Event Details

Play is central to how children learn: the way they make sense of their world; the way they form and explore friendships; the way they shape and test hypotheses about their intellectual, social, emotional, and physical environments. Yet incorporating play into a classroom or formal school setting isn’t a straightforward endeavor, as the nature of play and the nature of school are often at odds. The “Let’s Play” four-week mini course, based on the research and frameworks developed in the Lego Foundation-funded PZ project “Pedagogy of Play” is an introduction to some of the core principles and practices of playful learning and gives participants opportunities to design and try out at least one playful learning approach in their own contexts. The course has been revised to support educators to learn about how to facilitate playful learning online, in a classroom and in hybrid learning contexts.

Through virtual hands-on activities, illustrations from classroom and online practice, and experimenting with playful learning and teaching tools both online and in-person (when possible), participants will explore ways to bring more playful learning into their contexts. Whether participants are on an organization-based team or virtual team of individuals coming together to learn, the course’s team-based structure provides educators with important opportunities for peer feedback and collaboration. Teams work in small study groups with other teams facilitated by a coach experienced in teaching playful learning approaches.

The course will explore the following key questions: What does learning through play look and feel like? How can a shared understanding of learning through play enhance a learning experience? How can educators create conditions in which playful learning can thrive? Discussion will consider the opportunities and challenges of incorporating play into the classroom and will draw on teacher-researcher practices developed through the Pedagogy of Play research initiative at Project Zero and partnering educators in Denmark and South Africa.

Course Details

  • The course is designed for team-based learning, with educators individually engaging in the material and trying out ideas in their classrooms and also working as part of a team to share and reflect on their experiences in classrooms with the ideas and concepts and complete team assignments.
    • Individual educators who register for the course on their own will be placed on a team of 3-4 other educators who have also registered for the course as individuals.
    • Educators who are signing up with other colleagues, sign up as a team and work individually and together in the course.
  • During each of the 4 sessions, educators should anticipate spending 2.5-3 hrs on the course including a required 75 - 90 mins team meeting. Non-team meeting time will involve brief readings, preparation for the meeting, completing 1 individual and 1 team assignment per session and posting to the course site, and reviewing/responding to other teams of teachers learning in the same online study group.
  • Participants are supported by facilitators experienced in pedagogy of play concepts and ideas and using these in their teaching. Facilitators respond to assignments and questions and support the overall team learning throughout each session. The course instructors work with facilitators to support the learning of all teams and, after each session, provide a reflection to clarify overall concepts and ideas and support teams as they push their learning further. (5) Participants who complete the course will receive certification of 12 hours of professional development hours.

What past participants are saying:

“After taking this course, I believe children learn better through play. I would like play to be the cornerstone of my teaching.”

February 2021 Participant

“The course’s indicators of play gave me a fresh perspective on my teaching and will inform my educational practice.”

February 2021 Participant

“Taking the course really heightened my awareness of the power of play in learning; building empathy, cultivating the imagination, and using laughter and creativity to fuel connection.”

February 2021 Participant

“As we began to pilot principles from the course, we saw the joy of learning come to life. I was able to see so many skills I had been helping my students develop, and many more I didn't even know they had.”

February 2021 Participant

Course Designers & Instructor

Co-Designer & Co-Instructor: Jen Ryan

Jennifer Oxman Ryan is a senior project manager and researcher on Project Zero’s Pedagogy of Play (PoP) initiative. Funded by the LEGO Foundation, PoP is engaged in playful participatory research methods to investigate playful learning and what it means to embrace play as a core resource for how children learn in school. Jennifer has been with Project Zero since 2006, having worked previously on Agency by Design, the Good Play project, and Qualities of Quality: Excellence in Arts Education and How to Achieve It. Her current research interests include play, arts and maker-centered education, school/community partnerships, and professional learning communities. Jennifer co-designed and co-instructed PZ-HGSE’s online course, Teaching and Learning in the Maker-Centered Classroom, exploring the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning. She has published in various venues, and her recent book Maker-Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape their Worlds was published by Jossey-Bass in 2016. 

