Tag Archives: play

More than a Game

Today we played Monopoly.  We played in our Summer Institute…a leadership development program for teachers of writing.  And as you might imagine, this play had more than one purpose!

monopoly box

There is something wonderful about giving a group of dedicated educators a Monopoly box and asking them to play a game during an intensive professional development experience.  In our 4th day of a four week institute, we have already begun to bond, building trust and opening up, willing to be vulnerable even when faced with difficult topics and challenging situations.

The group seemed almost giddy about the thought of playing…even though based on the previous three and a half days, they knew this was not simply a board game break.  They started by forming groups of five or six and then selecting a writing utensil from a plate on their table.  A colored pencil, a smelly marker, a highlighter, an SDAWP pencil, and either one or two Crayola markers were mystery icons of the game to come.  After spending time as a group reviewing the written rules of the game and setting up to begin, the significance of the choice of the writing utensil became apparent.

Figuring out how to play

Those holding the Crayola markers were asked to begin playing…the others at the table were only allowed to watch.  In my role as observer I got watch as some started to play with trepidation while others raced forward with delight…”Hurry, let’s get what we can while we can!”  After the first player or players had played for five or ten minutes, the second group of players were invited in.  At indeterminate intervals and not knowing which category would be called next, the players who waited and watched seemed to withdraw and lose interest in the game.

playing monopoly

This version of Monopoly, which immerses players in an experience where everyone plays by the same rules…but the game is still not fair, is adapted from an article by Jost and Jost.  Our goal is to get our participants to think about equity beyond what is experienced by individuals and consider the systemic influences of poverty and racism.

As the game continued we saw our participants behave in some interesting ways.  Those that entered the game early seemed to play either with zeal…or with the weight of guilt on their shoulders.  They frequently assumed the role of helper…often moving the pieces for their late starting peers or even acting with seeming generosity, offering “get out of jail free” cards or waiving some small rents due to them.  The late starters either become apathetic about the game or downright devious…sneaking money from the bank or even wishing to land in jail so they wouldn’t have to pay fees that they saw coming as their money dwindled with each turn.

We saw early players become rule sticklers…at one point carefully explaining the rules to a late starter.

checking the rules

When time was called on the game, players were asked to take note of the results and then sent off to reflect on their experience.  What did they notice about themselves, their peers, the experience?  What implications does this experience have for them as educators, parents, human beings?

Our discussion was rich and layered…and sometimes downright contentious.  This experience opened up space for talking about systems: economic, social, educational…and the differences in access and equity that are often dismissed or not considered with our more typical focus on individuals.  And we’re not finished with these discussions…because although there are some who might ask, “What does equity have to do with the teaching of writing?”, we know that equity plays a crucial role in who has access to high quality teaching and learning…and who can see themselves as successful learners.  This game “hack” is just a beginning for us…we have much more in store in our next three weeks!

 

In the Spaces Between

Between the ocean waves and the shear drop of the cliffs is a stretch of beach…at least when the tide is low.  This was the perfect setting for a walking, photo taking, trash picking up meeting today.

There’s something wonderful about between-ness.  Meeting between activities we love and see as rewarding, walking this stretch between water and road, noticing the sun between the clouds, feeling the sand between our toes.

And today’s walking meeting ended with a wonderful, playful find…sand castles decorating the spaces along the cliff wall, tucked into small caverns, some close together, some standing tall and separate from the others.  This felt like performance art as I spied a couple, almost hidden, sitting up above this temporary work of art.  Were they the artists?  Perhaps…but either way, they enjoyed our delight in the sand castle find.

castles on the cliff

cliff castles

close up castle

castle on green

Play and Games

This first week of CLMOOC has reminded me again of the power of connected learning. Don’t get me wrong…I am a connected learner all year long, but there is something about the intensity and playfulness of the CLMOOC that amplifies the effect.  Earlier this week I had the opportunity to serve as a coach for an upcoming make, and when I learned the topic would be games I wondered just how much help I would be.  In online spaces when someone says games, I immediately think of Minecraft and Halo and other video games.

