Every child is playful. It is in our nature. To play is to learn. Most every school playground has a swing, a slide, a sandbox, or a flat surface to bounce balls on. Recent research suggests that creative, imaginative play is linked to higher ability to think critically, to analyze a situation and to shift paradigms in thinking to solve problems. Sadly, every school does not have a play area specifically designed for creative, collaborative and imaginative play. The College School does. And we call it “The River.”
The River began as a small 100-foot length of previously unused asphalt playground along a chain link fence. With help of children, parents, teachers, and neighbors, we dug into the asphalt, knocked down the chain link fence, and added boulders, flat rock, sand, trees, plants, plumbing, a pump, and solar panels. We now have an oasis of nature with flowing stream, a pond, sandy beach, native plants, a birdhouse and feeder, and even a cast bronze model of a real Missouri soft shell turtle. The River is a place where creative, collaborative, and imaginative play blossoms. Boys play with girls. Big kids play with little kids. A leaf floating in the stream becomes a canoe in the imagination of a child. And a collection of sticks on the shore is a house or horse corral or boat dock.
The River on our playground is a classroom where students are inspired to write poetry, draw nature, compose stories, perform music, and create maps, plant native Missouri perennials, and play. Born from a gravelly trench of unused asphalt, the River on our playground is a place to play, a place to learn, and a place to nurture, protect, and grow.