FROM THE OPAL ARCHIVE: 12/2016 – Written by Opal School teacher researcher and pedagogical director Susan Harris MacKay
To learn more or connect with Susan directly, check out the important work she’s currently doing at centerforplayfulinquiry.com
Matt and I have been puzzling over this photo this week. Is this moment of questions posed and children deep into their research and writing representative of playful inquiry? Delight isn’t a quality that immediately jumps to mind. But joy? Perhaps. Play is not the opposite of work. There is joy in work. Especially as the children get older — these children are 9, 10 and 11 years old — though their play looks much like the giggly, imaginative, and rough and tumble of earlier years, my hunch is that their playful inquiry is different. Their materials are often big questions and words and they build ideas, they mess around with ideas, they share ideas, and they read the ideas of others. They are purposeful. Engaged. I have to shoo many of them each day outside to get fresh air and run their bodies around because they are begging me to stay inside and keep working. All 26 of them sustain work for two hour blocks and want to keep going, asking to take the project home to keep working. They are so eager to contribute and construct and so ready to matter.
So what are the characteristics of playful inquiry if it’s possible that it doesn’t always look “playful”? What do you think, Readers? What do we call this kind of deep engagement in purposeful work? Where does this happen for you in your own life? I know that I feel like it’s hard to stop most days in Opal 4. And I can’t wait to come back the next day. Is playful inquiry a condition that ignites passion, purpose and joy? Is playful inquiry a means to support the dispositions towards lifelong learning we want to see in the world?