Matt Karlsen (he/him)Co-founder and co-director, Center for Playful Inquiry
Matt Karlsen dedicates his energies to helping teachers and others concerned with educational experiences reconsider, reimagine, and shift their practices, especially as they relate to questions of community, democracy, and contemporary contexts. Growing up in 1980s Los Angeles, he learned firsthand that chutzpah went a long way toward transforming a room into a concert space and a university campus into a protest space. That same sense of radical imagination guided someone who never really liked school to think that schools could be a fitting lifelong vocation. After 15 years of working directly with children in mixed-age, trans-disciplinary education at the upper elementary and middle school levels and leading teacher professional development in History grades k-12, Matt joined the Opal School community - which became a transformative personal and professional experience that recast the questions he was asking and the hopes he had for the work. At Opal School, he worked side-by-side with the children (ages 3-11) and staff at the school to document, make sense of, and share their work with the world, and was responsible for welcoming visiting educators into that distinct culture in ways that helped them imagine the implications of that work to their unique contexts. Following the pandemic-related collapse of Opal School, Matt and his dear colleague and friend Susan Harris MacKay started the Center for Playful Inquiry to continue collaborating with educators in ways that feel meaningful and fitting to this era of environmental, political, and social collapse.