Martina and the Learning Landscapes (The Adventure of Playing II)
Some of you might know me already, but for those who don’t, my name is Martina. It’s been five months now since I started school, and up until now it’s still as cold and sad as it was the first day. But today I had a feeling something was going to change. Some new teachers had arrived. Miss said they were a special kind of team, something called mul-ti-dis… or something like that. It was a long word, but it meant there were a lot of people doing different things, but all for the same reason. And this time they wanted to work with us! I was really happy. They asked us to draw what we wanted our school and its play areas to be like. The only rule was that there were no limits: we could draw whatever we wanted.
They handed out paper and coloured pencils for us to start. Suddenly I felt nervous for the first time in ages, because there were people interested in how we children play and act with each other, people who wanted to know what we wanted the places where we learn things to be like. And they seemed really serious about it!
A few hours later we’d all finished, and we had to say what we’d drawn. Luis had imagined the playground he wanted as a big cabin, for those days when he felt like talking to his friends instead of playing on the zip lines that connected some of the trees outside. Wow! An adventure park right there at school! I loved that!
Lola had drawn spaces with slides and swings where she could play with her friends. Instead of the grey cement that’s there now, she put in sand pits where we could build things with buckets and spades, and there was a skating area too. Lola loves her pink skates, and I thought it was lovely that she could do the things she likes doing most in the playground she’d invented.
José had drawn what his classroom would look like if he had to design it. It would have a space with a huge worktable for all his classmates, a music area for us to play musical instruments or sing together, and a special place for art: one of the classroom walls was a giant canvas where we could paint with brushes or with our hands. We’d even have proper palettes like real painters!
One by one, my classmates explained their designs, and then it was my turn. I’d drawn a theatre, or something that, for me, was a theatre: a space where every day we could listen to a thousand stories, with a huge tent to shelter us from the rain in winter and the sun in summer; a castle where the princess would fight with the dragon (I always like thinking up stories to act out), and a green space with swings, slides, and flowers, lots of flowers, so that we’d be able to breathe fresh air and be in contact with a little bit of Nature in our day-to-day life.
When we’d all finished talking about our drawings, the teachers were impressed. And they gave us the best news in the world: they told us they’d come to our school to change it, and the changes would now mainly be based on what we’d drawn. We were going to have spaces to play and learn, and they’d let us help design them! Up until now, they’d always made us think that designing was something grown-ups did…
And that was how Martina and her friends, one ordinary day in one ordinary year, came to participate in the process of transforming their school environment. The children had defined a set of true learning landscapes which would become reality within just a few months.