building blocks of democracy

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in the past year, aroundsquare has donated nearly a thousand sets of goodwood deconstruction blocks to small community-based kindergartens in egypt.  egypt is going through a transition, and play has a purpose in that transition.

one of the cornerstones of democracy is a citizenry which is engaged and ready to take on the responsibilities that democratic governance demands.  as a proponent of real creative play in early childhood, i want to highlight the connection.  it's essentially about the way in which a person positions him or herself in relation to the world.  it is about learning to engage with the world around us, about gaining a sense of self-efficacy and empowerment, a sense that our actions make a difference.

the types of activities which young children take up do a lot more than what they appear to on the surface.  there are hidden lessons beneath the surface of everything, lessons which are not taught, but rather, cultivated.  some activities cultivate passivity, some cultivate reactivity, others teach kids to obediently follow directions to reach a prescribed goal.  the child who has the opportunity to engage in real creative play, on a regular basis, is not just playing, not just learning building, not just using their imagination... that child is practicing thinking for herself, that child is gaining the sense that she has some control over the world around her, that child is becoming empowered.  the child who plays with simple and open ended toys like wooden blocks is not just learning to build towers... she is developing a disposition, a way of being, she is learning to be a builder.  period.  and of course there are all of the other things they learn, the concentration, the fine motor skills the cognitive-spatial-geometric-whatevery jargon that fancy people like to talk about, but the role of play is much more fundamental than that.

that's why i've been sending these blocks across the ocean.  

by way of context, in addition to running aroundsquare, i have a day job.  in that day job, i am the team leader of a large early childhood education project funded by the canadian government, which is working with the egyptian ministry of education, and other partners, to reform and enhance early childhood education in egypt.  these blocks are a donation from aroundsquare, and are finding their way into some 360 little nursery schools in upper egypt, and a handful of other schools in cairo.  my employer, agriteam canada, has graciously complemented this donation by paying the freight cost.