Where Do The Children Play? (WDCP?) is a PBS documentary, a corresponding study guide, and an outreach project promoting the importance of open-ended play for the development of healthy children. Child-initiated play time in natural play spaces has been diminishing due to the “stranger danger” fears of adults, the trend toward only teacher-led instruction time in the schools, the decrease in free time due to adult organized activities, the increasingly limited access to wild and semi-wild nature play spaces for children, and the lure of electronic games.1
Inspired by Elizabeth Goodenough's book Secret Spaces of Childhood, the Where Do The Children Play? documentary was written, directed, and produced by Christopher Cook of Metrocom International in conjunction with WFUM-TV, a Michigan PBS affiliate located in Ann Arbor and Flint. Mark Jonathan Harris, an Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker, was the consulting producer.It was funded by W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, and the Ruth S. Mott Foundation.2
First aired on June 20, 2007, the film won five Emmy Awards and was a regular broadcast on American Public Television until May of 2010.3 Featuring children's voices on the subject of play, Where Do The Children Play? also included such experts as Goodenough, a writer and activist from the University of Michigan; Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods; Dr. Kenneth Ginsberg of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; and Joan Almon, founder of the Alliance for Childhood.4 WDCP? is available for public screenings, conferences and panels, and forums through the Alliance for Childhood as well as through private purchase.5
The documentary was augmented by the book A Place for Play, a collection of relevant research, practical advice, a portfolio of ideal playgrounds, and a summary of current programs and policies to reconnect children with nature. Edited by Goodenough, this companion volume was published by the National Institute For Play in 2008.6 Later the study guide, Where Do The Children Play?: A Study Guide to the Film, also edited by Goodenough, was published by the Alliance for Childhood and the University of Michigan.7 Both of these volumes support the documentary in engaging communities concerning children, nature, and play – whether used for community organizing, fundraising, political action platforms, or for curriculum supplementation.8
The Where Do The Children Play? Outreach is a multifaceted project seeking to connect children with nature. As an AmeriCorps project, they have partnered with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to raise public awareness and education through film screenings and conference presentations. They have also built relationships with organizations also involved in increasing access to outdoor play for all children.9 To do so, they utilize the WDCP? documentary, both companion volumes, and two special issues of ENCOUNTER: Education for Meaning and Social Justice.10
Another tool Where Do The Children Play? Outreach uses is the film Childhood Places/Secret Spaces, in which Christopher Paul Curtis, a Newberry Award winning children's author, returns to his hometown of Flint, Michigan and discusses play with schoolchildren.11
As Where Do The Children Play? Outreach Director, Goodenough works with the National Wildlife Federation's Regional Education Manager Rebecca Nielsen and an AmeriCorps intern to “provoke discussion, deepen awareness, and ignite transformation” concerning children's developmental needs for open-ended, child initiated free play time in nature.12
- 1. “Where Do The Children Play? Project.” Where Do The Children Play? Project. < https://sites.google.com/site/wheredothechildrenplayproject/ > 5 July 2011.
- 2. “Our News: Press Release of June 21, 2007.” Metrocom International. < http://www.metrocominternational.com/news/releases/2007-06-21.html > 17 July 2011.
- 3. Op.cit., “Where Do The Children Play? Project.”
- 4. Op.cit., “Our News: Press Release of June 21, 2007.”
- 5. Op.cit., “Where Do The Children Play? Project.”
- 6. Op.cit., “Where Do The Children Play? Project.”
- 7. “Where Do The Children Play?: A Study Guide to the Film.” Amazon.< http://www.amazon.com/Where-Do-Children-Play-Study/dp/0982375115/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1310956824&sr=1-3 > 17 July 2011.
- 8. “Applications.” Where Do The Children Play? Project. < https://sites.google.com/site/wheredothechildrenplayproject/home/applications > 5 July 2011.
- 9. “Mission and Outreach Work.” Where Do The Children Play? Project. < https://sites.google.com/site/wheredothechildrenplayproject/home/mission-and-outreach-work > 17 July 2011.
- 10. Ibid.
- 11. Op.cit., “Where Do The Children Play? Project.”
- 12. Op.cit., “Where Do The Children Play? Project.”