There is much concern with the amount of school work, testing, and one size fits all approach to teaching. Advocates of child centered education and play, wonder what happened to the days when playing at recess, climbing trees and imaginative play held an integral place in the classroom. I started teaching in a kindergarten class in 1997 and I fell in love with the little ones, their wonder and curiosity. My master teachers who had over 30 years of experience promoted learning through the use of a myriad of centers: the sandbox, the kitchen, the dress up area, painting, drawing and blocks. We spent a great deal of time doing Reader’s Theater – reading lots of books, singing songs and playing. My third year teaching kindergarten, I was asked to remove the sandbox, the kitchen, limit recess (sometimes it would be skipped) so that I could accommodate the new California State Standards. While I appreciated a framework by which to plan and develop what was being taught in the class, I didn’t understand why these learning centers were no longer acceptable. Needless to say, I was a young teacher trying to figure it out – and the master teachers who taught me, chose to retire. I figured they didn’t want to deal with what they knew to be true about learning and play – and what “experts” were touting.
In this Ted Talk, Stuart Brown, a researcher and psychiatrist discusses how play is crucial to learning and human development.
Fortunately, some schools are making changes in their curriculum to include more play. As I’m writing this blog, I’m joyfully listening to the giggles, conversations and imaginative play happening at my school as we celebrate DAY OF PLAY! On this special day, kids can explore and visit different grades and classrooms where they can participate in different types of activities. Some of the fun things planned for today are: origami, zentangles, blocks, painting, yoga, dancing, karaoke, piano, drawing, gardening, arts and crafts, legos, sports, playing outside in the school yard, plus much more. I hope more schools begin to seriously consider how play and learning go hand in hand.