Last week I saw this image, courtesy of Marc Armitage at Play and I felt compelled to take a screen shot to save it... it was a question that I felt I needed to return to.
Today I saw on twitter via another playworker the quote "Almost all creativity involves purposeful play" Abraham Maslow. Bringing me back to the question... what is purposeful play... and is it a thing? And what do we mean by being a thing?
And maybe all of this fits in with the post I wrote yesterday about process and product...
Is the phrase "a thing" referring to the fact that there is a tendency in education to make products of everything? That play is becoming a product rather than a process? That through adult manipulation there is a shift in play and what it means?
Over the years I have explored play and what it means - and have no answers but I have a kind of system of belief that works for me at the moment. But of course my own play exploration means that this will evolve over time too...
but for now, I believe that play is so complex that we cannot define it easily... that there are many kinds of play and that like we need to have a hundred languages of learning as Malaguzzi strived for in the Reggio Emilia Approach, there should be a hundred languages of play.... and hundred is a metaphorical number... it can be so many more.
I believe in offering children a play diversity... where they lead their own play, where I collaborate in their play, where I can (as an adult) inspire or lead their play... where they play alone, together, role-play, risky play, through games, exploration, imagination, indoors, outdoors, with props, without props, sensory, creative etc etc... that play does not have a hierarchy... but that there needs to be a healthy balance... and each child will have their own balance, and that will change over time... their own play diet needs to be varied and forever evolving... it is a process.
But in education we need to have trends... "forest school" "loose-part play" "digital" etc etc... and I am by far against these things... I think they are extremely important, but they become like a fashion rather than part of the process - a kind of product. And that only concerns me because fashions come and go...
nature should be a part of all people's lives... children need access to it.. but it does not have to be a forest, not all people have a forest, there are many parts of the world that have access to a different kind of natural environment. In Sweden the same sort of "movement" is called "Ur och Skur "- which sort of refers to being out in all weathers (Ur - is outside, skur means showers). I am beginning to think maybe outdoor learning is a better way to phrase what is going on... and instead of a "forest school leader" we have "outdoor learning facilitators" - with the understanding that learning is in the sense of "original learning" where play is naturally and equally woven into the learning fabric.
Purposeful play, the phrase makes me think of Momo. (Michael Ende 1973).. and how children were controlled by the adult controlling their play... the purpose of the play was to make productive citizens...
You can check out the whole post I wrote reflecting on this HERE"None of Momo's friends escaped the new regulation. They were split up according to the districts that they came from and consigned to various child depots. Once there, they were naturally forbidden to play games of their own devising. All games were selected for them by supervisors and had to have some useful, educational purpose. The children learned these new games but unlearned something else in the process: they forgot how to be happy, how to take pleasure in little things, and last, but not least, how to dream.Weeks passed, and the children began to look like the time-savers in miniature. Sullen, bored and resentful, they did as they were told. Even when left to their own devices, they no longer knew what to do with themselves. All they could still do was make a noise, but it was an angry, ill-tempered noise, not the happy hullabaloo of former times."
I have just returned from a recruiting day for preschools in Haninge... I was interested to find out more about the preschools there, and also to see if there is a way to be a part of this process in some sort of way that fits in with the process I find myself today.
It is so refreshing to talk with pedagogues who seem so fully aware of being a part of a process, of evolving and that the children are a part of this process.
I also got to revisit the Border Crossing exhibition (you can read about that here and here - and realise that this is a purposeful play for the pedagogues themselves (and the children). The exhibition has an atelier to explore the analogue and the digital - this could be done with children, but also as groups of educators playing with materials to gain a better understanding of the learning potential of the relationship between materials - and between nature and the digital - that they are not opposing ends of a scale - just as learning and play are not opposites.
ALL the educators in the Haninge preschools have visited the exhibition with intention that they gain a hands on learning, the interconnectedness of play and learning and the world around us.
I also managed to bump into Nettan again there and we talked about the course that she is taking at the moment, with the hope to dig deeper and expand her own thinking... and the disappointment that the learning was happening mostly through reading... or rather exclusively through reading... and that being a Reggio Emilia Inspired course it did not feel appropriate.
I feel that David Hawkins "messing about" that I encountered in Colorado and Canada have really influenced how I think about how we train educators... and has hugely impacted the workshops I hold where I try to involve as many of the learning languages as possible... if educators are being trained in just a few learning languages then how are they going to be able to support children with their hundred languages... the purposeful play will become narrow... while if we are educating adults to use all their languages and learning styles, to discover new ones, then purposeful play will also mean something very different.
If purposeful play is about being a part of a process, I am all for it... but if purposeful play is a about a product that is being marketed to teachers... then I feel apprehensive... how can it then evolve?
I think I need more time to process purposeful play... below are some quotes about play and learning to stimulate my (and your) thinking...