LCHC play words meeting notes 4-18-05

From: Robert Lecusay (
Date: Fri Apr 22 2005 - 10:27:27 PDT

Here they are (in the body as well as an attachment). I have also attached
a copy of Kiyotaka Miyazaki's presentation.

(Since it's my first time posting to XMCA, I should introduce myself: I'm
Robert Lecusay, first year grad student here at the LCHC, working with
Beth, Mike, Sonja, Lars, Tiger, Christian, and Kelli on the play worlds
project. Nice to meet you all!)

take care,

Play worlds Meeting at LCHC
April 18, 2004

Kiyotaka Miyazaki Presenting

This was a joint teleconference between the Play worlds group in Finland
(Pentti Hakkarainen) and the LCHC.

After introductions Kiyo began his presentation on the play world project
he ran in a kindergarten in Ibi, Gifu prefecture, Japan. (See the attached
file for the full text of the presentation.)

Briefly, Kiyo described the study site and the general characteristics of
the project. He noted that the Japanese play world differed from the LCHC
play world in the fact that it took place over a comparatively short
period of time (3 days vs. the ongoing weekly interactions) and that it
involved professional artists (actors, musicians, and a playwright). The
play world was based on a character that appears in many traditional
Japanese folktales, Oni the ogre. Over the three day summer play world
session, the children in the kindergarten engaged with teachers and actors
in a variety of activities that centered on the theme of Oni: reading
books, reciting rhymes, playing tag, and drawing pictures. On the final
day of activities the children, teachers, and actors took part in an
elaborate, large-scale pretend play activity involving, among other
things, the “kidnapping” of teachers by Oni, the rescue of the teachers by
the children, and making peace with Oni.

Next Pentti discussed what he saw as the four types of interventions
represented in the different play world projects:
1. Problem-solving adventures in which the problem solving is part of the
development of the story (e.g. Narnia)
2. Play worlds based on classical stories and folktales - Here the problem
solving aspect is not explicit.
3. Play worlds involving the collaboration of professional artists.
4. Dialogical drama approach using puppets (Finland)

Sonja wondered to what degree the Narnia play world was an educational
intervention that, for example, helps promote children’s narrative
development, literacy, or oral language skills vs. a production – creating
an event that changes the quality of children’s experiences, their
experiences of school, of their interactions with their teacher.

She referred to three “genres” that were at work in the play world:
- Theatrical techniques for creating suspense (e.g. lighting, costumes)
- Traditional pedagogical techniques (e.g. small group activities)
- Activities from children’s culture (e.g. drawing, pretend play)

Pentti added that play pedagogy was theory driven, based on Gunilla
Lindqvist’s reading of Vygotsky's ideas about the aesthetics of play, that
aesthetic techniques are a way of inducing emotional reactions in
Mike referred back to Pentti’s four types of interventions noting that one
might distinguish them further in terms of content (problem solving
adventures and folktales), who participates (professional actors), and
purpose (developing narrative skills, inducing aesthetic reactions). Is
there a relationship between the content and the participation structure?
He posed a further question: How do you measure, outline, or characterize
the outcome of what is being done in the play world?

Pentti’s approach is to use structured field notes that include
descriptions of the activity, the participants in the activity, and the
role of these participants among other things. The notes are examined in
order to determine the “kind of sense creation that happens with the
kids.” He added that it is also important to note the children’s
contribution to the development of the play world (what they propose
happens next, the emotions expressed in this decision-making, how the kids
define the problems in the play world).

Nilda (in Finland) (Milda? not sure if I have her name right) spoke about
her work which, compared to the LCHC and Japan play worlds, is more
structured because of its institutional nature. Second-year university
students enrolled in a practicum course (Development and Learning through
Play) visit children (6 weeks – 5 yrs. old) once a week for four hours and
engage in dramatizations and play activities. The dramatizations
(currently puppet shows) last about ten minutes then the rest of the time
is spent engaging with the kids (those who want to participate) in
self-directed play activities. Observations are made of the type of play
the kids engage in after the performances and from these observations the
students and researchers try to understand what ideas were important for
the kids. Nilda mentioned two examples. One of a girl who over time drew a
series of drawing that made up a story. The other of an individualistic
boy who, collaborating with a five year old girl and using all of the
artifacts that had been created by the kids in the classroom during play
related activities, put on a puppet show for everyone (the boy invited
parents!) What was notable about this was the fact that the boy went from
simply engaging in play to cooperatively organizing a dramatization
(including telling the audience how to behave).

