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Below you can read the program of the Athens Play Conference. It is subject to changes and is not yet finished. New items will appear as time goes by, so stay tuned!

 

1st International Athens Conference "Play on Early Education"

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Day 1:                       Thursday April 11, 2019
 
Morning Session:    Creativity in Play
 
"Play is what I do when everybody else stops telling me what to do" is a nice definition of play, a child once said to Teacher Tom. Play actually is the very unique way a child has to discover the world. It should not involve adults' direction, certain tasks' assignment or strictly designed procedures. On the contrary, it has to be freely chosen by children, spontaneous and pop-up. Are those things really possible when we bring play into the educational context? Is it true that always "school kills creativity"? Or there is a way to avoid it?
 
In this first conference session, Suzanne Axelsson and presenters coming from 4 different countries will try to investigate how we can maintain the free & spontaneous characteristics of children play, while we connect it to the adults' world.
 
Duration:                  9.45 am- 1.45 pm
 
8.00 – 09.45:   Registration
 
9.45 – 10.15:   Welcome note, opening of the conference
 
10.15 - 11.15:  Keynote speech
 
“Original Learning: Play on Education, Education in Play.”

"Imagine the curriculum as a loom, the structure that you use to give your weave support. The weave is the evolving child, each child using threads of experience and knowledge, that they discover themselves and also learn from others. Play is like the warp, it is essential to weave learning, experiences, and facts. The higher the warp density the more complex the weave.

Play, in this sense, is what allows a child to learn on a deeper and more complex level and this analogy will be further explored in the talk to break down the hierarchy of the words play and learning in order to see both as essential threads each person needs to create the fabric of their life.”
 
11.15 - 11.35:   Break
 
11.35 - 13.15:   Presentations         
 
“Um Do Li Ta, a Play approach from the Public Schools of the Municipality of Torres Verda”
 
"Embracing the Magic of Childhood: Play vs the Adult World”

Maria Karalekas (Canada)
"Investigating the Significance of Loose Parts on Children’s Creativity”
 
"A nuanced Understanding of Adult Intervention in Children Play"
 
13.15 - 13.45: Q & A session

13.45 - 16.00: Lunch break
 
 
Afternoon Session:   How Play teaches Life
 
"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself". This famous John Dewey's quote lives in the core of any play-based learning school. Children play because this is the way they discover the world; and by playing into real world conditions they master life, educate themselves and become free & independent citizens from very early.
 
Tom Hobson, the world's famous "Teacher Tom", will drive the process by sharing his long teaching experience in Seattle & further qualified teachers will add valuable feedback. Suzanne Axelsson will chair this truly international session, which will bring up play stories from at least 4 different Continents!
 
16.00 - 17.00:  Keynote speech
 
Tom Hobson ("Teacher Tom", USA)
“Educating Citizens Through Play”
 
Tom speaks about how children’s play brings the habits and principles of democracy into ‘early years’ classrooms. He will begin by discussing the purpose of education in democratic societies and how and why we have managed to veer so far from the original intent, which is to educate citizens capable of contributing to the grand experiment of self governance. In this full-throated support for play-based education, he details through his illustrative classroom stories and examples exactly how his curriculum works.
 
Participants will learn the benefits of introducing these playful principles to their own students, the hallmarks of what makes a good citizen both in a classroom as well as a democracy, the traits and habits required for self-governance, and practical tips on how to implement these ideas in their own classrooms. It is an inspiring, often touching, often hilarious, and always eye-opening and empowering presentation.
 
17.00 - 17.20:   Break
 
17.20 - 19.00:   Presentations         
 
“Spontaneity and Nature Play in Urban Environment”
 
Hatice Sapmaz (Turkey)
“A Teacher’s view on Children’s Play”
 
Carrie Rose (Australia)
“Developing Democratic setups through Play”

Gloria Romlin (Sweden & Mexico)
“Project, Play & the Curriculum”
 
19.00 - 19.30: Q & A session

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Day 2:                       Friday April 12, 2019
 
Morning Session:    Evolving Play Spaces
                             
An effort to understand how a play space may develop by following children' needs & environment's special aspects, rather than the architects' desires. Is it always possible? We will also discuss urban vs natural play spaces. The session wil be chaired and coordinated by Yiorgis Yerolymbos.
 
Duration:                  10.00 am- 1.45 pm
 
 
10.00 - 11.00:  Keynote speech
 
“The Best Kindergarten You Have Ever Seen”
 
At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Let’s meet the world's cutest kindergarten designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In his charming talk, he will walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids.                       
 
11.00 - 11.20:   Break
 
11.20 - 12.45:   Presentations & Discussion      
 
Lydia Manitsidou & Panagiota Kamberou (Greece)
“Learning through Playing with Space about Space & about Play”
Let’s use space to play, let’s play with space. Let’s introduce space factors and be
more conscious about it. Preschool children would thrive in space design. Let's get them involved while we develop their own playgrounds!
They are open-minded, they have genuine uncontrolled fantasy, they can think out of
the box, they are sensitive enough to take care of sentimental parameters.
 
"Grounds of Play for Athens"
The PXATHENS project based upon the recording and assessment of existing playgrounds in the City of Athens, formulates a strategy for their redesign and reconstruction. The envisioned PXATHENS’ spaces for play while offering the ‘in-situ’ joy of the discovery of nature, confirmation of physical skills, observation and exploration, social coexistence in an autonomous, familiar, safe environment, achieve, through their interconnection, the definition of a physical and digital network of play,to which everyone, -young and old- have unlimited access.
 
“The Best Day Ever: Forest Days in Vermont”
The 16 minutes film will take outside into the forest classrooms of two Vermont
schools where students are rediscovering joy and wonder through the experience of
playing in nature. The film presents an intimate view of the hands-on
learning happening outdoors; the thoughts of teachers, administrators, and parents
about the value of this approach; and the changing environments of public school
kindergarten.
 
