The playground movement played a great role in American history and society. Due to this movement, recreation and leisure concepts completely changed. It was believed that due to recreation and play, children will be able to develop in a more effective and appropriate way. The paper describes Joseph Lee as one of the most famous figures in this movement and American history in general. He was one of the most well-known social workers and philanthropists. The paper provides an overview of his life that was dedicated to play, as one of the most critical for children`s development elements. In general, the playground movement has a long history, and it made a great impact on recreation and leisure in American society. The paper is focused on the idea that due to industrialization, the playground movement managed to provide an idea that the society can be improved due to the recreation and play, as the leisure basis. Hence, the paper puts an emphasis on the playground movement and Joseph Lee, as the most critical person in this area.
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Joseph Lee and the Playground Movement
Play and recreational activities played a great role in the American history and society. For a very long time, municipal reform, education and social work leaders were experimenting with the recreational activities use to transform the youth in the prospective adults that are able to express high democratic and moral values and are eager to improve themselves as well as the nation in general. All these interests and goals were united, and for several years leaders were trying to promote recreation and play, helping it change its status of unimportant pastime into the social transformation tool of the American nation. Hence, this period was called recreation and play movement, and one of the most critical and famous persons was Joseph Lee. It is critical to notice that Joseph Lee is known as the father of the American playground movement because he was the person who introduced the first neighborhood playground in the US. He believed that with fortune comes responsibility; due to this rule, he became the famous philanthropist. Owing to the fact that he focused on the social problems of that time, Joseph Lee promoted nurturing experiences and recreational activities. In all his projects, articles, and books, Lee supported and promoted the playground movement across the US. Thus, this paper is focused on the playground movement and Joseph Lee, as the most critical personality in this area.
Joseph Lees Biography and his Involvement in the Playground Movement
Joseph Lee through his writings, research, philanthropy, and leadership became known as the father of the playground movement. He was born in Boston in 1862 to the wealthy family (Frost, 2010). Due to the fact that his father was a Boston banker, Lee was learning the law but was never interested in this area. Instead, Lee was working as the author, social worker and even philanthropist, and his great concern was play, as one of the most critical elements of children`s development. He was focused on the children`s need for a play because he believed that their lives should be full of adventure, wonder, inquiry, song, and creation. Thereafter, if children do not experience all these things, it is a crime against childhood.
Joseph Lees involvement in the playground movement began with an understanding that the lack of play in childrens life makes their childhood inadequate, and he believed that he could change it. Hence, in 1833, Lee graduated with the bachelors degree from Harvard, and in 1887, he got a degree in Law (Frost, 2010). Due to the family`s wealth, he was not focused on being a lawyer; instead, he aimed to provide social changes in the nation and community improvement direction. One of the first Joseph Lee`s involvements was a survey of the Family Welfare Society of Boston due to which, he managed to study possible play environments in congested neighborhoods (Frost, 2010). By studying the situation relating to play across neighborhoods, Lee was shocked by a discovery that some boys were arrested for playing in the streets. He was bothered about the situation and wanted to find the solution to the problem that lied in the fact that without supervision, children having different tools to play were fighting with each other but not playing (Frost, 2010). After several years, this yard became the main issue in his research into children and their play behavior and habits. On the basis of these observations, Lee participated in the Columbus Avenue model playground development in 1898 that involved the indoor activities, particularly club meetings, bowling and basketball, a sports field, individual garden spaces, a play area for boys and a corner for small children (Frost, 2010). Importantly, two recreational leaders were supervising the activities. In fact, this playground that became successful encouraged the playground movement increase. At the same time, Lee began speaking at various events and conferences about recreation and playground. After four Years of the Columbus Avenue Playground development in 1902, Joseph Lee wrote a book that was grounded on his experience as a social worker, and it was named Constructive and Preventive Philanthropy (Frost, 2010). This book included detailed instructions about skating rinks, athletic centers, gymnasiums, baths and playground creation despite the title that sounds like some general societal improvements guidebook.
