Welcome to the latest addition to the Boing blog! My name is Ben, and I’m our Lead Coach Developer here at Boing. I lead a lot of our bespoke work with our fantastic partners, as well as support the building of our resources.
As we continue our journey into the world of play, physical activity, and all things movement, we thought best to share some of our journeys up to this point. I have the privilege of being first up!
As a (relatively) decent footballer, sport was central to my identity growing up, and subsequently formed a huge part of my career so far. In essence, you could say that I have massively benefitted personally and professionally from my relationship with sport over the years.
However, a key aspect of the work of our team here at Boing is to be as introspective and reflective as we can be! Acknowledging how physical activity and sport benefits some, but not all. Our mission has always been to change that! Rolling back to 2015, Boing took their first few steps into trying to change the world of movement for young people. Initially, Boing was a delivery focused initiative, utilising students from Oxford Brookes University to deliver PlayGames from our PlayTank within a group of schools in Oxfordshire. This also happened to be the start of my involvement with Boing, working on the ground delivering games in schools.
Our goal at this point was to try and show what Physical Education could look like. That we could move away from more traditional models of movement, by embracing the messy and chaotic world of play. Of course, this did not come without its struggles. A key learning outcome for the Boing team was how to find the balance between child/learner autonomy and freedom, with purposeful and intentional learning outcomes. If you have jumped on a virtual course before, you may have heard us use the metaphor of how we are trying to support a learner ‘jump on the spinning carousel’. If the carousel is spinning too fast, our learners can’t access the game. Spinning too slowly and it’s too easy to jump on. Finding the right speed to stretch our learners, but giving them some success is where the magic happens!
So how do we control the spinning carousel? The tool I’m going to focus on here is becoming the Play Maker! The Play Maker is the architect of the learning space, responding to the needs of the learners in that setting. We want to challenge the role of the practitioner in the learning space to be more active, more dynamic, and more responsive. The practitioner as Play Maker becomes an active ingredient in the Play Game. Let’s take our Play Game ‘Escape the Zoo’. Escape the Zoo involves the group of learners moving around the space to collect their food, and return it to their nest. They must negotiate the space whilst moving like their favourite animal and avoiding the zookeepers (Check the game out on the link above). Once we have our Play Game set up, the Play Maker comes alive!
1. We could challenge the whole group by changing the context, switching between night and day, or dry and wet land. By noticing that the game needs to speed up, or slow down, we can make this change to the learning space. By changing the context of the game, we also allow our learners to access their imagination and take ownership of their learning experience.
2. We may also find a learner who is having higher amounts of success. As the Play Maker we could shape their experience by challenging them to move like an animal with a certain number of points of contact with the floor (i.e moving from 2, to 3 or 4). By challenging how they engage with the problems set, we can help them explore new and different ways of how their body relates to the space it is in.
3. We could also give each individual learner greater ownership and autonomy in the learning space. By providing a range of different equipment in the learning space, and assigning different food items based on the colour or shape of the equipment, learners will have to move more purposefully to ensure the animal they choose is getting the food that they choose.
4. If our learners are not having much success then we could manipulate how the zoo keepers engage with the game. We could change how the zoo keepers must tag the animals to return them to the zoo by asking them to tag with two points of contact, or give the zoo keepers a ball that they must tag the animals with. We could also provide the zoo keeperswith a movement problem, constraining them to only hop around the learning space, or provide them with throw down discs/cones which they must use to stand on as they move around the learning space.
The Play Makers job in this respect is key. Our job is to help learners explore, exploit, and execute different ways of solving problems with their bodies. The notion of embodiment, resonates with our understanding of physical literacy. We want to place learners in contexts that require them to negotiate a set of problems. By doing so, they’ll start to explore how their body relates to the world in different ways and in different spaces. We are not concerned with ever reaching the peak of the Physical Literacy mountain, rather, we are focused around ensuring every learner has an opportunity to understand how their body relates to the world, and give them confidence to continue on that journey throughout the life course. Our job is to help them on their way with change its, challenges and play ups.
We have absolutely loved exploring this with some of our partners recently during our full day face-to-face workshops. Recently we teamed up with our friends at Loughborough Schools Foundation, supporting their team across their different school sights spice up their teaching toolbox with some of our Boing principles. Focusing on being active in the learning space, we experienced a few games from the Boing PlayTank, and then spent some time exploring their own games, whilst thinking about how to keep the game constantly regenerating, keep the problems dynamic, and how to support learners on different learning trajectories.
I’m going to wrap up this brief post with an invitation for all those interested in exploring play as an incredible tool to change the nature of physical activity. Our Boing PlayTank is free to access, and we love seeing our friends and partners using our games within their worlds. So, as we approach the beautiful summer months, get out and play!! Pick 3 games from our PlayTank and go and explore them. We would love to hear your feedback on how they went, but most importantly we want to hear how much you enjoyed embracing play! If this isn’t enough for you, then book a course with us! We run virtual courses, as well as face to face courses where we explore all of our resources and PlayGames, as well as the underpinning principles of Boing.
Over the next few months, we will hear from some of our other Boingers on the team and start exploring more of the key concepts that underpin our work!
Yours in Play!