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The Arts and Play as Educational Media in the Digital Age

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Robert Albrecht and Carmine Tabone

The digital revolution we are now entering as educators is an unchartered sea pregnant with wondrous possibilities but laden with a minefield of unforeseen consequences. A pedagogy that overlooks or downplays the disruptive and often dangerous influence of digital media on childhood development is necessarily a very shortsighted one.

More than just highlighting our misgivings about digital media, however, this book has a purpose far more ambitious and infinitely more useful. Based upon 45 years of work with young people in Jersey City classrooms, day camps, housing projects, libraries, church basements and community centers, the authors propose a pedagogical strategy that uses hands-on experiences in the arts as a strategy to offset and counterbalance the dominance of digital media in the lives of children.

Rather than call for the elimination of digital media—clearly an impossibility even if it were desirable—the authors maintain that children need to be exposed to non-digital, non-electronic experiences that cultivate alternative ways of thinking, feeling, and being in the world. In sum, the book does not call for an end to the digital, but outlines ways in which the arts and creative forms of play help to establish a balance in the education and socialization of children as we enter more deeply into the Digital Age.

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Chapter Seven: The Seesaw Principle: Summer Camp as Counterenvironment

CHAPTER SEVEN

Extract

The Seesaw Principle

Summer Camp as Counterenvironment

A little girl sat silently on a swing. It was mid-July, the sun was shining, and all around her children were jumping, singing and chanting to the syncopated rhythms of a morning in summer. A counselor at the day camp passed by. The little girl suddenly sprang to life, looked back and gleefully cried out, “Give me a push!” The counselor stopped short in his tracks, turned to the little girl and gave her a push. And the little girl laughed. He pushed her again and the little girl laughed even more.

“What’s so funny Zoraida?” the counselor asked. “Let me in on the joke.”

When the little girl finally caught her breath, she explained that she had never had the opportunity to play outdoors for such a long period of time. Up until this point, she had been spending her entire summer locked in an apartment with her little brother while her mother was at work. She watched TV, played video games, and took care of her little brother. Now she was outdoors all day long at a summer day camp. She could play in an environment under the sky and surrounded by other children.

Zoraida was like a little bird who had been let out of her cage.

For city kids like Zoraida, summer camp has always served as a kind of counterenvironment to the harsh urban milieu in...

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