Editor’s Letter: Play

By Nancy Walkup, posted on May 9, 2023

To what degree does play find expression in your art room? I have always found it to be a benefit for both me and my students. For a variety of perspectives, I asked our contributing editors to share their thoughts on play. Read my Editor’s Letter to see what they wrote.

SchoolArts magazine, The Play Issue, Summer 2023, Editor's Letter
Nancy and her husband, Bill, playing around in Old Town in San Diego.

Students need to have the ability to make decisions that are not permanent. These experiences allow them to play with ideas and concepts in a nonpermanent way. This will encourage students to create multiple solutions and engage in a more creative environment that allows them to thrive.
—Nicole Brisco

When I think of the term “play” in art, I think of experimentation and risk-taking with minimal boundaries—allowing students time to create without judgment and creating art in their own ways to foster their growth and learning.
—Leigh Drake

Play can be a way to explore divergent thinking. In most cases, an assignment has an end goal. With play, learners can explore without boundaries or be thrown into unique situations with old materials.
—Eric Gibbons

Ideally, all my classes would be some form of play. It’s the natural way that kids learn, and learning is always more fun when I can gamify it. Even my quizzes, when given, are offered to my students as trivia games.
—Rama Hughes

Play is the act of experimenting with new materials, content, and knowledge with no other expectation than to be in the moment and to experience something out of the traditional context of the art curriculum.
—Frank Juárez

Play and process-based art share benefits to social-emotional health—students will exhibit focus and relaxation and demonstrate constructive decision making. Both allow students to be alert and un-stressed, the ideal conditions to foster creativity.
—Sue Liedke

Encouraging students of all ages to play around with materials and ideas in the creative process can help them to see things within context, dimensionality, and complexity. This makes space for students to understand and be empathetic to others while sharing their own perspectives.
—James Rees

In This Issue
Julia Hovanec’s early childhood article “Sensational Sound Sticks” (p. 18) details how young children can play with art and sound to express emotions.

In Leigh Drake’s “Hold On to Your Hats” (p. 29), elementary students make fanciful hats that represent different art careers.

At the middle-school level, Michael Sacco shares “Go Play with Your Toys!” (p. 34), in which his students photograph small toys in life-size settings.

Nicole Brisco’s high-school lesson “Shuffled Compositions” (p. 32) explains how bold, impulsive prompts can promote whimsical art-making.

What are your thoughts on play? How will you encourage play in your art room for both you and your students?

View this article in the digital edition.