Instead, our conversation went to stories about games from our childhood…games we made up, unstructured time when we were left to our own devices and “forced” to entertain ourselves.  Terry brought up some research about the lack of games in children lives and I wondered how that could be true–aren’t people complaining that kids are too obsessed with gaming?  That’s when our conversation got really interesting…when we realized that game had different connotations in different contexts.  What we all worry about is how little time children seem to have that is unsupervised and free for imaginative play, exploration, making, and doing…not pre-structured by adults. (Many thanks for a rich, thought-provoking conversation Terry, Joe, Christina, and Michael!)

Here’s a link to the talk Terry had referred to:

My husband took today off from work and after we treated ourselves to breakfast out, we headed to the beach for a leisurely low tide walk.  It was warm and sunny, but not too hot, perfect beach weather.  And as we started walking I realized that my husband and I often make up our own games to keep our beach walks interesting.  Our latest “game” has been to search for beach glass as we walk.  It’s like a scavenger hunt, eyes tuned for the gleam of the glass worn by the tides.  We have very little glass on our beaches–probably in large part because glass has been banned on our beaches for a decade.  But when we started playing this game a few weeks ago, each find has become a treasure.  Here’s today’s haul.

beach glass

And Christina reminded me that my photography is a game.  And it’s become even more so managing both #sdawpphotovoices–a monthly photo a day challenge and a weekly photo challenge that I post on my blog and for the NWP iAnthology.  This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is #two…and I couldn’t resist snapping this photo of my husband fitting our flip flops in his pockets so we don’t have to carry them on our walk.  He puts one of each of our shoes in the pocket since mine are smaller (two of his shoes won’t fit in one pocket!).

two shoes

I also took some photos that I knew I would use to play around with filters and effects. This “still life” seemed perfect for trying out a new app (thanks Bonnie for pointing to it) called painteresque.  I love the effect!

beach stifflife paintereque

And then today I added yet another game to my photographic repertoire.  I’ve been wanting to take photos of “found alphabet” letters.  My rule (self-imposed) is that I have to photograph it as it is, I don’t get to arrange it.  Here’s a couple I found at the beach today.

Here’s a Y from kelp:

Y seaweed

An M I found in the cliffs:

m beach cliff

An O formed by a sea anenome:

o sea anenome

And who can resist the i made of bird poop!  (And it was washed away by a wave right after I snapped it!)

i bird poop

And part of the fun of these games is playing them with others.  It’s fun to search for beach glass with my husband, celebrating each find.  And taking photos is even more fun when others play along and we can share with each other and learn from each other.

I’m hoping that others will join me in the found alphabet fun.  I’m thinking I have two different “sets” I am searching for: found in nature and found on the beach.

What I love best about the CLMOOC is the spirit of playfulness and the ways we build on each others’ ideas and makes.  We are free to explore, to play, and to hack the structures presented. The connections are essential because they motivate and encourage and urge us on to try one more thing.  And thanks Terry, Joe, Christina, and Michael and the rest of you CLMOOC-ers for reminding me that I do know about games. Now I can’t wait for the game-focused make cycle! I’m already making up new games!

Playing with Cyanotype

Early this year I decided on play for my one little word.  And I have been making time for play on a pretty regular basis.  A lot of my play is related to photography and making time to take photos has me seeking out opportunities to explore that I might not have done otherwise.  I’ve explored places in my community that I have never been before…and I am definitely spending lots of time outdoors, especially on the weekend, rather than doing housework or even reading!

For Mother’s Day this year a manilla envelope arrived in the mail from my son and daughter-in-law.  As I opened it I found a typewritten note and a smaller manilla envelope.  I love the note, knowing that it was typed on a typewriter that my son found left next to the dumpster near his home…and that he typed it.  The note explained that I would find specially treated cyanotype paper that he had prepared for me.  It gave me step by step instructions for using the paper…and included a few “negatives” that I could try if I wanted.

