Play as physical understanding

After reading Adrienne Sansom’s article yesterday, I returned to Parker-Rees…

Rod Parker-Rees writes: “As we grow up we also grow down; the growth and organization of our root systems informs and is informed by the air and light of conscious, communicated thought and our branching understanding of common meanings informs and is informed by the earth and water of immediate personal experience. Play, like metaphor and analogy, enables us to imbue cool, smooth, explicit concepts with the warm, dirty, immediacy of implicit connotations: ‘a good analogy is not only understood; it is also felt’ (Holyoak and Thagard, 1995, p.78).
The disembedding, abstracting processes which inform our experience enable us to decontextualize our thinking, to free it from the shackles of the here-and-now, but we also recontextualize our ideas (Richards and Light, 1986, p.185) in the branching structures which we share with others and which enable us to communicate. Articulated ideas are ‘composed of distinct parts which may move independently of each other’ (Claxton 1997, p.43); ideas which have been dismembered in the process of abstraction can be re-membered in different ways in the stories we tell ourselves and others (ibid.). Organizing or informing experience also enables us to transform it, to take things apart and reassemble them; connecting our roots to the branches of shared structures:

The capacity for transformation, for the imaginative and often bizarre refashioning of everyday experience, was originally the child’s unerring, ineluctable talent for making something of his own from whatever he finds (the given is inert until it becomes the made). (Phillips, 1998, p.6)” (Parker-Rees, p.65)

Children play with sand, water, dough and construction kits, forming and transforming materials and exploring their possibilities, but they can also transform the more abstract, cultural properties of objects, playing with what things are meant to mean. When a child uses a leaf to represent a plate in her play she can observe similarities and differences between her direct perception of the leaf and remembered information about plates, becoming more aware of physical properties such as flatness, smoothness, hardness and rigidity. She may also, if only implicitly, inform her understanding of the metaphorical, transformational nature of representation.” (p.66)

Ref: (italics in original, emphases in blue bold mine) Parker-Rees, R (1999) Protecting playfulness. In L Abott & H Moylett (Eds.) Early Education transformed (pp.61-72) London: Falmer Press.

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About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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