Play is educational. Children learn the rules of a game and, beyond that, how to make spatial and temporal judgments. They also learn soft skills, like how to win and lose with grace. They learn their own unique capabilities, and develop self-confidence. So, at CPI, educational goals are woven into every activity that we sponsor.
When Peruvian children draw and paint the stories that they hear, they learn to make visual interpretations of linguistic portrayals, transposing ideas from one medium into another. They learn that interpreting their cultural heritage is a means of conserving it, even as they make that heritage into a foundation for personal expression. Of course, these are complex lessons – real cognitive feats – but the children pick up in the midst of having fun. So, while we integrate learning into all our activities, the children never feel pressured (as they might at school). If they feel challenged and have the sense of rising to that challenge, we feel that we have succeeded.
Mask-making in Haiti offers another example of how CPI promotes education. The children learn a culturally important skill. They learn to work with their hands, and to produce real art from the commonest of materials. They begin to understand that creating an aesthetic object – valued by everyone – is within their own capacity. Such realizations foster a can-do sense that they are themselves valuable, and able to make a contribution to their community. Thus, mask-making demonstrates how acquiring even the most manual skills can have wider (positive!) implications, both for children and for cultures under stress.
Song and dance, in places like Kenya and Sri Lanka, have produced similar results. As the children learn, they develop a sense of agency. They take charge, becoming spontaneous and, hence, creative. At CPI, we believe that play – and its educational benefits – engage the whole child, allowing the child to grow and develop in ways that will remain beneficial into maturity. Our goal is to promote fun and, with it, a type of education that remains with the child long after the initial fun is just a memory.