The creative mind plays with the objects it loves. Artists play with color and space. Musicians play with sound and silence. Gods play with the universe. Children play with everything they can get their hands on.
It’s summertime in Portland, Oregon: lush and green landscape, cobalt-blue skies, temperature in the mid-seventies. A perfect day to take our second-grade grandtwins, Molly and Jacob, to the Audubon Society of Portland’s 150-acre Nature Sanctuary. The big draw was Hazel, a northern spotted owl who has been rescued and cared for by the Wildlife Care Center. Jacob and Molly are big fans of Harry Potter, but they have never had the chance to see a real owl close-up, and a visit to the sanctuary, nestled against Forest Park just five minutes from downtown Portland, seemed to be the perfect summer day trip.
I also wanted to point out old-growth Douglas fir stands, salmonberry, and stinging nettle; and look (and listen) for Steller’s jays, mourning doves, and Pacific giant salamanders. I had my Audubon books in my backpack and a kind of mental lesson plan in my head.
As we walked through the woods, the paths offered lots of options. Molly charged ahead, exuberant. Laughing and breathless, she reached one fork in our path and shouted, “Follow me! I have no idea where I’m going!”
Her joy and enthusiasm were infectious, and we did follow her lead. When we caught up with her, she narrated a detailed story as we walked under tree canopies and ducked under vines and through patches of lush fern. We were on the grounds of Hogwarts, peopled with Harry and Hermione, Ron and Ginny Weasley, Hagrid, and Hooch. Sometimes the beams of sunlight fit into the narrative as candles in the dining hall, but mostly we were outside—though our setting was England rather than the Northwest.
Molly’s exuberance was a perfect example of the wonderful anthropological term for play: “galumphing.” Galumphing is that rambunctious and joyful—sometimes excessive—play-energy: “When we hop instead of walk, when we take the scenic route instead of the efficient one, when we voluntarily create obstacles in our path and then enjoy overcoming them, we are galumphing,” Stephen Nachmanovitch writes.
Play is how children learn to learn. They solve problems, reason, create stories, and with that, create new possibilities for learning. When children imagine themselves making dinner, flying an airplane, or visiting Hogwarts, they try out different language patterns than the ones they might normally use, and even invent new ones in the midst of their play. That day in the forest, my “lesson plan” was abandoned. I learned instead from Molly and the power of her play.
This week we look at celebrations and other tasks for closing out the year. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Ruth Shagoury is a professor emeritus at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. She blogs with her daughter Meghan Rose about children’s books at www.litforkids.com.
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Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan find that a little effort at the end of the school year pays big dividends when launching workshops in the fall:
Here are suggestions from Lead Literacy contributors for closing the year strong:
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Ruth Ayres gives a step-by-step process for closing out the school year with a meaningful writing celebration that welcomes the entire community:
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills begin a few days before the start of break to help students develop summer reading goals and plans:
Melanie Meehan shares a series of thoughtful questions to help students reflect on their process as writers, and what they need as they move into the summer and new classrooms:
Gretchen Schroeder uses the format of the Amazing Race television show to help her high school students master materials for final exams and get moving throughout the school for a fun break:
“About the Author” blurbs are a great way to bring closure to writing in workshops and help students document how they have changed as writers. In this “Listen In” encore video, Heather Rader helps Myia construct her “About the Author” page:
That’s all for this week!