something young people and adults aren’t always encouraged to do. Not sure why any of us need to be weaned off playgrounds, aside from the risk of larger adults breaking the equipment. Play at all ages.

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  7. When I first read this, you were looking over my shoulder, and I needed some time to think before I could comment properly. Truth be told, the idea of spending the day traveling to playgrounds really struck me. There’s something about playgrounds that is just so childishly wonderful. And of course, everyone is either a kid, or a grown up little kid 🙂

    What I like most about this post however, is not the the playgrounds. I admire your eagerness to go on an adventure like that, just touring playground after playground. Your willingness to find challenges in all the little things each playground had to offer you. Each time I read your blog, I feel like I know you better and better.

    I hope to hear of more epic adventures… and embark on a few of my own! I agree with you 100% when you say no one is too old for monkey bars or jungle gyms. Just keep swinging.

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  10. So. Many. Views.

    I too love playgrounds. I think my favorite part of working where I do, is that I get to run through the play structure over and over again. People don’t even look at me funny when I go down the slides with a smile on my face.

    Long live the playground goers!

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