So, Suzanna and I have been to about 3,412 conferences over the years, mostly on the subject of play. It’s always good to meet with friends, and be introduced to new ideas and new advocates for children’s freedom. Plus, there’s usually pastries.
Most conferences follow a common pattern. There are rooms, kitted out with projectors faced by tables and chairs. Inside those rooms, groups sit for either 45 minutes or 1.5 hours to listen carefully to one or two people standing at the front and then put their hands up with questions at the end. At lunch, people take plates of food to tables where they introduce themselves to new people, or sit with their friends. Presenters discuss the importance of self-directed, open-ended experiences. They talk about the importance of being outside and free, reconnecting to a sense of wildness.
Given all of that, it’s always surprised us that conferences on play are structured just like school, and hosted in shiny hotels.
So what’s a campference?
The short answer is, something entirely different! Instead of classrooms and PowerPoint, we’ll be spending time living within a new adventure playground. Instead of looking at pictures of children enjoying hammocks and forts, we’ll be building our skills of knot-tying and tool use. Instead of talking about play, we’ll be actually playing – with ideas and information, mentors and colleagues, friends new and old. Instead of a hospitality suite, we’ll have a bonfire where we’ll stay up late telling one another stories of what we have seen, and what we can dream into being together.
Most importantly, it’s all about playwork practice. We’ll spend time together on an adventure playground, looking at what it means to be embedded in a community. We’ll talk about the importance of building relationships with children that are based upon trust, respect and empathy. Playwork is different from all other approaches towards working with children, but participants will learn how to bring these skills into their homes, schools, hospitals, parks, children’s museums… Together, we’ll be looking both at the elements of playwork that have been there from the beginning, and figuring out what children need here, today.
Does this sound like something you want to be a part of? We’re still developing the details, so let us know what you need. Then send us any thoughts, questions or concerns you might have so we can address them.
This is the first of a series of blog posts in the run-up to Campference registration. To find out more about what we do, check out our Facebook page and our website. To find out more about our co-hosting campference friends at Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play, check out their website here.