There once was a place that had a beautiful wood and metal play structure put in for the children. This structure was so amazing with jumpy bridges, twisty poles to slide down on… a wide wide slide… and a zip line. The adults were thoughtful about planting for shade and for preserving a beloved old climbing tree by building the structure around it. The structure took up most of the yard… and of course, it was cemented into the ground.
The children were impressed. They ran right out to that yard and climbed the tree, slid down the slide, jumped on the jumpy bridge, screeched with delight… and then settled into the real work that children on a yard will do, if allowed….
Here’s what happened…
A crew was formed with buckets and shovels. The task at hand was to fill the slide up all the way to the top with sand. Wow… what an idea.
Some people thought it was a very bad idea because while the work was going on they would not be able to slide down. Passionate discussion ensued. After much debate the children decided that the sandy slide experiment could be allowed as long as it did not continue forever. All agreed that this would not be fair, and so the slide project was approved as long as it did not go on forever.
Now this project went on for quite some time due to a variety of slide filling technique trials. Some thought it might fill up faster if first the sand was mixed with water in a large hole and then applied and packed down onto the slide, sprinkled with dry sand and then walked on with bare feet to test the strength of the application.
Some thought that if the slide were sufficiently drenched with water first that significant amounts of sand would automatically stick and fill the slide up quickly.
Some thought the sand should be only the purest and driest sand found on the planet and so went searching for a deposit of sand like that.
And so, the original crew diminished in number, but the project continued. It seemed the sand would get to a certain height on the slide and further deposits would just make it all slide down. It was pretty clear, it was thought, that the crew was confronting a gravity issue.
People gathered around the slide and shared their observations and thoughts about what seemed to work and what did not. It was decided to try to fill the slide with sand that was just a bit damp… sand castle making sand. It would be applied carefully… not throwing it up the slide… but instead carefully carrying it up the stairs of the slide and pouring it gently down. While a few people worked on this, a few worked on creating perfect sand castle sand. Others had long handled shovels that they used to gently pat and smooth the sand. There was much hubbub if a crack in the sand appeared… this indicated gravity at work and so wetter sand was applied to the cracks and then patted over with sand castle sand. Dry sand sprinkling was discouraged but not banned.
All the kids on the yard were aware of the project and most were supportive. There were a few who complained regularly that they wanted to slide down the slide and it was starting to feel like they were waiting forever. Many people offered ideas and observations. There were people who worked on aspects of the project some of the time, and others who were fully committed to getting the project done.
Well they did it. The slide was filled to the top… the very top. A cheer went up and almost immediately people started climbing up and joyously knocking the sand in the direction of down. There was shovel waving and hugging. There was jumping into piles of sand with much laughing and screeching. A few people howled and ran around the yard for a short period. The hose was found and water was used to clean the slide off.
The people who had been waiting to slide down the slide were quite unhappy because now the slide was wet. No one else seemed too worried about that and didn’t give that problem much attention. It’ll dry, they offered… and of course it did and rather quickly.
We didn’t see any bullies the whole time.
Some people think that slides are just for sliding down and so try to make it a rule that that is the only way to use a slide. Ridiculous. Slides are multi-use constructions.
Some well intentioned people spend tons of money on play grounds with all those kinds of rules… no blocks up on the deck… no sticks no rocks… don’t don’t don’t. No cloth, no yarn. No paper and art materials up there… no tape…
If you have ever observed these places you will see gatherings of children in and around the structure… creating their own ideas out of whatever they can find or sneak past the rule following adult. They are not being defiant. They are simply attempting to make the place more interesting and challenging.
A friend sent this article about a school in New Zealand that scrapped plans for a fancy new playground for an adventure kind of yard….and what they are finding out is important. More of this is needed.
“School Ditches Rules and Loses Bullies”