Play learning and learn playing

“In play, children construct their spatial relationships, their domains of actions, sensorial-motor configurations (Gestalts) that – in the manner of operations with relationships and actions – we see emerge as if they, children, give origin to them, operating in the interior of their minds. “

(Humberto Maturana and Gerda Verden-Zoller, in “Amar e Brincar“, p. 157)  

It was a warm Indian afternoon when I arrived at Paula’s house. Along with three other women I went there to do something that we adults often forget to do: play games.

Paula is an Aurovillean and is part of a project called KALVI (meaning ‘education’ in Tamil, the language spoken in this region of India). Created by a group of educators engaged in Integral Education in Auroville, the project focuses on the research and development of educational games for the expansion of six mental faculties: think, see, hear, speak, vital and body.

Bellow you can meet Paula and hear KALVI presentation on her own words. 🙂

I had seen one of her games – with pretty geometric patterns – around here and got in touch with Paula, asking if I could know more about the project or even watch some session with the kids playing. A typical adult behavior, isn’t it? I wanted to know more about it and I only thought about talking and observing, but it did not came to my mind the possibility of playing it! But Paula, who knows better than that, invited me to a game session to test some of her new materials. For her, there is no possibility to observe without playing. 🙂


KALVI games are simple and intuitive, but at the same time powerful enough to unleash your attention, concentration, memory, logical reasoning, cooperation, self-esteem and many other things. I was able to get presented to a beautiful game for building geometric patterns based on pre-set shapes and parts. This same game can be enhanced by the use of two small mirrors arranged at a 90 degree angle, which reproduce different patterns with the pieces placed between them. And we also tested a new game with flowers of different colors, sizes, centers and number of petals that challenged our attention and memory. See the video below some moments of our play. 🙂

This is not the first time I have been drawn to the game universe during this journey through schools. With each new experience, I am more and more certain that playing is serious. The game seems to put kids (and adults alike) in a state of mind with a lot of openness to learning, and it is impressive how many things are being worked out in a transdisciplinary way while playing.

I have carried this lesson in all “educational” encounters: what can be turned into a game? How can we play with this concept? The game have the power to put us present in the here and now, it makes us sensitive to others and ourselves. In the words of Humberto Maturana and Gerda Verden-Zoller:

“Any human activity that is enjoyed in its realization – in which the attention of the one who lives it does not go beyond it – is a play. We stop playing when we lose our innocence, and we lose it when we stop paying attention to what we do and return our attention to the consequences of our actions – or to something beyond them – while we are still in the process of realizing them (…). We lose our individual social consciousness as we stop playing. And so we transform our lives into a continuous justification of our actions in terms of their consequences, in a process that makes us insensitive towards ourselves and others.” (pg. 252 from the book “Amar e Brincar“)

More information about KALVI can be found on this Facebook page or on this YouTube channel. Two of it’s games are also on sale here e here.

And to close, I leave the beautiful and profound provocation of our dear Edgar Gouveia on the power of play for the transformation of relationships, spaces and perspectives.

Let’s keep playing!

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