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Post-playshop Dialog

0. Participants of Post-playshop

I. On the Bus... Transforming Travel... Here's my Story
1. Song and Dance in Daily Life: Transitional Objects
2. Bringing Children and Adults Together
3. Guided Participation at the Improv

II. Post-lunch Meeting, Reflection & Video Screening

III. Nature Break

0. Participants of Post-playshop

Mr. Milton Chen, Guest Commentator
Ms. Ruth M. Cox, Guest Commentator
Ms. Maggie Chen, Special Guest (daughter of Milton and Ruth)
Ms. Edith Ackermann, Guest Commentator
Mr. Jogi Panghaal, Guest Commentator
Mr. Nobuyuki Ueda, Playshop Designer/Mudpie
Ms. Miya Omori, Playshop Designer/Mudpie
Mr. Hillel Weintraub, Playshop Designer/Mudpie
Mr. Yoshiro Miyata, Playshop Designer/Mudpie
Mr. Takeo Fujikura, Guest Artist (Pantomime)
Dr. Noboru Kobayashi (Koby), Director, CRN
Mr. Yukio Shimauchi, Assistant Director of CRN, Manager of Benesse Educational Research Center
Mr. Kazuyoshi Koizumi, Researcher, CRN & Benesse Educational Research Center
Ms. Satoko Yuzurihara, Researcher, CRN & Benesse Educational Research Center
Ms. Sakura Suzuki, Web Coordinator: CRN
Ms. Eiko Ishikawa, Communication Support
Ms. Sarah Allen, Translator/Editor/Secretary
Mr. Tomohiro Kawamura, Researcher, CRN
Ms. Noriko Goto, Researcher, Benesse Educational Research Center

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I. On the Bus... Transforming Travel... Here's my Story
November 29, 1999, 11:00 to 1:30

It was a cold winter morning, as we gathered in front of the bus in Tama Center, Tokyo. One by one, friendly faces appeared, appearing a bit tired from the Playshop the day before, yet with a slight hint of adrenaline still pumping wildly. Nobuyuki's family came to bid us good-bye and his son, Nobuki, full of energy, gave us all a shot of playful spirit as we boarded the bus. The bus ride began smoothly heading for Shonan Village Center in Hayama, Kanagawa. Miya joked by pretending to be the bus guide as we began our transforming travel across Tokyo. Soon, we came upon a traffic jam, and the warm sunlight warmed everybody's hearts and minds. The traffic jam brought us a sense of reality and gave us plenty of time to reflect on the day before and to hear everyone's story of their experiences at the playshop.

Miya: I'd like us to think about some questions. How is it possible to plan and be playful at the same time? How do we create an agenda and maintain flexibility? Perhaps we can follow the example of nature around us and enjoy transformation.

1. Song and Dance in Daily Life: Transitional Objects

Jogi: I'd like to propose singing a song first. Indian movies rely on a lot of song and dance. Through song, dance, and love, people can escape from the everyday. It is one way that Indian people unplug from daily life, and it points to the necessity of a third place between work and home, work and school.

Hillel: Do they take the playful spirit back into their daily lives or it is turned off when they leave the movie theater?

Jogi: These songs are extracted from the movie, taken apart, and then incorporated into daily life as people sing or hum them while commuting or doing other tasks during the day. The lyrics become devices for painting scenarios. The music in Playshop can have the same contribution. In other words, replaying the music leads to replay of movement and scenarios.

Miya: Transitional objects or devices open children up and put them in a playful mood. That's why they are important. The game "What are you doing?" gave participants transformative phrases or songs that they could take home. I'd like to ask all of you about your impressions of Playshop.

Yoshiro: I wasn't anxious about what was going to happen next. I felt comfortable with the way plans changed during the course of the day and didn't feel tired afterwards.

Jogi: Yes, to me, it felt smooth, without sharp edges. Playshop was both planned and unplanned. It shaped its own destiny and had a rounded feeling.

Ruth: I like the fact that Playshop left some room for improvisation. It was possible to be in the moment and make changes, to be flexible and work with the energy. I also noticed that many fathers came with their daughters. It was also good that children interacted with other adults. This broke up the dependency of the family unit and gave parents a perspective on other children.

2. Bringing Children and Adults Together

Yukio: Playshop eliminated the usual barriers between adults and children as well as the barriers that exist among children when they are grouped according to age. The interaction between adults and children was mutually transforming. It was also a workshop for adults and it did not restrict their participation.

Koby: I noticed two things. First, Playshop brought adults and children together. Second, it separated children from their parents so they could communicate with other adults. Play is a natural program of the brain, and human interaction is dependent on place. It is important to provide a place that allows people to play when designing an educational environment.

Takeo: Adults tend to feel superior to children. But, the game, "What are you doing?" put children and adults on the same level. Adults could be children, and both could do something meaningless.

Nobuyuki: Playshop continued for nine hours non-stop. The students who assisted us were a great help. They were more than just helpers. They created their own definition of playfulness.

Satoko: I noticed a change in the facial expressions of the participants. At first, Yukio's son wasn't enthusiastic about taking part in Playshop, but he ended up enjoying himself, and this was obvious from the smile on his face. People bring their different family experiences to their Playshop group. I wonder if they took the Playshop experience home? And then, did it contribute to communication within the family? I am also wondering what the difference is between museum workshops and the Benesse Playshop.

