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Program of the Athens Play Conference

Below you can read the program of the Athens Play Conference. It is always subject to last minute changes.


1st International Athens Conference "Play on Early Education"

Day 1:                       Thursday April 11, 2019
Morning Session:    Creativity in Play
Duration:                  9.45 am- 1.45 pm
Keynote Speaker:    Suzanne Axelsson
Chair:                        Meynell Walter
"Play is what I do when everybody else stops telling me what to do" is a nice definition of play, a child once said to Teacher Tom. Play actually is the very unique way a child has to discover the world. It should not involve adults' direction, certain tasks' assignment or strictly designed procedures. On the contrary, it has to be freely chosen by children, spontaneous and pop-up. Are those things really possible when we bring play into the educational context? Is it true that always "school kills creativity"? Or there is a way to avoid it?
In this first conference session, Suzanne Axelsson and presenters coming from 4 different countries will try to investigate how we can maintain the free & spontaneous characteristics of children play, while we connect it to the adults' world.
8.00 – 09.45:   Registration
9.45 – 10.15:   Welcome notes by:
                         John Yiannoudis, Dorothy Snot Director & Conference Host
                         Maria Iliopoulou, City of Athens Vice-Mayor for the Child
10.15 - 11.15:  Keynote speech
“Original Learning: Play on Education, Education in Play.”

"Imagine the curriculum as a loom, the structure that you use to give your weave support. The weave is the evolving child, each child using threads of experience and knowledge, that they discover themselves and also learn from others. Play is like the warp, it is essential to weave learning, experiences, and facts. The higher the warp density the more complex the weave.

Play, in this sense, is what allows a child to learn on a deeper and more complex level and this analogy will be further explored in the talk to break down the hierarchy of the words play and learning in order to see both as essential threads each person needs to create the fabric of their life.”
11.15 - 11.30:   Break
11.30 - 13.10:   Presentations         
   11.30   Laura Rodrigues (Portugal)
               “Um Do Li Ta, a Play approach from the Public Schools of Torres Verda”
   11.50   Greg Bottril (UK)
               "Embracing the Magic of Childhood: Play vs the Adult World” 
   12.10   Maria Karalekas (Canada)
               "Investigating the Significance of Loose Parts on Children’s Creativity”
   12.30   Iain Cameron (UK)
               "A nuanced Understanding of Adult Intervention in Children Play"
   12.50   Agapi Liapaki (Greece)
               "Getting life skills through Play"
13.10 - 13.40: Q & A session
13.40 - 16.00: Lunch break
Afternoon Session:    Play teaches Life
Duration:                     4 pm- 7.30 pm
Kenote speaker:         Tom Hobson
Chair:                           Suzanne Axelsson
"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself". This famous John Dewey's quote lives in the core of any play-based learning school. Children play because this is the way they discover the world; and by playing into real world conditions they master life, educate themselves and become free & independent citizens from very early.
Tom Hobson, the world's famous "Teacher Tom", will drive the process by sharing his long teaching experience in Seattle & further qualified teachers will add valuable feedback. Suzanne Axelsson will chair this truly international session, which will bring up play stories from at least 4 different Continents!
16.00 - 17.00:  Keynote speech
Tom Hobson ("Teacher Tom", USA)
“Educating Citizens Through Play”
Tom speaks about how children’s play brings the habits and principles of democracy into ‘early years’ classrooms. He will begin by discussing the purpose of education in democratic societies and how and why we have managed to veer so far from the original intent, which is to educate citizens capable of contributing to the grand experiment of self governance. In this full-throated support for play-based education, he details through his illustrative classroom stories and examples exactly how his curriculum works.
Participants will learn the benefits of introducing these playful principles to their own students, the hallmarks of what makes a good citizen both in a classroom as well as a democracy, the traits and habits required for self-governance, and practical tips on how to implement these ideas in their own classrooms. It is an inspiring, often touching, often hilarious, and always eye-opening and empowering presentation.
17.00 - 17.20:   Break
17.20 - 19.00:   Presentations         
   17.20  Petia Gieva & Maria Yaitzarova (Bulgaria)
              “Spontaneity and Nature Play in Urban Environment”
   17.40  Hatice Sapmaz (Turkey)
              “A Teacher’s view on Children’s Play”
   18.00  Carrie Rose (Australia)
              “Developing Democratic setups through Play” 
   18.20  Gloria Romlin (Sweden & Mexico)
              “Project, Play & the Curriculum”
   18.40  Winnie S.W.PUI (Macao)
              "Appreciating own culture through play: a China kindergarten case"
19.00 - 19.30: Q & A session
20.00 - 22.00: Relaxing & chatting at Upopa Epops Cocktail bar