Sonja wanted to confirm her interpretation of what Pentti and Nilda were
discussing: the intervention objectives were not necessarily determined in
advance but instead emerged in interaction with the children who each
brought in their own perspectives.

Nilda responded that her goals and expectations were for the kids to be
flexible players, to be able to play with others, to be able to create
narratives in different forms. She then turned to the issue of involving
professional artists in the play world, arguing that they are necessary
because they can create and explain art forms in ways that school teachers

Kiyo returned to Mike’s earlier question about understanding the purpose
of the individual play project. He explained that at the outset of his
project his purpose was to help children construct imaginary worlds to
promote the development of imagination as a cognitive tool. This he hoped
would in turn serve as a resource for the children to draw on in their
everyday school activities. He went on to note the complications of trying
to understand the relationship between the everyday school activities of
the play intervention, noting that teachers, artists, and children have
different goals. He also argued that teachers play an important part in
developing children’s imaginative activities in part because they are
engaged with the every day.

Pentti posed the question: Is imagination mediating between the play
situation and the classroom situation? And went on to say that play or
dramatizations do not necessarily translate directly into everyday

Nilda returned to Kiyo’s point, agreeing that the main objective is to
develop the child’s imagination, adding that it is important to create a
space in which the child feels that he or she can think and do anything (a
space which begins with play). Imagination, after all, is an activity that
is necessary in all the subject areas children encounter in school (e.g.
math, physics).

Kiyo argued that school teachers mediate the resources that the children
gain from play through the everyday school activities.

Sonja asked Beth if she wanted to speak.

Beth began by describing two moments that impressed her from her visit to
the Finish play world site, moments that showed the children’s sense of
ownership of the play space. One moment, witnessing the kids rushing to
take off their coats to begin playing, and another when the kids forced
one of the actors, who was sick and preparing to return home, to put her
costume back on to play. Beth continued with anecdotes from the Narnia
play world. One child who said he hated the story, but only because it
occurred once a week. He wanted it to happen everyday. Another child who
was sick and who had to go home, but who cried her way into staying to try
and participate, but eventually had to leave because she had a fever. Beth
felt that this enthusiasm had something to do with the fact that the
teacher is fully participating in the play activity as well, that there is
space in which the adults and children have a shared sense of space and

Nilda agreed that in the play situation adults begin to feel and think
like the children which in turn may give insight into the child’s learning
process. She also brought up the point that children always have to deal
with the adult world, but in the play situation the adults enter the
child’s world and show their respect for it, there is a recognition that
learning for children begins from their world, not necessarily from the
adult world.

Brian noted the fact that the narratives used in the play worlds contained
many traumatic situations. He asked about the relationship of these
traumatic situations to the intense engagement of the children, and how
this related to the process of choosing the narratives that formed the
basis of these play worlds.

Sonja responded that the children insert their personal narratives into
the main narrative as they begin to interact with the characters of the
story. She highlighted the example of the boy who wanted to have the play
world occur everyday, saying that perhaps this was a manifestation of the
boy’s desire for constancy. The boy lives with his grandmother and is only
occasionally visited by his parents.

The conversation returned to the topic of how to evaluate, measure the
activities in the play world. Pentti acknowledged the difficulty of
evaluating the play world as it centers on the process rather than the
results of learning. The question of evaluation is relative to the aims of
each play world site.

Mike brought up the issue of comparability of, for example, the
pre-k/k/primary school play worlds to work in high schools, like that
being conducted by Yrjo Engestrom. What about teacher evaluations of the
projects? What about examining the children’s representations of the play
world in their drawings?

Pentti ended with a final comment about evaluations of Finish school
children showing that they scored high in cognitive abilities but low in

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