Starting for these activities, Lee began to involve the specific organization development that would be focused on the play, as a critical developmental issue. In 1904, Lee found a new opportunity to design and finance the playground in the St. Louis World`s Fair; however, this time, his activity was directed on the American Civic Association`s model street display (Frost, 2010). Lee was a president of the Public Recreation of the American Civil Association when Dr. Curtis and Dr. Gulick started to talk about national playground association. They wrote Joseph Lee with a request for his leadership and help, but he refused because he was assured that this idea was only an unnecessary copy of his own efforts. Instead, Lee proposed the idea for the American Civic Association playground committee formation. Gulick and Curtis also declined this proposal; as a result, in 1906, there was formed the Playground Association of America (Frost, 2010). Together with Addams, Lee was elected as the vice-president of the PAA. Evidently, they both were well-known for the playground movement support and social reforms promotion. It is worth noting that this issue provided the PAA with the positive start. Before this, Joseph Lee founded the Massachusetts Civic League, where he was President from 1897 to 1938 (Frost, 2010). The legislation that was aimed at improving and protecting the public welfare regarding children`s issues was sponsored by the Civic League. Hence, feeling comfortable with the provided laws, Lee realized that his approach was the most effective for the efficient changes introduction. Thus, around one hundred laws were passed due to the Civic League and around fifty hundred laws were opposed (Frost, 2010). One of the most critical law was provided in 1908 in Massachusetts, and it was focused on the requirement to establish the playground in the cities with ten thousand people or more in case citizens voted for this requirement. In fact, this law set a precedence that led to the introduction of similar laws in other states that consequently precipitated the spread of playgrounds across America. The other legal act that was critical for Joseph Lee was directed on the parole system liberalization, juvenile court system establishment, school property opening to adult usage and legalizing of playing games on Sunday (Human Kinetics, 2013). In 1908, Joseph Lee became the chairman of committee of the Playground Association of America, and in the same year, he published his booklet Play and Playground. In the booklet, he stated that play is something that children must have for the proper development and that it is much more than the critical part of the growth (Frost, 2010). This work presented his philosophy regarding play for children of different ages, the character values that arise from play, the leadership and supervision importance and various play types for children of different ages.
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Joseph Lee demonstrated active participation in the organization, while also being focused on his city educational and social well-being. The involvement of Lee in PAA activity continued to grow, and in 1909, he became the first vice-president of this organization. After becoming the PAA president, Lee evolved the organization in 1910 to the Playground and Recreation Association of America, and in 1930, it was renamed the National Recreation Association (Frost, 2010). Afterward, he developed a curriculum for playground and recreation directors training in 1906 which was published after revision in 1925. Moreover, Joseph Lee managed to found the National Recreation School that provided a one-year course to train college graduates to be administrators of the newly created department. Additionally, he drew the Association’s attention to the long-term growth quality that built local leadership for sustainable recreation programs (Frost, 2010). At the same time, Lee continued being interested in the Boston`s welfare that was expressed through serving for nine years on the School Board starting from 1909. He was an initiator of the students` medical inspection, school buildings’ multi-use for the community and the daily lunch program. Also, he supported teaching methods for the children`s needs adaptation, teachers selecting merit-based system and recreation opportunities for students (Frost, 2010). In addition, he was an active Immigration Restriction League officer from 1905 until his death in 1937. Moreover, Lee was the War Camp Community Service president for the US army during the First World War. His main goal was to provide servicemen with recreational activities. Additionally, he was appointed to the Commissions of Training Camp Activities for both Navy and War Departments composed of the WCCS budget song and published poems to attract the public to their work (Frost, 2010). As a result, for his service, Joseph Lee was awarded in 1919 with the Distinguished Service Medal. In 1918, Lee proposed to open the education school for teacher training.
