Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Not So Special Day

Our final day of school last week was nothing special or, rather, it was as special as every other day.

We came here as we have since September, and for many of the children this represented their second or even third time of circling the sun together while playing here at Woodland Park. One might think that by now we would have exhausted the possibilities, but even last week, even on our last day, even after years, we found new things to do, things that no one has ever done before.

Of course, sometimes we revert to the old themes or games or activities and they might appear to be the same to an outsider, but from the inside there is always something new to see, smell, taste, hear or feel, something new to explore, some new failure to experience, a lesson or two that has not yet been learned, or else we wouldn't be doing it at all because that's the way play works.

Sometimes it's so incredibly nuanced, this newness, that it strikes the rest of us almost as rote or as if a child or group of children is stuck, but children engaged in play, especially outdoors, with other children, plenty of time, and without the constant interference or instruction of adults are never bored.

And so it was on our last day as the same old wooden blocks and the same old collection of mis-matched plastic animals became a massive animal hospital, a place where we built, sorted, collected, argued, agreed, and joked, while telling our story of animals that needed help and others that helped them.

We set sail one more time in our little row boat that sits in our sand pit sea, imagining destinations we'd only heard about or perhaps even invented amongst ourselves.

We fished off the bow for our supper, while telling our stories of adventure and survival.

We re-discovered an old collapsable cart that started the school year as a container for adults to use to transport snack and cleaning supplies, but has since been replaced, and as most old things do it has become another part of our playground. What if we tried it on the track that was built for the wagons? Would it race down the hill? 

Could we make it happen if we worked together? We struggled and wrestled and scooted and talked, sharing our idea, trying it, then trying the next one, while telling our story of engineering, teamwork, and a dream for daredevil speed.

We positioned a plank across a space over which no one had ever positioned a plank before, cautiously using it to bridge the gap from here to there, not really even talking about it because what we were doing was really about some sort of housekeeping game taking place on the top of the playhouse.

But time and again we found excuses to balance across the bridge, while telling our story about collecting supplies and otherwise preparing for some danger or journey or encounter with the wild things that lay ahead.

We started our day by saying it was our last one, then forgot about it. In every corner and nook of this not so special day we continued the only education there is: telling our stories together.

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