…from the NY Times ‘Surfacing’ series ….
On every schoolyard across the world you will find games invented by children. Hand-clapping routines, rhyming stanzas and intricate rules for tiny competitions; games born of the creativity, insight and idiosyncrasy of children’s minds.
Unlike nursery rhymes, lullabies, or children’s songs these games are conceived of, built upon and passed along by kids, largely by girls. Irene Chagal, who researched the history and spread of hand-clapping games for her documentary “Let’s Get the Rhythm: The Life and Times of Miss Mary Mack,” describes these games as “playground lore,” a rich body of folk literature that is just outside the attention of most adults. Some will be familiar to most people in the United States — like the story of Miss Mary Mack and her silver buttons or Miss Suzie and her steamboat — and some are specific to a single community or neighborhood.
In New York City, home to people and languages from all over the globe, the Endangered Language Alliance recently mapped 637 languages and dialects to the New York Metropolitan Area. Within the diversity of playground pastimes, each game reflects the history and unique identity of the community it comes from, while at the same time highlighting the shared imagination of New York’s schoolchildren….