Recently, my colleagues and I attended a summer camp where we introduced students to some fantastic STEM activities. Kids learned how to create their own lava lamps out of everyday kitchen materials. They programed Sphero robots and used them to make cooperative artwork. We also taught them how to make circuits out of batteries and wire, as well as exploding paint bags. The events were endless, and the students had a great time, because more than anything science should be fun!
As I look back on the events of camp, I’m reminded of how important this type of play is for young minds. Play is an essential part of learning and growth. In nature, animal cubs play to sharpen their hunting skills or learn valuable foraging techniques. Among humans, play teaches valuable social skills like communication and cooperation. It also fosters a learning mindset, teaching students to absorb knowledge through exercise and practice.
While unstructured play has its place in education, most teachers need something with a little more organization if we’re to help our students grow. We can accomplish this by dividing play into two distinct categories: Playing Downhill and Playing Uphill.
Playing downhill alludes to having a playful attitude toward life and learning. It refers to any situation where student curiosity is sparked, and where students are encouraged to follow their questions to see where they lead. We can foster a playful attitude with some specific teaching strategies that encourage students to play downhill.
Author Recent PostsBen Talsma, Education Specialist, Van Andel Institute for EducationBen Talsma is an Education Specialist for Van Andel Institute for Education, a Michigan-based education nonprofit dedicating to creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking thrive. To learn more about Van Andel Institute for Education, visit vaei.org. Latest posts by eSchool Media Contributors (see all)
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