Democratic Education and the Play Cycle with Mathilda Element


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By Vicci Oliver and Nicki Farrell, Vicci Oliver, and Nicki Farrell. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

In this episode we learn about Democratic Education and the theory of the Play Cycle from Educator and Parent, Mathilda Element, from Pine Community School in Brisbane. We chat about the key concepts behind democratic education and consensus decision making that underpin the values at Pine Community School, as well as the importance of multi-age play and the details of a child’s Play Cycle.

We discuss:

  • The umbrella term of democratic education and the idea of consensus decision making
  • The value of multi-age play
  • The importance of philosophy of play and the value of this across the spectrum of age ranges
  • That play is driven by children – if it is driven by adults it can be described as playful but it is not play
  • The concept of the the Play Cycle in play-work theory– a term first coined by Gordon Sturrock and the late Perry Else
  • The play cycle:

1. Play Drive: All play begins with the play drive that is the instinctive desire and need to play

2. Play Cue: From this drive the child may produce an action which can be very subtle or very obvious

3. Play Return: The feedback a child receives from a play cue is called a play return.

4. Play Flow: This is established once the play has commenced, and is a continuation of cues and returns.

5. Play Frame: The process of play is ‘contained’ by the play frame. The play frame can be a material boundary that keeps the play intact; the rules of the game or understanding between the participants. A frame can be many things – a table, a playground or something broader

6. Play Annihilation: When the flow of play is terminated by children. This can be the end of the game or perhaps the destruction of a recently constructed model

7. Play Adulteration: If an adult intervenes and tries to lead or force it they will be denying the play drive purpose and adulterating the child play
Resources Referred To



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