Play: Essential for Learning

One of the most effective ways to nurture creativity is to provide an environment where artists can explore and experiment freely.  My grade 10 students were introduced to reduction printing this week, and we spent a number of classes having fun with styrofoam and fabric ink:


Experimentation is a vital part of the Creative Process; you gain confidence and comfort with the materials you are learning about by playing with them.  You learn what works and what doesn’t.  Your critical thinking skills kick in as you make constant decisions about successes and failures while you plan your next move.

Preliminary #printmaking

A post shared by NipRockArt (@niprockart) on Feb 22, 2017 at 8:17am PST

There were no marks involved in our explorations.

I didn’t have expectations for our prints.  I simply hoped that students would play with the materials and let me know what they thought of the techniques as they played with the styrofoam and ink.  When I provided my demo, I made sure to let them know that it’s ok to mess up — in fact, it’s more than ok.  If the t-shirt looks “ugly” after we’re done with it, great!


It has been so rewarding for me to witness the growth in my class throughout this inquiry into printmaking, and I know that the students have enjoyed collaborating in a stress-free environment.  These thoughts popped into my mind as my colleagues and I discussed our Theories of Action yesterday in a meeting for aspiring leaders in our school board.  We had been feeling quite stressed because it seemed so difficult to develop an effective theory of action based on our new knowledge of the Ontario Leadership Framework.

What I didn’t like about my Theory of Action was having to select one method to connect with others.  It felt inauthentic.  I achieved more success by straying from my original plan and meeting people where they were, and helping them with their needs if they were willing/able to connect.

This is exactly the point of my current TLLP: recognizing individual entry points, goals and methodologies.  The same seems to echo with fellow educators; in fact, unless there is a tool that is relevant for their practice, it is a waste of time (think of the educator’s perspective).  Therefore, why waste someone’s time with my own goal & assumption about what will help them move forward?  It is my responsibility to listen and respond.  

My frustrations with my inability to develop a clear vision are captured in my reflections above, which I’m glad I recorded because they seem to compare to the messy t-shirt prints from my grade 10 class.  Is it possible that messy learning can be a part of leadership too?  As I mentioned, this possibility crossed my mind in yesterday’s meeting thanks to some extremely open conversations about our progress as well as our understanding of the OLF.

When I began to see the development of a Theory of Action through the lens of inquiry, I felt a weight being lifted from my shoulders.  It made more sense to see leadership as a new learning journey and consider these first steps as preliminary sketches (or even messy prints on a t-shirt).  The pressure began to disappear and I am grateful to the facilitators at yesterday’s meeting for providing an environment where exploration was encouraged.  Maybe this is what play looks like for educators?

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What a great group of colleagues in #SGDSB!

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This entry was posted in Art Education, Education Reform, leadership, TLLP and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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