3. Guided Participation at the Improv

Edith: I was interested in what was going on in the minds of participants as they took part in Playshop as performance. It's a silent game in which they do not understand what is expected of them. What is one offered in such a place and how does one enter on safe ground? Guided improvisation involves taking risks. It involves playing "what if?" and inventing scenarios. One starts licking the ice cream cone and then becomes the ice cream cone. What did the audience take back? The repertoire used elements of eating and cutting. There was a lot of eating! The Raccoon group was quite political. How far did the participants go from what they were offered?

Sakura: Some participants didn't know that they were supposed to take off their coats and shoes. Doing this bothered some of them.

Milton: What interested me was the parent/child relationship. Mothers in Japan seem to be very close to their children. There was one mother who realized that she didn't have a photograph of herself. All of her photographs were taken with other people. This made her think she needed to have a more independent life. I think that it was good to separate parents from children during Playshop, but I am also interested in more sharing of emotional life between parents and children. Children are rarely aware that their parents have an emotional life and anger is often the only emotion that parents show. Parents should share their lives through emotions. In my case, my parents came from China, but as a child, I didn't how they felt about it.

Nobuyuki: Playshop pointed out the importance of improvisation in learning. The process of improvising, constructing, and reflection is a model that uses all our senses.

Hillel: I am reading a book called "The Gutenburg Elegies." It is about what it means to pass on knowledge. Adults have a new role as participants in learning. Adults need children as much as children need adults, but in most learning situations, adults don't think they need children. I find that really boring.

Koby: Programs of play are built into the brain, and Playshop is a switch to turn them on. Education inculcates knowledge and social behavior, but Playshop shows a different way to educate children.

Yukio: For adults, play usually means recreation like golf, pachinko, and karaoke. Adults have also forgotten the importance of doing something meaninglessness.

Miya: Let's ask Maggie what she thought of Playshop.

Maggie: I thought Playshop was modern, radical, new and interesting. I didn't expect that the parents and children would be that interested. I thought they would be inhibited, but they really got into it. The activities were held in indoors too much. In the future, participants should go outdoors more.

Miya: I was interested in the emotional relationship between adults and children, and parents and children. Emotionally disturbed children often find it difficult to express their thoughts about even very ordinary daily events. For example, if you ask them what they had for lunch, they can't tell you. In such situations, objects are useful vehicles for expression and communication. They remind children that adults can be trusted.

We finally arrived at Shonan International Village in Hayama an hour late. We were ready for lunch and especially to stretch our feet. After some stimulating conversation on the bus, our appetites were whetted and there was almost a silent sigh of relief as people climbed down the steps of the bus. Checking into the hotel was simpler than we had expected, thanks to Satoko's wonderful organization and we were able to start lunch right away.

The room reserved for us was quite roomy and had many windows to let in the warm sunlight. There was a buffet set up for our lunch and we gathered around the table as we peered into the international assortment of savory delicacies. The sweet smell of warm food soon filled the air and we were re-energized. After lunch, we checked into our rooms and freshened up to prepare for the afternoon meeting.

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II. Post-lunch Meeting, Reflection & Video Screening
November 29, 1999, 15:00

After a short break, we drifted back into our meeting room one by one. People were playing with the piano and a mini talent show was taking place. It's amazing how we had had many meetings to this date, but never really had the chance to enjoy each other's hobbies. It was a nice way to begin the video session. Hillel presented us with a very playful idea of watching the sunset outside at around 4:30. That gave us just enough time to watch the video from the day before. We all sympathized with Tomohiro who had stayed up most of the night, trying to edit the video to capture the essence of our playful Playshop. How exciting that we could watch it just 12 hours after the playshop had just finished!

Our room had no desks and the chairs were some moveable soft chairs like mini sofas. There were several white boards, large pieces of white paper laid out on the floor with an array of colored markers. The best toy that was a part of this meeting was a soft clay type substance which everyone played with while watching the video and talking. Some fun, beautiful and, of course, "creative" sculptures were made throughout the meeting and, ironically, it seemed to help everyone focus and speak more comfortably. I say, ironically, because usually teachers or parents would probably tell children to put their "toys" away while studying. Well, guess what? We may have been wrong all these years!!

We peered across the courtyard where we could see another meeting taking place, and there were men in suits sitting around a table, using a white board and making presentations. We chuckled as we tried to speculate what they thought we were doing! The white sound of the television hinted to us that the video would be starting any minute now.

The video started with the different elements of Playshop: finding the me in the media, ii-motion, discover yourselves, toyification, savory and mindful giving, hear my story, and emotional opera. The second video lasted 25 minutes. It showed the participants making pasta and vests.

Ruth: I liked the fact that making food was included in Playshop. I found that interesting.

Edith: I liked the theatrical element of these activities.

Milton: I was taken by the participation of fathers and how these activities brought back personal memories to people, memories of love and closeness on a certain day in the past.

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III. Nature Break
November 29, 1999, 16:30

After watching the video, we realized we needed to hurry outside in time to catch the sunset. Although some of us were wondering if we were going to be able to get any discussion time in, we decided to go with our sense of playfulness. As we wandered outside, the crisp ocean breeze freshened us up and we begged Takeo to lead us in a mime exercise. We all had a chance to try it out in front of each other and we were soon laughing and tumbling about the courtyard. Jogi had brought a shepherd's flute and we experimented with the sounds of it as this Indian instrument harmonized with the quiet Japanese breeze. The sound of the flute was extremely soothing and it seemed to bring each person back to a memory of his or her own. It turned out that the sunset was not very visible because it had clouded over and we began to make our journey back to "our room". Our voices seemed livelier and our steps lighter, as we thought about how important it was to "unplug". The combination of the fresh air, the soothing sounds and moving our bodies in this natural setting seemed to do magic to our spirit.

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