Lee was known in the American history not only as a great activist but also as a famous researcher and writer. Joseph Lee, as a prolific author, published books, letters to editors and articles. In addition to the two published books, he wrote in 1912 Play for Home, in 1911 Play as an Antidote to Civilization was published, and in 1910, How to Start Playground was written for publication. However, his most known book was published in 1915, and it was named Play in Education, in which Lee focused on play facilitation (Frost, 2010). He emphasized play`s seriousness and importance from the children`s perspective, but at the same time, he was interested in unsupervised play and its strict organization. He married Margaret Cabot in 1897, and they had four children. However, in 1920, his wife died, and Lee married his secretary in 1930 (Frost, 2010). Lee died from pneumonia when he was seventy-five in 1937 at his home in Massachusetts (Human Kinetics, 2013). For many years, the annual national Joseph Lee Day was sponsored by the National Recreation Association for the recreation and playground celebration (Frost, 2010). Moreover, Joseph Lee was honored with the Memorial Contest focused on the recreation developments by the American Recreation Society.
History of the Playground Movement
In the US, the playground movement development became an answer to the Industrial Revolution that led to long workdays and overcrowded cities. With the houses settlements, there started the playground movement in the 19th century that was aimed at saving homeless, immigrant and poor children from unhealthily crowded neighborhoods. The reformers were assured that play under supervision can provide the physical, moral and mental well-being improvement among children. They also believed that recreation can not only provide benefits to the individuals but also transform the nation of unhealthy factory workers, downtrodden and alien immigrants in the healthy citizens that would work effectively for common prosperity and defend their country (Frost, 2010). However, despite attempts during the 1800s to promote play area that started with the outdoor gymnasium in Massachusetts in a German style in 1821, the playground movement still was not widespread. This attitude was changed in 1885 when Dr. Zakrezewska was in Berlin and wrote to the executive committee chairman of the Massachusetts Emergency and Hygiene Association Kate Wells by expressing concerns for children playing on large sand piles in public parks (Frost, 2010). Hence, Boston within the year had a sand pile that was accepted by the local children with great enthusiasm. In the next two years, two more sand piles were provided in the churchyards, and they were called sand gardens. Therefore, ten sand gardens were available by 1887, and people were paid for supervision on these locations and also were provided blocks for building and tools for digging (Frost, 2010). In 1899, after twelve years in Boston, there were 21 sand gardens, 20 of which were placed in school yards (Frost, 2010).
However, even earlier, the recreation and playground movement was expressed through educational issues. Hence, before the sand gardens, in 1881, the Charlesbank Outdoor Gymnasium for men and boys was constructed by the Boston Parks Department; a decade later, there was constructed a similar gymnasium for women and girls (Frost, 2010). In 1898, in Boston, the representatives from Portland, Chicago, Worcester, Newark, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Providence, New York and Philadelphia gathered to discuss the issues regarding sand gardens and gymnasiums and to consult about their own play systems development (Frost, 2010). In a short period of time, such cities as San Francisco, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh joined this movement, and the playground idea started to spread across the country. At the same time, cities were involved in the model playgrounds development, and they had decided what activities had to include to the playground (Frost, 2010). Hence, in Chicago, in 1894, Hull House included a playground under supervision with a piece of playground equipment that was called Giant Stride, swings, organized sports areas, building blocks and sand piles. In Philadelphia, indoor the same as outdoor facilities included bicycle trace, hoop, race, and ice skating, while Seward Park in New York and Franklin Field in Boston included extensive gymnastic equipment (Frost, 2010). This stage of the model playground was expressed through the small park’s stage with carriage strives, grass expanses, walks, lagoons, shrubs, and trees in addition to the playgrounds. The playground transformers by 1900 realized that in addition to moral citizens creation, playgrounds and play could have a great educational value. It was noticed that in places, where supervised playgrounds were established, children were more diligent and attentive during their classes and their physical health increased, while lawless and truancy behavior was reduced. Thus, such positive results led to the creation of play spaces across schools. For instance, in New York City, there were provided thirty-one school playgrounds that involved roof gardens and tents (Frost, 2010).
