Reclaiming Urban Space Part 2: Everything is Nature

Near the southern perimeter of the Champ des Possibles (where tall condos are beginning to be constructed) the remains of inustry and commercial activity provide part of the landscape of our regular play in several of our The Lion and The Mouse programs. Next to the luscious, green open field, this more “run down” area connects us to the concrete fabric of the city. Here, the left-behind playthings – some of the urban ‘loose parts’ we engage with – provide inspiration in the movement of our play from ‘natural’ objects to the human-made (often decaying and random in their wondrous possibility).   We have learned at The Lion and The Mouse (on our regular walks through the Champ des Possibles and beyond) to easily and seamlessly make this transition from green space to an environment of concrete, iron, and metal. Perhaps this is a metaphor for how, when we begin to transcend the opposition between ‘nature’ and the ‘human world’ in our play and within ourselves, we are in touch with the play instinct that is at the heart of creativity. Two of the main poles of our inspiration at The Lion and The Mouse are Pop-up Adventure Play (or ‘Playwork’), and Forest Schools. In light of this, being able to transition smoothly between play environments that speak to both of these inspirations has been crucial to the development of our approach. There is a lot of crossover and harmony between these approaches (as is well documented by Playwork specialists like Penny Wilson and others, in their praise of year round outdoor play), and the diversity of our local play environments very much allows this natural harmony to sing. Some of the first Adventure Playgrounds emerged in England with childen playing freely in the rubble that was left by bombing during the Second World War. In our programs, the rubble and constructive chaos of abandoned or discarded concrete, steel, and other urban objects and materials, is ours to reclaim with children for the purposes of play. Though these found materials may not be the result of warfare, I feel our reuse of them for play is in the same spirit as that of post-war children’s playful reclamation of bombed-out sites.

 

 

The spirit of playwork, which for us is often inspired by the reclamation of this kind of neglected urban landscape for play, complements our forest school inspiration so well. We invite children to play within the freedom that some of this neglected concrete space allows, while also truly indulging in biophilia when encountering the biodiversity of places like the Champ des Possibles.  As we hold these two poles of inspiration in tandem, we come to know that experiencing nature in the city should not mean only to experience the incredible urban biodiversity of places like the Champ. Perhaps we may come to realize, in our fluid transitions from green field to concrete jungle, that everything is nature, and that in exploring freely within these environments we may further discover our own nature as creative and playful human beings. “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves.” -C.G. Jung

-Cam

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