Category Archives: Sir Ken Robinson

Reeling through the Years II – Somewhere over the Rainbow

Thanks to PlayGroundology’s 500+ subscribers and readers from over 140 countries, the blog has clocked nearly 600,000 page views since January 2010. I had no idea at the outset how it would all play out. It’s a great ongoing adventure and journey of discovery.

This hobby, morphed into an unpaid vocation of sorts, has opened so many doors. I meet play ambassadors from around the world and hear from readers on how they are inspired by specific posts. Most of these encounters take place online but it’s been a real treat to meet some folks in person in Glasgow, Toronto, San Diego and right here at home in Halifax.

There are just so many inspiring stories about play and kids. There is also a lot of important advocacy work to be done to ensure all kids have an opportunity to play. As PlayGroundology gears up for its ninth year, we’ll be sharing some of our milestone stories with you throughout the month of January. I hope you enjoy this second installment.

Kids at Play – flickr Photo Gallery – July 29, 2011

Flickr is a great source of visuals for play. This is one of the earlier flickr galleries I put together. There have been over 2,000 views but I think the quality of the photos of kids from around the world playing is very evocative and well worth a look. Let me know what you think if you click on through.

All told I’ve curated 35 galleries. Among them is Swedish Aesthetic which was picked up and promoted by the flickr blog. There is really nothing quite as marvellous as a fine shot of a kid at play.

The Playground Paradise Principle – Malmö, Sweden – February 6, 2012

It’s not everyday that you’re going to see a rainbow slide. Truly they should be de rigueur wherever small kids gather. This Swedish city has embraced the value of play and has become a bit of a destination for families from other parts of the continent. The municipal government even offers study tours of their play spaces that also includes pitches for the locally invented puckelball.

Paradise might be a bit of a stretch but Malmö, Sweden is quite simply playgroundalicious. It’s the kind of place that would inspire Mary Poppins to gather her young charges around her and umbrella them off to adventure – up through the atmosphere/ up where the air is clear/ let’s all/ go to Malmö.

So if anyone ever has spare airline tickets to Malmö don’t forget to give me call. Copenhagen would be fine too, I’d just take a drive across the Oresund bridge…

Sir Ken of TEDalot on Play and Learning – May 6, 2012

British education reformer Sir Ken Robinson’s TedTalks have racked up millions of views. He is a great storyteller who is passionate about his subject matter and audience. I was lucky enough to see him in person at an event in Halifax several years back and used it as an opportunity to reach out and ask about play.

There are three key terms when we come to think about play. The first is imagination, the second is creativity and the third is innovation.

Sir Ken warmed to the play topic and waxed on for about 5 minutes which you can read about here.

The Unbearable Lightness of Swinging – June 28, 2012

When was the last time you had a swing? It’s been too long for me. I really must remedy that.

There’s something cosmic about swinging, a certain je ne sais quoi. Swings are all grace and simplicity as they trace their airy arcs. In downward sweeps there is the tickling acceleration of free fall. Then as the pendulum tracks the outer bounds of its trajectory, the weighty hand of gravity pulls down.

A couple of more installments coming your way over the coming weeks.

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PlayGroundology’s on Cloud Nine

PlayGroundology has just wrapped its third year of blogging about the world of play and playgrounds. Following are nine posts that readers found popular. If you didn’t see them first time around, I hope you’ll take a moment to sample two, or three. If you like them, share with others – play never has a best before date. Happy playing and thanks for reading PlayGroundology!

Sculpted in France – Concrete Art Playgrounds

Photo credit: J. Bruchet. Source: Architectures de cartes postales. Designer: Pierre Székely. Cité des Jeux – L’Haÿ-les-Roses, France

I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for France so I’m always on the lookout for interesting play stories from that part of the world. Our family lived there in the early 70s. I was 12 when we arrived and 15 when we left. It was my gawky early adolescent phase which I like to think I’ve outgrown. (more…)

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Just Play

J

Just Play

play play
whether it’s alone or with friends
within four walls or under a great canvas of sky
just play

there are not enough hours
in a heartful life
to miss kaleidoscoping fun (more…)

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The Playground Paradise Principle

Paradise might be a bit of a stretch but Malmö, Sweden is quite simply playgroundalicious. It’s the kind of place that would inspire Mary Poppins to gather her young charges around her and umbrella them off to adventure – up through the atmosphere/ up where the air is clear/ let’s all/ go to Malmö. (more…)

