At KOOP's beginning, I remember the passion I felt from watching my own child discover her world through self- directed play opportunities. I was able to uphold this environment for her and couldn't shake the feeling that I wished more kids got to do this. I wanted this opportunity for discovery and creation supported by a caring person for every child in every community.
Starting with my own community of Champaign-Urbana, my team started opening up spaces for children to play freely in small ways at events or in parks and libraries by hosting pop- up adventure playgrounds-- the namesake model of our trainers in playwork, Morgan and Suzanna of Pop-Up Adventure Play. And wow, the response was nearly immediate! KOOP pop-up adventure play events drew people who kept coming again and again to allow their children a safe place to fully be themselves and to commune with people who understood children as whole people.
Believing in play, but unfulfilled by the options and typical ways of working with children in the US, I found myself diving deep into playwork which was new to me, but has a long history in the UK. I fully believed in children and in their right to play freely and adventure play and playwork seemed to answer that in transformative and radical ways. Training was tricky, though and I felt really isolated in central Illinois. I took online courses, read books and articles, scoured websites, sought mentorship and attended conferences, later hosting my own to make info more accessible to people here. Now, I want to be a part of the effort to clear a path to quality training, experience and community for the next round of US playworkers.
(text continues below picture)
Enter: The Playwork Collective, formed by a band of best- practice sites like Adventure Play at the Parish School & Bayou City Play, led by Jill Wood, SCV Adventure Play Foundation led by Erica Larsen- Dockray and Jeremiah Dockray, lead playworker at play:ground NYC, Yoni Kallai and of course, the trainers that helped all of us ground our organizations in playwork theory: Morgan Leichter-Saxby & Suzanna Law of Pop-Up Adventure Play based in the US & UK.
Playwork is an entire field in the UK-- you can get your PhD in playwork! Adventure Playgrounds serve as community centers, offering space for both adults and children, food distribution and space for children and youth in need of a place to just "be." The United States (which has also been noticeably absent as the only country to not adopt the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) has been slower to recognize playwork. Even so, the number of playworkers and those interested in becoming playworkers continues to grow, even while being geographically spread out, often leaving folks to operate in isolation or engage in "guerilla playwork." Our hope is that playwork will remain just as dynamic as ever, but that we can grow the base and hold the heart of playwork theory in this country as more and more people seek intentional play provision for children in the US and are growing more and more tiresome of the burdens plaguing children and keeping them from being able to access play.
Our first public event is today at 2:30pm CST and you can sign up to hear as we describe our efforts in online playworking during a pandemic. It's certainly different than we'd been planning, but playwork is inherently flexible!
You can sign up here and the link will be emailed: