A Public Grammar School Where Kids Can Build Forts at Recess

Hi Readers! You’re not dreaming. There’s a public school — albeit in Australia — where a few years ago the kids noticied some leftover building materials  and started spontaneously building forts during recess. And, as Time Gill notes on his fab Rethinking Childhood blog:

To its credit, the school reacted not with alarm, but with interest. Staff could see that good things were happening. Some made connections with their own childhood memories of playing in the creeks, bush and vacant lots of their neighbourhoods.

Read more about the effort here. And let’s hope this movement BUILDS! (Yes, pun intended. With me, puns are almost always intended.) – L

16 Responses

  1. Hi there,
    Here’s a link to a news item in Australia about the link between mollycoddling children and depression in later life.
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-27/experts-warn-against-mollycoddling-children/4036144
    Cheers,

    Alex

  2. Very cool. I remember teaching in California in 2000-2002 and being on recess duty. I was letting the girls do cartwheels on the field and was reprimanded by the principal that they weren’t allowed to do cartwheels because somebody could get hurt and the school could be sued. As a child, I used to do back handsprings across the school field. I hope this is something the bleeds over into the rest of the world!

  3. I loved building forts when I was a kid. We were the 7th house in a new subdivision of 350 lots, and we got to build forts with scrap lumber for about five years. Great memories. I have two sets of kids, and the older ones built forts in the swamp behind where we lived. The boys needed camo to increase the fun. The second set used to dig holes and build platforms over them. Both sets made snow forts in the winter. Forts are definitely one of the best parts of childhood.

  4. Hi Readers! You’re not dreaming. There’s a public school — albeit in Australia —
    Love this. I live in Australia. We are not “forward thinkers” we are just 30 years behind the rest of the world, which to my way of thinking is a very good thing.

  5. I noticed some kids building a fort in a local park a couple of weeks ago (really just some grass and a couple of trees surrounded by road and houses) and thought that was awesome. They brought out tarps and wood and all sorts, built it and played in it, then later that evening it was all packed away!

  6. Hi, saw this article today, also from Australia. And looks like Lenore will be one of the guest speakers! http://www.news.com.au/national/children-to-be-given-a-taste-of-danger-at-new-childcare-centre/story-e6frfkvr-1226367897829

  7. On one side, sometimes the stories on your site make me sad because of how unfair it is for people to try to take away kid’s fun during their childhood years out of fear…but on the other hand, it makes me remember my own childhood and the wonderful memories of it. I really hope to be able to let my son experience some of those things as he grows. They are memories too precious to waste on fear-mongering.

  8. Check out the post at the link and it was quite breath taken to see the builders,innovator and visionaries at work. Thanks very much for sharing.

  9. Now let’s hope a bunch of nosy adults don’t get involved–y’know, just so the kids remain safe.

  10. @Jenna–I agree on the cartwheel thing. I didn’t learn to do one until I was an adult, but I think the way to address the safety issue of kids doing cartwheels on the playground isn’t to ban them, but rather, to teach the kids to do them properly, both as an optional part of the physical education classes (optional so that the kids who either didn’t want to learn to do cartwheels, or arrived at school already knowing how, could be given an alternative activity), and also on the playground–that is, if any of the kids are either asking for help, or clearly doing cartwheels wrong, because doing it wrong can be dangerous. When I was living in Australia, and working for International House, the iHouse head’s two little boys used to love to attempt to do cartwheels, and they got the “up” part just fine, but they almost always seemed to land on their backs. They never got hurt, but these kids were insane–one time when I was babysitting them and the neighbour kid, they were climbing up their backyard fence and onto the low roof of the Games Room at iHouse, in their SOCK FEET. So, I’d count myself lucky if all they did was land on their backs doing cartwheels. So, that’s another reason why I’d have no problem with schoolkids doing basic gymnastics on the grass–because, if they’re not allowed that, they could get creative and think of something even more dangerous to do.

  11. About that news feature on molly coddling kids… I do have a problem with it being presented as a causal link. In a way that is another annoying example of the experts telling parents that they will set up their kids for a life of misery if they don’t get it right in their childhood. But of course I can think of quite a few common sense arguments why molly coddling is not the best way to go about.

  12. Thanks for the plug and link to my post Lenore. Quite a few people got in touch to tell me about other schools where kids can build forts (dens, cubbies, whatever). You heard it here first: the fort revival is in full swing (pun intended!)

  13. My kids attend a private Montessori school in the US where they’ve been given a large , wooded corner of the property to do something similar. During recess the elementary kids are allowed to roam through the woods and collect large sticks and rocks. They’ve turned the area into their “city,” complete with housing, shops, bricks for currency, and a mayor. I know this wouldn’t fly in a public school in the US right now, but hopefully it’s a start in the right direction.

  14. What a great initiative – my fondest childhood memories growing up in Australia involved playing in the local creek or in the vacant blocks of land yet to be built on in my suburb.

  15. We would not have been permitted to build cubbies with building materials (we were not permitted to touch them see), but we were permitted to with sticks etc from the bush in the playground (eucalypt trees drop branches perfect for cubby building). But, now my old school (and I did not finish that long ago), no longer permits such activities. A child hurt themselves (stick in the eye – no permanant damage). What I found sad/bemusing was that less than a decade before the child got a stick in the eye, I at the same age got a stick in MY eye, climbing into our cubby. I cried (tears are good for such things), was helped out by some older children on the playground, taken to the teacher on duty, who got the older children (who would have been about 10?) to walk me to the nurses office. The nurse washed it out with saline, and when I said it still felt scratchy sighed and called my mother so I could be taken to hospital to get it checked (I remember the nurse clearly telling my mother she was just planning on rinsing it, but it was better to be safe than sorry considering I was complaining of the scratchiness). Turned out I had damaged the (?)cornea. I got to wear an eyepatch for a week and my mother had to come into school each day to put eyedrops in (because of the incident and what happened in the A&E I was scared of having things near my eye – my mother was the only one who could put the drops in). At no point did school (and most importantly, mother) decide it was anything other than a simple accident of an eight year old not paying attention to where she was going!

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