Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Play doesn't need to be redefined...learning does.

I subscribe to the LinkedIn group LEGO Foundation IDEA Conference. A while back I received an email notifying me of a discussion "Meet 30 Pioneers Redefining Play and Re-imagining Learning". Normally I just look at the title and gauge whether this is something that is relevant to me. In the online world you get to a point where everything is relevant and interesting and the challenge is to read, digest and action interesting information. There is a lot of information in the online world.

This particular discussion appealed to me because we are exploring 'play-based learning' in our school. Our guiding statements have recently been written and published and the challenge right now is balancing and prioritizing 'play' with everything else that is happening in a day e.g. Single Subjects, PYP Units of Inquiry and scheduled playground times.

There is something that Cynthia (Director, Communications Officer at International Play Association) wrote that captured my attention and resonated with me, she wrote:
I think it is a pretty dangerous thing to consider redefining play. Play does not need to be redefined. Learning does. Play needs to be left alone. Play is best for children when adults stay out of it. Messing about with play only gets in the way of the beauty and joy that children find in pure, child-led free play. The more we get in there and muck up the works the more we harm our children. Play in and of itself is in danger of being ruined by us trying to make sure that something measurable comes out of it. Play - silly, fun, goofy play is invaluable all by itself.

Play is best for children when adults stay out of it.  

I think we underestimate how intelligent, capable and competent children are. We do not need to plan their play, we can just provide resources and step back and observe. At a recent team meeting we were asked to share a play-based learning goal. My goal is to:

Commit to providing large blocks of time for child-initiated play - no agenda, no purpose.

Every Sunday my colleague Alanud and I open our doors and encourage our classes to move between classes. This time is unstructured with no purpose and no agenda. Yes, they are just playing and yes I struggle with this even though I know it is the best way for 4 and 5 year olds to learn. In my mind, I have a list of things I could be teaching children, exposing children to and documenting, I value play, I really do but it has been hard to ignore the urge to 'teach'.

Our observations have revealed that:
  • Children do not need to be shown how to play in a new environment
  • Children have and will play with different resources in different ways
  • Children embrace the time and space to play
  • Children in our classes even though they spend time with each other most mornings for a active movement session have not started play across classes i.e. making friends from other classes. (Although we have only just started these 2 hours time blocks, so hopefully over time we will see new friendships develop).

How do you prioritize self-directed play in your weekly timetable?

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