Olga Jarrett

You remember my article Where have all the players gone. That was the last time I wrote about Olga Jarrett.

The last time I met Dr. Jarrett was in a hotel lobby in Atlanta. She brought an oscilloscope. One that she had made. Out of a can, a mirror, some rubber bands, and a toy laser-pointer. She was radiating delight, not just because her junk-built toy oscilloscope really and truly worked, but because of the sheer fun of it all. [Olga comments: “The “oscilloscope” was really mostly invented by Bob (my husband). I was looking for a way to show how sound vibrations can be shown as light and had picked up the idea somewhere to make an “oscilloscope” that could be used in the sun. But since I taught evening classes I was looking for something that could be used at night. Bob came up with the idea of attaching a laser. We really had fun making it and it is a great experience for my students. We also made them as Christmas presents for family and friends one year.”] And that moment of meeting her, was, more than any of her many accomplishments, what it finally took, maybe two years later, for me to recognize her as a true and genuine Defender of the Playful. Experiencing her unabashed playfulness was all I needed.

Here, from her manuscript “Drawing on the Child’s World: Science Made Relevant” is another example of how Olga plays:

“Science textbooks often emphasize such concepts as the parts of a flower, the difference between igneous, sedimentary and metaphoric rocks. Teachers instructing from such textbooks often stress vocabilary and facts…My first son failed a test on spiders without ever having looked at a spider in school…Make science relevant by drawing on the child’s experience. Encourage curiosity. Make learning challenging and fun, and children may be more likely to take elective science courses in high school.”

“Counting takes on new meaning when children count the spots on ladybugs to determine if they all have the same number…”

“(use) measuring sticks, thermometers, scales and timers (to) determine without guesswork who has he longest hair, how long a worm is when stretched out/scrunched up, how fast a pumpkin grows….” “see how many drops of water you can drip onto the face of a coin before it runs off. Then flip over the coin and try the other side.”

And here, from the Georgia State University, an all-too-abbreviated summary of her work`:

“Dr. Jarrett teaches science methods in the Early Childhood Education’s Urban Alternative Preparation Program. She is a University Fellow in the Urban Atlanta Coalition Compact, an Annenberg funded project whose purpose is excellence in education for African American students. She also serves as a project coordinator of Project DOVE (Drop-out, Violence Elimination), a systematic prevention/intervention program which includes mentoring and a curriculum on empathy, impulse control, and bully prevention. Dr. Jarrett’s research has focused on recess and playground behavior, bully prevention, effective teaching in urban schools, and effective methods of teaching science (pre-k to fifth grade). Her most recent research was published in School Science and Mathematics, and The Journal of Educational Research.”

Former president of The Association for the Study of Play, currently president of the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play (IPA/USA), U.S. affiliate of the International Play Association, Promoting the Child’s Right to Play, Dr. Jarrett is, in every sense of the word, a Defender of the Playful.

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