The Education Game

Why the act of play and the mindset of playfulness matters.



You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. – Plato

Here are some basic ideas of how we define Play. It’s a start, but far too shallow:

Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
Activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, esp. by children.
verb.  perform – act – toy
noun.  game – performance – drama – sport



There’s something truly interesting about watching play. There’s obviously something magical about being involved in play, but the observing of play has been the most enlightening part of my teaching journey of the past few weeks.

To play is to be creative and relational in so many ways. It’s loaded with problem solving and leadership opportunities.

Play is resourcefulness at work. I have seen kids analyse the tools in front of them, perhaps balloons, balls, rope or bubble, match the resource with the space and the number of participants and organise a game of sorts in under 5 minutes. Free from direction or instruction. I would argue the best work of my learners has come from play, and it has been up to me to take what I have seen and fuse it into inquiry time. It’s been breathtaking if I am honest.

I have watched as one girl shows off her gymnastics prowess in a cartwheel, to the awe of her peers. I have then watched as others attempt the skill, and then over the course of a week or so, not only are the cartwheeling skills of the group significantly more refined, so is the communication skills, and leadership capacity of the starter. In fact, these are skills I dare to say we may have trouble fostering in kids any other way.

I’ve long talked about play as a vital element in our  education mix, as have many of my colleagues. But to see play and playfulness as the central focus of student body has taken my argument to a whole new level.

It is a happy talent to know how to play. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

How can we better harness or express the importance of play?

Summer Howarth

I'm driven by student engagement, by working with people who are invested in a notion that we need to work together to shape an education worth having for all young people. I am on fire with ideas; shaped by the people I've met and work with, the possibility of education and a future of what the teaching profession could be. I am deeply passionate in advocacy for Middle Schooling and young people, directing my energies to causes promoting the efficacy of the teaching profession through strengthening the experiences of learners; influencing students and student teachers. When I am able to personally connect with people from my online Professional Learning Network (PLN) I am further inspired to learn more, think widely and dream up better things for students. Currently working with teachers and stakeholder from across Australia and colleagues at The Innovation Unit on Learning Frontiers. #lovingit. Continue the conversation on Twitter; @EduSum


  1. Why can’t school be fun? Why do we ever stop playing. The children we teach are just that – children. Why do children play? They play because that’s how they learn.

    It’s about time that play becomes institutionalized in education.When I did my graduate work in composition, my prof made me play – I couldn’t create anything worthwhile unless I did it with a sense of joy.

    I think your students are lucky to have you as a teacher.

  2. Thanks so much, Steve.

    Play is just a non-negotiable. Mentally and Physically, out kids need it, like they need air and water!

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