Tag Creativity

{ On “Doing” Philosophy with Children } Philosophy cultivates a generation of inquisitive minds that will grow up challenging the assumptions that hold us back

{ On "Doing" Philosophy with Children } Philosophy cultivates a generation of inquisitive minds that will grow up challenging the assumptions that hold us back | rethinked.org

“By encouraging children to examine the world from perspectives other than their own, philosophy cultivates a generation of inquisitive minds that will grow up challenging the assumptions that hold us back.” – Giacomo Esposito

I was thrilled to discover the work of The Philosophy Foundation through Giacomo Esposito’s deeply relevant article, Why I Teach Philosophy in Primary Schools. The Philosophy Foundation is a UK based, award winning educational charity raising aspirations and attainment through doing philosophical enquiry in the classroom.

Our aim is to make ‘Reasoning’ the 4th ‘R’ in education – by giving children the tools to help them think critically, creatively, cohesively and autonomously we aim to fill the gaps in education and consequently benefit society as a whole. 

Philosophy can help to shape the way we think and live in the world. Learning to think clearly and creatively helps in many ways – the most obvious being the effect it has upon one’s actions.

At the core of The Philosophy Foundation ‘s work is the belief that thinking is a capacity–a habit of mind–and that thinking well requires learning and practice.

It is the job of our specialist philosophy teachers to identify and draw out from the children philosophical material, and to encourage them to adopt a philosophical attitude. Our aim is to cultivate the habit of thinking and we do not believe that this will come about simply by giving them the opportunity to think. Like anything else it needs to be learnt. So the facilitation should include teaching and guidance. Philosophy is not something that can be learnt by being told a list of propositional facts about what it is, it is best learnt by modelling. In other words, the children will learn how to do philosophy best by seeing it done well on a regular basis by a skilled philosophy teacher.

Head over to The Philosophy Foundation website to learn more about the fantastic work they are doing and check out their many excellent resources to start doing philosophy with the children in your own life.

Below are some highlights from Esposito’s article, first published on The Guardian, which I highly recommend reading in its entirety.

THINK, LEARN, DO . . . * 


The sessions I run usually begin with a story or short “stimulus” which draws on a traditional philosophical problem, but reframes it to make it more engaging for a younger audience. The story then ends with a question, and a discussion ensues. Throughout the class, I try to take a backseat; I’m there to help draw out the children’s thoughts, but it’s really for them to decide where the discussion goes and, crucially, what they think. In fact, rather than teaching philosophy, a more accurate description of my job is “doing” philosophy with children.

Children can be fantastic at doing philosophy. Their natural disposition to wonder at the world is given free rein during lessons. Recently I was running a session about time travel. In response to the claim that “time is a feeling”, a 10-year-old boy thought hard for about a minute and then said: “Time is different for us than it is for the universe, because 100 years passes in a flash for the universe, but seems a long time to us … so time is a bit like a feeling.”

[ … ]

At its core, philosophy is about thinking and reasoning well. It’s about learning how to be logical, present arguments, and spot bad ones. Yes, this is often done through strange, improbable examples, which can feel removed from – and therefore irrelevant to – the real world (like the tree in the forest). But these exercises in mental gymnastics train the mind to think more clearly and creatively, which benefits all aspects of life.

As well as learning how to naturally construct arguments, the children are also invited to question them – both their classmates and their own. When it seems like there’s a firm, unwavering consensus across the class, I only have to ask them to put themselves in the shoes of an “imaginary disagreer”, before a flurry of hands appears.

. . . *

Source: Why I Teach Philosophy in Primary Schools by Giacomo Esposito via The Guardian, published July 13, 2015

{ Exciting New Course For Educators …* } Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning

{ Exciting New Course For Educators ...* } Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman Randolph

Exciting new (and free) learning opportunity for educators and knowmads coming up later this summer: Coursera’s Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning online course. The course starts July 22 and runs through September 3, 2015.

