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Play is considered essential for child development but there is always a strong desire to teach children. Increasingly, children have lost the freedom, time, and space for play. They are under more adult supervision. They are taught more formal academic content. In this episode we have invited Pasi Sahlberg, a Professor of Education Policy at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, to be our guest. Pasi is the coauthor of Let the Children Play: Why more play will save our schools and help children thrive (with William Doyle, 2019). Pasi is joined by Alexandra Harper, an  accomplished practitioner in the episode.

More about the guests below the video

About our guests

Pasi Sahlberg is a Professor of Education Policy at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He is a Finnish educator, teacher and author who has advised national education reforms around the world. Pasi has held senior education expert posts in World Bank and European Commission, and leadership positions in the Finnish Government. He is a winner of several education awards, including Grawemeyer Award in the U.S. (2013) , Robert Owen Award in Scotland (2014), and Lego Prize in Denmark (2016), and Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Resident Fellowship in Italy in 2017. His recent books are Let the Children Play: Why more play will save our schools and help children thrive (with William Doyle, 2019), In Teachers We Trust: The Finnish way to world-class schools (with Tim Walker, 2021) and Finnish Lessons 3.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland (2021). He lives in Sydney with his wife and two sons.


Alexandra Harper has held teaching and educational leadership positions in the early childhood, primary and tertiary sectors across government and independent systems. During this time, she led the introduction of key initiatives in the areas of mathematics, early childhood and primary pedagogy, wellbeing and transition-to-school programs. She was also involved in several educational building projects, including a playground masterplan that was awarded a Kidsafe National Playground Award. From a young child Alexandra has had a strong connection to nature. This interest never waned making its way into her teaching. Her first school was next to a national park where she took her class into the bush on a daily basis. Since then she has explored various ways to connect children to nature play. In 2014 she introduced Bush and Beach Programs into her school for Kindergarten students. The NSW Government acknowledged her work in this area by awarding her a NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarship to explore nature play in Sweden, Denmark, England and Germany. She connected this work with her passion for promoting positive wellbeing in children and teachers through completing a Master of Applied Positive Psychology. She is currently enrolled in EdD at the UNSW where she is exploring the question “Can nature play make Australian education more equitable?”