vital to one’s existence
A few years ago, I would have avoided including “fun.” To me, fun was a byproduct, conjuring up images of whipped cream and cotton candy and juggling clowns. It was the bane of education – the way we so often try to spice up meaningless learning by making it fun. It was Reading Rabbit and golden stickers and songs to learn the Periodic Table of Elements.
“It’s the icing on the cake,” I would explain in the most cliche way possible. Except, that phrase itself spoke volumes about my understanding of meaning. Cake is useless without icing. Without icing, it’s a muffin. Just some sweet bread. The icing is the very thing that makes cake work.
I used to mock fun.
Then I had children of my own and I rediscovered the deeper meaning of fun.
Case in point: Joel decides to make a game with a set of old marbles, some blocks, an old egg carton, a bubble wand and a plastic bottle. Christy helps him with the hot glue gun, but the general design is all his concept. It isn’t existential. It isn’t personal (at least in an emotional way). It isn’t practical. It isn’t vital to his existence.
However, it’s fun. I watch him dropping the marbles and aiming them toward the styrofoam pouches. I listen to him giggle when he sees that it works. Then I watch him patiently show his younger brother the way to make it work. And it strikes me that it is deeply personal and practical and vital to his existence, not in spite of the fact that it’s fun, but because it’s fun. My son is helping reminding me of the power of fun in learning. He’s helping me to see that it’s a deeply human need.
It also leaves me with a more humbling thought: If I claim to be student-centered, why didn’t I listen to students when they told me that learning needed to be fun?