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Building Bridges Between Learning, Living, and Play

Creating a bridge between children-teachers-families that is sustainable and has health at the core.

Photo of Hannah Kahl
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Tell us about your idea

As a result of the pandemic’s shelter in place, school life is becoming more integrated with home life. If hybrid-models of education are going to be tested in fall of 2020 with students spending less time at school and more time at home, then the top priority for carrying lessons from school to home is to establish a consistent model of care and education for the children. Growing supportive connections between children’s school and home environments will require educating parents on early child development and reframing the concept of academic learning. Our idea is to focus on creating a bridge between children-teachers-families that is sustainable and has health at the core. 

At Project Commotion, we believe that these skills can be taught through play, movement, and a strong understanding of one’s own body. In a school setting, this translates to lesson plans centering around fundamental elements of lives that we are constantly experiencing: nature, the mind, body, health, and various types of communities. We envision children learning how to take deep breaths, to stand up and wiggle their bodies if they are feeling stuck or need a break, and thinking about important concepts by acting them out. We envision students showing each other how leaves blow in the wind by rocking side to side, how giraffes stand tall by tip-toeing around the room, how colors can represent moods by making their own unique dances.

It will be important that children are held to the same expectations at home as they are in school, so that not only are they physically safe, but they also feel safe with a secure knowledge of procedures and boundaries. However, it’s important that this safety is enforced by routine, not fear. This model would incorporate more elements of self-awareness (Where is my body in space? How close am I to other bodies), self-hygiene (when was the last time I washed my hands? Have I touched my face recently?), and adjusted social interactions (How close do we need to be to play this game? How many people should we include?).

By focusing on pillars of well-being during these times, we can encourage children to think of their lives and how they move about the world in a holistic way. 

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

We want to leave behind the sit-at-your-desk-all-day teaching model. We want to leave behind the inside-these-four-walls teaching model. We want to leave behind the idea that play is separate from a children’s academic experience. Part of this issue is due to the fact that in the U.S., “school” and “home” are traditionally viewed as two separate spaces, the prior for “learning” and the latter for “living.” Though we know that living and learning are fully intertwined, especially for a young child. These two spaces share a common obstacle, as well. When can they move and play? Children have limited opportunities for free-play and exercise, especially in metropolitan areas. Project Commotion was founded on the belief that children have an inherent right to express themselves through movement. We view the re-imagining of the educational system post-shelter-in-place as the perfect opportunity to tackle some of the fundamental issues connected to the lack of movement and play in learning.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

Project Commotion in San Francisco, California. Project Commotion is a vibrant community space in San Francisco, California, where children, families, and educators are invited to learn together through movement, sensory experiences, and play.  We were inspired to share because learning (socially, emotionally, and cognitively) through movement and play is our passion!

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

Our movement studio is located in the Mission District neighborhood of San Francisco, California. We also partner with local schools and community organizations to deliver movement classes to hundreds of children off-site throughout the Mission and Bayview Districts.


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Photo of Hannah Kahl

Hi Peter, thanks for your comment!

It will be important that children are held to the same expectations at home as they are in school, so that not only are they physically safe, but they also feel safe with a secure knowledge of procedures and boundaries.

We’ve encountered that one of the most effective strategies for hybrid-models of distance learning is to educate parents early on in the process, communicating that collaboration is key to create the best learning environment for the student. We’ve seen the highest attendance rates on our digital learning platforms for those parents with whom we were able to make solid contact at the beginning of shelter in place. Additionally, for the new preschool year, we plan to create a series of instructional videos for parents on how to support a young distance learner and how to use movement for both play and learning. Most of the content of these videos will cover how to transform a living space into a play space. More specifically, we will include how to try tumbling with a couch and carpet, how to use the wall to practice handstands, and how to act out a story through dance.

Families that want to enroll their students in our preschool will agree to participating in this new curriculum. Given that the school day will end before lunchtime, part of the at-home lessons will involve students engaging with a 30 min. movement video created by our movement instructors. Additionally, students will be provided individual sensory and art kits each week to play with separately at home and at school. An example of a sensory kit might be a Ziploc bag filled with a portion of Playdough, a few buttons, and a few animal cards. For the art kit, we are planning to include an individual set of crayons, paper shapes, and stickers. To maintain the accountability of the at-home learning environment, parents/caregivers would be responsible for photographing and briefly documenting the students’ work to share with the entire class. Not only does this help teachers track student learning, but when the students get to see each other’s work, even if it’s through photographs or videos, it reinforces that the children, their ideas, and their play at home are an important part of the learning community, too. We are still working shopping our ideas of course, and they continue to evolve with the updated information. Any thoughts on these ideas? We'd love some feedback!

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