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London’s Somerford Grove Adventure Playground Makes The New York Times Magazine

Source: Haringey Play Association. Click image to enlarge

There are four stunning, brilliant images in the March 1 edition of the The New York Times Magazine offering glimpses of children at the Somerford Grove Adventure Playground in London, England. (more…)

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A Journey of Epic Proportions

How do you spice up your morning commute to work and at the same time make it more meaningful? Look no further than my friend Chris Gregory for an answer. Chris is a champion for play at the Isle of Man’s leading children’s charity The Children’s Centre. To raise awareness for outdoor play and safe and playful routes for children, he is taking a different means of self propelled transport every workday for the month of March. His epic journey started out with a 3 kilometer spacehopper commute. Do I hear sore thighs? (more…) Note, Chris is in training for his second run at March 2 Work.

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Imagining a Better Future – Playtime in Africa

Source: Mmofra Foundation. Click image to enlarge

Two acres of green space in the Dzorwulu neighbourhood of Accra, Ghana are being primed for transformation. It’s all about the kids, or Mmofra as they are called in Ghana’s Akan language.

This story, about a small plot of land, spans decades, continents and generations. It’s the story of a woman’s vision, of her love for children. The seeds were sown 50 years ago when the late Efua Sutherland wrote her groundbreaking book on Ghana’s play culture, Playtime in Africa. The narrative and accompanying photographs by Willis E. Bell were the first real documentation of children’s play in the newly independent African nation. (more…)

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Sir Ken of TEDalot on Play and Learning

Earlier this spring, Sir Ken (Robinson) shared his views on education with an appreciative audience in Halifax, Nova Scotia – home of PlayGroundology. I was one of the 1,000 in attendance who enjoyed an accomplished and entertaining critic of conventional wisdom about education and creativity. No props, no notes, plenty of humourous asides and always an à propos anecdote. (more…)

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Have You Heard What They’re Saying About RISK? Listen Then Share

Generally speaking, parents want their kids to experience the fullness of the world – the quiet beauty, the dizzying adventure, the discovery of self and others. As much as possible we want to keep hurt and injury at bay but they too are part of the mix with cuts, scrapes and breaks both corporeal and psychological. So how do we go about assessing risk? How do we ensure that our kids aren’t enclosed in a cocoon of safety?

I saw this video a couple of nights ago and thought I would play a small role in helping to spread the word. Right now it’s at 373 views. After you’ve watched it, please share with your friends and your broader network.

Thanks to the Alliance for Childhood and KaBOOM! for producing this piece.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Swinging

There’s something cosmic about swinging, a certain je ne sais quoi. When I saw Teena Marie Fancey’s Baby Boy at The Craig Gallery on Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s waterfront a couple of years ago, I knew I had found a great opening image for a paean to swings. Thanks Teena. (more…)

Sir Ken of TEDalot on Play and Learning

Earlier this spring, Sir Ken (Robinson) shared his views on education with an appreciative audience in Halifax, Nova Scotia – home of PlayGroundology. I was one of the 1,000 in attendance who enjoyed an accomplished and entertaining critic of conventional wisdom about education and creativity. No props, no notes, plenty of humourous asides and always an à propos anecdote.

Source: RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms

Now that I’ve seen and heard him in the flesh, I feel I can get away with just Sir Ken. I’m sure there are tens of millions who have seen his TEDTalks via YouTube who feel this at a remove intimacy the same way I do. The afternoon in question, I managed to get myself in the front row no more than 5 metres from Sir Ken. It was a piece of dumb luck happenstance that occurred because I arrived late and those who had the reserved front row arrived even later or not at all.

At the conclusion of the 90 minute story that held the crowd rapt, there was time for a couple of questions. I piped up and got first at bats for myself and the readers of PlayGroundology with this one I had been eager to ask:

How important is the role of play in learning?

For the next five minutes or so, Sir Ken spoke to a question that he had likely heard and certainly considered previously. What follows is the minimally edited response. Thanks Sir Ken, may millions more be inspired by your experience and informed by your passion.

Source: TEDTalks via YouTube.

It’s fundamental. I talk a lot as you know about creativity. I didn’t want to get into all that again today particularly because of the nature of this conference. There are three key terms when we come to think about play. The first is imagination, the second is creativity and the third is innovation.