I played around a bit…and then got busy so it has stayed in the envelope until last weekend.  I started thinking about that cyanotype paper and what I wanted to play around with.  As I headed out for my beach walk on Saturday, I purposely looked for shell pieces that would work with this positive/negative kind of exposure (a rudimentary kind of photography).  As we walked I noticed so many different kinds of shells and rocks…and sea glass!  I seldom find sea glass on our beaches, but for some reason pieces of sea glass kept presenting themselves.  We also found quite a few shell structures with holes and openings.

beach finds

When I got home, I pulled out the paper treated with the cyanotype chemicals and laid the shells out.  I took them out for about five minutes of sun exposure, brought the paper back in to rinse to stop the exposure…and here is the resulting cyanotype shell study.

shell cyanotype

I love the dimension of this print.  The way the shadows create an almost three dimensional effect.

This attempt excited me, so I gathered some plant pieces and created an arrangement on another piece of treated paper.

This created an interesting result, but I found that the lightweight plants blow when I put them outside…there were pieces of lavender on the lower left…and they left a faint impression when they blew away.

Then I grabbed a leaf branch from a tree in my backyard and created an arrangement with the beach glass as the grounding.

I like the way the beach glass produced an interesting effect when placed in the sun.  I tried another one today…and won’t subject you to the results.  Playing around with this printing technique is tricky.  Objects that are too dense or too thick create big light splotches that are less interesting and pleasing than those that have opacity or cast interesting shadows that create dimension.

I have only a few pieces of treated paper left…but my son tells me it is easy and relatively cheap to create my own.  I’ve had fun playing with this technique and created some interesting pieces. I think the shell study is my current favorite…although I do like this early piece I did with some dandelions and other weeds from the yard.

dandelion cyanotype

I like that I have been playing enough that others are giving me encouragement and opportunity to play more.  And I know that taking time to play is good for me, good for my family, and good for my students.  I’ve noticed that lots of my play is about making…making photos, circuits, art, movies.  And I’m looking forward to some more play and making when the CLMOOC begins again on Friday.  So maybe this post is a preview of another summer of making…and playing with others through social media and connected learning.  Will you join us and do some of your own connecting, making and playing?

A Pink Fedora

It was a pink fedora kind of day.  What does that mean, you ask?

This is parent-student-teacher conference week.  I love the opportunity to talk to families and yet, it’s a tough week for teachers.  Three hours of back to back to back conferences takes its toll…and it takes those precious after school moments usually devoted to planning and preparation and pushes them aside to make room for the conferences.  And, in conversation after conversation I find myself reminding students to be playful in their learning–that learning doesn’t mean routine and boring and something you dread.  You have to find ways to make it fun and interesting.  And that, in turn, reminds me to be more playful in my teaching and other responsibilities.  I have to find ways to make my hard days fun and rewarding too.

It seems odd to remind children to play, but when it comes to school and learning they seem to think that the path to learning is narrow.  They are looking for the one right way, which sometimes transfers to battles at home about that thing called homework.

I want “homework” to be curiosity and experimentation.  I want students to go home and explore ideas that came up in the classroom.  I want them to play with numbers and play with language.  I want them to figure out new ways to express their ideas in words…and in pictures. And I want them to come back to school and spread that energy and excitement around.  And some of my students do.

This morning, one of my students arrived at school wearing a pink fedora.  It was the first thing I noticed when I walked out to pick up my students this morning.  I could see him from quite a distance…smiling broadly and walking with the air of assurance that comes from knowing with confidence that a pink fedora makes a statement!

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Somehow that pink fedora represents that playfulness I hope for in our learning community. Playful doesn’t have to mean silly or distracting…and that fedora was neither today.  For me that jaunty pink hat was a talisman of fun, of individuality, of style, with a bit of hopefulness and joy thrown in.  I’m not so sure that the hat will arrive at school again…and that’s okay.  One day of the bright pink fedora reminds me…and helps me remind my students…to find the fun and the playfulness in our work and our learning.

