We began developing and running the Playworker Development Course (PDC) way back in 2013. It was designed to meet a very specific need: individual play advocates all around the world wanted to learn more about playwork theory and how to put it into action. Since then, we’ve met 345 students from 30 countries, and worked with whole staff teams in Calgary, Brisbane and New York. What’s more, we’ve connected them with 10 exceptional tutors, including Ali Wood (co-author of Reflective Playwork), and Jill Wood (director of Adventure Play at the Parish School). They’ve worked in hospitals, adventure playgrounds, with children that have specific needs, and helped playworkers unionize, and are mainly in the UK.

There’s a lot to be proud of in there. Most of all, we’re proud of our financial aid program. No one is ever turned away by us because of a lack of funds. Instead, we work with each student to figure out a payment path that respects their lives and circumstances. Several have paid in kind, through services such as translation work, web design, blog posts or social media connections. That hasn’t always been easy to provide, because we are a small and unfunded charity.

In the interests of transparency, and because folks in non-profits love a euphemism, I’ll break that down a little further. No one pays Suzanna or me for Pop-Up Adventure Play to exist. There are no grants, no major donors, and no compensation for the ‘core’ work we do – answering emails, managing social media, and so on. Neither of us is on salary. Instead, we’ve always relied upon revenue from tours, consultancy and keynote presentations to get by. Every project has to fund itself and throw a little into the pot, including the Playworker Development Course.

When working with students, we rely on their assessment of what contribution feels right. For those who can pay full price, we want you to know why we ask $950 USD. One reason is because we want to pay tutors well for their time and expertise. Even before COVID, the UK was suffering from widespread defunding of the play sector, and gigs such as this one can help keep good people going. Many of our students are the first person in their country to seek playwork training – which means it’s even harder to find outside funding. Money in the pot means that every person – tutors and students alike – can comfortably participate in our PDC.

The PDC: an old-fashioned course

There aren’t any live videos or online seminars n the PDC. It doesn’t come with an app. There’s a letter (written by me), carefully selected readings, and questions to prompt your reflection.

More importantly, there’s a tutor who cares, who will read your work and support you applying these ideas in your own context. That might mean accepting homework in video format, discussing options for translating key concepts to volunteers, or making a schedule dependent on internet access. Our aim is more than ‘inclusion’, it’s to facilitate each students personal and professional transformation into the playworker they want to be.

Students have said:

“I am very grateful to have benefitted from the payment options you offered… It’s really one of the nicest things about the group, that there is no barrier to participation.” (Student from India)

“I’ve gained so much knowledge and experience as part of this course and their guidance, advice, tips and cheerleading helped me both hold popup playgrounds and find my way through the course.” (Student from OH, USA)

“I found the course well set out, easy to work through in a manageable time frame and the tutors gave loads of support and ideas to increase my thinking. I have since found myself sharing new ideas with my colleagues and helping them understand more about Playwork too. I would recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn more about child-led play and further their knowledge about Playwork.” (Student from NSW, Australia)

Our mission has never changed. Through resources, training, mentorship and encouragement, we support the adults who make children’s right to play a reality. We playwork the playworkers.

Are you looking for more education on core playwork theories and connection to a rich lineage and community of practice? Course information is available. Contact suzanna@popupadventureplay.org for financial assistance discussion and enrolment.

playwork items

By Morgan