| December 3, 2013

Wonderplay Reflection

Heather DeGrandis

One of the very first tidbits of wisdom in the welcoming remarks that truly resonated with my early childhood education philosophy is that children are our best teachers.  After adoring all the readings I have done that were written by her over the years, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear Vivian Paley speak, even if only briefly.  My respect for and admiration of her emphasis on the power of storytelling was strengthened seeing her speak from the heart about keeping the spirit of inquiry and wonder alive.  This incredible influence will continue to drive my passion as an educator going forward.

I enjoyed Dr. Stuart Brown’s engaging presentation aptly titled “Play: How it Shapes the Brian, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.”  I found it fascinating to learn what nature tells us about play, and especially how animals and children play together in harmony, despite differences in species and size.  Dr. Brown stated, “Nothing lights up the brain like a full-on play state,” as was evident in his examples of body play, object play, social play, game play, and ritual play.  Play is worldwide and everlasting.  As adults, it allows us to act like children without being overly childish.  The notion that conflict is linked to lack of play and that the deprivation of playful experience has consequences is intriguing.  A huge advocate of play based curriculum myself, this theory made me ponder the many languages of play and in turn, the antithesis of play.

JoAnn Deak’s afternoon session about the differences in brain development in boys and girls was eye opening.  I was able to reflect upon where the best zone of teaching might be in order to reach all students, no matter where they fall on the gender spectrum.  We, as educators, are ‘neuroscultptors’ of children and we have an important responsibility to make interaction meaningful. I am already looking forward to attending the conference again next year!