Why Hate, Why Love, Why Riot

get to see lots of neat things in my position as storyteller for the Vancouver School Board. But I haven’t seen to many things that would top the boundless creativity that was encapsulated in today’s Grandview Elementary School play Why Love, Why Hate, Why Riot about the Stanley Cup riot told from the perspective of Grade 4 to Grade 7 children.

The play was created by Grandview students originally exploring the topic through improv with their “artist-in-residence” Terri-Lyn Storey. Storey says the concept of the play took its form out of acting workshops as students sought to understand how the riot could take place in such a rich and safe city as Vancouver. Twelve student actors played adults caught in real time during the hockey riot that made news across the world. There were a melange of characters including a news reporter and camera man, interveners as well as people who witnessed and participated in the riot.

It was fascinating to watch for a number of reasons. It was interesting to see elementary school students’ perspective on events that shook up many adults around Metro Vancouver and around the world. The key word that came across in all of the skits was the word “disturbing” as well as the senselessness of the entire situation. The big question? How could this happen?

Students identified and then pilloried a character who stole bags that were lying around “on the ground”. They documented the confusion of elderly citizens watching it all on fold on TV. Scenes were broken up by fist fights and general chaos and the entire performance ended with a chorus of kids holding wooden signs scribbled with kind words similar to those adorning the Bay and other targets of the riot in the aftermath.

Perhaps most interesting was the student’s critique of the media and their coverage of the event. Several times throughout the play, a “Global TV” journalist, primped and preened in front of her camera man as she sought to find the “action” of the night. It was particularly interesting considering the number of TV cameras and journalists covering the performance that day in the lead up to the riot anniversary. The irony was not lost on anyone.

All and all, the performance was a fantastic reminder that the horrible event a year ago Friday touched on all of our lives, including our youngsters.

Play Dates, Imaginary Friends, and Getting Lost in the Woods: The Diversity of Play

Glimpses of summer these past few weeks spawned a conversation with my husband (and Daily Gumboot Editor-in-Chief John Horn) recently about our childhoods – what did we do in the summers? How did we play? Which one of us was more likely to run away into the surrounding woods and get lost? (I’m sure you can guess the answer to that one!). We discovered that although there were some similarities to our play, the different environments that we grew up in very much influenced the type of play we engaged in. For instance, John grew up in a rural environment, and I grew up in a semi-urban (okay, fine, suburban) neighbourhood. Not surprisingly, John spent more time freely exploring the wooded areas around his house, while I spent more time in backyards and a (now that I think back to it) fairly sketchy vacant lot up the street. Another difference we discussed was who we played with – because there weren’t a lot of other kids around, John spend a lot of time playing with his sister, or with his imaginary friend named Sparky*, while I played with a larger group of kids from the neighbourhood and school.

An article recently published in the BC Council for Families magazine, Family Connections, explored this concept of play across environments and cultures, and found that environments and cultures do indeed have a very large influence on play. These findings touched on some of the key differences John and I had explored – for example, one large factor that can lead to differences in play include whether there are other play partners around (neighbours, cousins, siblings, friends), and how safe it is to run freely around the neighbourhood.

Some interesting cultural differences were also explored within the article. For example, in Western society, it is emphasized that parents should devote time to play with their children, while in other cultures, the extended family plays a much larger role in playing with children than the parents. The idea of having structured play (e.g. sitting down to finish an art activity, like making a bracelet or using toys with numbers/letters) vs. free play (e.g. children engaging in pretend play, like playing kitchen) is also something that varies across – and within – cultures.

With the even-diversifying cultural landscape we find ourselves living within, these different approaches to play can lead to some interesting learnings, creativity and flexibility – but hey, isn’t that what play should be all about anyway?

*John may or may not have had an imaginary friend named Sparky.