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The playground movement took a great part of the American history as it continued to grow, and starting from 1905, its aim expanded and included recreation for people of all ages. Hence, in playgrounds, there were added civic, aesthetic and social activities, particularly elections, public forums, dramatic, musical programs and dances (Frost, 2010). As it was already mentioned, the Playground Association of America was developed in 1906, which was recreation stage time. In 1912, there emerged the civic art and welfare stage, and the playground movement expanded to involve all recreational activities in the society, particularly concerts, festivals, pageants and theaters` commercial recreation (Frost, 2010). The main point is that at first all these activities constituted the movement that was focused on the playground, while with time it included all recreation forms. The next stage started during the First World War in 1918, and it was called a community service stage. These recreational activities were connected with the War Camp Community Service project. Therefore, more than six hundred communities were organizing recreational resources for the military; during this process, the recreation value was experienced even more fully (Frost, 2010). After the war period, the communities wanted to continue searching for the recreation opportunities, and by 1920, the neighborhood council stage began (Frost, 2010). Hence, citizens started to be involved in the neighborhoods` recreation needs and play, and they were able to continue to expand the recreation`s war camp concepts. Thus, it is possible to see that the playground movement matured and became more structured. The main point is that the trend toward the playground movement moved from the free play to the directed play, from individuals` rewards and satisfaction focus to the group rewards, and from self-selected games to organized games, including team and schools trophies and public recognition. Also, the impact of the playground movement can be seen through statistics; specifically, in 1909, three hundred thirty-six cities established 1,535 playgrounds, while in 1948, 1,917 cities provided 13,520 playgrounds which mean that in less than forty years the number seriously increased (Playground Movement, n. d.). At the same time, in that period, the funding was raised, particularly from $1,353, 114 million to $96, 000 000 million, while play leaders’ number also increased from 3,756 to 48,548 (Playground Movement, n. d.). Therefore, this proves a great role of this movement in the American history.
The Playground Movement Effect on the Leisure and Recreation in American Society
It is critical to state that the recreation and playground movement had a strong impact on the American recreation and leisure. Its development started with the introduction of play and recreation issues that were strongly connected with educational activities. First of all, the playground movement strongly affected the municipal, state and national parks` development. At that time, the US increased the industrialization and natural sources despoilment started in the 19th century. The first conservation actions were done in 1864 when Congress focused on providing people with play and recreational activities that were expressed through considering Mariposa Grove Trees and Yosemite Valley in California that later were transformed in the national park (McLean & Hurd, 2011). Hence, the first national park was founded in 1872, and it was named Yellowstone. Later, in 1892, John Muir founded Sierra Club; importantly, Muir was a famous leading conversationalist together with Theodore Roosevelt, and he was focused on promoting national interests in the outdoors and National Park Service establishment (McLean & Hurd, 2011). If to focus on state parks, then it is possible to note that from 1864 to 1900, the first state parks were provided, while the first municipal park was the Central Park in New York. At the same time, national parks were provided by the 1900s (McLean & Hurd, 2011).
With the wide spread of the recreation and playground movement, the number of provided from the government side playgrounds became also higher. Thereafter, by 1906, forty-one cities were helping with own sponsorship the public recreation and play programs development, and by 1920, there were 465 of these programs (McLean & Hurd, 2011, p. 78). Also, they were researching new ways of increasing the quantity of parks. Some wanted to provide them outside the city limits, while the others wanted the recreation plans’ inclusion in the real estate subdivision plans. However, at that time, the approach that was used in the establishment of the park was focused on planning the network of intensively used and small playgrounds across the cities, particularly in working class families neighborhoods and larger parks placement in the outlying areas.
