Monday, June 27, 2011

Play is the work of children.

In this discussion, I want to talk about one of the most effective instructional strategies for student learning that I am aware of.  This model  has received enormous attention and research over the last few decades, and has been utilized by knowledgeable  educators for years.  

It is one that involves a dynamic integration of physical, social, emotional, and cognitive intelligences (the 'mind')  while eliciting behaviors such as self-regulation, active engagement, interaction, bonding, sharing, and communicating. What is this 'magic wand' that addresses so many needs of the student learner you may ask?  It isn't mysterious, or complex, and as I described, its importance and effectiveness have been studied and documented for years.  It is however ignored or proscribed by institutionalized education because it is diametrically opposed to the factory model of learning, and the 'intellectual' model of the 'mind'. 

The model for learning that I am talking about is play.  Thoughtfully taught, guided Play.  Perhaps you have heard the expression "Play is the work of children".  It is a concept that has been around since the time of Plato.  It has been used by many people like Maria Montessori who used it as a powerful force in her Montessori method of education.  Friedrich Froebel the founder of the modern kindergarten considered  play as foundational to his understanding of child development.  According to Froebel "Play is the highest expression of human development in a child..."  

Contemporary educational theory, psychology, and neuroscience are replete with studies of the effectiveness of guided play.  According to The New York Times' article "Taking Play Seriously" published in February , 2008, "Scientists who study play, in animals and humans alike, are developing a consensus view that play..."is a central part of neurological growth and development - one important way that children build complex, skilled, responsive, socially adept and cognitively flexible brains."-- Full Article  

If this idea of play as learning is new to you, let me have you consider two short videos.  The first one shows how the introduction of guided 'play' into the environment of subway passengers in Stockholm Sweden completely redirects their behavior-response patterns. Changing behavior-response patterns by the way, is a good part of what education is all about. 

The second video is from the 'play' section of the 'Creativity Wheel' on Dr. Victoria Stevens website. When you go to the site, click on the 'play' portion of the wheel, and you will see and hear her describe the importance of play in mental development.  Dr. Stevens'  Ph.D. is in Clinical Psychology and she is a certified psychoanalyst, a college professor, a researcher, and frequent a seminar leader. Her research specialty is the study of the development and inhibition of creativity in children and adults, with an emphasis on the relationship between creative thinking, the brain and cognitive processes. She is also an author, and an international speaker. I had the privilege of working briefly with Dr. Stevens at CDE County Arts Leads meetings and at CCSESA CISC Regional meetings and at the California Art Education Association (CAEA) Conference in 2008.

For more looks at 'play' and its application in the classroom, go to JNM - Teachers Corner

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