Tuesday, 18 October 2016

New Beginnings in Adventurous Play: LA

By Pop-Ups Andy

After an epic 12 year playwork journey from an un-sure 17 year old volunteer, through the stages of front-line playworker, playwork graduate and Children’s Centre Manager in the UK, I have landed here, starting a new adventure with the fine people of Pop-Up Adventure Play - Suzanna and Morgan.
I have been involved with Pop-Ups for several years as a director after graduating from Leeds Beckett University with Suzanna in 2012. In my role, I supported the team on a number of projects, although mainly the 2014 US Tour and the 2015 World Tour! It was an absolute pleasure to be welcomed into this tardis of an organisation - I’m only two weeks in, but what an amazing whirlwind adventure it has been so far!

I landed in Los Angeles to join up with Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play a group which was established on a familiar narrative to-which most playworkers can relate - by accident! The founders were reading anecdotes of adventure play during a train journey, before having the ‘lightbulb’ moment and realising their inner calling. SCVAP advocate free-play for children and adults both through pop-up adventure playgrounds which they deliver to groups, schools and organisations around LA County but also through the establishment of their fixed space, Eureka Villa.

SCVAP are in the running to be awarded $100,000 through the LA2050 Challenge – an initiative to ‘Make LA the Best Place to Play’ – the grant will enable SCVAP to take their Pop-Up Playground programme into communities throughout LA County, for a whole year, for free! This will also mean securing necessary funds to get Eureka Villa to a stage where it can officially open to the public as an adventure playground, the first permanent adventure playground in Los Angeles.

This project is of great importance to the USA, to the international Playwork community, to Pop-Up Adventure Play, to SCVAP but the most important recipient of this amazing project is the children, young people and their families who will benefit from this project both directly and indirectly. For me, this is such an amazing position to be in, at such a crucial time. Being able to be part of this project, in the thick of it, to campaign for it, to get my hands dirty and be a part of its journey, is truly tremendous! We know that by allowing children access to rich-play opportunities such as this space, it will support them to develop socially, emotionally and physically through unrestricted interaction with both themselves and others, in a space that encourages freedom and choice.

This is a huge deal - Voting takes place from 18th October (today!) until 25th October (next Tuesday) - every vote counts

I’m pleased to be starting with Pop-Up Adventure Play as they team up with SCVAP to host the first playwork-focused conference in the USA. The camping conference will bring international experts and play advocates together in an arena designed to share experiences, encourage debate and provide opportunity for some self-reflection. The conference will be held over four days with practical skills-based workshops and conversation in the form of a Playwork Campference. The Campference will include keynote presentations from Prof. Fraser Brown, author of leading Playwork publications - Foundations of Playwork; Playwork: Theory and Practice, A screening of The Land documentary, incorporating an exclusive Q&A Panel consisting of Erin Davis, film director of The Land, Luke Sutton, former Playworker from The Land supported by Prof. Fraser Brown and Morgan Leichter-Saxby - A line-up not to be missed!

The Campference takes place between 16th to 19th February 2017. Places are filling-up fast so if you'd like more information or to book your place contact suzanna@popupadventureplay.org right now!

It’s really great to officially be part of the Pop-Up team. More soon!

To vote for SCVAP, click here. To register for the Campference, click here. To find out more about Eureka Villa, click here. To follow more of the adventures of Pop-Up Adventure Play, check out our Facebook and our website.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

"Supporting the Play Comes First" - Guest Writer

By Louise Wark

When we met Louise in Singapore on our World Tour, we were a little humbled to be meeting such a wonderfully connected and passionate advocate who was looking to us for advice. Louise has been working towards a more playful life a long time now and we are delighted that she has taken some time out from her own blog Days of Play to guest write for us. Thanks Louise, you are awesome!

I was recently asked to speak at an event for preschool teachers here in Singapore. As I usually do before an event like this, I researched for days. I fell down the rabbit-holes of the internet, chasing ideas and trying to find ways to neatly package up big concepts about numeracy and play.

The entire experience made me incredibly contemplative. It has been more than twelve months since I left the classroom, after all.

I left classroom teaching because I had no play in my life, and was wanting more. While I loved what I did, there was very little playfulness in the way I approached any aspect of life. I was also beginning to see that this wasn’t just me - even the children in my care, and, most importantly, my own son, were having play squeezed into increasingly-smaller pockets of their days. Play was on the periphery, and I was ready to make it centre-stage.

Pop-Up Adventure Play came into my view after being mentioned at a play conference that I had managed to attend in school holiday time. On my laptop that was never shut down, I had their blog consistently open in a tab. It was there to remind me, in the wee hours of student report writing and lesson planning, of an idea that wouldn’t shake loose.

So when I finished full-time teaching, I took a deep breath and emailed. Suzanna’s response back was warm and encouraging and made me do a little happy-dance - they would be in Singapore soon on their World Tour, and maybe I would like to help?

