The Playground of the brain...
I love stumbling across articles that really resonate with how I see children and today was no different when I unearthed a wonderful piece exploring the two sides of the brain by Vince Gowman (www.vincegowmon.com). Of course it's equally beneficial to look at writings that challenge your thinking too, though the feeling of validation you get when reading supportive articles is far less emotionally draining!
Vince Gowman's work has always had a fascination. He writes in a warm, comforting style and draws on a wide range of research to support his views. His recent piece on the left and right brain spoke to me hugely especially when he referred to the right side of the brain as the 'playground', the space of imagination and wonder. It felt very close to my interpretation of the magic of children - the seventh sense that they have to imagine, dream and perceive the world in a different light to adults. The fact that this side of the brain develops first and is linked to emotion, creativity and imagination is critical when we think about child development. It's the seat of curiosity and wonder, of being-in-the-now-ness. The left hand side of the brain - the constructor of logic, planning and pragmatism -develops later along with its ability to apply the function of analytical thinking.
So here we come to the crux - children between 0-6 exist in the magic, in right sided-ness, in the being of living. Yet we have a curriculum that demands more left sided-ness, that wants to accelerate this development, that seeks 'output'. And reading Gowman's article, it made me realise that the 3Ms that I developed in my practice and which are the basis for 'Can I Go And Play Now?', whilst not being pure play, are at least a way of assimilating left brain thinking and the demands of the adult world whilst all the time growing children in their sense of self and their light-ness of Being. I can't necessarily change the curriculum but I can change the way I implement it. As a practitioner I can do my utmost to work with child development and not against it.
It's why I've found the concept of 'joy' to be so central to my pedagogy. Increasingly I'm reflecting that any interaction, experience or environment should add to children's sense of self, not erode it. It should be our role as adults to enhance children not take away.
I keep coming back to the idea of 'shape, space and measure', not as in the Numeracy version but as in the balance of 'shape' (how and who children are, their magic, their 7th being-ness), 'space' (the environment and how it enables children to bring themselves into their own learning adventure) and 'measure' (the adult role, our interactions, our 'planning', our teaching, our view of ourselves as co-adventurers, as co-cartographers).
It's a way of thinking about Early Years Education that I believe can help us navigate a path through the System and, in doing so, can offer the possibility of changing it too. If Early Years should have an emphasis on the right brain, then it should be a playground. And what is the purpose of a playground if it's not about risk, imagination, freedom, physicality, exploration, adventuring, collaboration, experimenting and being?
I also think that this idea of 'playground' can't be kept secret. Isn't it our role as Early Years educators to explain to parents about the importance of play, about it's power, about how it is a necessity? Wouldn't it be great if we had a movement of parents who demanded and expected play, who demanded that the system be transformed? Isn't that when change can happen?
So many times I see on social media that school senior leaders won't listen so why not flip it and get amongst our parents, show them that the door to the magic of children exists and that on the other side lies a world of experience that is like no other, that can nurture children and enable them to shape their own learning landscape? So that when parent meetings come around the first thing they want to know is how a school or nursery has added to the shape of their children, how they've opened the door to the world of the right brain, to the magic. Does this have to stay a daydream?
Let's not allow the 'playground' go to rack and ruin. Let's bring it alive instead...
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Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....