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Imaginative Play & Eating Dirt


What’s my history of play?


I am eternally grateful to have grown up in a small town, on my grandparents modest farm. This shaped the exploration of my natural environment amidst cattle and crops and gave me a deep appreciation of nature. My grandfather was a veterinarian. He was known as “Doc” around town for his commitment to the ranching community and their livestock. It didn’t matter what hour of the night he was called, he would put on his coveralls and hit the road to perform a cesarean birth in order to save a cow and her calf. Often times, he would take me along for the adventure of restoring health in animals.

Needless to say, I was an extreme tomboy exploring the various ranches, which carried over into my play at home. I relentlessly road my banana bike around the neighborhood gathering friends along the way. We owned the neighborhood and one-by-one would scurry home as our parents beckoned us after a long day of play. This form of play really allowed me to spread my wings and learn through what attracted my attention. There’s a lot to be learned from eating dirt, whether it’s by riding down a dirthill on your face, actually eating a mud pie, or catapulting off a trampoline and landing who knows where. This was my social, extrovert play.

I also had quite a bit of alone time indoors because my single mother made my sister and I stay inside when she couldn’t be home. My sister, Amy was a decade older than me, so true to form, she treated me as if I had the plague. It may seem like this might have been a lonely thing, but my imagination flourished in my alone time. I would create elaborate fantasies in my mind. Often times I would make Barbie the most elaborate house that included our dining room table only to grow bored after the architecture was complete. Then I would move on to turning all the books on the shelves into my own library system. I would put library cards in each book and check them out to imaginary patrons. I also created restaurants with fantastic menus, forcing my sister to pick something that I would then pretend to prepare. This is was my form of inside play throughout elementary school.

In middle school the original Nintendo was all the rage. I spent a great deal of time playing Super Mario Brothers tempered with outdoor play. I never owned a game system, so that kept me from overplaying any particular game. As I grew older and entered high school, play grew into participating in sports. Running was something I excelled at. All my friends were athletes and it certainly kept me out of trouble. I must also say that Coach Murphy shaped me, mentored me, and largely impacted the trajectory of my life. I loved running and let it be the single determining factor in which college to attend. Not being good enough for a scholarship at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado, I walked onto the team. From that point on, I learned that following what I enjoyed and loved was an excellent compass.

What do I want to get out of the Games and Play course?

Play has evolved for me over time. In the beginning it was all joy based. Then it moved into a place of gratification and achieving my goals. Following what interested me has made my life very interesting and most certainly what James Paul Gee would call  a “shape shifting portfolio person” (2004, p. 4). I studied biology for my bachelors of science simply because I loved it. I also got to create and perform magic shows, build my own business, and reinvent myself as an educator from experience alone. My current play phase is that of creativity and service. There has been a huge amount of play in my elearning courses at CU Denver. Once again, I see play guiding my direction in life. I see huge potential in online learning and am excited to be a part of the movement.

From our Games and Learning course, I want to learn how to execute game elements effectively in online classes. With the games industry expecting to grow 22% by 2020 (Takahasi, 2016) I see more and more learners expecting game components in courses. I feel these practices at work in Remi’s classes and even though his classes are demanding, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment upon completion. As I embark on my third class in a row with Remi, I can securely say that I am a fan of his game like instructional techniques and want to imitate and embellish upon them.


4 thoughts on “Imaginative Play & Eating Dirt”

  1. I love your discussion of learning from nature, as well as the different examples of ‘eating dirt.’ Trying new things is such a great way of both learning and playing…the two can really be quite inseparable sometimes!

  2. First – love the picture. I completely agree. I think alone time (sometimes without technology – bite my tongue) is helpful for children. This is the time when they are creating all of those amazing neuron pathways that will help them as they continue to progress through life.

    1. Agreed Vail! It is such a delicate balance of finding a way to let children truly play with nature and what is real in the world, while nurturing a healthy relationship with the interwebs. To eating dirt!

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