I want to say a few words about aspects of play, and the hinterland of adult decision-making about it, that tend not to figure prominently in most of the writings I see, or in the general discourse.
But before doing that, by way of lead in, I want to do an unashamed promo for the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA). In its own words it is, ‘a global network of organisations working to enrich children’s learning and play through improving the way school grounds are designed and used’. It is worth adding that it sees school grounds as integral to the local environment, not as separate, sequestered spaces solely in the control of schools. In the UK at least, this represents a real challenge. (I’ve mentioned this before)
The ‘International’ aspect is real and growing. Delegates attending the recent ISGA/Evergreen conference in Toronto include those from Australia, Germany, Japan, Sweden, United Kingdom, the United States; and nascent links were formed with Pakistan and Nigeria. There remains, however, a whole world out there. Much yet to do.
The ISGA has, over the last few years, moved from what might be called the bare bones of an entity – a skeletal state – to fleshing itself out and, quietly, increasingly purposively, developing its musculature. It may soon pack a punch, not least because it has to hand expertise and commitment, both broad and deep, from around the world. There are certainly a number of issues that require an international perspective, and international clout. The ISGA has a growing chance of fulfilling a role here. I encourage you to take a look at its web site, and perhaps join.
Now, it is the recent joint ISGA/Evergreen conference held in Toronto in September this year that prompts what follows for, if I have read it right, there were two aspects in particular of my little offering to the conference that seemed to resonate with people.
The first is an aspect of play that is obscured, pressed, we might say, beneath the weight of the current obsession – probably misplaced so far as creating a durable case for play is concerned – with obesity reduction. This aspect is the understanding that through play a moral universe is formed, encountered and understood – children and teenagers learning through experience how values, beliefs and traditions are transformed into ways of life. This knowledge cannot simply be taught. It is learning-through-doing that marks the difference between the ability to recite a moral code, and learning how to live by one. Continue reading