Saturday, February 20, 2010

Youth wisdom... better yet, youth fun

I became aware of The Peckham Experiments after reading Josh Leeger's blog the other day. The Peckham Experiments were a series of studies done in southeast London in the early to mid 1900's looking at the health of the working class and everything that contributes to it when people are given access to a quality 'community'.

After reading through some of the information on the site, I came across a few paragaphs that I was completely amuzed by (I had to smile) and I think epitomizes the wisdom of young children and how adults need to take a lesson from the youth; being too "adult-like" in particular...

Here are the paragraphs from the site (even a well-directed recommendation regarding bare feet):

"A boy of 11 leaps through the air from a swinging rope and lands on the ribstalls; three boys are sitting contently on the top rungs of the rope ladders, five girls are playing a game on the 'window frame', while three girls and two boys have a large light ball and dodge among their fellows as they play; two groups of boys are wrestling on the mats; one boy is using the punch ball and five small boys leap from horse to swinging rope and back again."

"The gym was conventionally equipped, with ropes and rope ladders, suspended from a ceiling two storeys high, wall bars along two walls, a 'window frame' reaching almost to the ceiling and covering one end wall. There were booms, vaulting bucks, balancing forms, parallel bars, a punch ball, coconut matting and so on and an ingeniously sprung cork-covered floor. For the sake of the floor and to enable the children to use their toes for balancing and gripping and to become sure-footed, a barefoot rule was rigorously enforced."

Few adults wanted to use it, but for the children it was a great playground. Although a young physical education teacher was appointed shortly after the Centre opened to teach gymnastics classes, only a few turned up for them and then not very eagerly. She therefore introduced a game called 'Shipwrecks', placing all the equipment so that it was possible to move around the gym without touching the floor. She quickly dropped the idea of having a 'catcher' as the children did not like being out. They played this day after day and when the teacher left in the autumn of 1936, no-one replaced her. "It was found unnecessary to have anyone minding the children as they played. At times they played shipwrecks, trying out new movements - monkey-like leaps and swings- as they played, but mostly they worked individually at devising new skills and actions, being 'Tarzan' or 'Jane'. They practised these acrobatic skills hour after hour and day after day, placing the movable equipment to suit their needs.

Some of the equipment was used in a way for which it was not intended and which horrified conventional teachers of gymnastics; knots were tied at the ends of the climbing ropes, for example, which after a time, could never be untied. "

... and I would say to the kids... "keep tying that s**t tighther" ... hahahaha!!!

These paragraphs reminded me of Frank Forencich's blog post I alluded too in a previous post; "Just don't do it: the case against exercise".

Do you think the Peckham children did not get physically educated? There's some giant lessons to take from this.

Move.
AS

4 comments:

jleeger said...

Revolutionary, huh?

Then what happened!

Great post Aaron!

Mark Young said...

Am I the only one that wants to go to that gymnasium right now and goof around all day?

The smaller problem (I think) is getting people to understand the value of such a thing (there must be enough of us), but how on earth do we create environments like this for our own kids?

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Mike T Nelson said...

Great stuff as always man!

Reading exercise books from about 1890-1950s is great. We need to go back to those forms of exercise, esp in youth development. Our current model is screwed beyond belief and I think we should go Back to the Future.

Rock on
Mike T Nelson PhD(c)
Extreme Human Performance