Playgrounding project is part of the Climate Action Childhood Network of collaboratories, puzzling how might we respond, through entangling design and pedagogy, to the question of living [well] together? Among other questions, it asks:
What do ECE playgrounds do?
and how might these outdoor play-focused spaces connect to educational philosophies of today and challenges of tomorrow?
Playground project addresses important gaps within the topic of young children’s play and playground design. Building on Tatiana Zakharova’s interdisciplinary background (landscape architecture & education), the project theorizes play and outdoor play-spaces as contentious, uneven, and always political (Zakharova, 2021). Play is situated. Play unravels in a particular time and space. Thus, troubling the ease with which we assume we know the importance of children’s play, the project asks:
In the name of what is outdoor play being promoted? Who really has a right to play? Where, spatially, does play belong? What do playgrounds in early childhood centres really do for children, educators, and the world we co-inhabit with others?
<< project brief
The overwhelming majority of existing literature and design guidelines around playgrounds (both in terms of their design as well as educational work) comes from developmental perspectives that were generated to address 20th century concerns.
These resources cannot help us to create spaces where we could work on addressing today’s issues such as climate change, colonization, and racism.
In today’s world, playground research must come from the post-humanist perspective, because, as the Common Worlds Research Collective (CWRC) points out in their recent (2020) background UNESCO paper: “any attempts to achieve sustainable futures by continuing to separate humans off from the rest of the world are delusional and futile, even if the intentions are well meaning” (p. 3). Moreover, this research must challenge disability discrimination, racism and settler colonialism. Some of this work has already begun.
Playgrounds are being revealed as storied places of marginalization and racial violence (Horton & Kraftl, 2018), porous sites of societal anxieties (Pitsikali & Parnell, in press), places of colonial narratives (Procter & Hackett, 2017), materializations of tensions between appropriation for play and resistance to play (Sicart, 2014), and sites of radical pedagogy and more-than-human liveliness (Kinney, 2017; Knight, 2016; Knight, 2019; MacRae, 2019). Attending to relational play compositions in small everyday spaces allows us to open pedagogical possibilities for playing (being, becoming with) otherwise with the Other.