It is worth noting that these new views of the leisure, play, and recreation that were partly provided by Joseph Lee were not so well-accepted by the entire population. At the beginning of the 20th century, traditional Victorian mentality had a strong impact on people`s world perceptions (McLean & Hurd, 2011). Significantly, they were taught and enforced to obey their traditional norms by the church, school, and home, and such ideas were a great challenge for people. Moreover, that period was the first one when young women started participating in industry and business in the cities across the countries. After reaching this new freedom from stern parental authority and disapproval as well as with available money to spend, the youth started to take part in frequent social clubs, drinking saloons, boat rides, dance halls and other popular entertainment sources. A great part of these activities took the interest of young people in the picnic grounds, public beaches, parks, and playgrounds. However, soon this interest faded because young people believed that these activities were too unexciting and boring in comparison with commercial entertainment forms, including sex, dancing and alcohol that were seen as dangerous and immoral (McLean & Hurd, 2011). In response, the playground and recreation programs were promoted by civic associations, law enforcement agencies and churches, as play`s hedonistic forms (McLean & Hurd, 2011). Instead, they were trying to promote some traditional idealistic activities, including dramatic, crafts, games, and music and youth sports activities as a way to repress the desire to experience more sinful as they thought behavior.
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At some point, the public recreation support was grounded on the fear that without public facilities and programs, the adult leisure would be used inappropriately and unwisely. Hence, many civic officials and industrial leaders believed that the leisure growth for the working class was a dangerous trend because the unemployment rate increase that concerned men ineffectively handling their free time. The similar situation was with eight-hour workday promotion when some parts of society were ready to meet the increased drinking level, and social reformers were providing conferences where they were telling how to constructively use free time (McLean & Hurd, 2011). At the same time, great concerns were seen among youth and children in big cities and their need for safe and healthy play places. Therefore, the juvenile delinquency appeared as a result of arresting children for playing on the city streets. It was reported from authorities that juvenile delinquency rate was decreased in areas with established playgrounds. It was noted that social centers and playgrounds were the American youth saviors. For instance, the juvenile department judge from California supported this position and affirmed that by increasing the supervised playgrounds in the public parks in 1924, the juvenile delinquency rate was seriously decreased (McLean & Hurd, 2011). Therefore, during the first six months of 1925, there were 70% fewer cases in comparison with the same period in 1924 (McLean & Hurd, 2011, p. 82).
Hence, all fears and complaints led to the logical civic leaders reaction that lied in their perception changes regarding threats to the traditional values and morality. A great issue was the fact that the US in the early decades of the 20th century was surviving great changes in response to the social and economic conditions that included the emergence of new working class and middle-class people that had time and money to spend on the leisure and steady infusion of various ethnic people that contributed new values and ideas to the American society (McLean & Hurd, 2011). Consequently, all these changes led to the new mass culture development in the new century. The main point is that in the 19th century, America was ruled by the set of highly Victorian values and was directed by the elite group of self-conscious reformers, educators and ministers (McLean & Hurd, 2011). These culture apostles were directing the character values, industriousness, sobriety, self-control, and moral integrity. It was believed that the leisure has to be spent in a way that had social and moral utility. On the contrary, as a result of the recreation and playground movement, there were opened symphony orchestras, libraries, galleries, and museums. To handle this situation, the recreation and playground movement transformed from the eventual realization to the well-organized and structured leisure that had positive physical and moral impact on the American society (McLean & Hurd, 2011). Hence, it is possible to notice that the recreation and playground movement had a great effect on the American understanding of leisure and recreation. This movement led to the idea that leisure can be not simply a waste of time but a great opportunity to better the society. Moreover, this movement played a great role in handling the results of commercial amusements.
Overall, it is critical to stress that the playground and recreation movement played a great role in the American history and society. This movement led to the realization that recreation and leisure are critical elements of the people`s physical and mental well-being. The playground movement helped to understand how to help children to reach better educational results and how to decrease the juvenile delinquency rate. A leading position in this movement took the Joseph Lee activities. He was a famous social worker and philanthropist who believed that without play, children are not able to develop in a proper way. Hence, until his death, Lee was participating in various projects, published different articles and books and opened educational centers that were aimed at showing the importance of play for children and youth. However, the playground movement was highly crucial not only for children and youth but also for adults because with the movement evolution, the recreation and play programs and projects were aimed at people of all ages. Thus, the playground and recreation movement had a great impact on the American society because it led to the park’s establishment, children`s development and effective leisure time construction. Therefore, the playground and recreation movement can be considered a great part of the American culture that reached its popularity due to the efforts of Joseph Lee.