President’s Day Playground Post. Children play–even children of presidents. Let’s take a deeper historical look at the actual playground “equipment” installed by and supported by two United States Presidents. Interestingly, both playgrounds modeled classical equipment that involved gravity.
In the FDR photo above, we see his grandchildren playing on the slide which is a decent sized considering the young ages of children. One is also climbing freely on the jungle gym. “Climbing” is a survival skill that was carefully taught in classical physical education but also supported through “free play” such as modeled above. Public playgrounds were full of such equipment so children could explore and learn about gravity, how their bodies moved with laws of gravity, how to take risks and face physical and mental challenges, and much more.
Here’s another wonderful photo depicting classical PE and playground equipment being used by JFK’s children. Let’s take a look beyond the obvious swinging in the forefront.
Once again, we see the prominent jungle gym apparatus at the White House playground. We also see a vertical climbing ladder which could double as a sort of portable Swedish stall bar. There is also a solo ladder leaning up against the tree on the right side. Ladders and many configurations of ladders were used in physical education including a simple free standing ladder. The notion was that children were taught to climb in many different ways and with many different angles. Ladders were vertical, angled, horizontal, and even “peaked” which was a horizontal ladder suspended from gymnasium ceiling that had angles which enabled the user to go up and down as they traveled across horizontally.
The take-home history lesson on President’s Day is our country’s leaders knew and supported the use of “gravity training” for not only their own children at the White House but also for the whole country in our public physical education and public park systems.
Today, we are often removing gravity training equipment for children and thus removing their opportunity to learn about gravity and how their bodies respond to this natural law. What happens when you don’t know and use gravity? You collapse.
Look back. Learn. Move forward.