I examine the self-reported meanings, presence and developmental and educational benefits of life-span imaginative play in the lives of adults. I interview adults about their imaginative play: their meanings of the words “imagination” and “play,” their self-reported engagement in imaginative play in their early childhood, elementary school years, adolescence and adulthood, its relationship with community practices and beliefs and their stance on how their imaginative play has helped them learn and develop. In addition, their experiences with imaginative play in their formal learning environments are discussed as well as their suggestions for the inclusion of imaginative play in formal schooling.
I have conducted conceptual, empirical and practical research. Conceptually, I have co-authored a paper advancing pretend play as a life-span activity. In this paper, our conceptualization is borne out of similarities between social pretend play during childhood and improvisational theater (improv) during adulthood. I have conducted three studies to determine if pretend/imaginative play has occurred throughout the lifespans of adults of different communities. With respect to my interests in improvisation and its role in learning environments, in teacher education and in community organizations, I have published a descriptive/reflective chapter in an edited book on the use of improv in formal learning environments. This work is built upon my experiences as an improviser and adult educator in Chicago. In this chapter I describe my experiences using improv activities with adult English language learners who are relatives and caregivers of Head Start children.
Future research projects will continue to investigate communities’ meanings, examples, and outcomes of imaginative play and its role in their learning and development. As well, I will continue to investigate the presence and potential for improv in formal learning environments and community organizations. In particular, I would like to continue to address the impact of improv in adult education and community organizations and how teachers or other community advocates develop their personal and professional capacities via engagement in improv. I am currently working on an auto ethnographic study of my use of imaginative play in higher education.
I am a part of a larger international performance movement that draws upon and creates scholarship in psychology and the arts to support the presence and importance of play and performance across the lifespan. Members of this movement include urban, suburban, and rural youth, academics and practitioners such as teaching artists, therapists and community organizers. We believe in the presence and potential of play and performance, broadly construed and create practical performance opportunities for development across the lifespan to effect more humane, just and inclusive environments.
Students and colleagues alike who are interested in new approaches to psychology, education and community engagement would be welcome contributors to the work/play in which I engage.