…For students

I love playing on jungle gyms. There, I said it. It’s just a part of my childhood that I never mentally outgrew, although I certainly did physically. I believe, however, that by introducing an adult jungle gym (okay, that just sounds dirty), to our University, students who utilize it will enjoy an enriched learning experience, as well as getting a chance to just let off some steam and have fun.

Jungle gyms are a toy generally reserved for children, in a society where being compared to a child often carries negative connotations. Thus, adults tend to stay away from these abstract structures, and while children are allowed play, build strength, interact with their surroundings and develop their brain functions, adults can… sit on a bench. But really, this situation is just a metaphor for the difference between a child’s imagination, and our own. An enormous, spiraling, edifice - that’s where a child hangs out; and a straight, rigid, cold bench - that’s what we ‘grown-ups’ are left with.

It is really intriguing to wonder, therefore, what our creative capacity could be as adults, in a world where jungle gyms were a socially acceptable toy for us to use.

I know I, personally, will find any excuse to embrace my childhood nostalgia, especially when that means engaging in a kickass game of grounders,” says Shereese Staples, a student in Capilano’s Film Program. Shereese agrees that a University Jungle Gym would mark Capilano as an institution that is focused on defining a new generation of workers - and a generation more compliant to the idea of including play in the workplace.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Play? Yes, play. Over the past few decades, many psychological studies - Whoa, whoa, whoa. Studies? Yes, studies - point to play as a crucial part of childhood development, determining how we interact with each other and the world around us. Way back in 1999, ‘Psychology Today’ published an article called “The Power of Play”. The article pointed out that play is a very therapeutic process, and research has proven it can bring increase our creativity, energy levels, and our overall joy in life. Thus, playing is still a relatable concept to adults. As if we didn’t know that - of course we all like to play!

In North Rustico, P.E.I. a company called Greengym had built an ‘Adult Jungle Gym’ right beside the one for kids! This way, adults can “exercise and still keep an eye on their little ones”. However, after doing a little further sleuthing, I realized that this was nothing more than a brightly colored fitness centre - hence its other name: The Outdoor Fitness Centre. According to the article, Outdoor Fitness Centres are already popular overseas and now are beginning to be embraced in Canada. Well, that’s cool. Sure, we all know the benefits of good old-fashioned exercise, but I can’t play grounders on an elliptical cross-trainer.

The head office of Google (the Googleplex) is one example of a place where people have begun to knock down the wall that separates work from play. Google’s logic is that having a fun work environment is directly connected to happy employees, as well as productive ones. The Googleplex features multiple restaurants, gyms, a garden and even a giant slide that brings you from the second floor to the first, all in an attempt to keep minds stimulated.

Compare this to Simon Fraser University, which at first seems completely void of anything playful, but has actually had a Jungle Gym for years, and right in the middle of their Academic Quadrangle. It’s a giant blue steel pyramid- unfortunately, I don’t think anyone can figure out how to use it.

Slowly, our society is changing, and companies are creating friendlier places for adults to play, exercise, and have fun, whether it’s with ‘Outdoor Fitness Centres’, or just giant two story slides. Now it’s time for institutions like Capilano to really take a lead in creating positive, progressive steps to a happier and healthier generation of adults by building a Jungle Gym. Plus, I think I mentioned that I really want to play grounders.

//Neil Vokey

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