Tuesday, 31 December 2013

A Happy Pop-Up Year

By Zan

It's been a great year at Pop-Up Adventure Play. We just wanted to take a few moments to reflect on the year, and to look back on where we were last year to fully appreciate what we have achieved in the last 12 months.

This year as a team, we have travelled to 5 different countries on 3 different continents. We have expanded our contacts expansively: we have just hit 2000 likes on Facebook, and have about 750 followers on Twitter!

It's been an fruitful year for the Playworker Development Course too where we now have over 35 students that span 9 different countries across our Global Network. It has been a journey-and-a-half, and as students complete the course, we have learned so much from them, and have hopefully provided playwork tools to see child-directed play happen in their community.

I personally had a lot of fun with some Mini Pop-Ups at a local school while we celebrated the acquisition of a grant for writing a toolkit for Pop-Up Play Shops with the talented Mr Adrian Voce. These things happened as Morgan and Anna travelled the world to do loads of training. Anna has also been tap tap tapping away and has delivered a whole series of awesome play = stories.

We can't forget the planning that has gone into the Pop-Up Adventure Play US Tour 2014! We are very excited about it all, and are genuinely overwhelmed by the interest and support that we have had for it. We're still in the process of generating more funds to buy a decent car for the roadtrip but there is still plenty of time to donate towards our adventure! To find out more, click here.

What an eventful year of play at Pop-Ups! Looking back, I am so proud of the things we have done, and the distance we have gone. We've gone from strength to strength, and have been supported by many many wonderful people along the way. Thank you for sticking with us for another playful year - see you in 2014! :)

To find out more about Zan, please visit her blog. To get up to date news from Pop-Up Adventure Play, please visit our Facebook page or follow our Twitter feed. Sign up to our mailing list too on www.popupadventureplay.org.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Pop-Up Playwork on the High Street

By Zan

We have been working very hard with Adrian Voce to bring Pop-Up Play Shops to the high streets of the UK but we need your help. A few months back we were able to gain Big Lottery funding to work on an exciting project to find out how much demand there is in the UK for Pop-Up Play Shops. Adrian has helped us compile a survey which we would love for you to fill in, and share with everyone!

There's an letter of invitation to the survey, which is available here.

And if you want to go directly to the survey, just click here. The survey will close on 30th November, so get your answers in soon!

We really appreciate your time and support with this project. Stay tuned for more info!

Zan has been working on a number of UK and US projects, one of which is the Pop-Up Play Shops. To find out more about the Play Shop visit the website. To receive more updates from Pop-Up Adventure Play, sign up to our mailing list.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Our Very Own Pop-Ups Tour

By Zan

Our mission has always been to give opportunities for child-directed play within a community of supportive adults. In a practical sense, it means that we provide support and training for parents, professionals and community members around the world, whenever they approach us. Having spent a few years pursuing this mission, we have found that there are still many communities who need a little helping hand. They might have trouble overcoming the thoughts on risk, or haven't been able to gain community support, or simply need a little confidence boost to embed play as part of their community. So we came up with a great idea: let's take PopUp Adventure Play on tour! Just as a playworker makes themselves available for children to play, we would like to make ourselves available to communities across America. We would like you to invite us to come to your neighbourhood, and help you to build a community around play.

Our tour will start on the East coast and zip very quickly across to the West. After that, we hope to meander our way back home with the total length of our trip lasting about 8 weeks starting 19th February 2014. At each location, we hope to provide a Pop-Up Adventure Playground - a free-to-attend event where the entire community, old and young, can play together using loose parts. To cover the costs of that event, we'd love to then run a workshop or seminar about play in a topic of your choice.

If you think that your community would benefit from a visit from Pop-Up Adventure Play, then get in touch! I'm going to be taking lead on the project and will be happy to provide more information or answer any questions you may have about the adventure. Just shoot me an email on suzanna@popupadventureplay.org and we get get the conversation going!

To find out more about Zan and her work, please visit her blog. To keep up-to-date with out tour and hear about other adventures, please visit our Facebook page and sign up to our mailing list by visiting www.popupadventureplay.org.

