Today I have three play and learning-related articles to share with you. The first is about how universities can learn (and in some case are learning) from preschools about the benefits of a more playful approach to learning. The second is a Washington Post piece that shares prepared remarks for a speech by the new Secretary of Education about how our public education system needs to return to a more well-rounded approach. The third is a piece by a psychologist about the benefits that kids derive from play.
Nicola Whitton: "One way to develop a generation who can take risks is through playful learning. Play supports socialisation and decreases stress, develops imagination and creativity, and enables learners to have new experiences and learn from their mistakes. While it is integral to early years education, a focus on assessment has all but driven play out of schools. The relative flexibility of higher education curricula and teaching approaches provide opportunities to give learners chances to play, experiment, experience, and fail—and, most importantly, learn from those failures."
Me: I thought that this article made an interesting point, that universities are more able to introduce concepts of playful learning than K-12 schools, in some cases, because the curricula offer more flexibility. Of course I also think that we need to do more to incorporate playful learning in K-12 (and especially K-3) schools. This article also makes the link between play and the learned ability to manage failures in life.
Emma Brown: "King plans to say that No Child Left Behind -- the main federal education law that was signed in 2002 and required schools to show progress in math and reading test scores -- had the unintentional consequence of narrowing the curriculum for too many children.
“For so many students, a wide range of possible subjects in school, powerfully and creatively taught, can be exactly what it takes to make the difference between disengagement and a lifelong passion for learning. But today, that’s not happening enough,” King plans to say (in a scheduled speech, according to prepared remarks)."
Also in King's planned remarks is this: "I count myself among those who worry that the balance has shifted too much away from subjects outside of math and English that can be the spark to a child’s interest and excitement, are actually essential to success in reading, and are critical to a child’s future."
Me: I found Secretary King's comments encouraging. He's basically saying that in order for more kids to find their passion for learning, the curriculum needs to become more broad, and that the emphasis on testing in recent years (along with other resource constraints) has led to some reduction other topics, like social studies and science. He goes on to discuss why kids deserve and need a well-rounded education, particularly in areas like STEM where there are both gender and socioeconomic gaps that arise early. Overall, I found this speech encouraging.
Karen Young: "Free play is critical for children to learn the skills that are essential to life – skills that cannot be taught in a more formal, structured setting. In every way, play is practice for the life. A lot of play involves imitating grown-ups – their work, their roles, the way they interact. Learning how to play is as important as anything that can come from play."
Me: This article was shared by someone in a Facebook group that I participate in. Karen Young is a psychologist, and she talks about the developmental benefits that kids get from play, with reference to what the research says. She also has a section on how to nurture kids' creativity through play, full of good advice like asking open-ended questions and nurturing "their abstract thinking by inviting them to list unusual uses for everyday objects." This is a good overview article for those who don't have the time or inclination to read a whole book on the importance of play, but would like a solid introduction to reasons, benefits, and suggestions.