I hope you had a pink fedora kind of day too!

Exploring Green: March Photo-a-Day Challenge

As we enter March, thoughts of spring fill our minds along with images of all things green.  And even though I live in southern California, a place that winter skipped entirely this year, spring invites lighter and brighter colors, the suggestion of new life, and a sense of renewal.  And then there is that all-things-green March holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, a day where everyone is a little bit Irish and a whole lot of green.

And besides color, green is a word with many different meanings and connotations.  It conveys environmentalism and jealousy, youthful inexperience and prosperity.  So for our March #sdawpphotovoices Photo-a-Day Challenge, let’s explore all of the possibilities of green.  The photos do not have to feature the color green, although some might, but instead the goal is to capture the multiplicity of meanings that green might convey.  Here’s some ideas to play around with…and each section ends with an invitation to explore and include something not specifically named.

Week 1: Nature, Vivacity and Life

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1  conservation

2  environment

3  living

4  nature

5  vivacity

6  preserve

7  what else?

Week 2: Springtime, Freshness, and Hope

8  fresh

9  spring

10  emerging

11  blooming

12  hope

13  wonder

14  what else?

Week 3: Fairies, Dragons, and Monsters

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(This picture has me thinking of mermaids!)

15  fairies

16  dragons

17 Leprechauns

18  monsters

19  imagination

20  creatures

21  what else?

Week 4: Jealousy and Envy

22  jealousy

23  envy

24  greed

25  permission

26  safety

27  covet

28  what else?

Bonus Days: Youth and Inexperience

29  youth

30  inexperience

31  what else?

After you shoot, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.  If you are game for some more playfulness, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, make a video or slideshow or try a learning walk!  (More about learning walks here and here) You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section.  It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

Our goal is to play, share with each other, and learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot.  Each week includes six suggestions to explore…and one free choice.  You are welcome to follow them in order, mix them up, or exchange them for something that emerges for you as you explore green this month.  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

Playing with Shadows

Sunday’s prompt for #sdawpphotovoices had to do with shadows.  (It’s part of our exploration of photography techniques…light is this week’s focus)

And of course, Sunday was overcast most of the day.  So when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds in the later afternoon, I headed outside in search of some shadows.  The first shadow I noticed was my own.  But I’ve taken that shot before (see my post of shadow selfies).

At first it seemed hard to find interesting shadows…and then I started looking for shadows of ordinary things and I spotted this leaf near the hose…a still life with shadow!

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Further investigation led to me to the sidewalk across the street where the shadow of the tree on the sidewalk along with the shadow of the curb created a shadow tree…not a shadow of an existing tree, but a new tree.

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Further down the street I noticed that the neighbor’s basketball hoop was making a shadow on the street.  If you look closely, you can almost see the net within the square backboard.

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As I headed back through the fence to my backyard, I noticed the shadow on the fence.  I love the ways the branches intersect in the shadow.

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The sun ducked back undercover shortly after my excursion outside, but not before I caught a shadow inside, as the sun shone through the slates of the window blinds onto the floor creating an interesting repeating pattern.

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I wasn’t excited about taking a picture of a shadow, especially when the sun wasn’t shining when I was out away from home.  But once I headed out and started re-seeing my neighborhood in a playful way…on a shadow hunt…I discovered more than i imagined, and I was having fun chasing after shadows.  There were more that I didn’t include here…including a couple of accidental shadow selfies!

Over coffee with a friend this afternoon, our conversation circled around to play…and the need for teachers to be having fun and playing while they are teaching and working with students.  You know if you, as the teacher, are not having fun, then your students aren’t either. And I don’t know about you, but I always find that I learn the most when I am having fun…almost not even noticing that I am making an effort!