UPDATE: New tour information can now be found here: http://popupadventureplay.blogspot.com/p/pop-up-adventure-play-and-special.html

Monday, 14 October 2013

First Mini Pop-Up Los Angeles! - Guest Writer

On Sunday, September 29, Anna's friend Jane ran a Mini Pop-Up Adventure Playground at a park in Los Angeles, CA. She had just over a week to plan, collect materials, spread the word, and make it happen. As far as we know, this is the first LA Pop-Up and we are excited to share Jane's story and photos here! 

By Jane Park Woo

As the room parent for my daughter's preschool class I was responsible for organizing a back-to-school play date for all the children and their families.  I approached Anna because I wanted to do something different. Most special occasions in our neighborhood are held at the usual children's gyms or indoor playgrounds with the typical adult-led games and activities.  For this event, my hope was for children to be completely free to use their imaginations and just PLAY!  So with her guidance we hosted a mini pop-up adventure play date at the park...and it was a huge hit!

We began by laying out all the materials on a wide open lawn.  As children arrived, they immediately ran towards the swings and slides.  They did notice the materials but they didn't dive in right away. As one boy said, "What a mess!" and walked away. They just didn't think these materials were there for them.  So I walked my daughter over to the materials and told her she's free to play with whatever she wants and build whatever she'd like.  

She started by grabbing a crayon and drawing and scribbling on one of the boxes.  Her friend Jack joined in and discovered that his body fit perfectly into the box she was drawing on. He made a connection and said that this is kind of like his bed so he hopped inside and pretended to take a nap. He also grabbed the green bubble wrap and covered himself with it like a blanket.  He found his perfect resting place.

Other children started to notice and walked over with curiosity.  A group of three girls were drawn to the roll of hot pink Duct tape.  They kept asking for small pieces of tape to just stick on the box.  While placing their "stickers" on the box, one of them realized that the box was big enough to fit inside!  She asked my husband to cut out a door.  Only two of them actually fit inside but there were three friends so they figured out a solution - combine it with another box to make their house bigger!  They expanded their house so all three were now able to fit inside.  I walked over and knocked. "What are you doing in there?" I said.  One girl shouted, "We're playyyyying!"

Over time one box was transformed into a supermarket while another box became a pirate robot head with a big pink mouth.  It was sweet to see my daughter's friend who turned a small box into a barn.  She took a crayon and drew a picture of a cow on the exterior of the box.  She then said, "The cow is hungry!" so she picked a few blades of grass and fed it.  A small, plain Amazon box sparked this wonderful moment filled with imagination, drawing, and a sense of care for animals. The tensest moment came when two girls were arguing over a circular piece of cardboard. It became a fierce tug-of-war.  "Mine!" "No, mine!" "No, it's miiiiiine!"  It was refreshing to see how a small cardboard circle could be such a treasured item!  My husband rushed over to a large piece of cardboard and starting cutting out more circles which made everyone happy again.

The beauty of this event was that family members of all ages were able to have fun, play, and create.  It was a rich sensory experience for the baby siblings who giggled as they waved strips of plastic or poked their tiny fingers on bubble wrap.  Older siblings engineered and constructed more complex structures like a rocket ship.  Even parents started to make up their own games like rolling the Duct tape to see which one would travel the farthest.

As the families left they all expressed how much fun they had.  There was also a genuine sense of surprise that these everyday materials can spark so much creativity and excitement. One of the parents said, "Who knew? If my daughter gets bored, I should just give her a box and tape!"  Another parent said she plans to replicate this for her son's upcoming birthday party.

The morning after the event, a mom even emailed me.  She said her daughter had just Skyped with her grandmother who lives abroad in Romania.  She said her daughter was so excited to tell her grandmother that she was in a box for the first time ever.  I hope this was the first of many times!

Jane Park Woo 

If you'd like to host your own Mini Pop-Up, please visit www.popupadventureplay.org and sign our guestbook. You'll receive your own free Mini Pop-Up Kit via email and can go from there! If you'd like to join the movement to promote play for all children, please share your stories with us and we'll feature them here.

