Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What is play-based learning?

When we talk about our school program as play-based it resonates with parents who want something different for their children than a testing-based school.  But I think they also get a bit nervous - is it "just play"?

Here is a great article by Katy Merrell, a school Head in Norfolk, Virginia, Pro-Active Parenting, The Power of Play-Based, Active Learning. She says, "too often the word ‘play’ makes parents apprehensive about what is taking place in the classroom, so it may help to think of it as Purposeful Learning (that is) Active (while kids are) Young (and young at heart)."

When children get the "Ah ha!" moment in a learning situation, it engages the neurotransmitters in the brain that imbed the memory.  A mind-numbing worksheet just doesn't have the same impact.  Exciting and engaging activities that pull children in, the kinds of things they view as play, are the ones that stick with them best.  Piquing and supporting children's curiosity creates optimal learning. 

For older children "playing" (exploring) with a microscope to see what's in pond water, or cutting and gluing as they figure out how to make a better wind turbine blade, feels like play - and that's what the teacher is aiming at.  Great teachers use play as the hook to help children push themselves to reach the highest of expectations.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Show what you know

The school year culminated with many different products of children's learning, from a rocket launch to thesis presentations, essays about Hindu deities, and a Mexican hat dance.  There were videos for marketing space tourism companies and Spanish cooking shows, animated autobiographies and an online newspaper, to name just a few.

Here are links to some of the creative ways that Parker kids showed what they know.

Two seventh graders' Spanish Cooking Video: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B3ZHSv9J8VsjNmloRWxnTUN5NlU/edit

6-7's Marketing videos to promote space tourism (part of STEM week):  https://sites.google.com/site/mathwithshelli/home/stem-week-at-parker  (I love the edginess of Sky High and Cloud Space!)

6-7's on-line news: http://parkerpurples.wordpress.com/
and   http://parkergreens.wordpress.com/

8th grade thesis presentations: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/parkerschool  password: rcp123