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Space Age Archaeology

"Learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss": the children's playground as a variable gravity environment

29 Dec 2016, 07:13 UTC
"Learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss": the children's playground as a variable gravity environment
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Despite the various rationales of playground design and equipment from the 1890s to the 1980s, one aspect remains constant: the physical engagement of the child with structures which require climbing, swinging, gripping and running. The ‘apparatus such as swings, slides and jungle gyms’ in public playgrounds were aimed at developing ‘confidence, muscular strength, co-ordination and skill in balance’ (Apps 1944: 33). What has previously gone without remark, precisely because it is so ubiquitous on Earth as to be unremarkable, is a certain relationship with gravity, which both made the equipment suitable for training bodies, and at the same time dangerous.Each of the standard pieces of playground equipment – swings, jungle gyms, monkey bars, see saws, round-abouts, slides, merry-go-rounds etc, invites a child to elevate themselves, experience centrifugal force, or ballistic trajectories. These experiences also court risk – falling off the apparatus and feeling the full force of gravity in collision with the ground. A playground could thus be described as a “variable gravity environment” (Doule 2014).One interview conducted with a child suggests that this variable gravity is a desirable experience (Ota et al 1997:22).Q: What does it feel like on the swings?B: It feels like a rocket going backwards and ...

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