the future (and present) of the schoolyards

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01/07/2022 at 09:00 CET

Alicia mendoza

School is the place where our children learn, know and absorb values. Not all this learning happens in the classroom doing multiplications or knowing the anatomy of the body, but it is also learned outside, in recess, in the courtyards. And it is that they are spaces where our sons and daughters are educated.

Recently, school yards are on the lips of public opinion, since the Generalitat of Catalonia, last December 2021, made an architecture guide for schools where the elimination of the soccer field in the patios. It is a measure taken by the Generalitat to rethink the architecture and distribution of games in the courtyards, encourage other games and equality.

Although this proposal has raised quite a controversy, it is not an extraordinary measure for now, since it has been in its approach for more than a decade. In 2010, the Congress of Deputies approved the initiative to eradicate stereotypes and sexist games that take place in school yards. To do this, at the proposal of the PSOE, they wanted to establish various protocols that could control the spaces where these games take place.

Since then, there have been different initiatives to transform the patios into non-sexist and coeducational spaces. Among them is the Network of inclusive and sustainable playgrounds, which seeks to “enhance accessibility, environmental sustainability and the participation of the entire educational community in the configuration of playgrounds.” In this project both the CEIP Nuestra Señora de la Paloma and the CEIP Santa María as well as the CEIP San Miguel Arcángel de Moralzarzal were remodeled.

But why are schoolyards considered sexist? What does coeducational patios mean?

In most schoolyards the central space is reserved for playing football | Pexels

Sexist schoolyards

The schoolyards are socialization spaces where boys and girls learn values. The space that students occupy in it is a reflection of the space that boys and girls occupy in society. “The physical space of the educational center also speaks, it also transmits, it also teaches: the way of relating, of being, the distribution of spaces, as well as the control and infrastructures of the game. This can promote the development of different skills in them and in them and reinforce behaviors and practices that, over time, fix gender stereotypes, “says Sandra Molines in this guide on coeducational patios.

Courtyard divisions traditionally enhance the soccercentrism. That is to say, Most of the patio is occupied by this game, while the rest of the games are distributed around it with a much smaller space. This division is directly related to gender roles.

Traditionally it has been associated that boys play sports with the ball such as soccer or basketball, while girls engage in other games that do not involve as much movement or in which they can be kept in a fixed place, such as rope.

Fortunately, the roles are less and less fixed, but socialization by gender is still very present, and many times it is due to the lack of references. “The differentiated socialization of boys and girls leads to girls having fewer models of reference and identification in these areas [el fútbol] than children, “adds Molines.

In this way, the distribution of this space gives a greater presence, as explained by the sociologist and former director of the Institute for Women Marina Subirats in her book ‘Balones Fuera’ together with Amparo Tomé, to boys who play soccer than to other people who practice other activities.

What do the coeducational patios propose?

The coeducational patios seek, as this research points out, “To break with said standardization and established and imposed ideas that perpetuate a sexist distribution and a hierarchical use of gender inequalities.”

In the research they define coeducation as the term that “arises as a need to correct the social inequalities that have existed throughout all time between women and men and, more specifically, between girls and boys in educational centers.” At the end of the day, it is about analyzing, detecting and making the appropriate modifications to eliminate sexism from the school environment.

As for a coeducational playground, the proposal does not include a ban on playing soccer, but rather it is about offering more options for other sports that are not so universal and reserving the space to practice them. According to Molines, these patios have to follow several guidelines:

Various: “Game options and spaces must be guaranteed for all people. Play chess, dance, listen to music, racket games …”Flexible: The same space can be used for different activities.Interrelational: Spaces must be distributed appropriately so that all games can be played without one dominating the other. “The area enabled for football can be located in a peripheral space of the patio, so that it does not obstruct the passage.”Insurance: Everyone can use the patio space safely.Participatory: Everyone can contribute ideas.

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