. . . is the fundamental basis of my life philosophy. Many of you, as you read that statement, are probably scratching your heads, because my demeanor doesn't often convey a fun-loving, devil may care, irresponsible attitude that the word play is frequently associated with. I will contend, however, that play, despite the thesaurus's interpretation, is actually (or should be) the foundation for all creativity and learning.
Peter Gray, the pre-eminent developmental psychologist and author of Free to Learn, has spent much of his career researching the role of play in children's lives throughout the history of humankind and agrees that it is the infrastructure for all learning. He, in fact, goes into great detail discrediting the systems of education that utilize rote memorization and require students to be tied to a desk for hours at a time. He maintains that curiosity and movement are essential components of childhood and young people should be allowed to explore the world around them, yes, to gain knowledge, but to also acquire self confidence and assurance.
I would also argue that learning is a lifetime occupation; inquisitiveness, playfulness, and the desire to analyze through exploration can not, nor should it, be turned off at the ripe age of eighteen, twenty two or whenever formal schooling comes to an end.
I, honestly, refer to most everything I do as play. When I write, I am thrilled by the challenge of constantly manipulating the words, searching the thesaurus for new and exciting vocabulary to fit together, like puzzle pieces (although, I didn't inherit my dad's love of traditional puzzles or games). The sound and lyrical cadence of the language, for me, is the most important component of writing which probably explains my love - hate relationship with grammar and the rules of writing. (Okay I'll be truthful, I don't like to follow directions of any kind which probably explains my antipathy towards games.)
In my kitchen, cooking follows the same disregard for recipes. I like to experiment with ingredients that I have on hand and I quite often come up with something really tasty that can, unfortunately (much to my families chagrin), never be replicated. I am, however, never willing to compromise my fun and delight in creating new concoctions just for the sake of consistency.
My occasional forays into the art world are all about the pure pleasure of mixing together pigments to create fresh and exciting hues which then translates into a palette full of really awesome colors, and little else to show for all that fun.
My heart, therefore, breaks just a bit every single time a ten, thirteen, or sixteen year old looks at me with his or her brightly intense gaze and proudly states, “I have not played since I was six or seven”. My initial and honest response (yes, I am nothing but real with “my” kids) is always, “really, how can that be?” These are often the same kids who can not tell me what they are interested in, who are invariably “bored”, despite the legions of materials and resources available, and who get easily discouraged and quit whenever they hit a snag.
We have, therefore, taken on the joyful job of reigniting the desire to play and explore in these kids. The staff offers opportunities, during mentoring sessions, for their natural inquisitiveness to take over, and sometimes we are sneaky, feigning disinterest in their seemingly apathetic states. Many times, we act swiftly to capture a moment of student led inspiration, so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. Which, as explained last week, often requires a boatload of patience and forbearance for the noise and activity associated with spontaneity, chaos, silliness, high jinks, and pure ingenuity. It also demands the space and tolerance for incomplete projects, moodiness, and agitation as well as an unflagging determination to offer affirmation and praise for hard work and perseverance, not to mention, the intense amount of energy necessary to facilitate all the above.
When you come to understand that a real world education requires the space, support, and reassurance to explore the planet with curiosity, an open mind, and boldness to try new, sometimes, scary things that just may offer a lifetime of pure delight, you are determined to promote this approach to everyone you may encounter.
If you would like to explore this topic and Peter Gray's research further, please read Free to Learn, which is available at the Canton Free Library. (Sorry, my copy is signed by the author and I do not loan it out.) His articles are also frequently available through the Psychology Today website.
DRC is looking for a person who would like to become part of this dynamic, fun-loving, and inspirational community. If you are interested in fostering a love of learning through inquisitiveness and play,please contact ustoday. We are looking forward to introducing you to the philosophy of self-directed learning.
Ten weeks of fun, creative, original programming facilitated by Maria Vecchio, Megan Howard, and Emma Warner. Sign up today!
Wednesday, June 1st - Year-end Celebration
The DRC staff, Board of Directors, student members, and their families would like to invite you to a potluck, art show, and end of year celebration on June 1st at 5:30pm. The students will be delighted to show you all they have accomplished these past few months. They would also like to extend gratitude to all of the volunteers who spent their time sharing their passions and interests with them.