Friday, October 12, 2018

The language of play

Yesterday I began the process of inlaying walnut boxes with spalted woods and patterned wood inlays I fabricated in the days before. In the wood shop at Clear Spring School today, I'll have the kindergarten students working on a project they proposed last week, making toy airplanes.

The following is the American Council of Pediatric's attempt to define play: 
The definition of play is elusive. However, there is a growing consensus that it is an activity that is intrinsically motivated, entails active engagement, and results in joyful discovery. Play is voluntary and often has no extrinsic goals; it is fun and often spontaneous. Children are often seen actively engaged in and passionately engrossed in play; this builds executive functioning skills and contributes to school readiness (bored children will not learn well). Play often creates an imaginative private reality, contains elements of make believe, and is nonliteral.
The American Council of Pediatrics stated this definition is true up to the age of two. I beg to differ. Play and the value of play applies to learning at all ages. What a dull and boring world this would be if all things were scripted for our distraction! Too many schools have become like that. My adult students know the value of play. Should it not be the basis for all education?

One small point. They state that play is non-literal. Have they not heard of wordplay? Even toddlers engage in it. Play is not actually nonliteral, it is transcendent of language. A language beyond language, so to speak.

The photo shows one of my adult students using the drill press to make wheels for toy cars. Even though I've made thousands of wheels myself, I address each one in a spirit of play, knowing the joy children will find in their use.

In my own wood shop, the spirit of play is at hand as I examine pieces of spalted wood for interesting visual properties that will make beautiful lids in walnut boxes. In fact, I think it is a sense of playfulness that attracts others to my work. I have seven students signed up for my sharpening class on Saturday at ESSA. Call 479-253-5384 if you want to join us.

I have been intrigued watching the students at Clear Spring School playing with our supersized Froebel Blocks. A couple days ago the middle school students had them arranged in a straight line so they could jump from one to another. Look again later and they're in a totally different arrangement.

Make, fix, craft and create...

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