Through play, children learn about relationships, gender, race, fairness, unfairness, friendship and exclusion (Grieshaber and McCardle, 2010). In play, children experiment and develop knowledge and skills in language, literacy, numeracy and science in everyday encounters (Goouch, 2008; Samuelsson and Johansson, 2006; Van Oers, 2003).
When students give in to impulses of curiosity and desire through play, they learn. Traditional education systems seemingly do a great job at decreasing play and increasing formal classroom learning activities. When did we start teaching kids not to be kids? Who decided that schools shouldn't develop the imaginations of young minds; but instead punish them for breaking the rules and thinking outside the box?
Designing classroom activities that encourage play allows students to explore, to break rules, to make mistakes and to inevitably learn. By motivating students to play, they will naturally develop skills aligned with a Growth Mindset.
A 21st Century example of how play-based or inquiry-based learning can be achieved through schools is via a Makerspace.
"Makers take risks and iterate from “failures” to achieve success. Makers have a growth mindset that leads them to expend the energy to learn. Making fosters character- building traits collectively known as grit, including creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, persistence, social responsibility, and teamwork, among others."
Things to remember when facilitating play/inquiry-based learning:
Supportive NetworkYou need to create and maintain a safe and supportive learning environment for your students to thrive. Students need to feel genuinely valued before they will be comfortable contributing to the class. This is reiterated when you acknowledge that mistakes will be made and not punished.
Have a FocusLearning through play or inquiry needs to be fueled by a focus. Play-based learning does not mean you sit behind a desk for 2 hours while the kids "play with things" and "learn stuff" on their own. Develop a passion for inquiry in your students. Inspire them to solve problems through trial & error. Be a facilitator and a motivator while encouraging students to challenge each other.
DO YOU THINK PLAY IS IMPORTANT? HOW DO YOU USE PLAY IN THE CLASSROOM?
Goouch, K. (2008). Understanding playful pedagogies, play narratives and play spaces. Early Years, 28, (1), 93–102.
Grieshaber, S. and McCardle, F. (2010). The trouble with play. Maidenhead: Open University Press