Youth Ambassador Jordy Angel Coldwell shares her recent experience attending the True Play Conference in Anji, Zhejiang, China. Read to find out her discoveries and newfound perspective!
I have been in search of the best educational practices in the world for a while now, even getting a job at a Montessori and Reggio Emilia school to acquaint myself with some of the most renowned schooling systems. The word I, and many others, had become obsessed with, was “innovative”, and it became my passion to innovate the educational system. However, when I traveled to China to attend the 1st True Play Conference in Anji, Zhejiang, China, on May 12th, 2019, hoping to better understand what I thought to be the “most innovative” early child education program in the world, Anji Play, I had quite an interesting revelation. The biggest conclusion I made during my trip was that Anji Play isn’t innovative. Play is nothing new to humanity, and if you didn’t get it from the title, that’s what Anji Play is all about!
Anji Play´s motto is giving children back their right to play. The children spend their school days playing with open-ended projects based on real life objects that are moldable and natural that allow them to explore their creativity, imagination and childhood, which helps them develop their true play. The teachers have learned to be quiet and carefully observe the children making themselves researchers of play rather than being there to impart knowledge. Throughout the day, the children are given opportunities to reflect on their play and discuss it. Daily, children draw or represent in their own made up characters the story of their play and then their teacher writes the exact words of the child's explanation on the same piece of paper. At some point during the day, the teacher's guide a group discussion of the play that happened that day. While teachers are observing, they are required to keep a record of the play happening through photographs and videos allowing a deeper understanding of how the children are playing and use these artifacts during group discussions.
Anji Play is a truly spectacular program that has been recognized worldwide, while spreading to every corner from Tanzania to Budapest. The question I heard the most during the True Play Conference was, ”How does Anji Play prepare children for the rigorous and standardized elementary education in China?” The answer was:
It is a program that is starting a revolution in early childhood education by realizing the importance of play and taking it to its maximum potential through open-ended materials, trusted teachers and plenty of space for expression and reflection. It is innovative not in the fact that it is play, but in the way we think of play. Some of the skills identified that the 21st century students of the internet age will need are: critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, flexibility, leadership, initiative, productivity and social skills all of which the students of Anji Play develop through their true play and extensive reflection program.
HundrED Youth Ambassadors are an active community of students from around the world who are passionate about education’s potential and want to be a part of its change together.