Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Arkki - School of Architecture for Children and Youth

When I was a little kid I was certain I wanted to be an architect when I grew up. I was a Lego maniac and spent summers building forts, dams and lean-to's. My favourite book was House By Mouse, and my sketchbooks were filled with rudimentary floor plans (seriously). My parents thought that all this was very cute and precocious. But had I grown up in contemporary Finland, I apparently would have been surrounded by like-minded tikes. Perhaps I would have even been lucky enough to enroll at this amazing place:

Arkkitoiminta from Misty Friday Films on Vimeo.

Thank you to Ian Chia for sharing the link & info about this fascinating, almost magical initiative. I love how seriously it takes what is clearly a shared interest/practice (leisure? aspirational? pre-profesionnal?) among kids and youth. I'm extremely impressed.

These days, I've actually been spending a lot more time thinking about "buildings" (in kids' crafting, art, model building, make believe, play) and built environments, and how these do (or may) function as conduits for kids' creativity and play. I'm working on a paper/collaborative project with a colleague that centers on construction kits and play, with lingering questions about structure/agency, tactics/strategies, learning outcomes versus (or perhaps and) situated playfulness. I'm hoping this project will help in my own thinking about UGC games, affordances, creativity and constraints, and how and where play fits into the mix. Seeing what Arkki is up to just drives home how much other people have already thought about these things...just not necessarily in the same contexts or to the same ends (or conclusions, for that matter).

The video (above) description puts a lot of emphasis on play and discovery - I'm interested in seeing how this interacts with the carefully guided projects Arkki has the kids complete. Words like play and exploration are used a lot in the education literature I've come across, but I'm not always convinced that they mean what they say they mean. I can't seem to get over the possibility that there's oftentimes some lost nuance in these discussions, a lack of distinction (or at least thinking through the differences) between "play" and playfulness, wherein playfulness would describe a reflexive engagement with the rules/structure of the game or system (or pedagogy?). Anyway - now the task becomes to hunt down more literature, either on Arkki itself or figure out what theories/research their approach is based on.


Ian Chia (from Being Prudence) said...

Hello there, my friend Esa took the time to translate the arts curriculum from Finland so you can see how the Finnish education system value creative play and the arts and fully integrate it into the curriculum. I'll send it to you and put it up so folk can see the vision of their educational plans.

- Ian

Ian Chia (from Being Prudence) said...

Sara, also check out as a brilliant example of a construction kit that's largely devoid of branding and the commodification of play.

justina said...

Hi Sara,
I think your blog is pretty awesome, and I thought you might find this pretty interesting: ("Call for Proposals: $50K Grants Available for Next-Generation Children’s Media Projects in Canada")

Sara M. Grimes said...

Thanks for the links and info Ian!!

And thanks for the kind words Justina - I saw the grant announcement last week...are you thinking of submitting something?