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  • Skribentens bildSuzanne Axelsson


Uppdaterat: 14 sep. 2023

I feel there is a need for the education system to become more aware of how play is a part of learning - I think play is more obvious in the early years but a struggle for schools; and sadly the status of play still remains low meaning that often the early years are being pushed into positions to defend children's right to play as the demand to schoolify all forms of education continues to gain momentum.

By schoolify I mean the current systemic approach to schools where children memorise facts, to regurgitate in tests demanding that the teachers have to ensure children are capable of doing this. Schools are seldom about learning, less about understanding - and sadly mostly about teaching a curriculum and finding strategies that makes the teaching easier.

I don't blame the teachers (maybe some who fail to see the children at all, and make some children's school experience a living nightmare) but the system.

We need more people that can promote the importance of play as part of learning and well-being, not separate from it. The Original Learning Approach has its focus on just this. The more I think about the role of play in Original Learning the more I realised we need a position within the education system that can ensure everyone understands the value of play - and puts it into action.

I have a great respect for playwork and playworkers, but the very principals of playwork make it a hard combination with the education system, and very often at odds with it (for extremely understandable reasons) so I feel that the magic and power of playwork is not able to influence a change in the education system. What I feel we need is for the educators themselves to become play advocates - and during a dialogue with Swedish educators in Lek Pågår digital meet up I coined the term lekarista which I then translated to playarista. A role where play is the focus and can inform the pedagogy - so not separate but as part of the play-responsiveness that I describe in the Original Learning Approach.

A playarista

  • notices and identifies play

  • is knowledgeable about the benefits of play and how it connects to pedagogy

  • communicates about the value of play with colleagues, parents and others to ensure play is not being pushed aside due to adult academic anxiety.

  • supports colleagues to reflect and act about how to create and sustain environments for play; the physical space, and social emotional space - when to intervene and how to avoid interfering.

  • supports colleagues to ensure there is a rich diversity of play opportunities.

  • supports colleagues to look beyond normative perceptions of play and to overcome bias that negatively impact play so that all children can access play

  • supports colleagues to overcome fears about risky play

  • designs a play strategy for the setting and ensures that it is followed.

  • observes, documents and analyses play to create play-responsive learning environments.

  • continues to research play and how pedagogy flows within it.

So I want to offer a course so that those who already value play can hone their skills and knowledge to be able to better support colleagues and parents provide adequate play opportunities to enhance well-being and learning - life-long playing and learning.

The course will cover

How do we notice play? How can we identify play from non-play (so pedagogy doesn’t take over; so that all children can access play)

Knowledge of play theories and the benefits of play. Transdisciplinary research. Ergonomics, neuroscience, psychology and pedagogy

Learning how to communicate this information with others - (requiring participants to make powerpoints/presentations in order to practice this, and chatting with each other about play, theory and benefits in small groups and large groups, and also doing play not pedagogical observations every week)

Finding strength to look at our own context honestly and not how we wish it to be, and how to support educators and parents there. Looking at our own spaces and how they can be enhanced for play. Thinking about how fears and negative attitudes can limit play, and what kind of support do educators need to overcome this

Exploring different kinds of play and what sort of resources, time and space children need to engage in them. Embodied knowledge of loose parts, affordances, risk, role play, wonder, curiosity.

Examining bias and learning more about a broader understanding of play beyond the normative. ACEs. Safeguarding.

Deeper exploration of risky play - physical, emotional, social and cognitive risk taking.

Practise writing play strategies that are sustainable for individual workplaces.

Practise different observation techniques, and different ways to document and how to analyse. Reflecting together how they might then be adapted to making positive changes for the play ecosystem.

Creating a community where we can continue to support each other.

I feel that three 10 week courses are the best option...

  1. an introduction course where all the above is covered for participants to gain awareness.

  2. deepening awareness course. The second course deepens our understanding of inclusive play, how to observe and document.

  3. play in action course. The third course is focuses on how to become a play-responsive educator, how design spaces for play, and pedagogy and what kind of materials will support the play so that pedagogy naturally flows.

I feel it is vital that play is fully explored before we move into how pedagogy and play are interwoven. To be able to do course 2 you must have done course 1 and to be able to do course 3 you must have participated in course 2. This is because they build on each other. These courses will start in 2024, and in 2025 I will offer extension courses where level three playaristas can continue to deepen their knowledge of being play responsive and supporting others to be play responsive - these will no doubt be individual presentations/workshops/dialogues as a way to sustain and nourish our roles as playaristas. During the remainder of the year I will be putting together the introduction course - the preliminary idea is a 3 hour digital meeting once a week, expected play observation/documentation homework every week, participants expected to do 2 mini presentations (once individually once as a team) and required reading. So you must be able to commit to a minimum of 10 hours a week for the 10 weeks. Prices I have not yet worked out, as I want to make this affordable, but also possible for me to be able to pay the bills. The idea is not to be rich, but to be able to afford to be a play activist. May aim is to have at least three cohorts of of playarista intro courses simultaneously - so that they can be timed for Australia/East Asia comfort, Europe/Africa/West Asia comfort and the Americas comfort. I will also be offering a fourth option in Swedish.

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