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13876619_817170195050863_6798760938230700611_nFor a number of years, Equilibrium has had a strong working relationship with Dreams and Teams from Gabrovo.

On 5th and 6th September, the Gabrovo organisation hosted a conference on the subject of education. The focus was on alternatives to standard practice in the classroom. Annie and David Bisset participated and, on the first day, David gave a presentation explaining the theory and principles that underlie Equilibrium’s work with underprivileged and traumatized children. How do we help them discover their talents and encourage them take the first steps in the direction of success and fulfillment?

Interpreting the work of the psychologist Peter Gray and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, David explained that humans do not reach maturity and their brains are not fully developed until they are in their early to mid-twenties. Evolutionary psychologists believe that our extended childhood (a feature we share with other mammals) is designed to help us prepare for an adult life that challenging and complex in terms of the cognitive abilities and social skills we need. The main mechanism that allows us to develop these abilities is Play. Stuart Brown describes play as “seeking the possible” by exercising curiosity and the desire to explore. Marc Berkoff refers to play as “training for the unexpected”.

In many ways, children’s rights and opportunities for play are constrained within modern, urbanized societies and this is especially true in the most underprivileged and marginalized communities. Also, educational approaches are frequently misguided and kindergarten and pre-school programmes are becoming increasingly structured and academicised. This is utterly wrong.

David explained Equilibrium’s emphasis on providing rich and varied opportunities for play and experiential learning. In a very practical way, we apply a multiple intelligences approach as we believe that there is no logical reason to assume that all children will learn in the same way. If the message we want to convey to children is important, we will present it in many different ways.

Humans retain their capacity for play throughout life. Play deprivation at any age leads to emotional and multi-sensory starvation. People deprived of play lose their ability to deal with challenges. They become narrow-minded and inflexible. They have trouble regulating their emotions because – being unpredictable – life is threatening for them. People who don’t play cannot understand what they are good at. They cannot achieve success in the fullest sense.

A large part of Equilibrium’s job is to help children grow into playful and resilient adults. It was wonderful to spend two days in the company of other advocates for play.