How do you make learning fun?  What are you playing with in the classroom? Chasing shadows seems like it might just be a metaphor for finding play in the classroom…

Love to Play: February’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Since making play my word for the year, I find myself looking for opportunities to incorporate more play in the ordinariness of my everyday life.  How can I be more playful on my commute to work?  How can vacuuming and doing the dishes be more like play?  How can grant writing and lesson planning play with ideas I’ve always wanted to try?

So, playing around with the theme of love in honor of Valentine’s Day, (right smack in the middle of February), let’s put some love into playing with some photography techniques!  (Thanks, Janis, for the suggestion!)

So for February’s #sdawpphotovoices photo-a-day challenge, we’ll focus on a different aspect of photography each week.

After you shoot, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.  If you are game for some more playfulness, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, make a video or slideshow or try a learning walk!  (More about learning walks here and here) You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section.  It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

Week 1:  Playing with Composition

1. Simplify the scene—move in closer to remove distracting details

2.  Rule of thirds (or simply avoid the middle)–what happens when you frame your subject off center?

3.  Use leading lines—frame your shot by letting the natural lines (fences, roads, walls…) direct the viewer’s eye

4.  Use diagonals—shift the angle, tilt your camera…

5.  Check your background—what’s behind your subject? Experiment with finding a background that works with your subject

6.  Fill the frame—zoom in or step closer to fill the frame with your subject

7.  Break the rules—experiment with your own compositional style

Leading lines

Leading lines

Week 2:  Playing with Light

8.  Shoot into the light to create a silhouette

9.  Capture a shadow

10. Find the light in a dark setting

11.  Make light the centerpiece of the photo

12.  Experiment with light and dark in one photo

13.  Include a reflection (water is useful here!)

14.  Try something new with light (either natural light or some other light source)

Reflection

Reflection

Week 3:  Playing with Perspective

15.  Get low

16.  Shoot from above

17.  Create an optical illusion

18.  Play with negative space

19.  Get close

20.  Try a wide angle effect

21.  What other perspective have you tried?

Looking Up

Looking Up

Week 4:  Playing with Genre

22.  Architecture

23.  Black and White

24.  Children

25.  Landscape

26.  Macro

27.  Nature

28.  Street photography

Architecture

Architecture

Our goal is to play, share with each other, and learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot.  Each week includes seven suggestions for exploring the technique.  You are welcome to follow them in order, mix them up, or exchange them for a technique you want to try on.  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

Play is the Word

Today is January 18th…and I think I may have found my “word.”  Lots of people make resolutions for the new year to set their intentions and make change in their lives.  It’s evident from increased traffic at the gym and folks in exercise clothes walking in the neighborhood.  What I notice is that by the end of January, attendance in the gym is waning and best intentions are set aside…again.

My friend and SDAWP colleague Janet wrote about finding her word for the year here, and even though I read others’ blog posts about their words, it was reading her post that got me thinking about what my word might be for the year.  I thought about the usual suspects…focus, balance, love…but they weren’t resonating as the word.  And I let the idea of a word slip to the back burner.

This morning I woke up to find that Janet was authoring the writing prompt for the iAnthology this week, the same group that I am now posting a weekly photo challenge for, and that she had decided to riff off the photo challenge I posted for the week: frames.  Here’s what Janet wrote:

Kim Douillard has begun to curate a great Weekly Photo Challenge here on iAnthology,http://ianthology.ning.com/group/writingwithimages/forum…

and since we both hail from the San Diego Area Writing Project, I thought it would be fun to piggyback on her prompt this week with my own twist on Frames.

At the beginning of the year, many of us set goals and resolutions for the new year. I wrote about this on my blog http://writinginmyhand.org/?p=1082 at the beginning of January. Since we are about 3 weeks into the year, I figure many of those have already gone by the wayside. (For example I am on the couch writing this rather than hitting that 8 am cardio class this morning). But rather than frame my year as an “all or nothing” goal setting adventure, this year I have opted to frame my year with one or two focus words that guide my decisions this year.

My word to frame my year is PURPOSE.

