Will a Playground Help Reduce School Violence?

I like to think I had a pretty good childhood. I grew up in the northern part of Wisconsin. It was a time when kids could roam the town and kept each other safe. I can’t seem to recall that the Forest County Sheriff drove around much. They did not have the need to patrol.

I remember the monkey bars at the Crandon Elementary School. A hulking tower of steel bars. In winter, they would be covered by ice, and in summer burning hot. I about had to wear gloves through two seasons to play on them.

I was not native to Crandon, my father was the Methodist minister, so we moved every three years. Crandon was my last stop, and where I call home. I remember the times with the other kids in town, ice skating on the frozen baseball field, sledding down the hill at the end of town, and swimming in Lake Metonga. The times I remember, are those of play and a community of kids to whom I belonged.

I turned out okay, I think. Others may differ with me, and that is okay. I grew up into an occupation and a calling to help kids with emotional challenges. More recently, last 10 years or so, I have focused on trauma. I have learned a great deal, and sometimes it is frightening to see what has become of our world.

I can watch from my porch and the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office drives by on a regular basis. I read the stories of those who are escaping reality with drugs. I have to question if the isolation caused by the cell phone, and tablets has created a lack of community and play. How are kids going to learn their value and worth through an app?

While seen by some as what kids do when they don’t have anything else to do, play is the work of the child. It is how they figure out how to cope, manage problems, and INTERACT WITH OTHERS. Yes, I shouted that in text verbiage.

The refrain we hear all the time is he was a loner, isolated and angry, that is why he shot up the school. How did he get that way? Oh, he is mentally ill, and we go about our lives.

My question is, how can we intervene early early? Yet another modern way to say something. My argument is that it starts with play and interactions that help our children know they can solve problems and interact with others, to belong. Where does that happen? In the playgrounds. We don’t have enough playgrounds, and maybe too many apps.

It seems we are more focused on arming teachers and securing our school as tight as airports. We want to create the solution at the end of the process.

Maybe it has to start when the sun rises and the warm air flips the swings around, and the laughter of children playing fills the playground. Just my thought.

Categories: Editor Thoughts

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