STEM Mentor: The Futurist Connecting Science, Art And Play

Girls in STEM Mentor jan Choudhury

by | 22 Apr, 2021 | Girls in STEM

Yesim Kunter is a Play Expert, Futurist. Here she explains how play connects with science and art, bringing left brain thinking and right-brain thinking beautifully together.

I’m a Play Futurist…. I love what I do! It is a fascinating role that involves range of subjects; psychology, technology, politics, anthropology, sociology and design.

My own journey to become a Play Expert wasn’t a straight line; it was more of a scribble.

I grew up in Turkey, Izmir a harbour city by the Aegean! Most of my childhood was by the seaside where the white sandy beach meets the aquamarine sea; building mazes, tunnels and sandcastles with my friends.

In my opinion, I had a lucky childhood that even today I use as inspiration for my work. I had the freedom to create, imagine, and explore as much as I wanted instead of what was expected of me by society. Even encouraged by my granddad to try unconventional activities such as melting plastic pens to create my art. Given the freedom to continue to study Science because I was curious to play in the Science Labs even though my grades weren’t as high. I have to say the excitement of “playing” whether with plastic pens or discovering new things during Lab times all inspired me the most and made me who I’m today.

Playfulness and playing are most of the time seen as frivolous as if you are wasting your time. On the contrary, it is one of the most important stages in the discovery of the unknown such as ‘self’.
I’d love to share the quote from Winnicott on how he explains the importance of play in the discovery of self; “This is that in playing and perhaps only in playing that the child or adult is free to be creative and use the whole personality, and it is only in being creative that the individual discovers self” D.W. Winnicott.

There is a great connection between Science, Art and Play. They hold the excitement of exploration, experimenting, lot’s of ‘aha’ moments and the satisfaction of discovering the new and also in that journey, The Self.

My interest in exploration, research and coming up with ideas took me to Interior Architecture, Toy Design and to being a Play Futurist.

I love the way children’s minds work, the way they move in between fantasy and reality, curiosity and joy of learning and being enthusiastic about life in general. That’s what play is for me! It is about making connections. With play, we engage with our subjects and the joy that it gives us. That’s how we keep ourselves young by heart and mind.

As a play futurist; I research the behaviour of people, cultures, changes in the world dynamics (technological, economic, political, social and environmental) and from these insights I develop toys or play activities for the future, which have never made before. While my journey as a toy designer started as only for children. I also use Play as a methodology to help participants (professionals like engineers, activists, or professors) to think like children to gain divergent thinking skills.

Imagine toy designer’s day starts with playing with many toys to understand why it is FUN. And how they can make it even more magical! Most of the time we feel like Santa’s Elves Working /Playing day and night to create magic.

Talking about magic, “Play” is magic! The reason I say that because it transforms people who participate in it. It takes them to a timeless, safe journey so that they can discover who they are, what they can do more and expand in their comfort zones.

In play, we learn to believe that the impossible can be possible.

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Written by Yesim Kunter