Nurturing a Culture of Play [with Jess Amato and Yolanta Krawiecki]

The ‘Nurturing a Culture of Play’ workshop on March 21, 2023 centred around the work of Platform to Play, an organization that has worked with K-6 educators across 30 Ottawa schools on cultivating playful learning, as well as the perspective of one of the school districts involved. Jess Amato, the founder of Platform to Play, along with Yolanta Krawiecki, an elementary educational consultant with the OCSB, led discussions about what it really means to nurture a culture of play in a system or school board, and what that looks like in actual schools.  

The main focus was on the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) for which Yolanta is an education consultant. She first pointed out that the OCSB has already been using the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL) framework as a guide for over 10 years, i.e. focusing on the “6 C’s:” collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, citizenship, character and communication, so connecting with Platform to Play was a logical next step. From a board of 67 elementary schools, 16 are already involved with playful learning via Platform to Play, and the interest keeps growing!  

Yolanta and Jess then outlined the most important things to address in getting educators and school on board: professional learning and development, personalization, subcommittees/play ambassadors, and time/funding,  

Professional learning: in creating PD meetings and workshops regarding playful learning, Yolanta and her team took as much feedback from educators as possible on what they wanted to walk away from the sessions with, and structured the meetings toward those requests.  

Personalization: Initially they started out as one big group then broke into small groups based on interest and what they wanted to get from play (behavioral assistance, enhanced engagement, increased academic focus, etc.). This also enhanced networking and connection between different teachers at different schools with similar interests. Yolanta is also starting to find other experts she can bring in with knowledge about what a specific teacher is focusing on.  

Subcommittees/play ambassadors: board personal and learning partners (e.g. an ECE consultant) that are in the schools more and can lead meetings for small groups within a school. Learning ambassadors are also people within the schools, usually teachers, to whom other interested parties can go for advice on how to get colleagues on board, how to bring the idea of playful learning to their principal, etc., people who can lead the culture of play in their school.  

Time/funding: Teachers don’t have time for anything extra, and while many have made the time and openly volunteered, Yolanta and Jess have orchestrated what they call “Lunch and Learns.” Instead of providing lunch on a regular network day where they could pull teachers out of the classroom, they can fund the teachers’ lunches at their own schools and bring Jess to come talk to the teachers during their lunch hour! 

About Jess Amato

Jess Amato, a nationally certified recreational therapist and community developer, is the founder of Platform to Play, with a mission to create awareness, autonomy, and explicit opportunity for play for all. Jess provides professional learning and development and program development to schools domestically and internationally. Through the philosophy of recreational therapy, Platform to Play fosters inclusion and guides individuals and communities in achieving their highest potential.

About Yolanta Krawiecki

Yolanta Krawiecki is an elementary teacher with the Ottawa Catholic School Board, currently supporting teachers as a K-6 Educational Consultant. Yolanta focuses on supporting teachers with the Science & Technology curriculum, along with Environmental and Outdoor Education. She is passionate about fostering curiousity, tinkering with technology (e.g., robotics), social emotional learning, project-based learning and learning outdoors. The Ottawa Catholic School Board is a Deep Learning district (NPDL) therefore Yolanta is always looking for innovative ways to deepen student’s learning through the global competencies.