Hope to hear from you! 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Playing and Learning for Parents and Professionals

By Morgan

We've been making pop-up adventure playgrounds, and helping others make them, for 3 years now. Our original idea was that they be a lightweight model for community-based playwork, that they could invite people from throughout local communities to see children's play in action, to participate, to help create a collective sense of possibility right there in public space. It was a great way to get conversations started, but we kept saying “there's more to playwork than what you see here”. There's also more to Pop-Up Adventure Play than pop-up adventure playgrounds, but that's another post.

Playwork is deeply rooted in the adventure playground movement, which began after the Second World War. At its heart, playwork is about empathetic non-judgment, about following children's lead in the moment, and about holding the priority of play for its own sake (rather than development or education) to be absolute. We believe strongly that to understand playwork you need time, education, practice and a community of playworkers to talk things over with. We also believe that you need a solid playwork foundation beneath you before you set about designing play-based programming.

“Sounds great,” people would say in emails sent from Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada and more. “Where can I find that near me?”

“Ahh,” we'd reply. “That's where things get tricky”. Because playwork is not yet globally established, and most of these pop-up adventure playground organizers were the only ones in their country. People kept asking us for our suggestions for online courses they could take anywhere in the world, for the chance to meet one another online, for readings and support as they developed their own playwork practice and figured out how to apply it in the homes they raised their families, the places where they worked, the neighborhoods they lived in.

So we wrote a course. You can find more about it here

Now we have 24 students - teachers, parents, therapists, museum educators and parks and recreation staff in 8 different countries. There are three tutors at present – myself, Suzanna Law and Andy Hinchcliffe. I am academically outclassed, as both Suzanna and Andy are PhD students with Prof. Fraser Brown (editor of Playwork: Theory and Practice and Professor of Play at Leeds Metropolitan University). Each student has a tutor, and together we discuss the articles they're reading and ways to put these ideas into practice.

My favorite thing has been hearing stories from the individuals about play in their own neighborhoods and settings. Every individual has their own process of seeing what it really means to support play “for its own sake”, and together we reflect upon the myriad ways in which adults routinely interrupt, adulterate and limit the full rich extent of children's play. Recognizing this and finding alternatives is a process which the students are beginning – and one which, for playworkers, is never complete.

That's why we called it the “PlayworkerDevelopment Course”, because if you're a playworker then you're always developing. The feedback has been pretty great.
Again, I so loved writing this assignment and appreciate being part of this class. I cannot tell you how inspiring this has all been, having a chance to read, reflect and knowing I am a part of something bigger. I feel like I'm riding one of those water slides that has a speed boost and your class is the boost.” (Jill, Texas)
Someone asked me recently what Pop-Up Adventure Play does.

“Well, we believe that play is important for its own sake, and that adults can help make more play possible for children whether they're parents or professionals or community members,” I said. “We've taken elements from playwork, early childhood education and parent support to develop free resources that are available on our website. We work with other organizations, to help them with their play-based outreach and programming, and we also help local organizers to create events and help build local capacity that way. Basically, we take all of these great ideas from different fields and develop flexible strategies that help people find ways to improve the play potential of their settings.”

“You sound busy!” she laughed. “And what's your long-term goal with all this?” I didn't have to pause for a second.

“That, over time, we'll have had a small part in making everywhere better for children's play, across their lives - in their homes and schools and neighborhoods, all around the world.”

This person laughed.

“Not too ambitious, then?” She asked.

“Seems about right to me,” I replied.

For more information on the Playworker Development Course, email Morgan at morgan@popupadventureplay.org. She also writes a playwork-oriented blog called PlayEverything.

Have you checked out our free resource called The Amazing Benefits of Play? It's available here!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

play = voice

By Anna  

It must be summer: Long days, humid nights, more bug bites than we can count, and lots of good stories. The other day I was lucky enough to be snuggled with my 4-year-old-daughter Eliza in her bottom bunk reading one of our favorite books, Falling Up by Shel Silverstein. On page 38 there is a poem called The Voice.

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long.
“I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you – just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.

