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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hangin' Out in the School Playground

Hey, everyone! This Wednesday, we're going to be continuing our look back on outdoor activities. After all, that's what the theme for every Wednesday is in the blog for the month of April.

And, for today's topic, a subject in which most of us can probably relate to. But first, I want to tell you all a little bit of a story.

For most kids, I would assume that recess was the absolute best part of the school day. For fifteen minutes every morning and for fifteen minutes every afternoon, the schools would kick the kids outside onto the school playground for a session of play. And, truth be told, a lot of kids that I knew looked forward to recess, as it was a time in which they had full control over what they wanted to do.

Myself? I had more of a love/hate relationship with recess. There were some days in which I absolutely hated recess. For one, I didn't really have many close friends that I could spend the entire recess period with, so I spent most of them walking around the back field by myself until the bell rang. Truth be told, I would have rather stayed inside the school for recess, and was thrilled to death when rain, heavy snow, and other horrible weather meant that we could stay inside for recess. This was particularly true back when I was in grades 1-3, as a lot of the older kids used to spend their recess periods trying to beat me up!

However, there was one thing about going outside for recess that I liked.

The playground equipment.

Mind you, when I was in school, I almost never got the opportunity to go on the playground equipment. With almost 500 kids at my elementary school, the play structures were always overcrowded with kids. It wasn't until I started attending the summer playground program (which were held at the various elementary school playgrounds all over town) that I really allowed myself to enjoy the play structures the way that they should be enjoyed.

I was actually walking by my old elementary school just the other day, and it boggled my mind over how different the playground looked. Mind you, I graduated from elementary school eighteen years ago, so I imagine that some of the playground equipment had to be replaced due to old age. But, I didn't expect the whole thing to look completely different. It was like a completely different place. The play structures were replaced, the bleachers looked as if they had been redone, and there was even a scoreboard erected on the side of the playground.

(Our elementary school playground also contained the football field for the high school located nearby...hence the need for a scoreboard.)

But you know, even though the school playground looks completely different than it did back when I was a kid, I still have those fond memories in spite of my flip-flopping attitude towards recess.

For instance, one of the things that I remember the most about my elementary school playground were the dozens of hopscotch courts that were painted onto the pavement. Hopscotch was a game that I loved to play when I was seven or eight. It was also a nice little game that I could play solo if I had to. All I needed was a small stone (which the playground was filled with), and I could keep myself amused for the entire fifteen minute recess.

Another thing that I remember about the school playground was the courtyard which had basketball hoops. I could be remembering this wrong, but when the weather warmed up in the spring, the yard duty teacher would often give out basketballs and soccer balls that we could play with during the entire recess (well, provided that we returned them). Of course, not all of them would get returned, as some balls found their way up onto the roof of the school. Though, I'll admit that it was fun on the last day of school when the school janitor would go up on the roof to throw down all of the balls, frisbees, and kites that accumulated up there during the course of the school year. I think I even caught a ball one year. I don't even think it was one that I owned, but since the kid that threw it up there was probably long gone by then, finders keepers!

As far as the playground equipment itself went, I have so many personal tales, stories, and in a couple of cases, a couple of battle scars to tell you about. What can I say? No child ever escapes the confines of a school playground without sustaining a few scars, scrapes, and bruises, right?

One of the main things that I remember about my elementary school playground was the gigantic wooden bridge (similar to the one above) that spanned between the curvy yellow slide and those rings that kids could swing on. I loved that bridge with a passion, and one of my favourite activities on that bridge was playing a little game called “Earthquake Bridge”. I would walk onto the bridge with one or two other kids on it, and we'd swing the bridge back and forth to simulate an earthquake. Sometimes the motion would be nice and gentle, and other times the movement would be so jerky and violent that we wondered if we would fly over the side of the bridge. Luckily, we did no such thing.

Although I did end up getting a minor injury sliding down the curvy yellow slide. I think I spoke of this before on the blog, but I now have a permanent scar on my right knee from when I did a crash landing after sliding on the yellow slide the wrong way.

Ah I said before, almost every kid has a playground injury at some point in their lives.

At least my injury wasn't as bad as the one that a kid in the grade below me sustained after taking a tumble off of the monkey bars one afternoon. At first I didn't realize just how serious the injury was...until I saw that the kid's entire forehead was covered in blood. I'm not sure exactly how he managed to get such a serious injury, but he had to hit his head on something hard.

I think it was shortly after that incident that they began the plan to renovate that particular section of the play area so that it was safer.

Aside from the monkey bars though, that wing of the playground had a lot going for it. It was the section where all of the bike racks were, so it was easy to find. There were the teeter-totters that many kids played on, but unfortunately I didn't get much of an opportunity to. Apparently some of the kids felt that I was too heavy for them to play with, which was ridiculous in my eyes! I was heavy set as a kid, true, but I didn't outweigh the kids by THAT much. It was all in their minds.

(Well, at least I see it that way NOW. I didn't always.)

And, can we talk about the swing sets? I tell you, I was a huge fan of swing sets as a kid. Both sets of grandparents had swing sets located in their backyards, and I spent the majority of my time swinging on those things. Swings were cool. I didn't get to play with the swing sets much when I was in school, but during the summer playground program, I would spend a lot of time sitting on the swings by myself. I did a lot of daydreaming when I was a kid (which I'm told is supposed to be a common personality trait for creative types), and swinging on the swing set was a great place to be alone with my thoughts.

The school playground was also a fantastic place to play on during the epic Canadian winters that I grew up with. Obviously whenever we had a huge snowfall, the snow plows would be called into the playground area to clear off the pavement to make it safer for us to play in. One of the perks of this? Eight foot tall snow walls which turned into impromptu snow forts. All of us had great fun climbing on these huge walls of snow and ice, and we would pretend that we were climbing Mount Everest. I'm sure that had the school not put the kibosh on snowball throwing, we would have tried to repel “enemy soldiers” with an arsenal of snowballs on top of that. Alas, the school declared it to be too dangerous.

Let's recap. We couldn't throw snowballs, but they let us climb up snow walls that were more than twice our height. Seems counter-productive, doesn't it?

There was also a little hill in the playground that was located next to the play structure that contained the curvy yellow slide and wooden bridge. That hill was nothing too spectacular during the warm months. But if we had a dusting of freezing rain fall, the surface of the hill would become one hundred per cent solid ice...which made it a fantastic sliding hill! Most of us stayed warm though, mostly because our teachers forced us to wear those big, bulky snow pants. If it were up to me, I'd be doing a pantomime of the Robert Munsch classic “Thomas' Snowsuit” every single recess. I despised snow pants with a passion!

But the freezing rain could also be quite dangerous. I recall a couple of incidents in which freezing rain caused me much discomfort. When I was in the fourth grade, I slipped on a patch of ice and slid right into a gigantic puddle! Luckily I didn't live too far away from school, so I changed quickly and only ended up being ten minutes late for school. Better to be late than freeze to death in the classroom, right?

The second incident happened when I was in the first grade. The bell rang and I was all the way in the back of the playground. I ran as fast as I could to the door, so I wouldn't be late for school, and wasn't aware that the pavement was covered in black ice. I slid, and did a faceplant right in front of the door where everyone could see. I wasn't that embarrassed though. If anything, I was more in pain. The impact bloodied my nose and I honestly believed that I had broken it. Turned out that I didn't, but I think I went through half a box of Kleenex trying to stop it from bleeding. It was a messy and PAINFUL experience.

Anyway, those are just a few of my own personal school playground memories. What are some of yours?

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