Saturday, April 29, 2017

Annora Brown: Learning through play

Joyce Sasse - Ten years after Annora Brown retired from Fort Macleod, in her autobiography she recalled how important childhood play was. In an era when introverts were considered to be inept, Annora thought herself to be mouse-like. But what a mouse! Trees and flowers and rocks talked with her, each in their own language. Rocks, particularly, could be used for throwing, for breaking open to find colours and patterns, and for building play-houses. She loved them – and there was no shortage of rocks in her neighbourhood.

As Fort Macleod came into its own in the 1920’s (growing from scattered lots to a population of 2,000) it needed infra-structure – phones, power, water-and-sewer. Annora recalls standing as close as she dared to watch the work unfold. Finally her father gave her a corner of the yard where she could dig her own trench. It ended up being 20 feet long, 2 feet deep at one end and 6 feet deep at the other – all done by a 6-year-old, augmented by adults lifting the bigger stones.

She recalled spending hours sitting on the roof of their home, looking over the land, watching the moving clouds, fascinated by the changing colours.

Her older sisters included her when they played acrobatics in the neighbour’s barn, and when they entered their creations in the annual July 1 parade. The fact that her cat didn’t take well to pulling a decorated box on wheels was an unforgettable learning experience. “The exhilaration of a wonderful idea, the planning and working to bring it to fruition, the final frustration and disappointment when the dream confronts the world of reality”, a foreshadowing of much of her creative life. She learned great coping skills and was always thrilled to be part of the action.

The community had a mix of immigrants and natives – who knew, or knew of each other. Supported by parents who encouraged imaginative learning, Annora’s immersion in such a world was a gift.

And the Sear’s Catalogue with its black and white pictures, was her coloring book.

Learning through play gave vibrancy to her life. Is this not a legacy reminder for our own generation?


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