Learning through play

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” (Albert Einstein)   

On Mondays at Epuni Primary School, two classrooms come together for an hour to learn and play. The objective? To allow teachers time to work in small groups on specific content and students time to do what kids do best – discover! If a random visitor was walking by the classroom, it might seem as if the students had been given free time, and at a basic level, that is technically true. However, for the last few weeks, as a guest volunteer, I see so much more! These students, ranging in age from 5 – 8, are learning social skills, communication skills, eye/hand coordination, problem solving, and resourcefulness.

I watched students build rockets out of paper towel rolls and tape; take apart old telephones with small screwdrivers; dress up and pretend they were in a play; make a dinosaur cave and a boat from large cardboard boxes. My favorite was one boy who was trying his hardest to build a racetrack with large wood blocks. The matchbox cars kept falling off the track. He turned to me very defeated and said, “It doesn’t work!” I responded with, “Is there another way you can you keep the cars on the track?” He went to the box and pulled out four long thick boards and carried them back to the track, placing them this way and that. Then, he discovered it… if he made the sides higher… bingo! Away he went, using all of the blocks and attracting many of his school mates who wanted to test out his handiwork. For this young boy, I was told, this is the only time he gets to use giant blocks, or play with paint, or ride a bike (that is a recess option). I think we forget sometimes that not all children have the resources at home to really play, to discover, to imagine, to create. Yet, it is such a big part of learning. One hour per week is what these two teachers set aside, and from what I have seen, it is an hour truly well spent. 

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