Sunday, 9 April 2017

Popping Up in Cleveland - Guest writer

By Mischelle Brown

Mischelle reached out to us in 2016, telling us of her passions for play and in 2017, we met her at the Playwork Campference! It was wonderful to hear her perspective and learn of her passion. She has big plans for her community, and some big adventures ahead! Here are some of her thoughts:

What started out as a weekend exploration at the first ever Playwork Campference. February 16-19, 2017, on how to build my own one acre adventure playground by myself turned into life lessons on the importance of community, starting small and diversity. Landing in Val Verde, California I would meet some of the worlds greatest playworkers, play advocates, enthusiasts and researchers to ever commune in the United States. Boy what a sight to behold!

The nuggets of wisdom from the veterans of play I received straight away were build an adventure play community, start with small one day pop-up play schemes or play spaces, add additional community partners like museums, schools, non profits or recreation departments to co-create with and like ideas.

My big question was where's all the play people of color? How come I'm the only one here? The veterans of play exclaimed, “Exactly”?! On that day one I decided going forward I'd have to do my Mahatma Ghandi thing and “be the change I wanted to see in the world” to bring adventure play equity to black and brown kids.

So with that on March 27, 2017 my nonprofit, Humans2nature inc., together with the city of Cleveland’s Division of Recreation’s 18 recreation centers, Cleveland State University, Home Depot and Cultured Bazaar 60 black and brown babies played in/on/around their first ever and the city of Cleveland’s first ever “loose parts” pop-up adventure playground on the grounds of Camp George Forbes.

Water Experiment pond – Camp George Forbes, Cleveland, Ohio

Using tools - Camp Georges Forbes, Cleveland, Ohio

Fishing Kids with handcrafted fishing tools

The Playwork Campference was the confirmation that my purpose, adventure play for life, is real and that there is world is full of other players committed to the motto, "play is for everyone". Thank you, Playwork Campference!

To host your own pop-up adventure playground, register with us here for some free resources. To read more about the Campference, check out these three blogposts. To follow the activities of us at Pop-Up Adventure Play, like us on facebook, follow us on twitter and check out our website www.popupadventureplay.org.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

A Playworker's Junkyard

By Zan

Sitting in my seat next to Andy, I felt really excited. I hadn't thought about the set for Junkyard the Musical and now that I was looking at the silhouette of it on the stage before the show. It had real pallets, and barrels, and planks and rope... everything you'd find on a real adventure playground. Whatever would happen in the next 2 hours wouldn't matter too much - it was already awesome.

Before the show - we were sat front and center and I was so pleased!

As the stage went dark and we journeyed with the characters through the ups and downs of adventure playground development, I was really swept up in the energy of the whole thing. Everything was done simply but effectively with junk materials or loose parts - even some of the instruments used to accompany the sometimes moving, sometimes hilarious songs were also made out of junk! I loved particularly that characters weren't too precious about the set, but at the same time loved it, just like the children at any AP would be too. With there being multi-level movable platforms, the space was always filled with interest throughout the show, and used very thoughtfully too for musical numbers and emotive scenes.

I was particularly amused to find that they had managed to work a whole lot of adventure playground history into this musical, doing a little bit of gentle AP promo for the field. I wondered aloud to Andy half way through the show if the actors knew what the term "playworker" was. It wasn't mentioned in the show - being set in the 70s, the term wasn't properly used yet - but I wonder how much they would have translated some of these thoughts for the audience of today. I was really glad to hear the parting thoughts from the cast which spoke loudly of adventure playgrounds in the UK - even a nod to Plas Madoc, the closest AP to the theatre - and I was buoyed by the enthusiasm they had brought to the auditorium. There was a palpable feeling of possibility, and the last time I felt that was when I was sat under a canopy of advertisements in the middle of California.

I truly enjoyed Junkyard to the very core of my playworker being. There was enough humour in there to keep it light, but all the emotions necessary for folks to understand just how serious adventure playgrounds are with a good sprinkling of song. Now we just need everyone everywhere to watch this show and then visit an adventure playground in action. Hoorah for Junkyard!

To find out more about Pop-Ups Zan, visit her personal blog here. If you'd like to see more of what Team Pop-Up Adventure Play in general, check out Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Reflections from the Playwork Campference: Part 3

By Zan

The five of us sat smiling at one another as we reaffirmed for the umptheenth time that organising our first ever conference would be a fabulous idea. It was a year before the proposed date and our many play connections combined with our passion for play could only means that this was going to be an amazing event. Shortly after we coined the phrase "Playwork Campference" (all credit to Jeremiah!) I had a rush of affection for the other four organisers: this would be our Campference, and we were going to do the best job we possibly could.

And here are the Campference organisers (left to right):
Suzanna Law, Andy Hinchcliffe, Morgan Leichter-Saxby, Erica Larsen-Dockray and Jeremiah Dockray. Team Pop-Up Adventure Play meets Team Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play!

