Tuesday, January 09, 2018

the black game

Each day at the Clear Spring School, as weather permits, our children run and play in the woods. They do not mind the cold. They are given two rules. No child is to be excluded from play. All ages are involved in play at the same time and with each other. When the bell rings, they come back ready for class.

That may sound a bit like recess at other schools, but it is not. The play equipment is what they've been able to construct for themselves, mainly in the form of forts. The terrain is rugged, and well played from generations of forts having been built in the past, and yet in comparison with the well manicured school grounds (we have that, too),  the woods are where imagination (and children) can run wild.

The other day when the woods were opened for play (the cold has put predatory insects at bay) the children came back wanting to make spears and bows and arrows in wood shop. After I told them no, they decided they wanted to make hammers, as they needed those to build. And so they did.

Matti Bergström had said that children play (and must play) both the white game and the black game. (does this come from chess?) The white game is the game of society. It involves the rules set by authority. The black game is where children learn the mechanics of real life and where and how relationships work. Bergström had noted that civilization must arise anew with each generation, and the black game was the experience through which that happens.

Last night at a county organization meeting, it was noted that most of those involved are of a certain age. That rings a bell of alarm. And we wondered, how may we bring younger folks into the fold of community life.

For those of us who have learned to care for the things we can accomplish by working together in groups, meeting in the wilderness of ideas to hash things out is like play in the woods. Can it be that by overly scripting every aspect of a child's life  through schooling (neglecting time for the black game) that we've begun to breed out of their willingness, engagement in the shaping of human culture and community? We'll watch and see.

Make, fix and create.

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