With the 2015-2016 school year completed, our attention has turned to Summer Symposium. Next week, 250 educators from around the world will gather at Opal School to consider together what it might mean to construct a pedagogy of play. We'll analyze documentation of children engaged in learning, reflect, and form relationships connecting ideas, experiences, and materials with an eye toward transformation guided by a set of questions:
How might we construct a pedagogy of play? What habits of mind, tools, and dispositions are required to do so?
How might a pedagogy of play support children? What are the costs of not embracing a pedagogy of play?
How might a pedagogy of play be expressed in different contexts?
What systemic elements sustain a pedagogy of play?
Last month, I listened in on a small group of fourth and fifth graders considering a related question. Here are a few of their words from their conversation, which I offer because I think they shed light on those questions:
NW: It’s like being a glow stick but you need to absorb the light so that even when it’s dark you can shine anyways… Play is like that light – the good light that you’re absorbing and taking in so you can shine even when it’s dark. So on a good day and you’re really happy and you play you absorb that light, so on a bad day you can use that light and let you shine even when everyone else is down.
NW: Everybody thinks of play as an action, but if you think about it it’s really not an action – it’s more like a feeling.
ABM: Everything can be play – you just have to have the right mindset. If you have a fixed mindset, it will change how you act and it will change your culture and then you won’t see things as play and you won’t be able to observe that light – like the glow stick – but when you’re having an open mindset and you’re thinking of everything as play and you’re having the feeling inside that comes with an open mindset, then you can be able to absorb the light and be like a glow stick and then you can influence your culture and act in a good way.
CW: Play is... everything that complacency is not. Complacency is you’re just stuck in one place you just don’t want to move at all and then when you play it’s the antidote.
CM: We can’t just say that the antidote for complacency is love or something because that’s not it - we have to dig deeper than love. What generates love? What puts love into action? Play.
BV: Play helps our light shine by writing the story of our life.
ABM: Play... makes us curious and it makes us want to understand other people.
SM: Play helps our light shine by seeking an action.
In these children's voices, I hear the call for a pedagogy of play. These children identify the value of playful inquiry to their lives and its role in transforming a society toward greater democracy and justice. I'm so excited to continue their conversation with all of the Symposium participants next week.
Whether or not you're joining us next week, I hope you'll consider connecting with us next year. Registration is now open for our 2017 professional development retreats, Opal School Visitation Days (with honored guest Erika Christakis), Reading the World (during which we're excited to host Ellin Oliver Keene), and the 2017 Summer Symposium (with the theme of Play, the Arts, and Education for Democracy.) We also still have a openings for customized partnerships with individual organizations; contact us soon if you'd like to explore those options. Lastly, I want to make sure you know that Opal School and Portland Children's Museum are hiring: If you see something listed here that leaves you curious, I hope you will reach out to start a conversation today.