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.