Anyone who works as a contractor from home knows it is often a blessing, sometimes a curse. I enjoy working on my own, but at times I long for others with whom I can casually bat around ideas on a professional level, without one of the kids asking something of me. Facebook is a nice substitute, but sometimes I long for flesh and blood and voices excitedly exchanging ideas back and forth, cutting one another off as we make connections in real time.
Last night I got that thanks to my colleagues at the Columbus Museum of Art’s Center for Creativity. Cindy Foley and her team put together a rich and spirited conversation on play, art, and learning with guest panelists Flossie Chau (Harvard’s Project Zero), Jessica Hamlin (Art21), Oliver Herring (artist). They filled a room full of early childhood and classroom teachers, university faculty, parents, non-profit arts leaders, museum staff and board members, and policy makers. I could hardly think of a better way to begin the weekend. Until a few of us went for cocktails and dinner afterwards…
Some of the questions we began to explore during our Conversation with ART21: Play=Art included:
What does it mean for art to play a role in teaching for 21st century skills?
How do we know when play is happening? What do we see? hear? feel?
How does play begin?
What is the relationship between play/process/object?
What is one thing you could do tomorrow to promote play in education?
So much of what I heard resonated with what I have been working through with students in my courses and in my experiences as a parent of a toddler and teen-aged children. Here are a few key phrases I took away from the conversation.
“Play is a state of mind.”
“Play requires some catalyst to get it going.” There must be some parameters. “It can’t be infinite or my head would explode.”
“Play is purposeful.”
“Play can be really loud or really quiet.” “Play can be individual or collective activity.”
“Play feels: addicting, releasing, competitive, energized, uncertain, promising, fully engaged…”
“Go back in your mind to when you were a kid. What did you do with materials when there were no expectations?”
“Play is real, school is not.”
I’m looking forward to continuing this conversation, finding new ways to define the role and importance of play in education, and seeing how play manifests itself in classrooms, museums, and home learning spaces.