Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

A City of Critical Play

Clairity's picture

  In the city of our course, I am having a journey that is leading me and helping me to start my brand new college life. I feel my growth throughout these six weeks. I joined this city when I was a genuine "freshman" who had not got used to this whole different life in a new country. But now I'm thrilled to become a part of it. In this unique course, we learn to play and think. We learn to view things critically.

  In the first day of class, we were told by our professor to walk around our classroom and observe the surroundings. My first reaction was that there would be nothing much to see. I thought it was just a regular classroom that lacked of creation. However, in my exploration around the classroom, I found nameplates that dated back to hundreds of years ago on the windowsill. I was bewildered by the use of the long metal bar below the blackboard. I was amazed by the old ancient window shades that were opened by my classmates... Sitting down, I was surprised at the variety of details in this simple room during our exchange of observations. By using lenses and magnifying tiny things, we tried to make sense of them. And we are still trying in every single class and in every trip to the city of Philadelphia.

  We were asked to define ourselves and create an avatar on our website after class. I realized this is necessary for building a city of our own. Every city player needs to have a personality. Although this process was hard at first, but it at least set a starting point for us to continue in the future.

  This is the beginning of our city building. The classroom is the territory of the city we create from scratch and develop together. This is a city where we absorb ideas from the outside world and create our own versions.

  We learned from readings, like Critical Play, which injected new points of view into our discussions. We went to interesting art events such as the Quiet Volume and Magic Garden, which introduced us to various artists' fascinating creations. We picked out the sites we'd like to go and planned trips with classmates who had similar interests. We came back and shared our adventures with each other. We reflected on the happenings we encountered. We built our city on the foundation of these discussions.

  Reflection and retrospect are a significant part of what we focus in class. We have discussed Flanagan's book for weeks. Doing research on the artworks and artists she introduced, we tried to connect her article with our own experience. We extended and advanced our essays based on the connections.

   Moreover, we are not only readers and writers, but also commentators. Through commenting on my writing partners' essays and receiving comments from others, I saw different viewpoints and angles. Regarding one of my essays, my partners said my beginning and ending really fit and connect together and asked me if I deliberately design it this way. However, I never realized there was a relationship between the two parts when I was writing or editing my essay. They showed me a surprising connection that I couldn't find by myself.

  Retrospect and comment are what I identify as "critical play". An important question that was constantly brought up in class was whether people could play critically. In my opinion, critical play is what we do here. In our trips into the city, we play and have fun. But it is more than simply playing. We look back and ask questions afterwards. We think critically about our experiences and conversations with the art. We pay attention to details and contemplate in retrospect.

  Imagine our course as a city.

  This is where we create our identities and mosaics.

  This is where we find serendipity in our exploration.

  This is where we reflect, think, and comment.

  This is where we have the freedom to express, to imagine, to question and to enjoy.

  Our class is a new born city with a large amount of potentials. Progressing and growing, this city is a place of critical play. We set out our college life here and will benefit from the critical thinking we do every week. I look forward to our journey to be continued here.