Another year is done and dusted. Another year of documenting play through photos, one for each day of the year. 2013 marked the second year for this documentation exercise. I struggled with the idea of doing it for a third year, but here we are on the 3rd day of the 2014 and there I am cruising through my photos, looking for those special images for today, a snow day with schools closed, and the weekend. I see that the inspiration chain extends well beyond my sources as inspiration chains will. My sources were Donna Ridley of Irresistible Ideas for Play-based Learning and Marc Armitage, independent consultant and researcher. Of course, their daily documentation is jam-packed with lovely images collected with superior eye and attention to detail. Donna's are featured on her personal page while Marc's can be seen publicly on his facebook page, Marc Armitage 365. Their photos are moments in time and place. I really encourage you to take a look.
The inspiration chain is long. A lot of people have been inspired to do the same and there is lots to see, which is good. People approached it in unique ways, Ayn Rorick Colsh of Little Illuminations collected a book a day, and what a great list, while Suzanna Law of Pop-up Adventure Play posted play jewels on all kinds of platforms on her blog, A Little Life of Play.
In the end, what attracted me to the project and held my attention (which is very, very, VERY hard to do) was that it shaped a formal, but relatively easy, reflection process. That I focused it on play, something that I see most days that I am working, made sense, but then it also challenged me, especially that first year. I discovered that the "something I see most days that I am working" presented a challenge for the days that I wasn't. I am so used to seeing play as an adult viewing the play experts, children, I was adrift on the days I was not around children. Now, I have struck a balance philosophically, while trying to hold true to posting something daily, first just on the Cooperative School's facebook page and now also on our flickr page.
At the end of the school year last year, one of our parents carefully and painstakingly collected the #Play365plus1 photos from 2012 and curated them, publishing a blurb book as a gift from all the parents for me. 2012 was a leap year, so there were actually 366 days to document! Seeing the photos, printed on the page, was a gift beyond compare. It gave me an opportunity to look, again/again, at the photos from that first year of documentation and reflect on how imaginary play -- the total buy-in -- of imagination and dramatic play envelopes and embraces children. It is magic. You can read more about this reflection in the post, Buying in and Dramatic Play.
This year, because the collection is also on flickr, it is easier to access visually. I, of course, still hope to see the collection in a book along with an introduction, but during the break I found myself reviewing my year, the year with the children, and play, looking for themes, and this is what I found...
2013 was a great year for headdresses.
2013 was also a good year for moments in time, those kind of moments that are unique to childhood. The challenge of mixing a potion that will terrify you with it's stinkiness and the idea to bury that stink to be discovered by some future generation of children can only be thought up by children. 2013, the year of the stink!
The #Play365 2013 collection also featured images that marked perfect examples of our Through the Garden Gate curriculum and philosophy, specifically the world out there and our place in it. The first photo features children running, how I love to see children run each in his or her own way, towards each other from the points of a star at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC. Then when we visited the National Portrait Gallery in DC, we may have been surrounded by paintings and sculptures of the masters, but the children felt compelled to find out where the water went in the crack along the floor. What did they see, with bodies pressed along that stone floor, nose touching the metal plate hiding the inner workings of the fountain?
This photo below of another "out and about," I will treasure because the children looked at this great split stone wrapped in the roots of a fallen (or as they named it, "The Falling Tree") with a mixture of awe, fear, and total fascination. "Can we touch it?" they asked, while not really wanting to hear "Yes." They held their distance, wondering, wondering, "What could do this? What could knock down this great tree and split a giant boulder bigger than any one of their parents?" Of course it was probably a dinosaur or a giant. What else could do something like that?
While I took a lot of photos during my learning adventure in Iceland, this one is my favorite. The door was open, and the rooms of the school were so cozy, but during our stay there, the outside was always beckoning. I left DC and it was still short sleeves weather even in October. The air was so clean and clear in Iceland and so crisp. Half in, but looking out, that is what this photo says to me.
And as always, imaginary play wove itself in and around the children and was caught to savor for later. Listening for signs of life inside stones, setting a table of carpet squares for a monster feast, watching children turn into selkies waiting to be fed, and taking advantage of a house the wind has made and turning it into the blue of a shark pool -- don't get too close to the sharks! -- were all in a day's play for the children.
Here I am on day 3 of the challenge in 2014. Play away, play away, and looking forward to sharing. Happy and healthy 2014, friends.