By Jess Graff
We are excited to be welcoming Jess to write on our blog about her first-ever pop-up adventure playground, hosted at her place of work. She is one of our Playworker Development Course students, using the skills from our course to complement the work she is doing at Portland Children’s Museum.
The stage was set. We were ready… sort of. It was the day of the Portland Children’s Museum‘s first pop up adventure playground. We’d done many child-led play events and exhibits but this was to be our very first pop-up adventure playground. I’d done all my homework and was backed by years of intuitively learning to listen and let kids be kids. I’d gathered materials and chosen several staff members to briefly introduce the ideas of playwork to; staff members that I felt would be able to do a great job of being inviting but also able to step back and make room for whatever magical chaos might ensue.
The result was everything I could have wished for. Despite icy wind outside, and a somewhat cramped space inside, children played and parents and caregivers let them. There was creation and destruction, collaboration and independence. And the kids were guiding it all. As they worked on their process of play, staff members did exactly as I had expected. Jeri and Amy gathered additional materials and joyfully welcomed new families who approach tentatively, looking bemused at the building of collaborative forts, cardboard, wood and string placed delicately or flung about seemingly at random.
Mike brought out the saw and other tools that I had not even thought to include in my set up list, while making sure kids could use them safely and with limited adult interruption. Liz crawled through the elaborate kid made spaces on her hands and knees snapping photos of the children in action. And me? I faded away, an observer, sometimes present, sometimes absent or watching from the wings, because they didn’t need me. The kids and staff did what they do best, play. And that is exactly what I’d hoped for.