“We can best help our children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions, and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” — John Holt
Many of you who know me know I thrive on the creative process. The act of starting, building, and creating programs that fill a niche in our communities. When we started Buffalo ReUse back in 2007, ironically the driving force for me was not protection of the environment. Of course, the wastefulness of our construction industry and more so, our culture, is embarrassing, inexcusable, and completely unnecessary, but it wasn’t the protection of the environment that got me out of bed each morning. My motivating force was engaging people in the community to create positive action and change at the neighborhood level.
First and foremost, our model created an economic engine enabled by reusing and recycling building materials, but the “real” work was spending time side by side with others to plant trees, clean up neighborhoods, board up houses, grow food, and train young adults. These experiences brought together people from all across the City, from neighborhoods, universities and even the suburbs to engage in productive action and to do work that was both tangible in its local impacts and created a vehicle for people to connect with others in a meaningful way. I continue to feel the loss in my own life of these meaningful human connections.
Connection is important, for both adults and our children. When I first envisioned a play community, the driving force was to create a community for my daughter, so that she’d have opportunities to engage with other little people. To explore, engage, experiment, build, and engage in all of the activities of life that are interesting to her. Similarly, she’d have freedom, time and space to explore her true self and pursue learning in her own way. I still want this for Lavinia, but I also want this more myself. I want a space where people of all ages can interact and learn together. A multi-generational, creative, dynamic space that creates authentic connections and opportunities.
The prospect of actually starting this time around has been a struggle I did not expect. Starting is always the hardest part. Taking an idea and turning it into an actual living, breathing organism can at times seem overwhelming. To overcome this inertia, my hope is that conversations with other parents, families, and supportive adults will provide the inspiration and motivation that will begin to grease the wheels of action.
I’m hopeful. A growing critical mass of people have reached out and expressed interest. We have the commitment of the City of Buffalo to develop two large lots not far from Main Street. And we have a building. Yes, a building. A large one. Currently in storage, awaiting the opportunity to be a space for play and learning, music and performance, artistic expression and dance, and an entire spectrum of family friendly activity.
So I’m taking the step to start. We’re all stretched for time, but I know once we share a space, the anticipation and energy of our own ideas will create a clearer vision for how to start.
The dialogue could begin as a philosophical conversation about the learning culture. What type of community do we wish to create? How will it evolve and serve as a space for free expression and open play? How do we best support the learning of the young people in our community?
And they could expand to also be conversations relating to structure and programming: What type of programming and events would we offer at the space? How do we pay for the space (both construction and long term maintenance)? How is the space governed/managed? This ultimately may be two groups, but most certainly right now I think the need is to focus on our intentions and start talking, planning and doing.
I’d like to propose a first meeting on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 6:30 pm. We can meet at 327 Hoyt Street, which I’m hoping is pretty central for folks. My daughter will be off to bed soon after the group starts, but I’m hoping Amanda can join the conversation as well. I don’t know how to create the best meeting time, while also considering that many of us have children. I’m hoping we can figure this out at the first meeting, because it has honestly been one of the obstacles that has held up my process of getting this first meetup rolling.
Feel free to just show up next Wednesday or send me an email at email@example.com, particularly if you can’t make it and you want to stay informed about what’s going on.