The excitement I felt at being part of Pop-Up Adventure Play’s visit to Singapore was hard to match. Helping to source materials for numerous pop-up adventure playgrounds, having the opportunity to discuss play with educators and other stakeholders here in Singapore, seeing child-led play in action and adults reactions to this, was a huge privilege. It moved my ideas about play from intuitive, abstract feelings to concrete ideas that I could use actual words to describe.

Since that time, I have started my own blog about self-directed play here in Singapore, writing about my experiences as a parent ensuring that my son’s time in child-led play, especially in the outdoors, is protected. That his rights as a child, to play, are front and foremost in his childhood.

But this has not been the only change since Pop-Up Adventure Play’s World Tour. Spending time with Suzanna and Morgan in November 2015, and Suzanna again in June 2016 on her subsequent visit to Singapore, has helped me realise just how important play is in all of our lives. That the way we adults respond to events, environments and circumstances can be playful, too! Time away from the classroom, focusing on play, has shown me that conversations are playful opportunities to throw ideas around, not just to determine action and tick things off a to-do list. That the world is there for us to interact with, not just to learn about.

When it finally came time to put together my own Pop-Up Adventure Playground here in Singapore, I felt ready. Having seen Suzanna and Morgan run these events had made me realise that they are truly a celebration of play - and how can you ever script how play is going to go? It was not about me, or the materials I could find, or the things I wanted to see happen. The event was solely to give children a chance to lead their own play. My best preparation was to be playful.

I couldn’t have imagined a more blissful time at our first pop-up adventure playground. The environment offered itself to the children, who took up every playful opportunity. Hills were rolled down, precious creations were made and torn down, alliances were formed and abandoned, spaces were protected and invitations made. The adults were amazed, most reporting how much they loved being with other families whose agendas were the same as theirs - to give their children time for play their own way.

Once the last box had been flattened and the last fluttering ribbon returned to the car, I turned, rather exhausted from the tropical midday heat, to my husband. He was buzzing, his eyes bright and his head full of stories of play. “I get it now,” he said. “I just saw everything you have been talking about for the past year come alive in a few hours.” His exhilaration at seeing something so precious, yet so simple, was infectious.

Because seeing children at play shows you how capable they are, and how they are not “learning” how to be human; they already are. That our children have the right to play, and by polluting their play with terms like ‘learning through play’, or placing our own perceptions of the world and what play should be, takes that away from them.

Which makes Pop-Up Adventure Play’s work all the more important. It’s easy to fall into talking about the benefits of play, and the reasons that it is important for children, and the great things that happen for children who play. And they do. But what these incredible playworkers have taught me, especially through the Playworker Development Course, is that supporting the play comes first. That to see the benefits, to see the great things that happen in play, we first have to provide time, space and permission for play.

To become an independent organiser and host your own pop-up adventure playground, register here. To learn more about more about Pop-Up Adventure Play, check out our website www.popupadventureplay.org

Friday, 7 October 2016

Introducing... Pop-Ups Andy

By Zan

It is with great joy that we'd like to introduce you all to a new member of Team Pop-Up Adventure Play: Andy Hinchcliffe!

Here he is with Morgan when we were in Costa Rica. As usual, I am taking the photo so I'm not in this wonderful pic.

Andy has been Pop-Up Adventure Play's longest serving board member who has traveled to a number of locations with Morgan and myself to experience our extensive reach first hand, and do a little playwork. After getting a taste for adventure, Andy took the plunge, stepped off the board and into our team. As an amazing playworker with a passion for play advocacy within the community, he is an ideal person to be joining Morgan and myself as we continue to support children's play all over the world. He lands in California today to hang out with Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play for a while. 

We're so excited to have Andy as part of the team and look forward to many exciting and playful adventures ahead!

For more from us, check out our Facebook, Twitter, and our website www.popupadventureplay.org

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Campference 2017: Making Connections

By Morgan

On my first playwork assignment, I was lucky to join an existing team that worked together well. We'd make eye contact frequently during the session, and pull one another aside during slow moments to observe together and swap little funny anecdotes. We'd check in on one another, asking with an eyebrow for assistance with rough and tumble or coverage for a bathroom run. Playworkers in all settings are told not to work solo - but what does that mean for international advocates?

We don’t want anyone to feel alone in this work. Both Suzanna and I have been staff in isolation before and we know that it is hard for us to advocate for play properly when feeling alone and unsupported.  A big part of our work is helping people to connect online but sometimes, especially when visiting on tour, we get to hear about it face-to-face.

One classroom assistant working in a school of play-skeptics, told us that “when I’m having a rough day, I’ll stand in the broom closet and scroll through your Facebook feed, just not to feel so alone”. We’re always trying to build upon existing relationships as well, to knit people together.

That’s why we’re so excited this year, to be doing something new and rather amazing.

