Children (and other people) learn through play. That’s how they’re built. That’s what they are made to do. Play creates real and lasting learning, and it’s the kind of learning that’s deep enough to transfer to new situations without a lot of hoo haw. It results in new understanding, a different view of the world, a quantum leap in growth. And guess what? Learning through play can stand the test—yes, I actually mean standardized tests! The world is exceedingly greedy for student achievement, so why don’t we design our classrooms and teaching materials around the way they learn? Hmm…
I started life as a preschool teacher, and that’s how I learned about how I (and other people) learn. I couldn’t understand why preschoolers were so good at learning a new language, but so poor at learning to read. That’s how I got started researching—child development, then, and new content areas now. Wow! Piaget, Erikson, Vygotsky—these guys made some sense, even to a bewildered sixteen year old. I started inventing some activities based on child development theories and some of them actually worked! I spent the next 34 years of my life exploring, admiring, probing, experimenting, supporting, analyzing, researching, growing, testing, evaluating, puzzling over, and loving learners!
As a preschool teacher I was introduced to thematic teaching—presenting basic skills through playing on a theme, usually a science or social studies subject. At the preschool where I was nurtured (as a teacher), we had a “library” of books, toys, games, and manipulative stuff cataloged according to themes such as fall, leaves, winter, snow, hibernation, trees, spring, plants, animals, pond life…well, you get the idea. We added our own ideas to a notebook shared with the whole staff. It was a really collegiate atmosphere, and an amazing place for a new teacher to get started. That’s what I hope to do here–share some of my ideas based on art, science, and social studies content, and gather some of your ideas through comments and links.
If you have ideas, questions, or comments please feel free to jump right in. Welcome everyone, and thanks for your time and interest.