Amazing photos show how playgrounds differ around the world

When photographer James Mollison looked back on his childhood, he was struck by how many of his memories revolved around the school playground. “It had been a space of excitement, games, bullying, laughing, tears, teasing, fun, and fear,” Mollison writes in the afterword of his latest book, “Playground.”

Mollison travelled all over the world to capture the wildly different school playgrounds. The diversity of children’s experiences fascinated Mollison, and it shows in the photographs, which record playground life with an anthropologist’s detail.

Mollison shared photos with us here, and you can check out the rest in the book or at the Aperture Gallery in New York.

Because of the high cost of land in Tokyo, this playground was constructed on the roof of this school. The children are allowed to play only with soft balls, in case one lands on pedestrians on the streets below. The playground has a retractable roof that plays music as it closes. Every two days, the children clean the school; the principal says it’s important they learn to clean up after themselves.

© James Mollison
Shohei Elementary School, Tokyo, Japan, September 8, 2011.

The Kroo Bay Primary School in Sierra Leone was once used as an army base. There’s no sanitation or garbage collection, and the school must close from July to September because of floods from the Crocodile River. Teachers rely on fees paid by parents.

© James Mollison
Kroo Bay Primary Freetown, Sierra Leone, January 17, 2013.

Inglewood High is a public school in Los Angeles. Mollison took this photo before a pep rally.

© James Mollison
Inglewood High School, Inglewood, California, November 3, 2011.

This high school in Tel Aviv is affiliated with the Israeli air force. Almost all students will be drafted into the force as computer engineers, electronics specialists, and mechanics. The tables are for chess and ping-pong.

© James Mollison
Holtz High School, Tel Aviv, Israel, September 12, 2013.

The ancient Dechen Phodrang Monastery overlooks Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan. Living conditions at the school are basic: Children sleep on mats on the floor, and infections, lice, and scabies are common. Most boys are sent to the monastery because their families cannot afford to feed them.

© James Mollison
Dechen Phodrang, Thimphu, Bhutan, November 24, 2011.

The school is in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. Battles during the First Intifada were close by, and walls were thickened to protect students. Outside the entrance is the Israeli security wall. When soldiers aren’t looking students throw stones at them.

© James Mollison
Aida Boys School, Bethlehem, West Bank, September 8, 2013.

The Valley View school in Nairobi, Kenya, is in the Mathare slum. The classrooms are concrete blocks with corrugated metal roofs. When it rains classes stop. The classrooms are so crowded that students have to climb over desks to get out.

© James Mollison
Valley View School, Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya, January 19, 2011.

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