What is the CPSN?

The Canadian Playful Schools Network is headed by University of Ottawa researchers. They are dedicated to connecting and supporting schools and educators across Canada that have designed innovative programs and activities to encourage student learning through play in the middle years.

Why the middle years (grades 4-8)?

Early childhood education programs across Canada are often child-centred and play based, but by the time children are 9 or 10 years old, play in classrooms tends to be given less priority, and is assigned to activities at recess, after school, or on special excursions and field trips, rather than being included in the regular curriculum.

Canadian policies and systems of schooling do not always help educators decide when play is the best or most appropriate approach, how to integrate play into learning activities through the middle years, how and when to use play in relation to serious topics such as racism or bullying, or how to capture evidence of meaningful learning through play and then report on this evidence.

COVID-19 took a terrible toll on many young people’s learning and well-being, and evidence suggests that some children have been disproportionately impacted. Children and teens living with the stresses of financial hardship, those who live with systemic inequalities and oppressions based on their race/ethnicity or gender identity, those with additional health and/or special needs, those with limited access to digital resources, and those with complex mental health needs in their families have been seriously affected. So, we are exploring the transformative power of play among students whose lives became even harder because of the pandemic.

Participating educators in the CPSN will be expected to be advocates of their own and each other’s approaches to play, yet also self-critical about the limits and risks of play in schools and society. Not all forms of playful or joyful learning lead to improved achievement. We must advance the things we love and value in play and other areas of life, but also be realistically self-critical about their limitations and risks.

The CPSN objectives

The CPSN will:

  1. connect educators with others across the country who are also working to infuse play in their students’ lives at school – virtually and in person;
  2. amplify and champion members’ work;
  3. provide professional learning and development, as well as coaching, for every school team according to their identified priorities and needs.
  4. stimulate educators to challenge their own and each other’s innovations in playful learning in order to deepen and strengthen them.

The first of its kind in the world, the CPSN will become a national network of schools, systems and colleagues leveraging play as an essential mechanism for health, wellbeing and learning in their school communities. Together, the network will construct new understandings of what culturally and linguistically sustaining play looks like for Canadian students, and change the way play is infused in the daily experience of schooling in grades 4 to 8.

Land Acknowledgement

The Canadian Playful Schools Network (CPSN) is built on, and will grow across the traditional territories of many Nations.

The people leading the development of the CPSN live and work on the traditional unceded territories of the Algonquin Peoples. We pay respect to the Algonquin peoples, who are the traditional guardians of this land. We pay respect to all Indigenous peoples from all nations across Canada who call Ottawa home. We acknowledge their traditional knowledge keepers, both young and old, and honour their courageous leaders – past, present and future.