This summer has not been solely about research, of course. I have had the joy of getting to know the 17 other brilliant scholars in my cohort, and we have enjoyed our weekends exploring Rochester together. Additionally, I was lucky to be visited by family and friends along the way.
Earlier in the summer I had my first encounter with a Great Lake (that wasn’t from the seat of an airplane) while spending a day at a beach on Lake Ontario. Had I not known that I was in upstate New York, I would have certainly thought to be before an ocean.
More recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the National Museum of Play. Located in downtown Rochester, the Strong National Museum of Play is easily one of the greatest places I have found myself. I cannot remember ever having remained longer in such a blissful state. As the world’s largest museum devoted to play and toys, it is home to the National Toy Hall of Fame, World Video Game Hall of Fame, and the International Center for the History of Electronic Games. One of the most exciting features of the museum is that the experience is based on interaction, and by that I mean play! At one point I found myself working along side a team of preschoolers, tackling a miniature engineering experiment. There were no introductions or words necessary, only the power of play washing away any boundaries or expectations for the interaction and guiding our teamwork. It was pure, unadulterated fun. From reminiscing our way through a full reconstruction of the Sesame Street set, to flying a Starfighter in the special Star Wars exhibit, this was truly a blast from the past.
What I found most satisfying about the Museum is that it is steeped in as much educational and developmental philosophy as it is fun. The Strong has its own preschool and early Kindergarten programs that are based on what is known as the Reggio Emilia Approach. This method of teaching and theory of development allows the children to work with their instructors to design learning experiences tailored to their interests, and carry them out while engaging their peers in creative interaction and play. This serves not only as a refreshing aside from contemporary mainstream educational practices, but also a reminder to step back from the complex lives we have created for ourselves and return to play once more. We may often find this to be more difficult than imagined – providing us with even more reason to do so!