What is Play-based Learning?
It is a well-known saying that ‘play is the work of children’. GWA’s Nursery and Discovery classes utilize a play-based learning curriculum model where play is combined with STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) as well as language development and social and emotional intelligence development.
It is a well-known saying that ‘play is the work of children’. GWA’s Nursery and Discovery classes utilize a play-based learning curriculum model where play is combined with STEAM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) as well as language development and social and emotional intelligence development. You may notice while reading this article that the play-based curriculum used in our Early Years programs isn’t actually that different from best practices teaching in our Lower School and Upper School curriculums.
Our Nursery teachers and Discovery teachers have joined efforts to answer some of the essential questions that parents need to know about GWA’s play-based learning curriculum, starting with what is play-based learning?
Play-based curriculum is allowing children to learn different skills through a variety of toys, games, and activities. Play is a very important part of development in language, social skills, fine motor skills, and so much more. It enhances creativity and builds a great foundation for developing strong well-rounded students.
GWA has an enormous variety of supplies, materials, and facilities that are used for play-based learning, but one of the highlights is the Imagination Playground where our youngest learners manipulate giant blocks to create anything they can imagine. Our Discovery teachers explain how playing with giant blocks contributes to the curriculum:
The Imagination Playground contributes to the play-based curriculum by giving the students lots of choices in their building materials and the freedom to decide for themselves what they want to build or create. It opens up avenues of discussion for beginning engineers, doctors, teachers, and a variety of other job possibilities. It encourages creativity, vocabulary-building, communication skills, inquiry, and cross-cultural experiences, etc. Parents can replicate something like this, but on a smaller scale, at home. Any kind of building blocks can be used for or parents can repurpose items like toilet paper rolls, tissue boxes, etc. to create their own building blocks.
It is essential for young learners to have the opportunity to manipulate objects and materials while playing. Mrs. Tori explains that “children learn by doing and experimenting. They play by attempting to copy what they see adults do such as cooking or shopping. We give them materials to manipulate such as lemons during our color unit because it is incredibly important that students be able to explore while using all of their senses. We have many learners who come to GWA not knowing how to smell something. We teach them how to use every sense. It’s learning they can’t get from a book, where they might see a picture of a lemon and understand that the color of a lemon is yellow, but when we give students real lemons and teach them to smell it, cut it, feel it, squeeze it, see the juice run out, mix it, and taste the final product, this is play-based learning.”
A final essential question to consider is how does play-based learning prepares young learners for what comes next in their education. Since best practices in lower and upper school education emphasize the integration of the sciences, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) into project-based, 21st Century Skills-based learning, it is essential to introduce these same principles of STEAM education into the play-based curriculum. Discovery teacher, Mrs. Kelsey emphasizes that “most people don't realize that STEM/STEAM can be integrated so early into Early Childhood education, but that's just because it looks different. Kids are naturally curious and almost everything they do is an experiment in some way or another. You can see the wheels turning in a small child's head when they figure out that blocks can be stacked, then they test to see how high they can stack them and begin to explore other ways to use them.” Comfort with experimentation, and testing a hypothesis is the foundational skills for all STEAM fields. Early childhood educators guide young learners through both education play, and also the social and emotional aspects of learning that students will encounter on a daily basis.
Our Nursery and Discovery programs use young learners’ natural desire to play as the main vehicle for growth. The play-based curriculum should be appreciated for its complexity, its intention, and its importance because the foundations of a life-long learner begin with a love for learning.
Reach out to our Early Childhood Education Supervisor, Mrs. Amal at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to learn more about our values and how we teach at GWA.