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The Dengler Domain: Playground Equipment

May 6, 2016
Sean Dengler - Columnist , Dysart Reporter

Recess was the best time for all school children. Going outside, having fun, and being crazy was the name of the game. No more teachers, no more studying, no more tests, it was an enjoyable time. The playground was the best part of recess. It was full of wonders and mysteries. Whether the ground was hot lava or the playground set was a spaceship, the playground met every child's need. Over the years, playgrounds have evolved from medieval sets of equipment to rubber so nothing will hurt. It is important to remember which playground equipment was important to the childhood learning experience.

The first playground equipment device did not exist at North Tama during my time, but it did at other elementary schools. It was the spinning circle with metal bars. This is one unsafe piece of equipment to hop on. I am not sure what the original goal of this equipment was, but kids already knew what needed to be done. Obviously, the goal was to hang on for dear life while one or two spun the circle as fast as they could. Whoever hung on the longest was the winner. It did not matter in the end because everyone was so dizzy they could not tell the difference between up and down. I'm glad this equipment is not as popular as it was in the past. It is an accident waiting to happen.

The second playground equipment device are sheet metal slides. While fun to slide down, these slides were definitely not voted the safest ride in America. No one knew if a bolt or nail would be sticking out from the pieces of metal until they would unfortunately pass over it. When sitting in the sun all day, these slides became hotter than a firecracker. This was no good for any rider's booty. It is good these slides were replaced by slower, plastic slides. It was not practical financially and physically to have these big sheet metal slides exist.

Woodchips are the saber-toothed cat of playground equipment. Their extinction happened a long time ago in part to endless injuries woodchips caused. Playing on woodchips was never fun. Getting stabbed in the leg or ending up with a woodchip in my shoe was a guarantee after any recess. Since being replaced by rubber, woodchips serve no purpose in the playground equipment world. I am happy with this result. Woodchips were the bane of every child's life.

The mythical tetherball was a form of dominance on the playground. The sheer wrath a person could inflict on a tetherball had no bounds. It is hard to believe anybody in today's society would get excited about hitting a ball tied hanging from a pole. Nonetheless, this playground equipment was an important part of the playground. It is astonishing how this game was popular. It is not safe at all. If a big bully wallops the ball into a person's face, lord have mercy. I am also fine with tetherball not existing in today's society. While a simple concept, it is not safe in any shape, form, or fashion.

While looking back on none of these safe forms of playground equipment, they made us stronger physically and mentally. We learned from our injuries to make safer forms of playground equipment for future school children. In the end, safe or not safe everybody is a kid at heart. Did you hear that? It's the bell ringing. It is recess time. Go outside, have fun, and be crazy.

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