Co-Instructor: Savhannah Schulz

Savhannah Schulz is a Doctoral Fellow at the Interacting Minds Centre, the Danish School of Education, and the Playtrack Research Group. Her interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research focuses on the role of reflection in learning and attempts to identify the underlying cognitive processes that cause learners to reflect. She is a lecturer at Aarhus University, where she teaches in the Cognitive Science degree program and in the interdisciplinary course Play, Learning, and Creativity. Since 2018, Savhannah has been working with Project Zero’s Pedagogy of Play (PoP) initiative and has been part of a participatory research group in 2018/19 at the International School of Billund that explored the role of reflection in a pedagogy of play. In Fall 2019, she was a Visiting Researcher with PoP at Project Zero and has since supported the team as a Designer and Research Fellow. Originally from South Africa and Germany, Savhannah has a background in Cognitive Science, Psychology, and Visual Design. She has a deep-rooted passion for science communication that shares research knowledge in a meaningful way. An example of this is her involvement with the Stay Curious series of the Carlsberg Foundation, where she illustrated a talk on human relations.

Co-Designer: Ben Mardell

Ben Mardell is the project director of the Pedagogy of Play, a collaboration with the LEGO Foundation and the International School of Billund, exploring how play can have a central part in children’s learning in school. Ben has been associated with Project Zero since 1999, initially as a researcher on the Making Learning Visible (MLV) project and helped co-author Making Learning Visible: Children as Individual and Group Learners and Making Teaching Visible: Documentation of Individual and Group Learning as Professional Development. After continuing his work as a preschool and kindergarten teacher, Ben returned as a researcher on MLV and co-authored Visible Learners: Promoting Reggio-Inspired Approaches in All Schools. Ben publications include From Basketball to the Beatles: In Search of Compelling Early Childhood Curriculum and Children at the Center: Transforming Early Childhood Education in the Boston Public Schools. When not at PZ, Ben enjoys playing with his family and participating in triathlons.

Online Course Schedule

Orientation and course site introduction for the mini courses is available no later than two days prior to the course launch.

  • All participants will receive email invitations to the course site three days prior to the course start. The required review of the course policies assignment is available during the “Getting Ready” self-guided orientation to the site.
  • Remember, if you joined the course as an individual and not as a member of an already formed team, you will be placed on a virtual team and will be sent an email introducing you to your virtual team members no later than 4 days prior to the course launch.
  • We strongly recommend all teams schedule their weekly, required 60- 90 minute team meetings prior to the start of the course. Usually scheduling team meetings toward the end of each week is most helpful so all members have time to complete assignments in advance of the meeting.

Creating Culture of Thinking: An Introduction (CCoT-I)

  • Week 1: Monday, October 3
  • Week 2: Monday, October 10
  • Week 3: Monday, October 17
  • Week 4: Monday, October 24
  • Course Closes: Sunday, October 30

An Introduction to Maker-Centered Learning (IMCL)

  • Week 1: Monday, October 24
  • Week 2: Monday, October 31
  • Week 3: Monday, November 7
  • Week 4: Monday, November 20
  • Course Closes: Sunday, November 20

The Power of Making Thinking Visible (PMTV)

  • Week 1: Monday, January 16
  • Week 2: Monday, January 23
  • Week 3: Monday, January 30
  • Week 4: Monday, February 6
  • Course Closes: Sunday, February 12

Creating Cultures of Thinking: Investigating the Forces that Shape Culture (CCoT-IFSC)

  • Week 1: Monday, March 6
  • Week 2: Monday, March 13
  • Week 3: Monday, March 20
  • Week 4: Monday, March 27
  • Course Closes: Sunday, April 2

Let’s Play (LP)

  • Week 1: Monday, April 17
  • Week 2: Monday, April 24
  • Week 3: Monday, May 1
  • Week 4: Monday, May 8
  • Course Closes: Sunday, May 14

Who Should Participate

  • Teachers, Teacher Leaders, and School Administrators and Leaders
  • Museum Educators and educators working in informal learning environments
  • Facilitators of Pre-K to Adult Learning

Required Course Textbook

This course does not have a required textbook.

