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Two awesome CREFO Presentations!!

Play is the work of childhood: ECE’s colonizing childhood through notions of productive play. Noah Kenneally

Promoted by theorists of child development including Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget, and organizations such as the Bernard van Leer Foundation and UNICEF, play is seen as the primary activity of childhood – as children’s “work” in the world. Early childhood educators often emphasize the developmental value of play – as children’s primary activity, it is commonly seen as a site of learning, problem-solving and adaptation. By doing this, play is always given a “purpose” attached to children’s development and adult-determined goals. However, framing play as a tool used to educate children or to fulfill particular curriculum expectations also has the effect of extending the regulatory reach of adults into the social spaces of childhood and the creative and imaginative lives of children.

In this paper I trace the history of the development of this approach to play, by looking at the historical contexts and predominant ways of understanding childhood and play. I go on to explore the effects of adults imposing purposiveness onto children’s activity, using the lenses of postcolonialism (Canella and Viruru, 2004) and the cultural politics of childhood (James and James, 2004). Finally, I will investigate alternative ways of framing both play and childhood that honour children’s agency and rights, proposing alternative perspectives and potentially decolonizing practices for early childhood educators in their interactions with young children.

Children and creative capacity: denaturalizing conceptions of creativity in schools. Kevin Naimi

In education, creativity is conventionally understood as a natural talent or ‘gift’ of a select few. This treatment of creative capacity, inscribed within a psychological framework, justifies efforts in education to hierarchically classify children in terms of inborn ability and capacity. What this naturalistic view of children’s capacities overlooks is how social advantage and privilege translates into ‘giftedness’ and ‘talent’. As a result, educational efforts to classify students in terms of natural abilities tends to perpetuate and reproduce social, racial and cultural inequalities. Within this perspective, children are positioned as subjects of classificatory power constituted through categories such as ‘gifted’ or ‘at risk.’

In this paper, my intention is to challenge the individualistic and naturalistic conception of creativity by proposing a social, collaborative and participative conception of creative capacity. Central to this conception is that creativity is an essential property of human agency manifested within, and as a result of, practical and situated relations. Rooted in sociological and pragmatist theories of situated agency, this vision of creative capacity positions children as empowered agents within schools (challenging the asymmetrical relationship that exists between children and adults) and points to a broader conception of children’s capacities and a different approach to how creativity can be identified and understood within schools.

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