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To understand play, we need to be playful

To understand play, we need to be playful
All right, let’s do the same as last time. Right, OK. It’s OK. All right, this is not going to be elegant. My shoe.
Oh! You OK? Yeah, good. My name is Richard Phillips. I’m a professor of geography here at Sheffield. And I’m interested in curiosity. I’m interested in play. I’m interested in the ways that we can spend time outside learning and having fun, but learning too. And as you can see, two things, one of them is that I’m up a tree. I’m actually playing in a way. And another is that I’m not a child. And for many people, climbing trees in the park, especially when you don’t really have permission to and playing are things that children do.
But what I want to do in this session of the MOOC is to explore ways in which play’s important for adults too, the ways in which play is important for all of us, and for society. I want to explore the ways in which play is something that often, as adults, we can forget how to do and need to remember. And remembering is something that involves learning and being prompted to play. One person who’s really good at doing that is Daniel, a friend of mine who’s up the tree with me today. And Daniel is from an organisation called Mission Explore, which specialise in just that. They specialise in missions and challenges that prompt people of all ages to play.
Now, can you tell us about that, Daniel? It’s interesting that you started off by saying about how you expect children to be playing up in trees. But actually, a big problem that we face in society today is not nearly enough children are climbing trees. And more children should be falling off branches and breaking their legs. Hopefully, not us. Hopefully, not us. But one of the sad things is not only that children aren’t doing that enough, but as adults we very quickly forget how fun it is to climb a tree and how rewarding games of hide and seek are. Not just for our own learning, but for the benefit of society as well.
See, we create missions and challenges that encourage children to explore, play, and learn outdoors. And a lot of those are about experimentation. So for me, play is definitely about experimenting, like what does something feel like in your mouth, or what does it feel like to be balancing on a branch? It’s about using all the senses, not just looking at them from a distance. Using all your senses. Using all your imagination. And that helps us to learn about the world, but each other as well. Um, OK. So one thing that I think about the value of play– and you’re giving a lot of sense to the value of play.
But one way of exploring the value of play, I think, isn’t to talk about it, but it’s to do it, it’s to play. And for that reason, we want to use the rest of this session to actually involve some students and a dog and play. We’re going to go out and play. And Daniel’s going to give them some missions that will help them to play. Yeah, we’ll see what they make of them as well. See what they make of them. Let’s see how they value them. Yeah. Now can you remind me how I do this? Is it, is it here? Is it– No, you want to go over to the V in those two branches. Oh, those down there?
And you’re going to use your two arms to lower yourself. So the interesting thing about play here is that we have to teach each other a bit how to play. So– ah! That’s the first time I’ve done that for years.

Professor Richard Phillips interviews ‘guerilla geographer’ Daniel Raven-Ellison about playful ways of learning.

Daniel is co-author of the Mission:Explore series of exploration books and manuals.

Richard and Daniel explain that, to understand play, you have to do it, and sometimes remember how to do it. Which explains why they conduct their interview in an unusual location!

While watching this, you are invited to think about the ways in which you ‘play’ in your life and the relevance of this for serious outcomes and interests such as your learning and work.

  • How did you learn to play?
  • What rules do you follow when playing?
  • What is ‘good’ play, and what is not?
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Exploring Play: The Importance of Play in Everyday Life

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