Play/ground(ing): Entwining of pedagogical work, play and design (paper presentation)

Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education Conference 2022

June 2022

This paper details a project of differently designing, building and occupying a preschool playground. In an attempt to create such difference, or the otherwise-ness, and guided by Peter Moss’ vital questioning of early childhood education as a ethical or ethical (political) practice, I begin with a sketch of the dominant discourses that dictate how playgrounds (particularly in ECE settings) are designed and of the functionality allocated to them in these systems. I then outline the research and design project that culminated in the construction and subsequent occupation of a preschool playground of an early learning centre in Southwestern Ontario. Here, I focus in particular on the intimate intertwining between the pedagogical intentions of a particular centre and their design implications.

Alongside detailing the movements of educators, children, and human and non-human others involved in the project, I contemplate the severance of connection between design and practices of innovation that are steeped deeply in neo-liberal, settler-colonial and developmental regimes. The questions I ask here are about design’s implication in the construction of systems which favour expertise, generalization, convenience, and utility; and about design’s potential in reimagining futures open to the everyday practices of co-implication and care. At the same time, I trouble the ease with which we assume we know play, asking: In the name of what is outdoor play being promoted? Who really has a right to play? Where, spatially, does play belong? And how might attending to relational play compositions in small everyday spaces allow us to open pedagogical possibilities for playing (being, becoming) with the Other?

Articles & Presentations

AECEO The Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (2021, November 30). Play/grounding & Pedagogy: Unravelling relationships with ECE playgrounds.

Taylor, A., Zakharova, T. & Cullen, M. (2021). Common worlding pedagogies: Opening up to learning with worlds. Journal of Childhood Studies, 46(4).

Zakharova, T. & Quinn, M. (October 6-8, 2021). Play Experience: Evaluating and Thinking with Outdoor Play Spaces [Conference presentation]. American Society of Landscape Architects, Washington. 

Zakharova, T. & Agarwal. M. (2022). Digital Collaboratory. Children’s Geographies, Special Issue: Collaboratories.

Zakharova, T. (2021, June). Sweet Sweaty Play. The Pedagogist Network of Ontario Magazine, 3.

Zakharova, T. & Cullen, M. (2021). Mapping Children’s Place Stories. Shanghai Education, 16: 12-13 塔蒂亚娜·萨哈罗娃-古德曼 & 莫琳·库伦 (2021) 绘制孩子们的故事地图.上海教, 16:12-13. 

Zakharova, T. (2021, July 7-8). Bag-lady dance with play [Conference presentation]. Play 2021: A conference on children, play and space, Birmingham, UK [virtual].

Zakharova, T. (2021, June 21). Sweet, sweet sweaty play [Roundtable presentation]. The Ediths’ Roundtable, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia [virtual].

Zakharova, T. (2021, April 19). The Materiality of Play: Early Childhood Education Research in Diffractive Dialogue with Dance as an Artistic Practice [Presentation & conversation with Justine Chambers]. Disrupting Early Childhood Series, York University, Toronto, Canada [virtual].

Zakharova, T. (2020, March 27). Playgrounding as World-Making [Conference presentation]. Robert Macmillan Symposium in Education, Western University, London, Canada [virtual].

Anderson, L., Hiseler, J., Mays, R., Zakharova, T., & Manteuffel, S. (2020, Spring). Beyond Barriers: The challenge and opportunity of inclusive design. Ground Magazine, 49. [member of the round table].

Zakharova, T. (2019, October 25). Inclusion: The Magic of Play [Public talk]. The Walrus Talks, Waterloo, Canada.

Zakharova, T. (2019, March). Playing Field: A Conversation [Panel discussion]. Koffler Gallery, Artscape Youngplace, Toronto, Canada.

Zakharova, T. (2020, April 13). Notes on tape. Studio V Journal, 2019/2020, 25-26.