In the field of child development, we talk about children’s inner speech; a personal, internal monologue children develop and practice, as they go about their daily lives - narratives they work through in their own minds, building on social experiences and the spoken exchanges around them. Lots of voices contribute to this inner speech. By modeling language that supports children’s thinking, we scaffold children’s vocabulary. We help children process difficult situations by talking through events with them. As we think out loud, we make our own ideas more accessible to children. As they grow, children sift through everything they see and hear, they work through various ideas, and build their own understanding.

How do children develop and continuously practice their inner speech for themselves? It all begins in play. Through play, children work within the space of their own self-initiated ideas, and they build on these ideas by thinking and talking and thinking some more. We hear a child whispering to herself adamantly, as she builds a tower out of blocks and carefully chooses one shape or size over the other. And this “thinking out loud” becomes part of the child’s inner speech. We witness the drama unfold as a child role-plays two diametrically opposed characters in one – giving voice to good and evil, powerful and weak, and so on, practicing different perspectives. Through play, children develop their voice – not just how they talk, but their own opinions, determination, their own sense of truth and their understanding of their place in the world.

What happens when children don’t play? They stop listening to the “voice that speaks inside”. They loose their own voice. What happens when children lose their voice? Well, in a world where democracy is the gold standard, where we must believe that each of us has something important to say, let’s not ever let this happen.

play = voice

Together, we can all support child-directed play. Learn more and contact us at www.popupadventureplay.org

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Reflections from the PDC: The Dragonfly Funeral

By Zan

Pop-Up Adventure Play has recently created its very own Playworker Development Course. It's a course where student playworkers have the space to nurture their instincts for playwork, and learn more about the theory behind the practice. We encourage discussion, do observations, find answers for quizzical minds, and reflect on our own playful practice.

Here is a reflective story from a playworker in the first cohort:
"On the way to adventure playground at The Parish School one afternoon, the kids found a dragonfly on the sidewalk that had died. One of the kids carefully picked it up and asked what happened. We told them that dragonflies have a relatively short life span and that it looked like it was just an old dragonfly that died. They immediately decided that we needed to have a funeral.  They gently took the dragonfly into a structure they called the clubhouse. The kids found a little box and placed the dragonfly in it. They said some beautiful words about the dragonfly, said a prayer, and closed the box. They could so eloquently figure out a way that all of their feelings and needs could be met. Their ability to be tolerant and understanding of each other made me envious. The kids left the clubhouse and dug a hole in the ground. They placed the little box in the hole and covered it with dirt. Someone decided it needed a stone to mark the gravesite. Just as quickly as a dragonfly flies, the kids scattered and went to climb, run, or dig. It was over." ~ Kelly Blessing, Assignment 1, PDC 
Photo of the gravesite courtesy of Jill Wood who works with Kelly Blessing.

This is a touching account of a playful moment that literally speaks of life and death. To me, it shows just how capable children are of dealing with situations that we as adults often struggle with. It also reminds me of how through play, you can learn to navigate your way through tough times and afterwards it all seems to be okay.

This account also reminds us playworkers to share our stories with one another. We grow by reflecting upon our own stories and the stories of others. To improve our own practice we have to share our reflections so that we may have new insights that can make our advocacy more effective, and our practice more child-centric.

To hear more from Zan, please visit her blog. For more information about us, please visit popupadventureplay.org

Thursday, 20 June 2013

play = teaching and learning

By: Anna 

Yesterday, my daughter Eliza (almost 4) and I went to work together. She had spent much of the morning quietly setting up an office in the small entranceway near our front door. When it was ready, she insisted I hurry. Mom! Don’t be late for work! We had a loose agenda, but Eliza let me choose which task I wanted to complete first, and we took a break for snack. It was pretend, but delicious just the same. 

Eliza showed me how to play her lunch box counting game. This was part of my job. The objective of the game was to correctly count all of the objects in a lunch box: one small bouncy ball, one witchy-looking-princess doll, one blue matchbox car, and so on up to a total of seven objects. She showed me how to write each letter of the alphabet in an old daily planner, carefully modeling how I should write only one or two letters on each page. Mainly Eliza taught me that she is interested in what happens when she goes to school from 8:30 to 5:00 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and Mommy and Daddy go to work, that mysterious otherworld where adults spend so much time. By playing with her at “work,” I taught her that I am interested in her ideas and that I value her thinking process. When she asked, I also helped her write the letters R and Q.