Having had email correspondence with at least 90% of the folks who attended our Campference, welcoming everyone on the first day felt simply like I was greeting a whole bunch of friends. Every warm hug that gave was reciprocated in earnest, and felt like a genuine moment of connection rather than the frivolous greeting we often give to people without much meaning. Though I had never personally met at least 50 of the 90 people who came to our Campference, I definitely felt like I was welcoming them home - to both an amazing adventure play space, and to the community of play advocates who were just as eager to connect.

The rest of the Campference seems like joyous blur: there was fireside play where the children discovered and came to respect the fire pit; there was the meeting of minds and collision of amazing ideas; there was torrential rainfall and people dancing in rivers where there were once streets; there were revelations, and stories of transformation, discovery and joy; there was a palpable feeling of hope and passion within our camp site that no amount of literal stormy weather could shake. 

At the end of the Campference, I stood still for a moment to take in some of my own feelings. This may have started up as a conference - a convergence of 5 minds - eventually became was the meeting of 90 minds, all open and willing to experience more about the flexibility of playwork. I have never met a group of people who were so willing to roll with the changes that we had to make throughout the Campference because of adverse weather.  

This Campference may have started with just 5 of us, but by the end, we could feel a shift towards all the folks who were present. It was an event that all 90 of us could take ownership of. It was our Campference, and I must thank every single person who came, and everyone who helped because these were the people who made it what it was.

Here we all are - our group photo at our Playwork Campference.

This is the final reflective piece about the Playwork Campference from Team Pop-Ups - part 1 and part 2 can be found here. Follow our adventures on facebook and twitter, and check out our website for more www.popupadventureplay.org

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Reflections from the Playwork Campference: Part 2

By Andy

I can't quite believe that it's been over a week already since the Playwork Campference came to an end! What an amazing whirlwind it has been. As I get ready to depart the US and head back to Europe, I spent a moment to reflect on my experiences of our maiden conference voyage.

It's been more than a year since the discussions about the Campference began. I remember the excitement and enthusiasm about the schedule, workshops, food and the people and stories it would gather.

Despite the 'touch' of bad weather, the schedule and workshops prevailed. The food was amazing and the people with their stories glued the whole thing together.

When the rain came down, the children played.

Our amazing chef, Megan Dickerson, cooking "fire-jacks" (fire-top flap-jacks) for breakfast!

I was surrounded by such a diverse group of wonderful and knowledgeable people. Friends I'd know for years, Colleagues I'd only ever met on Skype, amazing and inspirational people I had met on my travels with Pop-Up Adventure Play and my University professor, all mixed in with a group of passionate play advocates from around the globe.

The conversation and stories throughout the weekend were exhilarating, motivating and inspirational. They fueled me to take this contagious passion back across the Atlantic with an aim of unpacking it and sharing it in a way that could help to re-ignite the increasingly suffering playwork profession in the UK.

The Campference achieved many things for me, both personally and professionally. The main point I took from it was that dwelling on the past and the 'good old days' are great but unproductive. It's time to accept that Playwork in the 21st century is a different beast, but the need is still the there, if not greater. We need to step off the playwork soap box and move forward - If we don't, who will?

If anybody wants to get involved in this discussion, throw some thoughts our way!

This is part 2 of 3 reflective pieces from Team Pop-Up Adventure Play about the Playwork Campference 2017 - part 1 is available here. If you want to find out more about us, check out our Facebook, Twitter and website www.popupadventureplay.org

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Reflections from the Playwork Campference: Part 1

By Morgan

So, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we hosted a Campference with Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play in Val Verde, CA.

It went pretty well.

Welcoming folks at the Pacific Oak.

Children played as we talked about playwork.

Learning about ropes and knots.

Playwork professionals, students and enthusiasts came from all over to swap stories, learn from one another, and spend time on a beautiful new adventure playground site. Our fondest hope was that people would make new friends, find mentors, and confess some of their own fears or longings.

It seems like that part was a success.
“So many takeaways, but while I process those, I will just share 3 words that were repeated roughly 642 times: Fun, Freedom, Flexibility.”~ Kelsey Langley
Also not sure if you were paying attention at the time, but there was a *little* bit of a storm happening.  The worst storm in 22 years, dropping 5 inches overnight on our site and tents and carefully laid plans.  We sought refuge in a church, and then a school.  Content went ahead, if a little bit reshuffled.

Most gloriously, people rallied.  Across the whole four days, they transported baked potatoes in wheelbarrows, cut wood for the fire, raised tarps into the trees (and cut them down, when the wind gained strength).  Children scurried around the site, playing all day long.  Participants circled to discuss the politics of play and details of practice, breaking off into smaller groups to keep the conversation flowing.  People who feel isolated at home made community together, and for a short time we made a village.
"An incredible site, wonderful people....a bunch of weirdo's in the most magnificent way....it felt like I was home."~ Justine Walsh
This is part 1 of 3 reflections about our Playwork Campference 2017. If you'd like to find out more about us, check out our facebook, twitter or visit www.popupadventureplay.org.