Tinkering activities provide a powerful way to inspire students’ interest, engagement, and understanding in science. The Tinkering Fundamentals course will help educators and enthusiasts develop a practice of tinkering and making. This course will focus on key design elements of high-quality, science-rich tinkering activities, effective facilitation strategies and environmental organization.

This is a hands-on workshop, so you will need to obtain or purchase course materials as soon as possible. Pre-bundled materials kits will be available from the Exploratorium online store after June 1, or you can start gathering your own things using our recommended materials list.

Head over to Coursera to register for the course and check out the syllabus.

learn, tinker & rethink …*

“I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open” – Our Interview With RAE, Artist …*

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Art & Photograph by RAE

 

Chances are you’ve likely come across prolific Brooklyn based artist RAE‘s work before. If you’ve spent any time in NYC, it is almost a certainty that you’ve seen some of his stickers, installations or murals. RAE’s art is vibrant, colorful, dynamic and enigmatic and never fails to make me stop and smile when I chance upon it. I have often wondered about the person behind the art and reached out to RAE to ask him my nine questions about his heart, his fears and his notion of the good life. I am delighted that he agreed to participate in our interview series. His responses, as you’ll see below, are full of the same poetic whimsy, depth and energy as his artwork. You can connect with RAE on Twitter @RAE_BK or follow him on Instagram @rae_bk.

WHAT WAS THE LAST EXPERIMENT YOU RAN?

I have a cat that speaks to me. She told me she doesn’t want to lead such a nocturnal, lazy and mundane existence. So I made a hole in the bottom of my fence so she can go out and explore the neighborhood. I may take her to see Europe one of these days. In the beginning she was just going out for short trips but now she’s gone for days. I am about to outfit her with a small camera to see where she winds up and what she does in a day. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEAR AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR?

I fear that more and more people will make decisions on social and/or political issues based on what their group or party affiliation supports rather than look at issues on a case by case basis.

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Talk Talk Mural & Photograph by RAE

WHAT BREAKS AND DELIGHTS YOUR HEART? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN AND SURRENDER TO?

I was in Ethiopia in 2014 and noticed there was pretty much no public spaces for kids to play. In Addis, the capital city, I finally spotted a playground but only one kid was inside playing while others watched from behind a small fence. The fence was one they could have easily climbed over and joined in but they chose not to. Instead they stared longingly at the one kid inside who was laughing and enjoying the zip-line ride and swings all to herself. Next to the entrance of the park was a security guard who told me that the playground belonged to the large hotel behind it and they only allowed guests staying there to use it. It was bitter sweet to see one child enjoying themselves so much while the others couldn’t even get a sniff of what it felt like to soar through the air just for the fun of it.

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Art & Photograph by RAE

WHAT IS THE MOST PROVOCATIVE IDEA YOU’VE COME ACROSS IN THE PAST DECADE?

Allow yourself extra time and you can do the work of many alone.

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?

In high school I was a delivery boy at a butcher shop in Brooklyn then later became a deli counter person and then sort of an unofficial manager. I worked there for about 5 years. One day a lady who often shopped there asked me for help and after I assisted her she turned to me and said, “You’re really good at your job. Keep going the way you are and one day you’ll be manager of this place.” For the rest of the work day I kept staring through this large glass window into the back of the store where all the older butchers and meat packers worked. I kept thinking about how each one told me at one time or another of the big dreams they had. Some claimed they still planned on following through with them. I quit the next day.

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Art & Photograph by RAE

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

When I was younger I used to think a “good life” meant having what “you,” as an individual, wanted. Money, success, fame, etc, but as soon as I got a small taste of that I realized it feels very hollow if the people around you don’t have the means to at least make ends meet. So many hardworking people can’t pay the bills no matter how many hours they work in a week. Having the good life means being able to uplift others that want to do for themselves. I like it when someone gets an opportunity and makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there and pry that shit open.

COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THE ART OF BEING HUMAN? 