Day 2:                       Friday April 12, 2019
08.45 - 09.45:          Early morning yoga class with Nicole Joannides (limited seats, booking required)
Morning Session:    Evolving Play Spaces
An effort to understand how a play space may develop by following children' needs & environment's special aspects, rather than the architects' desires. Is it always possible? We will also discuss urban vs natural play spaces. The session wil be chaired and coordinated by Yiorgis Yerolymbos.
Duration:                  10.00 am- 1.45 pm
10.00 - 11.00:  Keynote speech
“The Best Kindergarten You Have Ever Seen”
At this school in Tokyo, five-year-olds cause traffic jams and windows are for Santa to climb into. Let’s meet the world's cutest kindergarten designed by architect Takaharu Tezuka. In his charming talk, he will walks us through a design process that really lets kids be kids.                       
11.00 - 11.20:   Break
11.20 - 12.45:   Presentations & Discussion      
“Learning through Playing with Space about Space & about Play”
Let’s use space to play, let’s play with space. Let’s introduce space factors and be
more conscious about it. Preschool children would thrive in space design. Let's get them involved while we develop their own playgrounds!
They are open-minded, they have genuine uncontrolled fantasy, they can think out of
the box, they are sensitive enough to take care of sentimental parameters.
11.40: Stephan Buerger & Demetra Katsota (Austria & Greece)
"Grounds of Play for Athens"
The PXATHENS project based upon the recording and assessment of existing playgrounds in the City of Athens, formulates a strategy for their redesign and reconstruction. The envisioned PXATHENS’ spaces for play while offering the ‘in-situ’ joy of the discovery of nature, confirmation of physical skills, observation and exploration, social coexistence in an autonomous, familiar, safe environment, achieve, through their interconnection, the definition of a physical and digital network of play,to which everyone, -young and old- have unlimited access.
“The Best Day Ever: Forest Days in Vermont”
The 16 minutes film will take outside into the forest classrooms of two Vermont
schools where students are rediscovering joy and wonder through the experience of
playing in nature. The film presents an intimate view of the hands-on
learning happening outdoors; the thoughts of teachers, administrators, and parents
about the value of this approach; and the changing environments of public school
12.45 - 13.45: Panel Discussion
"Getting play spaces that do not direct play".
Yiorgis Yerolymbos will coordinate a panel discussion with Takaharu & presenters on how a play space based on observing children' non-directed, freely chosen play may evolve, either in an urban or a natural setup.
13.45 - 16.00: Lunch break

