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  • Suzanne Axelsson

My Vision

After attending the Nobel Week Dialogues today in Stockholm - listening to various Nobel laureates talk about "The Future of Life" - I thought it would be a good idea to share my "vision". Because what became apparent during all the dialogues is that education is key in the future of life, as is storytelling - and that we need to change the narrative - so that we can collectively focus on where we want to go, rather than what we want to leave.


So here goes... here is a possible narrative...


My Vision for Education

  • To provide a space where children are empowered to learn, feel connected to the land and feel valued as citizens.

  • To provide a space for educators to gain a deeper understanding of how play, learning and teaching are equal partners.

  • To provide an opportunity to create a pedagogical approach that can be accessible to all children globally and not reliant on expensive tuition fees. Play and learning is a human right.

  • To create a space that is sustainably viable and contributes to the well-being of biodiversity and the climate and avoids exacerbating already existing issues.


Providing a space for children to feel empowered.

  • The location has adequate land to be able to access nature. Or close enough to a natural area that the children/students can easily walk there. (Transport can be option for urban settings)

  • The indoor space is inspired by nature.

  • Children and staff can explore natural resources in a non-exploitive way

  • Resources are purchased with informed knowledge of how they are made and their environmental and social impact. Fewer, better quality products locally sourced over many cheap products where there is lots of transport, questionable labour ethics and the exploitation of nature (in the making or the recycling/disposing)


Providing a space for educators to learn

  • Educators learn about the Original Learning Approach and continue to deepen their understanding of how play, learning, teaching and understanding are interwoven.

  • Play workshops provide opportunities to learn practically and not just theoretically.

  • Observations are tools to be used not only to understand the children’s processes but also the adult interactions. Practising how to observe, reflect, analyse and plan is seen as an essential skill to hone.

  • Mistakes are a part of the learning process. Bravery and honesty are expected so that appropriate support and training can be offered for teachers and children to evolve as learners.

  • Reading. All educators are expected to read/listen articles, chapters and research (lectures, conferences, talks etc) as a part of their ongoing learning. Weekly drop-in dialogues provide space to discuss what has been read and how it could be applied practically. Educators are expected to attend at least one “drop-in dialogue” per month. This is a part of educators paid work.

  • Regular feedback from management/pedagogical leaders is essential to provide adequate support so educators can evolve at their own pace.

  • Any new resources are introduced to the teachers before they are used with the children, to ensure adults understand the multiple affordances.

Providing opportunities to disseminate

  • Information as to how the space is used is documented, so it can be shared. A part of the documentation process is collating information to share with others.

  • Focussing on materials that can be easily replicated anywhere in the world is a priority. The aim is not to be a trend, but to be accessible and enable children to have autonomy.

  • Understanding cultural differences will mean that the approach will look and behave differently depending on the location. What is important is the educators’ and leaders’ comprehension and respect for the relationships between play, learning, teaching and understanding. When this relationship is functioning there will develop a natural respect for childhood, a better sense of equity and also an increased status for ECE that will evolve safely. It is important that each location evolves on its own time frame so that it is sustainable and independent, not requiring external direction as it will be self-sustaining.

  • Reach-out will always be available as a part of the feedback and scaffolding of educators.

Creating a sustainable space

  • The construction of the space should have as low negative environmental impact as possible.

  • The maintenance of the space should have as low negative environmental impact as possible.

  • The use of the space should have as low negative environmental impact as possible.

  • This requires an understanding of the local environment rather than a copy-paste approach of what works in one space is done in another. This will result in the spaces looking and being used in different ways from an environmental point of view, but will not affect the pedagogical approach of play, learning, teaching and understanding interwoven as equals.

  • Creating a local biodiversity book is a life-long project of the space and people using the space. This can help educators understand the flora and fauna of the space, become a teaching tool, as well as informing how to use the space that promotes biodiversity and how to avoid negative impacts.

Relationships are key

  • The main focus is on the affectivity of the setting and not the effectivity. Creating joyful spaces where children and adults feel loved, accepted and valued.

  • Social justice is the foundation. Equity is an ongoing process and something to continuously strive towards.

  • Creating safe and brave spaces is essential for every child and adult to dare to make mistakes and learn from them; to feel accepted and share their visions; to create a community of learners and a sense of belonging.

  • Parents are integral to understanding the whole child. Parents, teachers and all adults with expertise in the well-being of children should collaborate - learning from each other in order to create a social network that acts as not only a safety net, but also as a springboard so every child can reach their potential.

Providing Time

  • Slow down, look closely, listen deeply is a mantra for children, educators and administrators.

  • There is a recognition that all children learn at their own pace and that sooner is not always better.

  • There needs to be adequate time for play - for rest, for learning, for daring, for social interactions, physical health, social, emotional and cognitive well-being, and for the sake of play.

The Play-responsive Educator

  • Educators and administrators are required to become play literate.

  • Places of education and care are trauma-informed. So we never add to any childhood trauma experiences.

  • All lessons and instruction are informed by the ten essential threads of Original Learning - wonder, curiosity, joy, knowledge, imagination, interaction, risk, time, reflection and listening.


But what I think is also essential is that we can create a narrative together - so I am posing this provocation in the Facebook group I administrate - The Original Learning Approach - that we all respond to this vision - what needs adding, what needs changing - what would YOUR vision be? Can we create something together that we can then start walking towards? So we avoid the dystopian future that it seems that the media seems to be narrating us into!


I have write and talk about risky play a lot. Much of it has to do with uncertainty - and as a species we are not that keen on uncertainty.

What I learned from listening to all the scientists today is that in science there is a need to embrace uncertainty - there are many probabilities, but, when at the edge of science, there are few certainties. Maybe this is a great gift of allowing children to engage in risky play - they get to conquer their fear of not being absolutely certain, and learning to regulate that fear.

What I was picking up is a need to change the education system so that we are teaching for uncertainty - for exploration and probabilities, for creativity, for connection and collaboration, of how to communicate and disseminate. To be open, curious, empathic, reflective, imaginative and daring.

Frances Arnold (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018) said "If you don't know where you are going you might end up somewhere else"

Steven Ch (Nobel Prize in Physics 1997) replied "If you don't change direction you might end up where you are heading."

In the past two years I have been walking in the forest to get to know the land, to learn from the trees - to lose myself. This has become a part of arboreal methodologies together with professor Jayne Osgood and also my process is shared in a blog of the same name where I have been collecting my art, poems and experiences in the forest. It has mostly been a private space (and therefore if you search for it you won't find it - but is available to read if you have a link to take you there).

The whole purpose has been to try and slow down to not just follow the usual path so fast that I don't notice that biodiversity - but to dare to get lost, to let go of my agenda, to not only notice but to also become a part of the ecosystem.


Another thought that kept resurfacing during today's talks. The need to remember that we are a part of a multi-

species ecosystem and that our ability to change the ecosystem to the extent that we do requires us to take greater responsibility than we have been doing. Hence why connection to land, sustainability and equity feature strongly in my vision.


I share once again the definition of "play literacy" that Penny Wilson used while we were discussing how to bring playwork to Sweden, as I wanted to use it in my Swedish book on risky play, I made an attempt to create a definition, and sought out the help of Penny to make sure the complexity of the word was captured. I believe that ensuring there are more play literate adults will make the world a better place for everyone.

Please drop by the facebook group - and add your vision for education.

Or your vision for the world - and how education can lead us there...

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