Hello Playful Learning Lab team, alumni, and collaborators!
At noon (CT) on January 20, I found myself sitting in my car in a parking lot sobbing. While many in this country were listening to the inauguration speech, I had been sitting with friends and colleagues in a funeral for an amazing educator. One of the pre-school teachers that taught both of my daughters, and who dedicated her life to children and learning, passed away this week. Sitting in my car after the funeral I turned on NPR, and listened to the coverage of the inauguration. At that particular moment in US history, I felt incredibly fortunate to have spent the previous hour celebrating someone who showed countless children the power of kindness and play.
Our lab is called the "Playful Learning Lab" for a reason. While some may think of play as frivolous, we know how powerful it truly is. Now, at a time when we are seeing many expressing fear and concern about many aspects of the future, I want to spend a bit of time sharing with you why I care about the work we do. Now is a time that we all need to think hard about the work we do and how to do it best. In the past few days I've seen so many things that I had been assured "would never happen" happen- and I want to remind all of us that actions are important. Especially when we work in education settings. All of you are role models to the children you work with. Every chance we get to work with kids is a chance to empower them and show them that they all have the potential to help create the world they want to live in. I am so, so proud of you all, and grateful for the chance to work with you.
Play is for everyone, and necessary for everyone.
Meaningful learning experiences are something that every child, regardless of their background and their differences, deserves.
In lab discussions, we talk a lot about our work in relation to the US PK-12 public school system and US higher education. I don't know what either of those systems are going to look like in the future, but my commitment to the importance of education for all only grows stronger by the day. I want to reiterate that diversity has, and will continue to be, a huge part of our work.
I am grateful for our partners of all religious backgrounds, including our amazing Muslim friends and colleagues. Some of my proudest moments in the lab have come from watching you all develop new and innovative ways to bring playful learning to children who might often be overlooked in STEAM programs, due to disabilities, background or other reasons. I cherish the diversity we have here in MN thanks to being a state that has a long history of welcoming immigrants.
At that funeral on January 20, I got to reflect on the environment that amazing teacher had created. Children of different backgrounds, nationalities, and beliefs ate together, played together, and worked together. The lessons taught to four year olds are some of the most important lessons that we ever learn. And, through play, children learn how to interact with the world around them.
PLL members and friends: I urge all of you to reach out to me with your ideas on how our work this year (and every year) can be even more impactful in our wonderful Minnesota community, our country and our world. At the lab's core is my hope that through play and education we can help to work towards a world where all are valued.