Imagination, I believe, is what fundamentally sets us apart from the rest of life on earth – very little does truthfully. I think we overplay the differences between ourselves and everything else. Our life is short and organic like everything else. We come into groovy buildings like this and persuade ourselves we’re different but we’re not. But we are in this respect. Human beings have powerful imaginations. By imagination I mean the ability to bring into mind things that aren’t present to our senses.

So with imagination you can revisit the past, you can enter into other peoples’ consciousness empathetically – you can imagine what it would be like to be them – and you can anticipate the future. It’s what it is for everything that counts as distinctively human. It’s not a single power, it’s a mix of all different powers that come together and we call it such. But the thing is you can be imaginative all day long and never do anything.

To be creative you have to do something. Creativity is very practical. I think of it as applied imagination, putting your imagination to work.

There are lots of misconceptions about that and we can talk about that. My point is that the power to imagine and the impulse to create, to make things is the birthright of humanity. It’s why we are as we are. It’s why we don’t just live in buildings we’ve made, we inhabit conceptual structures that we’ve evolved.

We’ve evolved differently, we see the world from different perspectives and points of view because our experience of the world isn’t just direct it’s mediated through the ideas and values we frame and share with other people as a culture. To me it’s the most fundamental part of our way of being in the world.

Play for young people is actually essential. It’s a way in which they literally flex their muscles.


It amazes me how quickly and how often we forget that we are embodied, that we see the world the way do because we live in these bodies. If we were all 18′ tall with eyes at the sides of our head it would look very different to us. Dogs hear different frequencies and birds smell things we don’t smell. We see the world as it is because we’re built the way we are. We are embodied, we’re not just brains on a stick.

Our children go to school in their bodies. Play is one of the ways they flex them, explore them, understand them, connect to other people. We also live in virtual worlds that are the result of our imaginations. They need the ability to exercise that too. You see you can’t get to all the things we value – creativity in business, in work, in social systems, in the arts and the sciences if your imagination has atrophied.

It’s the same, the exact analogy for me with athletics. The Olympics are happening this year. If you want to take part in the Olympics then you better practice. There’s no point in saying I want to take part in the 100 metres and I won’t do anything in the meantime – I’ll just show up. I have high hopes. Well good luck with that. If you’re going to be an athlete, you have to exercise your body. If you want to be creative you have to exercise your mind, your consciousness, your spirit. It’s fundamental to me.

Play, there’s different ways of defining it but broadly speaking play is an end in itself. It’s not directed to a larger purpose.

I don’t want a system of playing schools where you get 15 minutes to do it then we test for a score. You just play because it’s interesting, enjoyable and pleasurable. You do it for that reason and no other reason. And it’s no coincidence that we go on to talk about playing sports, playing instruments because at the heart of it there’s this possibility of creative fulfillment that lies at the centre. I see it is a fundamental. It strikes me as a disaster that we’re excluding it from kindergartens, from elementary school and from high schools and colleges too.

For some reason we’ve forgotten our own humanity and we’ve come to assume that play is some kind of disposable, part time leisure activity that we can do without so we can be more serious.

I quote in the book a guy called Richard Feynman who won the Nobel Prize, a physicist. He’s a brilliant man and also a great jazz bongo player. He got the Nobel Prize for work he did in particle physics.

Photo credit – Tom Harvey.

He started he said when he was sitting in Cornell University in the dining hall and a student fell over with a plateful of food. The thing just went up in the air. And Richard Feynman his eye was attracted by the plate, it was spinning and wobbling. The Cornell logo was on it and he said he watched it going round. He said he got fascinated by it.

Interesting of course, he didn’t rush to help the student. He thought, no, this is an interesting piece of physics right here now. He started to think about the laws of motion that were affecting the wobble in the plate. He jotted down some equations on his napkin and then went on about his business.

A few days later he found this napkin and it reminded him and he started playing with it. He said it reminded him that it connected to things he was working on in particle physics. He said that over the next few weeks all these equations started to rush out of him like champagne out of a bottle. He said, ‘but all I was doing was playing with it for the fun of it’. But he said it led to the equation that went on to be the basis of him winning the Nobel Prize.

Very often our greatest achievements come from our most playful activities.

There is more here – Sir Ken’s page, TED search results, Animation – Changing Education Paradigms.