P-L-A-Y. Nowadays, saying the word out loud in a school setting almost seems subversive. When did ‘PLAY’ become a 4-letter word? Ok, calm down word enthusiasts, I know how to count. I’m just saying in my travels I’ve encountered a negative attitude. When I say, my students like to play with fill in the blank – (SnapCircuits, LittleBits, Legos…), I see the frown. It seems you just can’t use the word play around everyone. Sometimes I hear “my principal doesn’t want me to leave arts and crafts activities out for students” or “I have to justify that learning is taking place.” My students are working to increase their knowledge of how things work, be it paints, glue or circuits.They are initiating and developing creative problem solving methods and overall are engaged with activities they deem fun. In short – they are having fun while learning. That is to say they are ‘engaged in an activity (learning) for enjoyment or recreation.
The etymology of the word play derives from the Old English ‘plegian’ – to exercise. I like to think my students are exercising their brains in unique ways. It doesn’t matter if they’re using a paper towel roll or a set of LittleBits (though a combination of both could be interesting!).
Ask yourself these questions: Can learning be for ‘enjoyment’ or ‘recreation’? Does the enjoyment of the activity negate knowledge acquisition? Does this type of play promote the desire for lifelong learning? I believe we need play to discover our passions whether tech related, crafting or some other desire. As educators, we all strive for engaged learners. Shouldn’t learning be ‘amusing’, ‘entertaining’ and ‘fun’? Most of my makers come in during their lunch periods. Their time. So why not let them play. I know they’re learning because I believe making allows students to acquire knowledge through action discovery, imaginative thinking, and creative problem-solving. It also helps them to develop critical thinking skills through persistence.
I am fortunate to have the support of my school principal, Mike Mosca, who can be seen in the photo below ‘playing’ with our robots. PLAY is a 4-letter word we love to use at Islip High School Library!