…to step at once aside from and yet deeper into the world as you experience it…”

Through one of those rabbit holes that the web is so good at conjuring I came across the heart-wrenchingly-good tract The Playwork Primer (PDF) this morning.

When I was young I wanted to be a teacher, and so I started down the path to becoming educated as a teacher Trent University. Our final assignment was to write an essay expressing our “philsophy of education.” I never handed it in (I never started it). Which is why I’m not a teacher.

In The Playwork Primer, however, I find what amounts to the best description of my philsophy of education that I’ve yet to come across:

We aim to provide a play environment in which children will laugh and cry; where they can explore and experiment; where they can create and destroy; where they can achieve; where they can feel excited and elated; where they may sometimes be bored and frustrated, and may sometimes hurt themselves; where they can get help, support, and encouragement from others when they require it; where they can grow to be independent and self-reliant; where they can learn—in the widest possible sense—about themselves, about others, and about the world.

Those words are from Stuart Lester, Senior Lecturer in Play and Playwork (!) at University of Gloucestershire in England.

If you’re interested education and play and children’s lives, I encourage you to grab a copy of The Playwork Primer: it’s an inspiring guide. It’s hard not to love a piece of writing with subheadings like “Cloak of invisibility,” “Cardboard boxes,” and “Commodification of play” (and that’s only the Cs). One of my favourite sections is “Secret spaces”:

This is a phrase used by Elizabeth Goodenough to describe the hideaways that children need to create or discover and to have safely within their control. Without these private places where their inner playful lives can be exercised, children have little opportunity for many different types of play.

Morgan Leichter-Saxby asks, in her work on forts and dens, without the opportunity to experience privacy how on earth can children discover a sense of their private selves and personal worlds? She writes:

To be by oneself, in a place that feels safe and unadulterated, to have time and space to dive into the depths of the playing that is an intrinsic drive within you, to step at once aside from and yet deeper into the world as you experience it, that is when and where the richness of the play that is possible ripens to fruition.

The notion that there’s someone whose professional practice includes “work on forts and dens” is amazing to me.

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