Never hold people to the high standards you set for yourself. You’ll be disappointed more often than not. And when you do find those that operate on the same level take note and appreciate rather than be jealous.

WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION?

I have several….

How big is the universe?
Will time travel ever be possible?
Will I ever get out of this life alive?
Would I trade in my life up to this point to start over again?

ANY BOOKS OR MOVIES YOU RECOMMEND? 

Books: “The Measure of a Man” by Martin Luther King Jr.
            “On Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt
Movies: Amores Perros, Dead Man, Little Odessa, Rocks With Wings (the documentary film)

. . . *

THANK YOU, RAE!

"I like it when someone gets an opportunity & makes the most of it. Could be the smallest of openings but they squeeze in there & pry that shit open" - Our Interview With RAE, Artist ...*| rethinked.org

Subway Sculpture & Photograph by RAE

 

“We have to unpack the experiences of existing technology in broader ways.” – Our Interview With Akarsh Sanghi, Designer …*

"We have to unpack the experiences of existing technology in broader ways." - Our Interview With Akarsh Sanghi, Designer ...* | rethinked.org - Photo Credit: Akarsh Sanghi

Akarsh Sanghi

Akarsh Sanghi is a Singapore based interaction designer. You may recall seeing him on rethinked …* a few months back when I featured his prototype for a “wearable tool to assist learning,” Grasp. Grasp, a timely and thoughtful design provocation, prompts us to question our assumptions about traditional learning practices and environments. It is representative of Akarsh’s broader body of work which focuses on projects that bridge the gap between physical and digital life by applying computational methods in design and creative contexts. I am delighted to share his interview with you today. Connect with Akarsh, @akarshsanghi.

WHAT WAS THE LAST EXPERIMENT YOU RAN?

The latest project I have been working on is trying to understand the idea of creating urban trails in a city. Today we are able to navigate urban areas with the help of various mapping applications available on our mobile devices, but that is usually a static approach, since it is only to get a job done i.e. get you from one destination to another. But I believe there is a much stronger emotional value in exploring a city by following a trail created by somebody else. The experiences that this kind of serendipity can provide can amount to something great for an individual who is exploring a new place. This is an ongoing experiment in Singapore where I am currently based.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS THAT YOU FEAR AND HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR?

The one thing I fear most is getting myself involved in a project or an organization in which I lose interest or faith in while in the middle of it. As a designer, I am constantly thinking and developing new ideas and putting them out into the world. But while being committed to a project in which I lose faith half-way through, it becomes extremely frustrating to see it through till the end. Some ways in which I try to avoid this situation is by having adequate research and knowledge about what I am getting into. Also you have to completely believe in your own vision that you are trying to achieve irrespective of what other’s have to say about it, and do your best in achieving that.

WHAT BREAKS AND DELIGHTS YOUR HEART? IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN AND SURRENDER TO?

I very strongly believe in the idea of applying existing forms of technology in the most creative and innovative contexts to solve some of the most pressing problems in society. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time we are trying to create something new. There are numerous situation, contexts, problems and people who are still untapped by the use of modern technology. To cater for those segments of society, we have to unpack the experiences of existing technology in broader ways. There are times when I feel extremely disappointed while working with some big organizations, since they are constantly resisting change and are so afraid to take risks in any form.

WHAT IS THE MOST PROVOCATIVE IDEA YOU’VE COME ACROSS IN THE PAST DECADE?

Everything that Elon Musk has done in the past decade, whether it is in space exploration, electric cars, solar energy and the latest idea of introducing home batteries. It is inspiring to see and entrepreneur born from the Internet Age has taken up and succeeded in businesses which were earlier restricted only to men and women in white coats working in research laboratories. His work clearly showcases that an idea however crazy or absurd it may sound at the time, can be pursued to alter the way humanity progresses.

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT A TRANSFORMATIONAL MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?

