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18 April 2015

Weekend Links

I am on lunch our at edcamp35 as I put all of my links in one place this week.  I'll be writing much more about this fantastic day (and teacher professional development in general) in a post next week.  For now, enjoy some links for your weekend!

14 April 2015

Expanding Playwork + Adventure Playgrounds

"Play is a very personal experience.  For some it is dolls and fights, for others it is climbing and skipping.  It is what children do when adults are not there or what the children do when the adults that are there are perceived as honorary children."

Bob Hughes, Evolutionary playwork and reflective analytic practice, 2001, p. 11

Many of you know that I spent time in 2013 and 2014 creating a project called Play Lab.  The goal of the project was so show my community what high-quality, play-based education can look like.  I brought open-ended materials to spaces like the Farmer's Market, the library, a local art gallery, and neighborhood art walks.

A few weeks ago, my wonderful colleague Alison Coombs and I presented at the National Art Educator Association's Annual conference on The Materiality of Playwork.  Before standing and presenting with Alison, I do not think I realized that Play Lab was playwork.  But reflecting on the time that I have spent facilitating children's play, I see that my role was not a curator or director or teacher, but rather, a playworker.

I have always wanted to be an "honorary child", as Bob Hughes puts it, in the eyes of the children I work with.  Not a fly on the wall, not a playmate, but someone children can trust.  Friends of mine who have children never fail to marvel at their 18-month-old's chattiness in their room when they wake up in the morning or from a nap.  Young children truly play for themselves, as a way to understand the world.  As they grow older and play with others, their real, true play is unfiltered.  When adults are not present, children can try on different behaviors, maybe even dangerous ones.  The wonderful thing about playwork, and playworkers, is the power that they give to children to explore, to somehow get to that place where they are not the powerful, all-knowing adult, but rather a supportive, interesting person in the environment:  an honorary child.

Playwork is probably most often connected with adventure playgrounds, something that is far from common in the United States.  In the UK, adventure playgrounds have been around for decades.  In the short documentary film The Land, filmmaker Erin Davis explores both playwork and adventure playgrounds, focusing on Plas Madoc, an adventure playground in Wales.

In an interview with NPR, Davis made a powerful statement about the difference between play in the past and play in the present:

"[Kids] climb things, they hide in things, they create dens and places to hide in, create hierarchies and worlds of their own. They're drawn to fire, they're super-imaginative. What's different [today] is the degree to which they have an opportunity to express and pursue these interests. So it's surprising to us — but really it shouldn't be — that kids thrive in these environments when they can do really whatever they want. They have the play drive. It's up to us to kind of provide the kinds of opportunities for them to really follow through on it."
 The issue that arises over and over again, it seems, is not about children's desire to play, but rather the adult reaction to idea of risk.  As adults, we are averse to idea of children being in harm's way.  One does not need to be a parent or a teacher to have a desire for children to be safe.  But if we prevent failure by cushioning everything we can, how do children learn?  How can adults shift their perception of risk and danger to make space for it in our culture?  Adventure playgrounds were created, and stick around, because they are places for children to experience danger.  Playworkers make that possible.

The question must be asked:  how can we, as educators, advocate for play?  How can we become honorary children?  We can start by celebrating the move towards adventure play and open-ended exploration over pre-scripted lessons and blanket ideas that are meant to apply to everyone.

I hope you'll help me create a map of Adventure Playgrounds around the world.  I have started with a few in the United States, and I hope we will be able to create a rich resource for anyone interested in advocating for open ended play in supportive spaces.

Please share your thoughts, comments, and questions on playwork and adventure play in the comments.

03 April 2015

Weekend Links

If there is one sure-fire way to get back in the swing of being in this space, it is sharing wonderful education related links from around the web.  From revisiting favorite blogs to playing games with Google Maps, there is plenty for me to ramble on about.

I hope you'll head over to the Facebook page and help start a discussion about professional development.  It has been on my mind since the NAEA conference, and I'd love some reader input. Feel free to share your comments here as well.

Read the links after the jump!

27 March 2015

11 Months

A big hello to anyone who came here after seeing me at NAEA!  I always love meeting other teachers who are passionate about early childhood, process-focused play, materials, and documentation.

Carpet at the NOLA Convention Center rivals airport carpeting.

I mentioned in the presentation that this blog has been highly neglected for 6 months; I was horrified to log on and see that I have not posted in 11 months.  I truly plan to be in this space more often.

In the meantime, here are a few things that have caught my eye lately.

Finland throws out subjects in favor of teaching by topic, or "phenomenon" teaching.

LibraryBox changes the way we can share files in places without internet access.

A new-to-me blog of teacher Pam Oken-Wright, The Voices of Children.

The Play Orbit Exhibition, installed in the London Institute of Contemporary Art in 1970, aimed "to bridge a gap between children's toys and works of art".

Happy Weekend!

18 April 2014

Weekend Links : Design

One aspect of early childhood education that has become more and more important to me over the years is design.  The things, the spaces, the sounds: how do those interact in "ideal" early childhood settings?

Check out some design links for your weekend, after the jump!

28 February 2014

Weekend Links 2.28.14

This was a long, but invigorating week!  I had some difficult times in the classroom, but even after a hard day, I find myself researching, reading and writing about early childhood into the wee hours of the morning.  I described myself as a "child development nerd" in an email to a parent this morning, and I don't know if there has ever been a statement so true.

Check out some links for your weekend, after the jump!

21 February 2014

Study of leggings and sock, 2014

There are few things as wonderful as seeing the photos on the kid's camera as I download them!  This practice feel off of my plans for a while, and I finally pulled the camera out this past week.

These two photos really stuck out for me: it is an unusual angle for a photograph, and the way that P (the photographer) tried to capture both the front and the back of her leg is so deliberate.  She enjoys the language of the camera, and I'm looking forward to talking more with her about these leg photos!

04 February 2014

Preschool Storytelling Film Festival

I smile from ear to ear when I look back at these stories.  From original stories to retellings of favorites, storytelling has so much value with young children!  We're just starting up with bookmaking this school year, so I was inspired to put together this little preschool storytelling film festival.  All of these videos have come from various classes I worked with in the past five years.  Enjoy!

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