Reflections on Sea Changes

Thoughts on transformation
by Lauralee Alben

What’s at risk? | Part 2: The mother wave


What is it about water that transforms risk into rewarding experiences?

In her fast-paced, fun presentation at the Blue Mind Summit, Professor and Early Childhood Educator, Louise Zimanyi declared, “Playing with and in water is evolutionary.” She explained that according to research conducted across many countries by Norwegian Dr. Ellen Sandseter, “risky play” includes great heights; high speed; dangerous tools; dangerous elements (including deep and/or fast moving water); rough-and-tumble; and getting lost.

“Risky play is very evolutionary.” Louise continued on in a mischievous tone: “When I was young, I was drawn to fire. And water. And to all the things most parents really don’t want their children around.”

But it turns out that when we trust young children to be safe in nature, they learn to trust in themselves and grow to love, respect, and protect the environment.

Louise pointed out, there’s a growing body of research that demonstrates that engaging with water, including and especially wild water, is one of the most important elements that improves children’s health and development. The relationship between risky play, wellbeing, and outdoor learning and education in early childhood has been well documented and recently led to the development and launch of a Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play in Canada advocating “access to active play in nature and outdoors—with its risks—is essential for healthy child development and recommending increasing children’s opportunities for self-directed play outdoors in all settings—at home, at school, in child care, the community and nature.”


In Sea Change Design, Context is the second cycle in our ocean-inspired methodology. Positive, profound, and regenerative transformations can only occur when there is a holistic, integrative awareness of the entire environment in which they will transpire. Louise, and the early childhood educators like her are proponents of learning within Nature, humanity’s greatest context.

Another luminary, Carlina Rinaldi, Pedogagista and President of Reggio Children, is a pivotal force in Reggio Emelia, an arts-based childhood educational approach that originated in Italy and has spread around the world. It encourages children’s curiosity, joy, and resilience.

A project called The Sea is Born from a Mother Wave: Theories and drawings on birth by children offers us insights and the invitation to examine our own views of life. One eloquent drawing by Maddalena at 3.8 years old shows the rippling belly of her mother with herself floating in the center of concentric circles. She explains, “I was all wet. I was in water inside of a balloon. I didn’t ask them if I had a bathing suit on.”

Carla Rinaldi writes, “Children’s questions… are precious, as are their answers because they are generative. Children’s theories… highlight the strongest characteristic of the identity of children and of humankind: searching for and researching meaning, sharing and constructing together the meaning of the world and the events of life.”

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Both Carla and Louise serve on the Advisory Board of PlayFutures, “a global, multi-stakeholder community of dedicated researchers, practitioners, parents and influencers/policymakers who strive towards expanding the opportunities for Learning through Play through innovation and research.” It’s impressive in its ambition and urgency to become a movement.

Why so much passion around play? It’s not a theoretical or trivial pastime for these insightful educators who understand what’s really in peril and why a sea change in education is imperative. When our children are at risk, so is our future. Giving children risky and real life experiences enables them to flow like water in a world in the midst of a phenomenal metamorphosis—one where everything is called into question.

This dire societal and environmental transition summons forth evolutionary education that nurtures children who are capable of creating transformation, wonder and meaning out of uncertainty, doubt and mistakes; children who are compassionate, courageous and connected.

Risky play can result in a resilient world. Then not only will the Mother Wave birth the sea; she will midwife a new worldview embracing all life.


The PlayFutures global community, initiated by the LEGO Foundation with an Advisory Group in April 2016, is currently in BETA. You can register your interest in participating and subscribe to their newsletter.


The Blue Mind Movement continues to swell due to this annual summit, a NYT bestselling book, compelling media coverage, and a myriad of opportunities designed by the Blue Mind team to reconnect us with water, like Blue Marbles and Billion Baby Turtles. Currently #100DaysOfBlue is underway in social media; this is our contribution.

Continue reading this 4-part blog post.

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