I wouldn’t really say that I have had one transformational moment in my life till now (I am 24 years old) but when I was able to create small projects and put them online which other people could use and give feedback was extremely enriching for me. It really motivated me to continue creating and putting ideas out in the world. You never know what form those ideas take once they are out of your system.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE?

At some point of time I want to look back at my life and sum up all the experiences I have collected, the journey I have been through, the people I have come across, the work I have done in one words, i.e. “FUN”

COULD YOU SHARE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT THE ART OF BEING HUMAN?

Being able to distinguish between First Principles and Intuition. Some of the most powerful entities that a human possesses can do wonders in difficult situations where one can make decisions based on formal logic or a simple gut call.

WHAT IS YOUR DRIVING QUESTION?

How can we develop tools and communities to bridge the gap between physical and digital lives of people by empowering them to control the technology and not the other way around?

ANY BOOKS OR MOVIES YOU RECOMMEND?

Books

  • Evocative Objects: Things we think with by Sherry Turkle
  • Beautiful Evidence by Edward R. Tufte
  • The Art of Doing Science and Engineering by Richard Hamming
  • Understanding Media by Marshall McLuhan
  • Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono

Films

  • P.K. by Rajkumar Hirani [Hindi film challenging the traditional ways in which we see god and religion]
  • The Imitation Game by Morten Tyldum
  • Interstellar by Christopher Nolan
  • The Prestige by Christopher Nolan

Essays

  • By Isaac Asimov [access here]
  • By Bret Victor [access here]

. . . * 

THANK YOU, AKARSH!

What Might It Mean To Live and Learn To Change and For Change?

What Might It Mean To Live and Learn To Change and For Change? | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

{ FINAL ROUND OF THE RETHINKED*ANNEX PROJECT – APTITUDES FOR THE CONCEPTUAL AGE } 

It’s time to kick off the last stage of rethinked*annex: Aptitudes For the Conceptual Age. For those new to rethinked, rethinked*annex is a personal side project which I started two and a half years ago (already!) to see how some of the disciplines we have been focusing on in our team work could apply to the individual. The ultimate goal of our team is to rethink and engage with what it means to flourish as a human being in the twenty-first century—a modern take on an ancient question, what is the good life for man? We live in exciting times, a lot of the models and assumptions that upheld the status quo of old are crumbling in the face of accelerating change on all fronts–technological, medical, economic, etc. What does it mean to live and learn to change and for change? Our team has been exploring the possibilities of Design Thinking, Integrative Thinking and Positive Psychology to help us formulate some avenues into this but I felt strongly that the tools we used for our professional aims should also be useful in enhancing our personal every day lives.

And so the idea for rethinked*annex was born– a sort of experiment on living, learning and becoming, which I’ve documented on the blog. I’ve been following a pretty simple format: pick out a few books on the subject; play around with some of the big ideas; find ways to apply them to my every day life and then report back on the experiments.

I am now ready to think about the convergences between these three fields (Design Thinking, Integrative Thinking and Positive Psychology) and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. What skills, strengths and mindsets have come up in all three cycles of my experiment? I’ve narrowed it down to five core capacities, which kept coming up over and over: empathy, creativity, making the ordinary unknown (and the willingness to navigate and embrace it), play and courage (to own and deploy one’s voice). So for this last phase, I’ve (very unscientifically) picked out a few books that deal with these various dimensions.

{ BOOKLIST } 

{ BEYOND ME, MYSELF & I – NEW INTERVIEW SERIES }

One nagging insecurity I’ve had throughout this project has been how self-centered it ultimately is. I’ve been exploring what Design Thinking, Integrative Thinking and Positive Psychology might contribute to my every day life. Of course, the goal is that some of the insights and lessons I’ve learned along the way will transfer outside of my particular circumstances and be of some use to you, but at the end of the day, it’s my thoughts, my feelings, my life, my observations…me, me, me. I’m getting sick and tired of thinking and writing about myself.

