Ako, Flow and Skate Parks


I got hooked on surfing while in Sri Lanka and living in landlocked Suzhou, my only alternative was to learn to skateboard. During that time I got to know the brilliant #SkatePal and we quickly bonded over our love for the sport.

One evening I received an invitation from #SkatePal, via his mum, inviting me along to the Skate Park. I perceived skate parks to be a selective place where the alternative, slightly rebellious hung out. Considering my skill level and age I felt intimidated. However, #SkatePal was a regular face in the skate-community, and if he invited me then I had, at least, street-cred among the seven year olds.

#SkatePal’s dad gave us a lift on his e-bike and waved us off as we walked over to a planter box and discussed tactics.

Looking around, the skate park was busy. A roller blade crew had shown up and for a while seemed to dominate the scene. #SkatePal was happy to weave around them and take advantage of the ramps and half-pipe when he could. I moved to a space where there was less action and fumbled around on a RipStik. I soon developed onlookers as a Western girl learning to use a RipStik is not a normal occurrence in China. #Rores happened to be at the skate park that day (thirteen year old Aussie I got to know while travelling around the Hunan province with his family). Seeing me struggle, he came over and gave me a few tips and I was away swivelling various components of my body to stay balanced as I glided along the concrete. A few claps and snaps ensued from my fan club.

I chilled out back at base (planter-box) #SkatePal and I had established before and watched #SkatePal. He was observing to see how #Rores was mastering a kickflip, which he then tried to copy. #Rores, himself, was observing the older and more experienced skaters’ kickflips to improve his own. Around the corner a Japanese skater group were teaching young kids, about four or five years old, to carve and rotate. Later, a sound system was set up and music blasted while the more experienced skaters started to perform their tricks. There was definitely a supportive community vibe welcoming of everyone which dispelled by previous impressions of skateparks.IMG_6173

I became fascinated with skate culture and looked into various research papers to see who else had explored these concepts.

I discovered a vast array of how skate culture has influenced aspects of education involving:

  • Flow phenomenon and intrinsic motivation
  • Arts expression
  • Inclusion and diversity
  • Video documentation to improve/enhance performance in Physical Education
  • Citizenship Education relating to community consultation and urban design
  • Skate films to engage/ enhance students in STEM subjects

And if I had the time to investigate further I would have found more.

However, my interest in skate culture involves the process of ako. The learning that was happening at the skatepark, which I observed, was multi-levelled and layered and involved a range of ages and skills being shared in a positive and supportive environment. It was highly motivating for all participants and it challenged individuals to be creative and innovative with their tricks. I wondered how we could use these environments more in our schools. Focusing on student interests to build strong, diverse, social and emotional learning communities, with opportunities to develop individual and group leadership.

We do this to an extent by providing opportunities with technology, productions, dance and sports groups, but I’m sure there are ways we can do this better.  Listening to Rodney Mullen’s talk, Freestyle and Street Skating are a combination of the creative process, breaking through barriers of disbelief, shared vision, and supportive teams which can bring a skater’s learning into the flow phenomena. How do we use these ideas as educators to hook students into learning?

Thinking I was going to leave this inquiry as a blog post I was about to move on… Recently, I visited a school and they spoke about a student inquiry which resulted in allowing an unused space to become a skate area and are now looking at including rails and ramps.  Knowing the school is open to this type of development and student learning I accepted a job and I look forward to observing, participating, and contributing in how the skate-park process evolves and develops into other areas of learning within the school.

2 thoughts on “Ako, Flow and Skate Parks

  1. I really enjoyed this post Emma. It made me smile, but more importantly, it resonated with things I had thought about when driving past skate parks. I’d even had a recent conversation with Russ about the informal teaching/learning that must happen in those spaces. And yes, it is such a great example of ako and of communities of practice. Would be so interesting to follow kids’ initiation into the skate park community; how does it happen, what is the experience like for them (must be quite scary initially?), when do they (if they do) take on the mantle of mentor…etc… Just pondering 🙂


  2. Oh – I like it, Jane!
    I had to reread this post as I have forgotten what thought processes I had a year ago. It amazes me to see what direction my thinking has taken of late and how I very much want to get back to these thoughts around skate parks and culture. A few months back I started looking into an idea of ‘schools within schools’ and how we can foster some sort of entrepreneurial/ inquiry learning/ self directed learning space. Green School Bali have a great project running called LEAP Academy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlt2T_OQmME and I have been looking into various pockets around the world who could be doing similar things… Potential Masters thesis stuff, maybe?
    I like your thinking relating to interviewing skater kids, and I never transferred the idea of skateparks being a community of practice, even though I danced around the concept. I would love to explore this thinking further with them and then to bring it into the school environment further… Thanks for your comment it’s sparked my curiosity again… I better brush up on my skating!


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