What if every school had a scrap store?

Orin Zebest via Flickr

Orin Zebest via Flickr

I recently came across an article from The Atlantic covering the recent re-emergence of “adventure playgrounds” in the U.K. The concept, originally popularized in the 1940’s, is the direct opposite of traditional playgrounds that dot suburban neighborhoods, with their plastic equipment and piles of wood chips that encourage standard, structured play. In an adventure playground, not only is the equipment “non-traditional”, supervision is practically null. Adults are instructed to stay away, with the exception of a single adult that checks in now and then, monitoring only for activity that could lead to serious injury.

The recent popularity of these once defunct playgrounds comes in response to the “helicopter-style” parenting that has become so prevalent in the last 20 years. The goal of this new type of child watering hole is to encourage creativity, as opposed to squashing it. Instead of the standard slides and swings, children build their ideal play area from garbage—things like old tires, steel drums, and discarded wood. The playground changes every day based on the children that show up, maybe a pirate ship one day and a race track the next. Not only does this type of environment unlock imagination, it teaches engineering, problem-solving, teamwork, and situation assessment. After all, with minimal adult intervention, kids have to determine what is safe and what is risky for themselves.

I love this concept. I love any idea that gets kids to do what the do best—invent. Which is why I would love to see this built on with another innovative concept I also recently discovered—the scrap shop.

Courtesy of ScrapPDX Tumbler

Courtesy of Scrap PDX Finds Tumblr

Portland has a wonderful jewel of a store called ScrapPDX. The store is similar to a Goodwill, but instead of donated, used clothes, you have barrels of worn down crayons, old silk screens, piles of glass beads, bins of half-spools of yarn, wallpaper samples, floppy disks, and more.

The first time I walked in was with a friend looking for yarn. I hadn’t intended to purchase anything, but walking throughout the store, it was impossible not to see projects in every bin. A selection of random wallpaper samples that could be put into a frame to represent the shades of a wave crashing. Old America Online floppy disks made into coasters for that nostalgic programmer. The melted crayon art rainbow of Pinterest fame. You enter the store and are met with endless possibilities.

What if there was one of these types of shops in every school that was open for a few hours after the end of the school day? No structured projects, or class requirements, just bins stocked full of things and a number of credits to spend. What amazing things would students create?

Be Sociable, Share!