Tuition, Discounts, and Scholarships


  • For In-Depth Courses (6 sessions, 13 weeks), tuition is $615 per person registering as a member of a team, and $695 per person registering as an individual who will be placed (by Project Zero) on a virtual team.
  • For Mini Courses (4 sessions, 4 weeks), tuition is $295 per person registering as a member of a team, and $375 per person registering as an individual who will be placed (by Project Zero) on a virtual team.

Large Group Discount

For groups of 10 or more people registering for either the in-depth or the mini courses, discounts are available. Email pzlearn@gse.harvard.edu for details and registration instructions. Group discounts are not applied retroactively.


Scholarships are available for educators from qualifying organizations. For online courses (in-depth and mini courses) offered from September 2022 through June 2023, scholarships will cover approximately 70% of the tuition. Eligibility guidelines and the application link are below. Scholarship applications must be submitted and accepted prior to registration for the course. If you would like to apply for a scholarship, please do NOT register for the online course until you have completed the scholarship application and have been approved for scholarship. Those who register for the online course prior to applying for a scholarship will become ineligible for the scholarship. Please note: scholarships are limited and are assessed and awarded on a first come, first serve basis.

Eligibility guidelines: With generous support from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation and many individual donations honoring Project Zero’s 50th anniversary in 2017, Project Zero is able to offer a limited number of professional learning scholarships to support a range of schools, districts, and organizations as well as a diverse group of educators. These scholarships aim to support teams of educators and individual educators working in under-resourced contexts and/or with historically marginalized students.

  • In the United States, public school educators working in schools with a free and reduced lunch rate of 25% or more OR educators working primarily with students who attend these schools.
  • Outside of the United States, educators whose schools or organizations serve 25% or more students whose families meet the country-defined standard for low-income.

Apply for a Scholarship


Register for the Online Course

Confirmation and Payment

Registration confirmations are sent automatically from the registration software. Please keep these emails as they include your receipt of payment for documentation as well as your confirmation number should you need to access your registration in the future.

Payments are accepted via credit card or invoice for payment by check or wire transfer. Confirmation of registration does not confirm full payment if participants selected to pay other than by a credit card. All required paperwork and payments must be completed (or evidence provided of payments in process) by the registration deadline. For participants whose required paperwork and/or payments are not finalized at the registration deadline, they will be removed from the course roster and placed on a wait list.

Deadline for Registration

For Creating Culture of Thinking: An Introduction (CCoT-I) starting October 3, 2022, the deadline for registration is Monday, September 19, 2022 at 11:59 pm Boston time.

For An Introduction to Maker-Centered Learning (IMCL) starting Monday, October 24, 2022, the deadline for registration is Monday, October 10, 2022 at 11:59 pm Boston time.

For The Power of Making Thinking Visible (PMTV) starting Monday, January 16, 2023, the deadline for registration is Thursday, January 5, 2023 at 11:59 pm Boston time.

For Creating Cultures of Thinking: Investigating the Forces that Shape Culture (CCoT-IFSC) starting Monday, March 6, 2023, the deadline for registration is Monday, February 20, 2023 at 11:59 pm Boston time.

For Let’s Play (LP) starting Monday, April 17, 2023, the deadline for registration is Monday, April 3, 2023 at 11:59 pm Boston time.

Please note: Space is limited. The courses may fill prior to the registration deadline.

Refund Request and Participant Substitution Deadlines

Requests for refunds and participant substitutions for the CCoT-I course starting October 3, 2022 must be submitted by Monday, September 19, 2022 at 11:59 pm Boston time.

Requests for refunds and participant substitutions for the IMCL course starting October 24, 2022 must be submitted by Monday, October 10, 2022 at 11:59 pm Boston time.

Requests for refunds and participant substitutions for the PMTV course starting January 16, 2023 must be submitted by Thursday, January 5, 2023 at 11:59 pm Boston time.

Requests for refunds and participant substitutions for the CCoT-IFSC course starting March 6, 2023 must be submitted by Monday, February 20, 2023 at 11:59 pm Boston time.

Requests for refunds and participant substitutions for the Let's Play course starting April 17, 2023 must be submitted by Monday, April 3, 2023 at 11:59 pm Boston time.

To request a refund, submit a participant substitution, or to ask questions, please email pzlearn@gse.harvard.edu.