Playing for life and learning
What do games, play, and creativity teach us about our life, learning, and communication?
That is the question that my first year writing students are exploring as build on the writing generated by The Importance of Games and What Does Play Teach Us? This week my students began working on their This I Believe essays with an invitation which opened with Ken Burns’ thoughts on baseball.
Burns has spent his entire career exploring the American Story and he argues that the seemingly simple game of baseball continues to be a window through which it is possible to better understand prominent themes in American history, including globalization, a communications revolution, cycles of boom and bust, and the healing of a frightened country in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. He notes: “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”
Burns explains that baseball is a touchstone for Americans: “Nothing in our daily life offers more of the comfort of continuity, the generational connection of belonging to a vast and complicated American family, the powerful sense of home, the freedom from time’s constraints, and the great gift of accumulated memory than does our National Pastime.”
Our invitation for this week included the poem Baseball by Gail Mazur because this poem is vivid and rich with details and descriptions, vignettes really, of baseball and touches on the greater themes of humanity that are encapsulated in this one game. I shared stories about my own baseball memories from playing on the empty lot beside my childhood home to cheering on my son as a young baseball player.
I then challenged my students to write, drawing inspiration from our writing over the past three weeks, to explore these ideas:
- What life lesson have you learned from a game?
- Tell a story about one specific game in as much detail as possible.
- Explain why one specific game is important to you.
- What game do you think is important to learn to understand you, America, or humanity?
Where do your memories of games and play take you?