Afternoon Session:   Play as a Powerful Tool in Educational contexts
Duration:                   4 pm- 7.30 pm
Keynote Speaker:     Peter Gray
Chair:                         Tom Hobson
"You can not get play into a school. School is structured & framed, while play is not". This is a phrase often heard by pure play people. On the other hand, everyone agrees that play is a powerful learning tool. We do not play to learn - but we learn a lot while playing.
In this stunning session chaired by Tom Hobson, Dr. Peter Gray will explain what play is and will reveal its' educational value. Then, a number of presenters from all over the world will share with their stories based on different play approaches.
16.00 - 17.00:  Keynote speech
“What Exactly is Play, and Why Is It Such a Powerful Vehicle for Learning?”
Play is a word that we use commonly to refer to children's preferred activities and to some adult activities.  But what, really, is play?  In this talk I will define play as activity that is (1) self-chosen and self-directed; (2) motivated by means more than ends; (3) guided by mental rules; (4) includes a strong element of imagination; and (5) is conducted in an alert, active, but relatively non-stressed frame of mind. I will describe these characteristics and show how each of them contributes to play’s educational and developmental value.  I will explain why play came about, in natural selection, to promote children’s healthy physical, intellectual, social, moral, and emotional growth and will describe the psychological detriments that have accompanied the decline of play in recent decades.
17.00 - 17.20:   Break
17.20 - 19.00:   Presentations         
   17.20   Karen Orteza (China & USA)
              “Playing in China: Inspired by Anji Play and Reggio Emilia in an IB setting
               “The Froebelian Approach on Play: Play feeds on real experience….
   18.00   Gloria Romlin (Sweden & Mexico)
              “Digital playground: strategies to work with electronic devices & challenges for play

   18.20   Aspasia Skoufidi (Greece)
               “How Loose Parts in the Early Childhood Classroom help children Discover the World
   18.40   Maria Davou (Greece)
               "The Child and The Box: the impact of technology on play (and a way out of the box)"
19.00 - 19.30: Q & A session
Day 3:                       Saturday April 13, 2019
08.45 - 09.45:          Early morning yoga class with Nicole Joannides (limited seats, booking required)
All-day Session:       Getting Play (keynote, presentations & workshops)
Duration:                  9.45 am- 6.00 pm
Keynote speaker:    Meynell Walter
Chair:                        Peter Gray
We talk about play being freely chosen. In this session, Meynell will talk a lot about what play truly is and rest of the presenters will argue on how it fits the learning process. They all are going to be challenging and provocative. They are going to try to shatter some myths and probably pose more questions than give answers. They will then try to respond to questions! The conference will end with a number of hands-on workshops, aiming to engage participants into innovative forms of freely chosen play.

10.00 - 11.00:  Keynote speech
“There is no such thing as Free Play!”
When talking about play I often hear people using the phrase 'free play' as if supposing that there is such a thing as structured play. There is either ‘play’ or ‘not play’ and to conflate play itself with other concepts such as ‘risky’, ‘nature’, ‘outdoor’ has the potential to be giving out the wrong messages about what play is, how it is experienced by children and the potential of play being hijacked by adults for their own purposes.
11.00 - 11.20:   Break
11.20 - 12.30:   Presentations         
  11.20   Ross Williams (Australia)
               “Is play-based learning leaving children’s learning a chance?” 
   11.40   Elida Kalpogianni, PLAYING NGO (Greece)
               “Promoting Outdoor Play and Learning in Preschool: The Moving and Learning Outside Erasmus+ Project” 
   12.00   John Yiannoudis & Dorothy Snot team (Greece)
               “Life-Derived Learning: playing in the real world”

12.35 - 13.00:   Q & A session
13.00 - 14.30:   Lunch break
14.30 - 18.00:   Workshops
Workshops aim to provide participants with hands-on experience on how non-directed play can be introduced into children life. We try to include in this session innovative approaches & activities that will help us adults enhance our out-of-the-box thinking, when it comes to children's play.
Each workshop has its own requirements and maximum number of participants which will be eventually announced. Some of them may overlap, while some others may be held twice during the afternoon. Details on the workshops will be announced during the conference week.
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"Playing in Nature"
Over the past decade there has been a growing international interest in nature settings for children. Why is this? How do children benefit from playing outdoors? What extra opportunities for learning and development does nature offer to children? What should pedagogues take into consideration if they are to create these opportunities? In this workshop we will play, we will share experiences and we solve problems in an attempt to get some answers to these questions.
Ilias Karantoniou (Life-derived Learning with Bosch Power Tools)
“DIY with power tools in kindergarten”
Engaging children into DIY play on a free will basis, greatly enhances their creative thinking & problem solving attitude. Hardly they play afterwards with the item produced, since they have enjoyed most playing during the construction! Ilias will run the workshop in Bosch stand to show how the use of power tools in class can be a mind bloqing experience for kids.
“Light & shadows”
How do we learn through playing with light and shadows? How do we make the experience meaningful and relevant? A workshop to find answers to these and other questions through four stations of light & shadow exploration: Hephaestus workshop, Daedalus labyrinth, The flight of Icarus & The Art of Athena! All focusing in the use of sustainable material.
“Ringworld as an interactive and adventurous play space”
The aim of Ringworld is to provide an environment in which all children can play. We understand that play is something that children do, that they are in control of, that they make the choices about what they do, when they do it, and how they do it. Children’s play is not controlled or led by adults. Meynell, Tilia & Midah will spread out a ringworld inside conference room and let you get play!

