The power of play in skill development is often overlooked, but for us, it’s an vital part of creating dynamic and affirming learning spaces for our students. During this year’s run of First Roots in Attawapiskat First Nation, play was the key to unlocking a real connection with a student named Johnathan. According to his teachers, Jonathan has struggled with attendance and engagement in the classroom. When we met him, he avoided eye contact, was reluctant to answer questions or participate in activities. That changed when our facilitator, Lee, introduced juggling to the class. While all of the students gave it a try, Jonathan connected to juggling in a way none of us anticipated. He steadfastly practiced, showing dedication and resilience in a way his teachers told us he had not demonstrated before. After mastering three-ball juggling, we saw a different Jonathan – one who was engaged, proud and determined to keep learning. In his program feedback survey, he specifically referenced learning to juggle as a key moment when he felt proud of himself and able to try new things.