I’ve decided it was time to find out how other individuals are grappling with the question(s) of what it means to live a good life. I recently made a list of people I admire–people whose work and ideas have moved me, disrupted my beliefs and assumptions, provoked me to think more deeply and awed me in some form or other. Some of them are friends and some are total strangers, they come from everywhere in terms of geography and fields of inquiry—artists, designers, philosophers, writers, even a midwife. I’ve started reaching out to see if they would be willing to answer a set of questions that touch upon some of the themes that have obsessed me for most of my life and crystalized during the rethinked*annex project. I am floored by the responses. I assumed I wouldn’t hear back from a lot of these people I was ‘cold-emailing,’ but right away, I received enthusiastic answers from total strangers whose work I have admired for years. I am filled with gratitude and excitement for this new phase of the project. You can look forward to seeing their answers published on rethinked over the course of the next few months, starting next week.

There’s a Martin Amis quote from his book Time’s Arrow, which I’ve probably shared about five times over the past three years. I’m sorry if you’re sick of seeing it but every few months, I have an experience that reminds me that these simple words ooze with truth when it comes to framing the “others:”

Mmm—people! It seems to me that you need a lot of courage, or a lot of something, to enter into others, into other people. We all think that everyone else lives in fortresses in fastnesses: behind moats, behind sheer walls studded with spikes and broken glass. But in fact we inhabit much punier structures. We are, it turns out, all jerry-built. Or not even. You can just stick your head under the flap of the tent and crawl right in. If you get the okay.

question & rethink …*

Paola Antonelli: “Design Is A Way To Enter the World. It’s the Interface Between Whatever Idea You Might Have—Scientific, Technological, or Even Artistic—& Real Life”

Paola Antonelli: "Design Is A Way To Enter the World. It’s the Interface Between Whatever Idea You Might Have—Scientific, Technological, or Even Artistic—& Real Life" | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

One of the aspects of life post-academia that I most enjoy is the increased exposure to a wide range of phenomenal, interesting, creative and courageous women. Remember this image? I wasn’t much aware of it at the time, but since graduating from university, I’ve noticed a shift in my heroes. Whereas my teenage years and early twenties were spent looking up to mainly dead, or terribly old, white men, I’ve now discovered a whole tribe of contemporary, dynamic and tremendously inspiring women. One of them is MOMA curator, Paola Antonelli. I just came across this great interview which she recently gave to The Great Discontent’s Tina Essmaker. It’s definitely worth a read in its entirety, but here are three topics that Antonelli explores that I thought would be of particular interest to rethinkers.

discover & rethink …*

{ O N   C R E A T I V I T Y

I cannot believe that anyone would ever tell you that creativity was not part of their upbringing. I think there’s creativity everywhere. In some parts of the world, there are much more urgent matters of survival, so maybe creativity takes a backseat or gets channeled towards basic needs—we have to be honest about reality. But, frankly, I believe creativity exists everywhere and manifests itself in different ways. For instance, I was always quite stunned by the ease and comfort that New York has with contemporary art, which was definitely not the case in Italy. I grew up in a place where the comfort was with design, food, and ancient art. Here, it’s contemporary art.

{ O N   D E S I G N,   I D E A S   &   R E A L   L I F E 

I find it absolutely limiting that people think of design as cute chairs and cars and posters—it’s so crazy. To me, it’s amazing that some parts of our cultural establishment move away from design when the most established artists look to design as a way to make their ideas become a part of life. Design is a way to enter the world. It’s the interface between whatever idea you might have—scientific, technological, or even artistic—and real life.

[ … ]

I’m dangerously distant from an esthetically-pleasing, more formal kind of design. I say dangerously because I don’t want to burn my bridges with that kind of design, but I feel compelled to deal with real life—and real life is not about being able to afford a $10,000 chair.

[ … ]

I always find a way to realize at least some of the ideas that come to mind. I like to say that ideas are a dollar a pound, but it’s the ones you decide to make happen that really count. It’s tough, but there’s always a way to make them happen.

