Geographies of Children

The Park as a Social Space

The children portrayed parts of the park as a social space where they were able to “chill out” with their friends during school hours. Collectively, they have a strong sense of competency when talking about maneuvering the park together. The children displayed confidence in their willingness to move around the park while unaccompanied by teachers or adults. Their interviews suggest that the children view the park as space that is reserved for them. This use of the park was the most important to 5th graders and the spaces in the park that are the setting for social activity are the most important to them. Over three-fourths of the children mentioned spending time with each other at the rocks. Furthermore, the students linked different locations in the park with memories they had there while drawing.

Many of them shared memories, some dating back to their earliest days at the school, when they made new friends:

“It’s when we went to the rocks, and that’s where I met my first Uh, My… my third friend.” Student 10

“Like, on the first day of school, we toured the park, and I didn’t really know everybody. And then, when we went to the park, I met [another student]. She’s the girl that was beside you [in the classroom earlier]. Then my-she’s my second best friend because I met her I was climbing on the rocks. I almost slipped in the water, but then she catched me.” – Student 15

They told stories about each other, emphasizing funny and embarrassing moments:

Well, last year, my friend, he was trying to be all hardcore and he slipped and fell in the water, and then he fell a second time, and it was funny.”  Student 17

“you get to cross it, sometimes people fall in and it’s funny, but sometimes it’s not funny and they cry.” Student 21 

Multiple students gave explicit directions on how to navigate the park. :

“Um, here’s the basketball court, and there’s the, um, and then go downhill and then there’s a fence; and you go through there, and then there’s some stairs. Then, go through some rocks and there’s a little area where you can just write, um, listen to what, um, what’s around you, like nature.”  Student 6

“Today we went on this trail and you just keep going and like go around and i believe there is another trail in this area bc we have been there before and another trail where you can go up somewhere. Oh and also if you go on this trail you can go that way and today we went on this trail and if you keep going down then there’s like a gate that goes along there and another gate that goes there and there is like a not really path and it connects to this path and you go along this gate into here. Wait, I did the wrong way, anyway. I keep forgetting this is the path you can go on. This is where the rocks are and the stream we went by today. And if you keep going along here you can see where the gate is broken and you go down and keep taking some turns. Somewhere along here is a big pond. Then you go up here and oh and near the pond there are some stairs. So then if i can remember the pond is that way, oh yeah when u go that past the bond u can loop around it either loop around it and there is like this little house u can relax and then here is the bridge or u can keep going somewhere down here and basically if you keep going down here u get to a little high way area where you like see all the highways and u can like see them and you know that saw building. And then if you keep going around the house sometimes later you can connect back with this path which there is a bridge I think ok so this was. OMG I can’t remember. Oh yeah you keep going  down and somehow you connect back into here. And then there’s just a lot of trees.” – Student 7