Susan Harris MacKay (she/her)Co-founder and co-director, Center for Playful Inquiry
Susan Harris MacKay became a teacher of young children 25 years ago, after growing up in the Northeast corner of the United States. When she had the opportunity, she moved West and worked in public school settings in Portland, Oregon, USA, teaching 5-7 year olds before joining the team developing Opal School - a school that would serve a small number of children ages 3-11 and would become a program of the local children’s museum. Opal School existed to serve the imaginations of adults - to strengthen the relationship between childhood and adulthood through a variety of professional development opportunities. At Opal School, Susan taught children at every grade level before moving into the role of pedagogical director for the school and the museum - a role in which she served until 2021 when the organization closed due to the pandemic. Susan and her friend and colleague, Matt Karlsen, founded the Center for Playful Inquiry to extend and expand the work they created at Opal School to support adult learners who were curious about this approach to teaching and learning they called Playful Inquiry which prioritizes conditions where imagination, creativity, and the wonder of learning thrive. Susan’s TEDx talk is “School Is For Learning to Live.” She is the author of many articles and chapters in print and Story Workshop: New Possibilities for Young Writers (Heinemann, 2021). Other favorite work includes serving on the advisory board for the Lego Foundation and Project Zero’s Pedagogy of Play project, developing tools for Inspiring Inventiveness in collaboration with colleagues at Project Zero, and currently, facilitating Story Workshop Studio - an online mentoring community for educators who want to strengthen their practice of Playful Inquiry. Susan’s strong belief in the power of play, the arts, and story as our unique human birthrights guides her continuing work with adults who care for children and who understand the critical importance and potential of the work they do to make the world we share.