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Playground design, not education policy, tops in Good Magazine’s schools issue

Image courtesy of Good Magazine

Image courtesy of Good Magazine

If I hadn’t been battling illness all week, I would have beaten Kevin Carey over at the Quick and the Ed to the punch on Good Magazine’s current cover story, “School Wars,” by progressive educator (and blogger) Gary Stager. Though his criticism could have been gentler, Carey nails the big point: There are serious conversations going on right now about the source of trouble for urban schools and the best strategies for how to address them; these conversations have very real policy implications, but sentiments that, like these concluding Stager’s apparently interview-less piece, ignore both policy-level and day-to-day realities just aren’t constructive:

If every parent was vocally fighting for the best public schools for their children—instead of some of the most involved and caring opting out in disgust—the government would be forced to listen. Because despite their flaws, inequities, and shortcomings, public schools are an American treasure owned by the citizens, and we should treat them as a public trust.

But even though the cover article doesn’t move the urban education conversation along, the issue is worth picking up for its interesting and colorful discussion of creativity-inducing playground design, which features play spaces with adventure, nature, and “loose parts” themes. Here in New York, where just getting a dozen conventional, diminutive schoolyard playgrounds built is a news story, Good profiles two innovative models for public, outdoor play.

The magazine heralds downtown Manhattan’s Teardrop Park as the “ideal nature park,” and it also offers a preview of the free-form Imagination Playground, scheduled to open in lower Manhattan next year. A smaller-scale temporary Imagination Playground space opened earlier this summer in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where kids can now construct their own play space out of colorful block, cones, and other shapes; it will close after Labor Day.