Recently, in Zurich, I walked past a noisy school playground. My mind wandered nostalgically back to playground duties last term where I heard the same “kid” sounds. So I looked towards the swings and the grass and I smiled. I even checked the space for a duty teacher and then internally giggled with the relief that today that responsibility was not mine. And then I noticed a game that got me thinking.
You see, the kids in this playground were being just as creative in playing, partaking in mostly similar activities to what kids in Australian playgrounds do during their breaks. Running around, calling out to one another, chasing, skipping, throwing and catching. Same old same old. With one notable difference.
There was a game a group of 30 or more boys were playing that looked like it promoted great skills and would have been a tonne of fun, but it would never have been allowed back home.
The teacher on duty was watching the game intently but apparently not out of fear of injury- more to ensure that the game was played according to the rules.
There was a metal dome that protruded from the ground. The dome was big enough for two or three boys to stand on top of, but it took quite an effort of slipping and sliding while climbing up it to attain the position of king of the dome. And that’s what the game was. Be the King. How do you do this? By clambering your way up there and pushing everyone else off. But you couldn’t pull them down while standing underneath. You could, however, have two kings stand back to back and work as a team. And I saw this work beautifully.
But as you can imagine, my Aussie teacher brain thought “omg! That’s so dangerous!”. Yet not a single child got hurt the whole time we stood and watched, and there was much strategy being planned and instigated.
Which made me wonder- why do we stop kids in Australia from this kind of play? No climbing trees, no picking up sticks, no running on the concrete. If they fall and hurt themselves, is it really so bad? Isn’t that how people learn? And aren’t schools learning institutions?
Is it the fear of litigation; that parents will blame the school citing neglect if little Johnny stubs a toe? If so, why is this a factor Down Under and not in Switzerland?