December 20, 2019

Anticipating a playful break

As 2019 comes to an end, we anticipate that many of you will have a break from work. We hope these breaks are restful and playful. And we note that anticipation is one of the important pleasures of play. Looking forward to participating in play and imagining seeing some of our favorite people to play with can be almost as exciting as the reality that follows.

Interestingly, this anticipation seems to take place on a neural level and has important implications for learning. The LEGO Foundation’s Neuroscience and learning through play: a review of the evidence (co-authored by team member Lynneth Solis) notes fMRI studies that find, “the more we anticipate a positive outcome the more the activity of these brain structures enhance our ability to retain information that follows.” The report also notes that even small changes in the environment can inspire anticipation of what is to come, and in doing so prime “the brain to retain information more effectively.” It seems like getting learners into playful mindsets – anticipating that school learning activities will be opportunities for enjoyment and delight – is a good way to enhance learning.  

So what are we looking forward to? As we near the one year anniversary of our blog, we wanted to take this opportunity to (re)introduce the PoP team by sharing something each of us is anticipating during our winter break.

Katie Ertel
As I anticipate the upcoming winter break, it is playful to think of having time for many of the things I find get lost in the daily shuffle of life: a look at the winter tide pools by the ocean, planning for and experimenting with new recipes for dinner, cleaning a closet. And of course, more snow please! We’ve been lucky to have three snowfalls already this season, though I know many who are not happy about this. Of course, what’s playful to one is not always playful to another…
Siyuan Fan (HGSE student researcher)
It is playful enough just to think about this coming winter break since it is my first break here in Boston and there are so many places I would like to explore in the city. The museums are on my list: The Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science, Boston Children's Museum, etc. In the meantime, I can't wait to spend the week after Christmas with my friends in Florida, during which we will have fun in Disney and the Universal Studios. Although it is not easy to deal with everything when you first come into a city in a foreign country, the team of Pop USA definitely brings joy and warmth to me as I enjoy the last semester and anticipate for 2020.
Mara Krechevsky
I’m looking forward to going to New York City to see plays and musicals with my daughter, playing games in houses with friends, and reading a book of fiction (if I’m lucky).
Samantha Levangie (HGSE student researcher)
This break, I will be spending a lot of time with my family. I'm looking forward to spending time with my young cousins (there are eight under the age of seven!) and playing games during the holidays. After the new year, I'll be taking my first overseas trip to London by myself. Exploring new cities is always a playful experience for me. I love learning more about history and art by visiting museums, and it's always fun to walk the streets in an unfamiliar place and imagine what life might look like if I lived there. 
Ben Mardell
I am looking forward to sharing PoP ideas with 800 educators inBeijing on the 23rd (yes, work can feel playful), and then visiting my son Sam in Boulder, Colorado.  Sam and I will certainly go ons ome hikes. We both find being out in the snow—something they have a lot of in Colorado right now--very playful.
Jen Ryan (photo courtesy of Tom Fisher)
The first few days of break will be spent working our way through the final rounds of college applications with our son (anxiety and anticipation for sure...though maybe not so playful). And then we’ll pack up – me, my husband, our 10 and 17 year olds, and a station wagon full of winter gear – for a ski trip with my brother and his family. Looking forward to cold, fresh days outside (though unlike the picture, this time a chairlift will bring me up the mountain) followed by evenings of tea, books, dogs, and chats by the fire.
Lynneth Solis
I'm looking forward to playdates with my nieces (a one-year-old and a four-year-old). I'm spending part of December and January in my hometown of El Centro, CA, and I'm planning on visiting my sister and her daughters every day. We already have a long list of activities planned: visits to the park to ride bikes and run around; pretend ballet performances to the tunes of The Nutcracker; building structures with their favorite magnetic wooden blocks; reading new books in Spanish and English; and much more. I can't wait!

Anticipating a productive, challenging, and hopefully more peaceful 2020, we will be back with a new post in early January. Happy holidays, however you celebrate!