Embodied Learning Interview with LEGO Foundation PlayFutures

Meet Tommaso – Our Featured Participant!

PlayFutures is the global, invitation-only research and innovation LEGO Foundation community that brings together participants from diverse backgrounds to deepen the understanding of Learning through Play.

I’m a very proud community member and contributor at PlayFutures since July 2016. On May 10, 2017, PlayFutures interviewed me about my background and visions on education as a teaching artist and educator trainer. Thank you to PlayFutures and to Heidi Gore for the amazing profile!

Building community is one of our many passions in PlayFutures and one way we want to continue doing this is by introducing you to each other. We have so many talented, inspirational and creative participants in the community and this week we are introducing you to one of them – Tommaso!

We got to know Tommaso recently and wanted to share his work and experiences with you below. In the meantime, here is a picture of Tommaso whilst teaching about playful learning…

Meet Tommaso – Our Featured Participant!

What is your background in relation to Learning through Play?

In the 1870s in Milan, Italy a group of German speaking young children who attended the school of the local German and Swiss community happened to learn Italian and the Milanese dialect. They did this by hanging over their schoolyard’s wall during recess and interacting with passers-by. Parents had instructed teachers to prohibit this strictly. But there’s no adult who can stop a child from playing and learning. I wrote my MA thesis in social history about this story and children’s natural potential of enabling inclusive learning pathways through play.

Why do you love Learning through Play?

Playing is the natural pathway a young person follows to discover herself, her own body, her pace, her peers, and her emotions. Far beyond any given instructions, learning is a self-guided ongoing activity, which increases new layers of complexity in each developmental growth stage. In fact, how do science and pedagogy measure development? Through play!

What is one of your favorite Learning through Play projects you have worked on?

In 2014 The Preschool Museum Berlin-Falkensee invited me to curate the exhibit Learning Outdoors in the surrounding yard of the museum. The museum’s director had no budget, so I used my childhood memory, the observation stories I collected in the past years of work as a teaching artist, and everyday-life materials I found in the garden and in the museum’s basement to design and invent inspiring prepared environments to foster play-learning experiences for children in the age 2-8 and their educators. Learning Outdoors focuses on motion, social-emotional learning, literacy and numeracy in nature. There, children can freely experiment and learn through play.

Do you have a favorite Learning through Play resource?

Just a quote by poet Novalis: “If there were a theory of the fantastic as there is for logic, then we would be able to discover the art of invention.” The magic of learning through play lies in enjoying a broader space of action, without being trapped in the limits of logical thinking.

How would you like to be more involved in PlayFutures?

Frankly, since I have recently moved to the US, I’d love to meet people there who are looking for specific professionals to start-up real large-scale educational projects that embody the culture of ‘learning through play’, or seek to reframe the meaning and the practices of learning keeping in mind children’s needs and potential.

Thanks again for your time Tommaso! We hope you all enjoy getting to know your fellow participants as much as we do. If you have more questions for Tommaso, pop them in the comments below or reach out to him via his profile here if you are up for a chat. We will be featuring more participants soon so stay tuned.


May 11, 2017

ALEJANDRA ZARAGOZA SCHERMAN Developmental cognitive psychologist – Aarhus, Denmark

Hi Tommaso,

Thank you for sharing with the rest of the community. I am a researcher on autobiographical memory and it called my attention that you mentioned using of childhood memories for the exhibit on outdoor play.

Could you elaborate on those memories? What memories did you use for the activities in the PDF?

How do you think these memories of childhood play influence adults’ (parents, educators) perceptions of play and the benefits of play?

Happy playing,


May 19, 2017
Hi Alejandra,

Thank you for your great questions!

I grew up in Milan, Italy in the early 80s. At that time a heroin epidemic hit my neighborhood. Suddenly, it became unsafe for children to play outdoors, especially in parks and playgrounds.
Unconsciously, my generation had to reinvent outdoor play. There was a terrace in my parents’ apartment, which worked as a free 50sqft/5sqm spot under the open sky, where my friends and I developed independently the most amazing adventures and fed our imagination, embodied cognition, and learning about relationships, urban nature, and materials.

Looking at my childhood as an educator trainer and teaching artist, I now appreciate and value the innate potential children always own, in any circumstance. I love to engage parents and teachers in my performances on being creative while reusing anything as a four or five-year-old would do.
By doing so, I want to foster consciousness about excessive direct instruction and anxious helicoptering. The taste of freedom – even in a limited space of 50sqft/5sqm – inspires parents to enjoy the ability of their children to play and learn in a natural, self-guided way.

I wrote a couple of articles about this topic:

You’re welcome to subscribe to my newsletter for more impulses and materials.

Happy playing!

June 12, 2017

LOUISE ZIMANYI Researcher – Toronto, Canada

Thank you for sharing, Tommaso. I enjoyed the way you wrote and drew about your ideas and experiences… the laundry is a beautiful yet simple idea. On the weekend I saw pieces of painted silk pieces hung on a clothes line in a children’s play area/garden and it was lovely to see the light and shadows and movement made by the sun and the wind.

Do you have photos from the Learning Outdoors exhibit?


This post was originally published on: www.playfutures.net