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THE CHILDREN'S PLAYGROUND AS A MICROCOSM OF SOCIETY

J. Burke

University of Ballarat (AUSTRALIA)
Play, as a major social institution, influences the shaping of society. By gathering in playground environments, children who do not necessarily know each other learn about others, social values and the communities in which they live. In this paper, the playground is examined as a place that can offer opportunities for children with impairments to play freely and creatively, or alternatively, to experience restrictions through structural oppression.

The qualitative study reported on in this paper is drawn from an Australian Research Council Linkages Project. Data were collected from 72 participant children, who compiled personal photographic scrapbooks and were observed at play in playgrounds. Data were also obtained from a series of focus group discussions with parents of children with impairments and adults with impairments.

In this paper, evidence is presented to demonstrate that children, through the spatiality of a purposed-provided play space, as a microcosm of society, come to understand disability and, therefore, those who are considered disabled. The presentation concludes that taken-for-granted and exclusive practices around playground configuration can have powerful repercussions upon the way difference attributed to impairment is socially constructed by children.