As Eliza and I played together, we practiced listening and speaking, the balance required in a dialogue. Each of us contributed what we already knew, and we were both open to learning something we hadn’t known before. Eliza built on something she already knows (school) to explore an idea she is curious about (work). I allowed her to teach me how to be at her version of work and supported her by participating with honest interest. Essentially, there on the floor in our Eliza-made office we practiced the give-and-take art of teaching and learning in its purest, most compassionate form.

Today, when play has been banished to the edges (pushed into the spare minutes between the moments when “real” learning happens), I find myself wanting to call attention not to the empirically based connections between play and specific learning outcomes, (even though we know these exist!), but rather to the value of a play mindset in the fundamental, reciprocal process of teaching and learning.

In The Art of Possibility, Rosamund and Benjamin Zander describe teaching through a practice they call enrollment. “Enrolling is not about forcing, cajoling, tricking, bargaining, pressuring, or guilt-tripping someone into doing something your way. Enrollment is the art and practice of generating a spark of possibility for others to share.”

Whether in a pretend office, a game invented on the playground, or a curious observation explored by a team of students collaborating with their classroom teacher, children play and learn best when we enroll them in the process and, in turn, allow children to enroll us. We generate sparks of possibility and then, well, anything is possible.

play = teaching and learning 

There must be 600 different words we can associate with play. 
For each post, I will choose one - in this case, two! 

Please visit us at www.popupadventureplay.org to learn more. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

play = power

By: Anna

Soon after the Boston Marathon attacks, I wrote a post called play = comfort. I had just spent a day in lockdown with my husband and our two young daughters, and was reminded of how much solace we can find in play - not just children, but adults as well.

Ultimately, the feeling of being in lockdown (mandated to stay at home because a man armed with explosives was nearby) is best described as “powerless”. The powerlessness I felt was horrifying, humbling, and very real. Given varied circumstances around the world, some adults and children feel this extreme lack of control all the time.

For others, well, we typically feel out of control because we lose our last contact lens, debit card, and only front door key all on the same day that we forget that it’s “pajama day” at preschool, our kid is the only one in regular clothes, and we spill most of an iced coffee down the front of our white shirt just before a meeting. What? That’s never happened to you? Oh, okay, me neither…

Anyway, the more I watch children at play, the more fully I understand that play = comfort and play = power. Play can offer deep comfort partly because it allows us to create our own sense of control or power in our lives. Children specifically crave this power because, let’s face it, even when a child has the “best” circumstances (e.g., predictable relationships, shelter, clean water, healthcare, and, in certain cases, the difficult choice of sushi, Indian, or brick oven pizza for dinner) children do not have much actual power. In an adult-directed world, children may have too many choices and still feel powerless.

This is where play comes in. Children create their own sense of comfort by controlling their world in the safe space of play. I feel more relaxed just having written that sentence. Again: children create their own sense of comfort by controlling their world in the safe space of play. Allow them this. Can we? Can adults, regardless of how much we want children to succeed on standardized tests, compete on the indoor soccer team, and perform in the most highly-acclaimed local version of the Nutcracker, can we offer children the basic opportunities they need to feel powerful in their own intrinsically-motivated play?

I believe we can. First, adults must allow children time and space to play. Then, when a child is clearly feeling in control of her play, when the power is visible in her eyes, don’t be scared – just look closer. Look for this power, understand the need for control in a world that can seem really out of control, and support it. When a child wants to play “Mommy and baby” (and always be Mommy) for days and weeks on end, we can recognize how important this shift in role is for the child. When a child needs to be the bad monster, evil witch, or super hero, we can become the fearful child or mouse, running in fear or calling out for rescue. When adults understand play in this context of comfort and control, it is easier to support play without feeling powerless, threatened, or "out of control" ourselves.

When we see that a child is not actually harming anyone, we don’t always have to put down the sticks. 

Sometimes, we need to raise them higher.

play = power

Keep visiting us at www.popupdaventureplay.org
Contact us and join the movement to support child-directed play for all children.