Ndioba Ngom, Jenny Diamantopoulou & Stavroula Gaoutsi (Life-derived learning concept)
“Feel the Rhythm: playing the Djembe in Early Education”
A stunning workshop on how the rhythm and the use of djembe and other percussions in class may be a great play and skills' development tool. A group of kids from Dorothy Snot preschool will be in the workshop, too. Adults participants will understand methods & techniques on how to use the djembe in class. Plus, it will be lots of fun!
What is Mindfulness? What is the meaning of  teaching with a Mindfully way our students? Why is it a useful tool for  educators? What is the benefit  and outcome by being Mindful for the children themselves? Which are the tools that we use in class? How we use, why and when?
Participants will have the opportunity to be engaged with Mindful exploration and find out how it be turned into a class tool.
"Learning through Play"
A workshop to demonstrate how children may become creative, engaged and lifelong learners by using the famous LEGO® Brick in fully interactive hands-on, minds-on activities. We will welcome you in our brand-new Brick-made fun park where you will practice STEAM concepts and turn your ideas in action. Be ready to get on board in the newest creative, intuitive and versatile Coding Express, a preschool solution that supports the development of children’s early coding skills such as Problem-solving, Computational thinking and using digital tools to design and express ideas while develop early literacy and language skills through play".
18.00 - 19.00:   Closing Party with Ndioba Ngom

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The "idea"
behind the Conference

All of us who implement progressive models on Early Education, know one thing for sure: Play that is not controlled by the adults, is the one and only element children really need to grow.

Just through this kind of play children discover the world and become strong, enthusiastic, independent, caring and confident citizens. We see that happening every single day in our schools and we believe this is a message well deserved to be understood and spread, so save the date for the 1st International Athens Conference: “Play on Early Education” in April 2019!

Participants will be able to interact with world class keynote speakers with extensive experience in the field, as well as with individual presenters from many different countries sharing their good stories in play. And of course to engage in hands-on, field play workshops.

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More information will keep being added on a constant basis, so please visit often. Don’t forget to like our fb page in order not to miss a thing!

► Event

11-13 Αpril 2019, Athens, Greece

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Key Speakers

Suzanne Axelsson
Suzanne Axelsson
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Meynell Walter
Meynell Walter
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Peter Gray
Peter Gray
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Takaharu Tezuka
Takaharu Tezuka
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Tom HOBSON"Teacher Tom"
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More to come
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Available Seats

Standard Participation
  • The Standard Participation Fee in 1st International Athens Conference it ensures you full attendance, all three days. However there are special schemes for Early Birds, Presenters, parents of Dorothy Snot preschool and Early Education students as per the list below.
  • Tickets will remain available as long as there are available seats.
Early Education students
  • Tickets for Early Education students
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Venue & Facilities

The 1st International Athens Conference "Play on Early Education" will be held on Serafeio – City of Athens Sports Culture and Innovation Centre. Serafeio is a brand new downtown complex, built and operated by the Municipality of Athens. It is a just 9 minutes walk from  Kerameikos Metro Station and a 20 minutes walk from Acropolis Museum. This recently reconstructed venue provides a spacious and bright main conference hall on ground level, along with smaller presentation rooms and open-air outdoor space for play workshops.  


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