It is quite an interesting way of looking at the world when I focus on my word. For example, rather than get down on myself this morning for not making the class, I remember my purpose for exercise is to stay healthy, and later today I can go walk the beach with my husband instead. It’s also healthy to write, to create, and to share, so all is not lost on the morning on the couch. See, framing your decisions with a word changes the perspective. It has influenced many decisions as I returned to the classroom this past week as well.

So I am asking you this week to set a word, or two if necessary that frame your thinking this year. How will you frame your world? You can use images, words, video, music, whatever you feel shares your word. In this busy time, a one word post or image will also give us all pause to think.

Looking forward to seeing how you frame your world.

Janet

As I read this invitation by Janet, I realized that I know what my word for the year is!  I will frame my year with the word play.  People who know me might be surprised by this decision. I’m often accused of being too serious…and working way too much.  But if you’ve read my blog over the last several months you’ll find evidence of my attention to play…both for myself and for my students.

In a #clmooc Twitter chat the other night, some of my colleagues and I talked about play…how we define it, why it matters, what it might look like in the classroom, and how we find it in our own lives.  Through that conversation, we found ourselves wanting to make more time for play in our lives…and to consider ways to infuse play into the things we do everyday.

In lots of ways, my photography has been a way of infusing play into my life. I find myself on the lookout for interesting photo opportunities while I’m commuting to and from work and making intentional plans to explore with my camera on my days off from work.  I’m taking time to pull off the freeway, find a parking place near something interesting and start shooting some photos.  Just the other day, after a routine doctor’s appointment, I followed a sign for a park I had never visited and discovered an amazing view of this region where I have lived most of my life.  I could see all the way to the ocean from this vantage point…and was surrounded by native plants, and even found a community of monarch butterflies dancing in the setting sun.

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The other morning when I headed downstairs to have some breakfast before work, I noticed the full moon peeking through the half round window in my living room.  I grabbed my phone and captured a shot…knowing, as I’ve mentioned before, that the moon is tricky to photograph.  But when I had a bit of time today, I played with the photo in Camera+ (cropping and adjusting) until I created something more interesting…and if you look closely in the left hand side of the window, you will see the moon peeking through.

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When I take the time for play, I find that I have more energy and a better attitude to apply to all the other parts of my life.  I also find myself eager to try new things, experiment, and push my learning.  I’m studying photographs I admire to incorporate new techniques in my own. And my play is not only about photography (although lots of it is!), I’m also playing with some other things, especially digital tools.

And I want play to infuse my teaching too.  I want my students to find the play in their learning and I want to create opportunities for play to be the goal.  When we have a passion for the things we do, new possibilities open in front of us.  So, Janet, I want play to frame my year…and thanks for asking.

How about the rest of you…what word or words will frame your life and learning this year?

Work and Play

I’ve been accused–more than few times–of being a work-a-holic.  And maybe there is some truth to that notion, but it is because my work is so much fun that a lot of times it seems like play.

I headed out at the crack of dawn Wednesday morning to fly across the country to join my writing project colleagues in Boston for the National Writing Project Annual Meeting that is held every year in conjunction with the Annual National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) conference.

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The Annual Meeting is an opportunity to gather with writing project people from all over the country, to learn from each other, to share ideas and reconnect.  And it is fun!

This conference begins by seeing old friends and learning about what is happening in their places and then offers more formal opportunities for learning from each other.

We’ll spend all day Thursday and Friday in more formal settings, thinking about our students and our teaching…and thinking about how to support teachers and their learning too.  We’ll consider writing in all possible contexts, across all content, across platforms, and across ages and experiences.  And even though we will think hard, write a lot, and at the end of each day feel exhausted, we will continue our conversations over dinner, walking to and from our hotels, over an evening cocktail, and maybe even into our dreams as we finally sleep.  Because these moments spent face to face with our colleagues from all over the nation are to be savored.  They are work and they are play.

We’re here, Boston!  Ready to work and play in this special place.

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