"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, November 11, 2011

The joy of unstructured and unsupervised play

One of the many pieces of wisdom my mother has imparted to me is "children should experience the joy of unsupervised and unstructured play."

I have attempted to raise my own children with this in mind.  For instance, my son and daughter spent almost an entire day in our backyard, when they eventually emerged, I was shown what they had created: a World War I trench, replete with tree branches for camouflage.  One day at the lake, they turned the row boat into the Kon-Tiki, a raft like structure.  They used noodles, kick boards, towels, oars and any other implements they could find nearby.  I didn't witness the process of either of these projects, but I imagine there was plenty of experimentation and the practice of "21st Century Skills" all under the guise of play. They were given the time and space to allow their imaginations to take root.

What does this have to do with my school library?  Yesterday, while we were creating the Picture Book Month and Allen Say reflection Wordles, I noticed a few students begin to play with the projected image on the screen.  My first reaction was to remind them to return to the task at hand, but as I watched them experiment with their papers and the image, my mother's wisdom came floating through the recesses.  I went over to talk with them about what they were noticing and what they were learning.  Then, realizing I should capture this moment, I grabbed my camera.

My question is, "How do I build these experiences into my teaching and if I build them in, are they no longer unstructured and unsupervised?" I feel like there is such a rush to introduce and use concepts, programs and applications that there is no time for play or experimentation, yet it is these experiences where authentic learning and growth can occur.  Can there be "unstructured and unsupervised learning?"  Stay tuned...


  1. Yes, yes, yes! Brilliantly said. Have you read A FINE FINE SCHOOL? This reminds me of that. I love what you allowed the students to do . . . how important to give them the space to explore.

  2. Thank you Sharon! I have read A FINE FINE SCHOOL! MANY MANY Times! I LOVE it and I agree that it is very similar, A FINE FINE SCHOOL captures the joy and importance of learning, both in school and out and traditional and nontraditional types. I read it either before the December break because I think many students identify with the enthusiasm of the principal or near the end of the year because they feel conflicted about the school year coming to a close. It is a FINE FINE book. Thank you for writing it!