{ A D V I C E   T O   A   Y O U N G   P E R S O N  S T A R T I N G   O U T }

If you really believe in it, go for it. The thing I like about this moment is that you don’t have to immediately define yourself as an artist or designer; you can try different avenues. I really love it because ambivalence, ambiguity, and these in-between states are so conducive and perfect for creative people. I had the luck of being able to test different waters, and I think that’s the best thing that can happen to someone creative. It’s not for everybody; some people need a more defined path. But if you have a curiosity to see where you can really shine, I think this is a wonderful moment.

Source: Paola Antonelli Interviewed by Tina Essmaker April 28, 2015 via The Great Discontent

The Thing Is to Become a Master & In Your Old Age to Acquire the Courage to Do What Children Did When They Knew Nothing …*

The Thing Is to Become a Master & In Your Old Age to Acquire the Courage to Do What Children Did When They Knew nothing ...* | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman

I have been reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life-a treasure-trove of meditations on the creative life culled from Tharp’s long career as one of the world’s most acclaimed choreographers. Each chapter relates to a different aspect of creativity–think: Skill, Ruts and Grooves, Rituals of Preparation– and is accompanied by a handful of exercises to practice flexing your own creative muscles. It’s a quick, lovely and insightful read, which I highly recommend.

I’d like to highlight Tharp’s insights on one of the fundamental paradoxes faced by artists and rethinkers everywhere–that of finding the fragile equilibrium between seeking expertise and cultivating a beginner’s mind.

Every artist faces this paradox. Experience–the faith in your ability and the memory that you have done this before–is what gets you through the door. But experience also closes the door. You tend to rely on that memory and stick with what has worked before. You don’t try anything new. Inexperience is innocence, naïveté, and humility. It is a powerful ignorance that is summed up for me in an obituary I read of the All-American football player Ellis Jones. Jones, who died at age eighty in 2002, lost his right arm in an accident when he was eleven years old. But that didn’t stop him from playing guard offense and linebacker on defense in the 1940s at the University of Tulsa and later in the fledgling National Football League. “I played football before I got hurt,” said Jones of the accident that cost him his right arm. “It never occurred to me that I couldn’t keep playing. I guess I was too dumb to think I could not do it.” Inexperience provides us with a childlike fearlessness that is the polar opposite of the alleged wisdom that age confers on us, the “wisdom” telling us some goals are foolish, a waste of time, invitations to disaster. In its purest form, inexperience erases fear. You do not know what is and is not possible and therefore everything is possible.

It is that perfect moment of equipoise between knowing it all and knowing nothing that Hemingway was straining for when he said, “The thing is to become a master and in your old age to acquire the courage to do what children did when they knew nothing.” You cannot manufacture inexperience, but you can maintain it and protect what you have.

This balancing act–between confidence and humility, knowing and not knowing, fear and courage–is intimately tied to the concept of mastery.

Mastery is an elusive concept. You never know when you achieve it absolutely–and it may not help you to feel you’ve attained it. (Alexander the Great wept when he had no more worlds to conquer.) We can recognize it more readily in others than we can in ourselves. We all have to discover our own definition of it. 

I particularly love Tharp’s definition of mastery–mastery as courage and optimism to face the unknown and faith in your own capacity to transform your discovery into something of value.

More than anything, I associate mastery with optimism. It’s the feeling at the start of a project when I believe that my whole career has been preparation for this moment and I am saying, “Okay, let’s begin. Now I am ready.” Of course, you’re never one hundred percent ready, but that’s a part of mastery, too. It masks the insecurities and the gaps in technique and lets you believe that you are capable of anything.

Mastery then, in the creative realm at least, is more mindset than benchmark, like that of the child at the edge of the forest, excited and a little nervous to get lost in the woods but confident to face and transform what she will find.

Source: Tharp, Twyla. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006. Print.