This February 16-19th, we’ll be welcoming playworkers and advocates from around the world to celebrate the birth of a new adventure playground.

People can stay in either tents or nearby houses, but we’re still calling it a Campference. Register here and, who knows, you might be only 5 months away from an arm full of playworker friendship bracelets!

Wanna come and hang out? Register today and take advantage of a lower rate!

More information on the Campference can be found here, and the Facebook event can be found here. To read more about our day to day thoughts on play, come check out our Facebook page. If you'd like to find out more about, just check out www.popupadventureplay.org.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

PRESS RELEASE: Registration Open for Upcoming One of a Kind Playwork Campference February 1619, 2017 in Val Verde, CA


Val Verde, CA - February 16-19, 2017 - UK based Pop-up Adventure Play is teaming up with Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play to host a first time Playwork Campference in Val Verde, CA February 16-19th 2017.  

The Campference will headline Professor Fraser Brown, Head of Playwork at Leeds Beckett University’s School of Health & Community Studies, Erin Davis, Director of the documentary “The Land”, and Jill Wood, founder of “AP” adventure playground in Houston, TX.  Campference programming will also include a variety of hands on workshops, keynote Q&As, a screening of “The Land”, discussions and activities surrounding playwork theory and practice with National and International playworkers, and more.  Early bird registration ends 10/2/2016, overall registration ends 1/16/2017. Participants also have the option to camp on site at the Eureka Villa Adventure Playground slated to be the seventh in the US.   

Playwork involves in depth knowledge of play psychology, play “cues”, and risk benefit assessment. Playworkers traditionally work on Adventure Playgrounds where they make sure the children stay safe but do not inhibit the play in any way. However, playwork concepts may be applied to a variety of instances whether working with kids or adults in formal (i.e. educational or structured) or informal private, public or domestic settings. Adventure Playgrounds have been commonplace throughout Europe since World War II and are seeing a resurgence in the US.  The new wave of adventure play has been covered by various news sources including the New York Times, Atlas Obscura and The Atlantic.   The playwork campference will facilitate an international conversation between diverse individuals ranging from decades and degrees in playwork to those brand new to it.  “I’m very excited about coming and meeting all the people who will be at the Campference. … It’s going to be an opportunity to do stimulating work to get the whole idea of playwork going.. to give it a base level to work out from” said Professor Brown.  Regarding the state of play in America, he believes, “it’s very timely right now... things are beginning to develop. Right now I have three American based students doing post-graduate work with us.” Professor Brown has written numerous books on the benefits of playwork including his experiences doing therapeutic playwork with children in orphanages in Romania and Transylvania.  

Erica Larsen-Dockray, co-founder of Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play remarks about the Campference, “We could not be more delighted to host such a unique and necessary event here in Southern California.  Playwork concepts reaffirm two very important elements which I feel are lacking in the US.  One is kids being allowed more self-directed time in their days and second is adults supporting and trusting kids to take risks and practice independence.  Culturally we have forgotten how to let kids just play on their own terms as well as embrace play in our adult lives.”

Suzanna Law, Co-Founder of Pop-up Adventure Play and current Leeds Playwork Phd candidate says, “This is something of momentous occasion for me because we have been working so hard at Pop-up Adventure play to bring playwork ideas to people across the US and hopefully better play opportunities for children as a consequence. A child has a right to play, but in order to play they also need to feel safe and in an environment where they are supported.  They have a right to believe and to direct everything that is in their own lives and in the US this may be taken for granted and we need to know now in order to support play we need to support the whole child.”

Pop-up Adventure play was founded in 2010 by Suzanna Law and Morgan Leichter-Saxby and aims to help make a children’s right to play a reality in every neighborhood by disseminating playwork principles to a range of audiences.  Operating primarily in the US and UK, they provide long-distance and in-person support to play advocates in seventeen countries and recently completed a world lecture tour.  

Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play was founded by Jeremiah Dockray and Erica Larsen-Dockray in 2014 after Jeremiah began the playwork course.  While working on a course assignment he came across an abandoned 2 acre park which is now the developing home of Eureka Villa Adventure Playground.  It will be the only adventure playground in Los Angeles County.  


Aside from the park’s development, they have held numerous pop-up adventure playgrounds all over Los Angeles County for private and public events.  For more information on them please visit www.scvadventureplay.com

Anyone interested in attending or registering can visit the Campference information page at:  https://popupadventureplaygrounds.wordpress.com/playwork-campference-2017/

Early bird registration ending on 10/2/2016 is $375 for campers and $300 for non-campers.  Regular registration ending on 1/16/2017 is $475 for campers and $400 for non-campers.  Camping rates include meals, snacks, and basic camping equipment if needed.  Financial aid may be available on a first come basis.  

Morgan Leichter-Saxby, Co-Founder Pop-Up Adventure Play

Jeremiah Dockray, Co-Owner Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play

Check out the whole press release here.