Attitudes Towards Play in the Classroom

There has been renewed interest among science educational researchers over the past decade in the power of “play” in the classroom. One of the researchers that I have been following is Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychologist at Temple University. She is one of the founders of the Ultimate Block Party which brings together companies, makers, and educational researchers to cooperatively put together a series of events within a community to celebrate the science of play.

The importance of play in the classroom is not a new idea but the current environment of repetitive assessment has reduced a child’s opportunity for discovery, exploration, and self-directed learning. Cognitive research into play seems to indicate that it not only reduces stress but also can improve an individual’s working memory and self-regulation. So, research certainly seems to show that there should be a place for play in the classroom.

An increasingly popular idea in Europe is what is called nature schools, which are supported by local governments. The nature school idea originated in Australia by Lloyd Godson and is based around the idea of child-led learning. In this environment students are free set their own pace of discovery and take risks, which are not often possible in a traditional classroom. Children between three and six years of age attend a nature school once or twice a week.  There is no set schedule and the students individually choose when they eat, play, or read. Students are free to roam the woods, play music, put up tents, or do crafts. Research has shown that outdoor nature schools can help students develop empathy, creativity, and innovation which are characteristics that are often being stunted in a traditional classroom environment.

It has been interesting to watch my three children as they have progressed through a traditional school system. Their interests are wide and varied, and yet all have learned what is needed to succeed in the classroom. But, without exception, none of my children would describe what they do at school as play. Their perception of school is that it is work. After all we, as parents, tell them to “work hard”, to “keep up the good work”, or “all your hard work will pay off!”  Why should they think about it any other way? And what example do we set? We all get up, get dressed, and go to work day after day – whether that is a career for adults or school for the kids.

How different would it be if our children could think about going to school as being play? Just that wholesale change in regards to their Frame of Reference (FoR) could make a remarkable difference in not only their attitudes towards school but also their individual approach to learning.

Episode 14 | Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): What are they, and what good may come?

Lesley Gates joins us on the podcast this week. She briefly describes some of the goals, purposes, and benefits of the new science standards that are in the process of being incorporated in public schools across the US. With an emphasis on the “Doing” of science rather than reading about it from books; along with developing and fostering a sense of curiosity and wonder about the natural and human-made worlds, the NGSS hope to bring science back to a more prominent role in schooling than it has been over the last few decades. Lesley describes with great passion some of her hopes for these standards.

Continue Reading

Carving Canyons

I hope that you have had the chance to personally experience an AIMS professional learning opportunity. We AIMS facilitators have multiple goals as we lead workshops. We provide classroom teachers an opportunity to increase and/or strengthen their own content knowledge, explore their teaching practices, and we strive to help teachers find ways to improve their… Continue Reading

Coordinating Units, Part 3: Fractions

When looking at coordinating units, it is important to consider concepts other than just multiplying. One of those is fractions. Fractions would be first among these encountered by a child in school. Mental operations that must develop for a child to understand fractional ideas include partitioning, iterating, and splitting. These developments are not taught, much… Continue Reading

Subitizing, Part 2

In my last blog I mentioned that there are two distinct types of subitizing – perceptual and conceptual. I am fascinated by the subtle differences that students show and what that means about their thinking. Perceptual subitizing is the ability to recognize a number without using other mathematical processes (Clements 1999) and there are four… Continue Reading

Collaboration Makes Unique Professional Learning Opportunities

The AIMS Center for Math and Science Education is happy to be in a cooperating partnership with H.O.P.E. for K-8 Education (Hosting Ongoing Professional Experiences), an educational non-profit organization in Garden City, Michigan. H.O.P.E. for K-8 Education is also in collaboration with Schoolcraft College, a comprehensive community-based college located in Livonia, Michigan, with a satellite… Continue Reading

Sparks in the Desert: A Beginning Conversation on “Counting-On” – Part 1

 I had the opportunity to attend my first California Mathematics Council, Southern conference, in Palm Springs. The title of this year’s conference was “Sparking Deeper Understanding.” I headed out early the first morning of the conference with my notebook in hand, not really knowing what to expect. I have attended other conferences for different content… Continue Reading

A Dream Coming True!

This blog post is being written from Tucson, Arizona, where Tiffany Friesen, Paul Reimer, and I are attending the annual conference of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education. The approximately 600 men and women attending this conference are almost exclusively university professors along with their graduate students,… Continue Reading