Tonight I’m wondering about how art educators can incorporate play into art curriculum. Hopefully this will be the focus of my research for the next several months.
Wondering 1: How do art educators define playful art making?
Wondering 2: How might art educators balance structure and spontaneity to facilitate constructive, playful learning experiences?
Wondering 3: Do we use the same parts of the brain when we build sandcastles and blanket forts that we use when we make art?
Wondering 4: What are the benefits and limitations of using backward design to incorporate play into art curriculum?
Wondering 5: What are the strengths and weaknesses of teaching methods that heavily incorporate student play and direction? (Montessori, Teaching Artistic Behavior, Reggio Emilia, etc.)
These questions matter to me because I deeply value the things that I have learned while playing. Though I am proud of my book smarts, I genuinely treasure the things that I discovered on my own and the memories of making those discoveries. Once a week, in elementary school, I attended a gifted program that was both highly structured AND playful, and I want to learn how to recreate that environment. Some of my best learning experiences there include planting an herb garden, designing and sewing my own clothes, building and programming robots, and delving into chemistry to put on a magic show. I created lasting memories that became a part of my identity and understanding of the world. I want to be able to offer the same to my students by infusing curriculum with opportunities for playful experiments. (If there’s anyone else out there that attended the Academic Resource Center in Tallahassee, FL, I would love to reminisce with you about those magical days!)
I recognize that “play” is a feel-good buzzword in our field, but I want to get into the nitty-gritty of its meaning and use as a learning tool. I want to establish a working definition of play and identify how it begins, what its evidence looks like, and how it may inform my and my students’ art making processes and products. In addition to reviewing the contemporary literature, engaging in playful activities on my own and observing students at play will be necessary for gathering information. Interviewing teachers who observe children at play may also be helpful for understanding the role of play in the long-term development of student work.
If I publish this study, I believe it would be of interest to most educators, but I would want to ensure that it appeals to adult artists just as much as it would appeal to those who teach children.
Here are some of my brainstorming notes: