Dumbing down playgrounds

I knew it was only a matter of time for this playground in Lincoln! The one in like it in Littleton (Castle in the Trees) is on the block too. And shhh…. there’s one in Salem, NH too…. http://www.lincolnsquirrel.com/strats-playground-closed-for-safety-violations/

If you read the recent evaluation of the Castle in the Trees, it talks about there being wood posts larger than 2″x2″ that are too high, and that’s a problem because they are “platforms”. In other words, kids could climb on them.

Maybe the safety experts haven’t seen my little kids playing on the new “dumbed-down” playgrounds of today. They climb ON TOP of pretty much every surface meant to be climbed through. So I am sure those are also surfaces that are being used as platforms that are way too high. Should these new playgrounds be closed too? Some also have low-areas where kids who are tall enough could seriously whack their heads.

Oh well. It’s too bad. Not that I think these particular “old-school” playgrounds were amazing. They are pretty good in some ways, but from a playability standpoint, not the best I’ve seen either. And there are of course some things that are not the safest things ever. But neither is climbing a tree 30 feet up, skiing, bike riding, riding in cars, etc. I let my kids do those things too.

The problem is that I can almost guarantee that what replaces them will be B-O-R-I-N-G. But here’s hoping. I’ve seen some good “new’ playgrounds too.

A separate problem almost all of the playgrounds I’ve been to in the suburban Boston area have is that they are in the middle of nowhere — at a stand-alone park or next to an elementary school not easily accessible to anyone without a car. Sometimes I visit such playgrounds (including the ones in Lincoln, Littleton, and Salem NH) and they are COMPLETELY deserted except for my arriving family. So you know how much fun that is? Approximately zero.

I guess this is just a rant about a bigger issue… suburbia. The best playground I’ve been to with my kids (location: top-secret until another day when I decide to spill the beans) is in a dense neighborhoody part of a town that one could walk to. This same playground is actually “new school” but somehow manages to be pretty fun. It also helps a lot that it is usually PACKED with kids (due partly to it’s location, partly it’s awesomeness.)

OK so here’s my checklist I’d use to rate playgrounds:
– good playground
– good location (near other stuff, walkable)
– good sitting and shade for parents
– well attended
– play surface not made of toxic/smelly crumbled-up rubbery spongy pavement stuff
– some real and decently high good-ole swimgs a plus

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Filed under playgrounds, suburbia

Nothing against Minecraft, but…

“Nothing against Minecraft, but wouldn’t it be great if parents tried to catch up with their children’s and their children’s peers fascination for Sudbury schools, in the way they did with Minecraft when it began to catch on?”
— Jim Whiteford, 10/8/2014, on the Discuss Sudbury Model email list


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Filed under minecraft, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

(Traditional) Education Is Not Correlated to Success

Ansel and Leander’s School — Sudbury Valley School at Inc.com this week. http://www.inc.com/chuck-blakeman/traditional-education-the-sacred-cow-is-slain.html

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The Wolf

From https://medium.com/p/9bc38b3e8a2e


If you build software for a living (or otherwise), go read these three posts.

  1. @rands: The Wolf
  2. @kellan: “Wolf” narrative considered harmful (also biologically unlikely)
  3. @codinghorror (from 2004): Commandos, Infantry and Police

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Filed under art, computers, contrarian, programming, software, tech, work

School vs Summer Camp

I find it interesting that one often hears or reads testimonials from parents (or  alumni) about how transformative their experience at a certain (usually- but-not-always  “overnight”) summer camp has been, but yet they are equally attached to the school they are sending their kids to the other 9-10 months of the year which in many ways expouses the polar opposite in ideals and structure.

Camp: play, freedom, age-mixing with teen-age counselors

School:  sitting, following someone else’s agenda, no age-mixing — spending the entire day with other kids who are exactly the same age (or at most 1 year’s difference)

How does this make sense? I guess the idea is that the school year it’s time to buckle-down, but then I would think you would hear lots of testimonials about the transformative effect of school.  “It was so hard to sit still, but wow it was an amazing experience!”

At least swap the 2 and 10 months.  Not too long ago, kids went to school for only a few weeks a year.  Like summer camp today.

Or go whole hog and send your kids to a democratic free school, like Sudbury Valley School (SVS) and let them have a transformative experience all year long!


I’m not saying there isn’t value in mixing things up and doing different things at different times of the year — e.g. our kids enjoy having a break from SVS to do other things, and I enjoy the seasons in New England — skiing for part of the year, swimming for part of the year, etc.

I’m also not under the delusion that a democratic free school / Sudbury school is trying to serve the same purpose as a summer camp.  My sense of the summer camps that have such rave reviews (from my kids as well) are the ones (in additional to having ample time for free play and freedom to choose activities instead of following a set plan) also have excellent teen-age and college-age (or older) counselors who excel in their roles as active mentors within their cabins/tents and during free activity periods.  That’s not exactly the same thing as a Sudbury School either where any mentoring is absolutely student-initiated.   My sense (again, from my kids) is that the active mentoring aspect is nice to have for a little bit — a few weeks per year, OK– but my kids (even when they were 4 and 5) end up MUCH preferring the complete freedom they get at SVS for a few hours each day (now it’s 5 or 6 hours, but when they were little it was just a few.)

You should see the excitement I see as they get ready for school (there is often a lot of gear!  They are WORKING on things!) and head off toward the main building to sign in each morning.




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Filed under camp, mentoring / apprenticeship, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Richard Feynman’s limited intelligence

Love this quote!

“I have a limited intelligence and I’ve used it in a particular direction”
— Richard Feynman at 2m50s on this specialist topic…

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Filed under common knowledge vs specialization / exposure vs expertise, contrarian, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Did What You Played as a Kid Influence Who You Became as an Adult?


“Here’s what one middle-aged woman remembered about the games she played in childhood:

“We had all kinds of games, playing hard every day after school, every weekend, and from dawn until our parents made us come in at dark in the summertime. One game was called chase and run, which was a kind of complex team-based hide-and-seek and tag combination… As with all our games, the rules were elaborate and they were hammered out in long consultations on street corners. It was how we spent countless hours.”

She still spends countless hours in consultations and team-building. Her name is Hilary Rodham Clinton.”


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Filed under play, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School