{ whimsical urban spaces } for fostering play

live from AERA…*

I am currently attending the 2015 AERA (American Educational Research Association) conference in Chicago, and I have been attending and participating in a variety of exciting presentations, roundtables, and poster sessions about the many types of interesting research around education and its unique challenges. I am still making sense out of all I learned, and I hope to share some of the interesting talks with you in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, today I want to talk about this amazing playground I spotted here in downtown Chicago.

Fostering Play…*

Last week Elsa wrote about the importance of play in our ever-changing world, reminding us of the essential nature of play. Perhaps this was on my mind because during my free afternoon this weekend I was walking near Millennium Park and couldn’t help but stop to admire this incredible play space.

maggie-daley-2

Photo Eric X. via Yelp

Maggie Daley park is a $60 million, newly opened 20 acre recreational space, opened in 2014. It was designed by architect Michael Van Valkenburgh as “a counterpoint to the symmetry and formality of Grant Park… with..  curvilinear forms, dramatic topography, and many whimsical elements.” As described in this article, there is a 3-acre play garden designed in the spirit of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which is the piece of the park I stumbled upon . I was immediately enchanted by the surrealist, cartoon-like environment. Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated that the play garden “will allow kids to challenge themselves and do things they didn’t know they could do“.

In a world where I worry about childhoods lived behind a screen and enacted through highly constrained, scripted environments, I am so excited by this notion of fostering unstructured play. The rich narrative and creative potential of places like this is endless, and I find myself envious of the young children who will be enjoying the play garden this spring.

More pictures of this play space below. I will report back on my more academic experience at this conference next Monday!

IMG_5726

Children loved running up and down the rubbery foam hills, rather than using the stairs.

IMG_5728

A giant bridge connecting two towers. When I crossed, three young boys were working together to shake the bridge, excited at the prospect of making me fall (I remained upright, to their extreme disapointment).

IMG_5727

My colleague from Teachers College taking a turn on one of the slides.

IMG_5729

A web made of wires and ropes, where young boys created a clubhouse to call home.

{ Play Is Our Adaptive Wild Card } In Order to Adapt Successfully to a Changing World, We Need to Play …*

Bonobos, like humans, love to play throughout their entire lives. Play is not just child’s games. For us and them, play is foundational for bonding relationships and fostering tolerance. It’s where we learn to trust and where we learn about the rules of the game. Play increases creativity and resilience and it’s all about the generation of diversity —diversity of interactions, diversity of behaviors and diversity of connections. And when you watch Bonobos play you’re seeing the very evolutionary roots of human laughter, dance and ritual. Play is the glue that binds us together.” – Isabel Behncke Izquierdo

In this short and delightful TED talk, primatologist Isabel Behncke Izquierdo highlights some of the ways in which the highly playful Bonobos can teach us about successfully naviating “a future where we need to adapt to an increasingly challenging world through greater creativity and greater cooperation. The secret is that play is the key to these capacities. In other words, play is our adaptive wild card. In order to adapt successfully to a changing world, we need to play.” As you kick off the weekend, remember , “Play is not frivolous. Play is essential.”

{ Keep Going } The First Rule of Anything Creative: Forgive Yourself For the Horror of the First Draft …*

Here’s a little creative inspiration for your Tuesday in the form of this lovely animation from The School of Life on the need to overcome “the horror of the first draft” and just keep putting in the work to slowly bridge the gap between our vision and what we are producing.

This video reminded me of Ira Glass’s advice:

“Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me, is that all of us who do creative work, you know we get into it, and we get into it because we have good taste. But there’s a gap. For the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s not that great, it’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean? A lot of people never get past that phase, a lot of people at that point they quit. And the thing I would just like to say to you with all my heart, is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell that what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have. And the thing what to do is everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it now, if you’re just getting out of that phase, you’ve got to know it’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do, is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. Because it’s only by actually going through a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions. In my case, I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met. It takes a while. It’s going to take you a while. It’s normal to take a while and you just have to fight your way through that, ok?

– Ira Glass

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

rethink, work, create …*

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