educators: matt's story

Matt Goldman is co-founder of Blue School and Blue Man Group.

"As someone who’s really tried to create an environment where creativity and collaboration and fun and learning all come and intersect, the blocks are a perfect vehicle. To see the children using the blocks in all these different ways and loving it is really a testament to how effective they are in the school environment. I can’t even imagine a school today not having a set of blocks. There’s absolutely nothing I’ve seen that has that kind of return.” 

“flexibility”

“We have a set of blocks at Blue School. What’s really nice is that we can bring the blocks into almost any setting and create a play space. This kind of flexibility in a school that has very limited amount of space is an extremely big asset.

“We have a room at Blue School that we call the multi-purpose room. It’s where morning meeting happens. It’s a cafeteria at lunchtime. It’s an art studio. And at a certain part of the day, the blocks come out. They’re very portable.  They’re very easy and quick to get out of the containers, put back into the containers. The kids all do it themselves. We also have a small outdoor space where we can bring the blocks and have the children play outdoors.”

meaningful cross-age play

“The quality of play and the way the children collaborate and interact is like no play apparatus. They’re age agnostic. The little ones love playing with the blocks and the 7, 8, 9-year-olds love playing with the blocks. The blocks are an incredible sort of field leveler, so that the younger kids and the older kids can have meaningful deep play together and the physical differences of size and weight can be much less pronounced. In fact, the adults love playing with the blocks with the children. So there’s a fantastic opportunity in the school setting for teachers and children to get together and push the play and learning forward together.

“They look forward to going to this playground. They look forward to the collaborative, interpersonal, interactive play that the playground offers. They are always creating something new. You can almost see an arc over the course of an entire school year of how each age group starts using them and sort of the middle part of the year and then how they’re using them at the end. And to imagine that 4-year-olds and 9-year-olds enjoy them equally but different is really astounding.

“collaborative dramatic play”

“It’s not unusual to see a lot of dramatic play in the 4 to 6-year-olds, but once you start to get to 7 and 8-year-olds, sometimes in some environments that gets a little more scarce. But what we’ve noticed is that with the Imagination Playground blocks and with the approach at Blue School is that the 7, 8, 9-year-olds are still engaging fully in dramatic play and still having a really good time doing it. With the interpersonal relationships that happen, they’re sort of more in it together. It’s not a competition. It’s a collaborative, intrapersonal, story-making type of dramatic play.

“The Imagination Playground blocks have lots of different qualities that we don’t normally see in other play systems. The first of which is they’re big, which is really cool because the kids don’t need to put 1,000 little blocks to make something with some size and mass and girth. They can make big structures very quickly and easily. Additionally, they’re light and they’re soft, so the kids don’t have to have any fear about them falling on their heads.  They can move them around easily. One child can pick up a structure that has a bunch of blocks in it. It’s very empowering. 

connecting creative play to the classroom

“I think that the fact that the blocks are so big and they can actually make structures that can contain them, that they can be on the inside or the outside or different groups and different environments automatically gives a different quality to the play. For example, our 4-year-olds recently did a project where they created an animal training center. Every single structure was sort of the home area for different animals, for dolphins, for lions, etc. The kids started to get on this thread in the classroom and then they started building all of these structures, which soon turned into multi-media structures. They were taping signs and posters on them.  They were bringing elements, other elements, from the classroom. They started making their own costumes and their own additional set pieces. Then they presented it in a morning community meeting to the entire school. It both beautiful and profound and it was something that our entire school was talking about for days afterwards.

“One of the most exciting things that you can really observe is when sort of children are in a certain zone. They get into a groove that the outside world sort of goes away and they live in the imaginary world they’re creating. We see that over and over again with the kids playing with the Imagination Playground blocks. We see whole worlds getting created.  We see role playing. We see sort of elements becoming other things which become other things leading to the next chapter in their story and their play. It’s really rich. It’s very, very exciting to watch. And then with the adeptness of teachers who are already following certain threads in their classrooms, if they can somehow merge this creative play with what’s going on in the classroom, then you have something that’s really wonderful and powerful.

“almost a miracle”

“The parents’ responses to the blocks have been phenomenal. They love them. How could they not love them? The kids are engaged. They’re having fun.  They’re playing. They’re playing with kids of other ages. It’s a great unifier. It’s a great equalizer. So the parents are thrilled.

“When you offer a few options of where children can go and what they can do and play with in their free time, Imagination Playground blocks are first on the list. And the fact that our children get to play in the Imagination Playground every recess of every day is kind of—it’s almost a miracle.”

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School leaders and education experts talk about how Imagination Playground has transformed their schools.