12.45 - 13.45: Panel Discussion
 
"Getting play spaces that do not direct play".
Yiorgis Yerolymbos will coordinate a panel discussion with Takaharu & presenters on how a play space based on observing children' non-directed, freely chosen play may evolve, either in an urban or a natural setup.
 
13.45 - 16.00: Lunch break

 
 
Afternoon Session:   Play as a Powerful Tool in Educational contexts
 
"You can not get play into a school. School is structured & framed, while play is not". This is a phrase often heard by pure play people. On the other hand, everyone agrees that play is a powerful learning tool. We do not play to learn - but we learn a lot while playing.
 
In this stunning session chaired by Tom Hobson, Dr. Peter Gray will explain what play is and will reveal its' educational value. Then, a number of presenters from all over the world will share with their stories based on different play approaches.
 
Duration:                    4 pm- 7.30 pm
 
 
16.00 - 17.00:  Keynote speech
 
“What Exactly is Play, and Why Is It Such a Powerful Vehicle for Learning?”
 
Play is a word that we use commonly to refer to children's preferred activities and to some adult activities.  But what, really, is play?  In this talk I will define play as activity that is (1) self-chosen and self-directed; (2) motivated by means more than ends; (3) guided by mental rules; (4) includes a strong element of imagination; and (5) is conducted in an alert, active, but relatively non-stressed frame of mind. I will describe these characteristics and show how each of them contributes to play’s educational and developmental value.  I will explain why play came about, in natural selection, to promote children’s healthy physical, intellectual, social, moral, and emotional growth and will describe the psychological detriments that have accompanied the decline of play in recent decades.
 
 
17.00 - 17.20:   Break
 
17.20 - 19.00:   Presentations         
 
Karen Orteza (China & USA)
“Anji Play: how Adult’s Involvement can lead to Play that results in Teachers’ and Students’ being co-constructors of Knowledge.”
 
“The Froebelian Approach on Play: Play feeds on real experience….”
 
Aspasia Skoufidi (Greece)
“How Loose Parts in the Early Childhood Classroom help children Discover the World”
 
Marta Smith (Portugal)
"Self-Directed Learning in Pre-K: children in Charge of their Own Play"
 
19.00 - 19.30: Q & A session
 
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Day 3:                       Saturday April 13, 2019
 
All-day Session:       Getting Play (keynote, presentations & workshops)
We talk about play being freely chosen. In this session, Meynell will talk a lot about what play truly is and rest of the presenters will argue on how it fits the learning process. They all are going to be challenging and provocative. They are going to try to shatter some myths and probably pose more questions than give answers. They will then try to respond to questions! The conference will end with a number of hands-on workshops, aiming to engage participants into innovative forms of freely chosen play.
 
Duration:                  9.45 am- 6.00 pm
 
 
10.00 - 11.00:  Keynote speech
 
“There is no such thing as Free Play!”
 
When talking about play I often hear people using the phrase 'free play' as if supposing that there is such a thing as structured play. There is either ‘play’ or ‘not play’ and to conflate play itself with other concepts such as ‘risky’, ‘nature’, ‘outdoor’ has the potential to be giving out the wrong messages about what play is, how it is experienced by children and the potential of play being hijacked by adults for their own purposes.
 
11.00 - 11.20:   Break
 
11.20 - 12.35:   Presentations         
 
Ross Williams (Australia)
“Is play-based learning leaving children’s learning a chance?”
 
“Promoting Outdoor Play and Learning in Preschool: The Moving and Learning Outside Erasmus+ Project”
 
John Yiannoudis & Dorothy Snot team (Greece)
“Life-Derived Learning: playing in the real world”

12.35 - 13.00:   Q & A session
 
13.00 - 14.30:   Lunch break
 
14.30 - 18.00:   Workshops
 
Workshops aim to provide participants with hands-on experience on how non-directed play can be introduced into children life. We try to include in this session innovative approaches & activities that will help us adults enhance our out-of-the-box thinking, when it comes to children's play.
 
Each workshop has its own requirements and maximum number of participants which will be eventually announced. Some of them may overlap, while some others may be held twice during the afternoon. Stay tuned for the details.
 
 
"Playing in Nature"
Over the past decade there has been a growing international interest in nature settings for children. Why is this? How do children benefit from playing outdoors? What extra opportunities for learning and development does nature offer to children? What should pedagogues take into consideration if they are to create these opportunities? In this workshop we will play, we will share experiences and we solve problems in an attempt to get some answers to these questions.
 
Ilias Karantoniou (Life-derived Learning & Bosch)
“DIY with power tools in kindergarten”
Engaging children into DIY play on a free will basis, greatly enhances their creative thinking & problem solving attitude. Hardly they play afterwards with the item produced, since they have enjoyed most playing during the construction!
“Light & shadows”
How do we learn through playing with light and shadows? How do we make the experience meaningful and relevant? A workshop to find answers to these and other questions...
“Ringworld as an interactive and adventurous play space”
The aim of Ringworld is to provide an environment in which all children can play. We understand that play is something that children do, that they are in control of, that they make the choices about what they do, when they do it, and how they do it. Children’s play is not controlled or led by adults.

Ndioba Ngom, Jenny Diamantopoulou & Stavroula Gaoutsi (Life-derived learning)
“Feel the Rhythm: playing the Djembe in Early Education”
 
"Mindfulness"
What is Mindfulness? Why is it a useful tool for  educators? What is the benefit and outcome by being Mindful for the children themselves?
 
(more to come)
 
18.00 - 19.00:   Closing Party
 
 
 

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