“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
~ Albert Einstein
Why play-based learning?
The right brain develops first and does so by the time children are 3-4 years of age. The left brain, on the other hand, doesn’t fully come online until children are approximately seven years old; hence the first seven years being recognized as such a critical period in child development. Play-based education fits the developmental needs of children.
The left brain’s functionality is one of language, numeracy, literacy, analysis and time. It is the logical, calculating, planning, busy-bee part of us that keeps us anchored in the pragmatic world, and in past and future. The right brain, on the other hand, is responsible for empathy, intuition, imagination and creativity. It is where we wonder, dream, connect and come alive. Through the right brain we dwell in the space of no-time, in being absolutely present and our boundless sense of being. Being is primary; hence the right brain developing first; hence, human being, not human doing.
The play-based approach
Children are naturally motivated to play. A play-based program builds on this motivation, using play as a context for learning. In this context, children can explore, experiment, discover and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways.
A play-based approach involves both child-initiated and teacher-supported learning. The teacher encourages children’s learning and inquiry through interactions that aim to stretch their thinking to higher levels. Teachers take an active role in guiding children’s interactions in the play. Children are supported in developing social skills such as cooperation, sharing and responding to ideas, negotiating, and resolving conflicts.
Play also supports positive attitudes to learning. These include imagination, curiosity, enthusiasm, and persistence. The type of learning processes and skills fostered in play cannot be replicated through rote learning, where there is an emphasis on remembering facts.
The skilled early childhood teacher highly values and nurtures the child’s fundamental creative and imaginative nature with countless opportunities and environments for exploration and play. Play can provide children with the opportunity to develop social, emotional, physical and creative skills in addition to cognitive ones. Preschool and kindergarten programs that strike a healthy balance between stimulating work and engaging play prepare the child for success in primary school and beyond. They empower these individuals to go beyond functioning in a competitive world to making valuable changes in that world.
Children with stronger social skills do better in school, in the workplace, and in life. Child-directed play and modeling of helping behaviors are key to the development of social skills and need be prioritized in early education. We agree with the research that indicates that social skill development should be an intentional outcome of all educational experiences for children from preschool through elementary school. Getting along with others, being helpful and cooperative, and demonstrating empathy certainly make for better community. Additionally, a child’s early skills with building positive relationships with peers and with adults are correlated with positive life outcomes overall.
Research on the brain demonstrates that play is a scaffold for development, a vehicle for increasing neural structures, and a means by which all children practice skills they will need in later life. Because play often involves physical activity, it is encourages the development and refinement of children’s gross and fine motor skills and their body awareness. As children vigorously and joyfully use their bodies in physical exercise, meaningful work and unstructured play, they simultaneously refine and develop skills that enable them to feel confident, secure, and self-assured.
Planning, self-awareness, and self-control—what psychologists refer to as “executive functions”—predict positive school and life outcomes. Studies show that children develop executive functions through experience. Children use components of executive functions when they make decisions and interact with peers in everyday classroom settings. For example, they use planning to generate ideas for what to play, while working memory and inhibitory control help with remembering and following the rules of play. As children get older, they will need an efficient working memory to process all of the information that they encounter in the upper grades.
The need for developing skills of complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration are essential for 21st century learning. These skills are built and enhanced by learning through play across the lifespan.
How does play-based education build the foundations for learning?
Play-based education embodies a plethora of activities integrated in the day that encourage school readiness, build academic capacities and create a lifelong love of learning.
An important literacy skill for reading is acquisition of language, as shown by children’s vocabulary and capacity to articulate their thoughts. The depth of a preschooler’s language skills—like early conceptual mathematics—is more predictive of long-term reading than simple measures of early literacy like letter recognition.[/tab] [tab]Hands-on experiences in art, science, and making – such as cooking, playing with sand and sticks and natural materials, painting, knitting and building –are terrific, and developmentally appropriate, ways for young children to build their fine motor coordination and the musculature for later writing.[/tab] [tab]A powerful indicator and predictor of long-term success with mathematics—and with other academic domains—is early conceptual mathematics. By helping children see mathematics in the world around them, using rich mathematical language as we work with children, building a growth mindset in mathematics by modeling our own use and learning of mathematics we create strong foundations for mathematical capacities.
Resources on play and play-based education
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“Projective geometry has the capacity to open minds and broaden thinking. I learned about things like perspective and duality, and all of this came together at infinity to create an understanding that I knew I didn’t have at the start of this block.”
Problem Solving and Perspective
The central point of mathematical activity in the Waldorf high school is problem solving. The important thing is learning how to solve problems, not what the answer is. With this as the focus, high school mathematics builds on both bases of mathematics: inspiration (induction) as a beginning and logical conclusion (deduction) at a later stage in the mathematical activity.
The most important aim is to develop the students ability to think with a wide range of approaches until they get to the logical conclusion, and to give them confidence in themselves and in their thinking. Another important goal is to prepare the students to apply calculations methods to everyday life and also to give them the foundation for further education.
Geometry is the mathematical discipline that deals with the interrelations of objects in the plane, in space, or even in higher dimensions. More than any other mathematical discipline, the field of geometry ranges from the very concrete and visual to the very abstract and fundamental. In one extreme, geometry deals with very concrete objects such as points, lines, circles, and planes and studies the interrelations between them. On the other side, geometry is a benchmark for logical rigor, the elegance of axiom systems, logical chains of proof, and the parallel world of algebraic structures.
In tenth grade, students study the projective properties of geometric figures
In high school, children reach a new stage of development where an individual’s inner life confronts the outer world in a relationship that still has to find a form. In an integrative education, even geometry has its place in the deep work of young adults. The deeper concepts of mathematics around perspective, infinity, transformations, angles, boundaries, and duality lead to new insights and broader understanding of not just geometry, but of life.
Introduction to Projective Geometry from a student’s main lesson book:
The Euclidian geometry we have worked with up until this point has dealt with the finite, the measureable. In the consciousness of the ancient Greeks, even the realm of the gods was considered in finite terms. Of course this finite or measureable nature implies ideals; for in actuality we can never be exact. As soon as we try to represent a point or line on paper, it is only an approximation, or rather a two-dimensional representation of the ideal. A point, as defined by Euclid is that which has no part, and a line is breathless and thus can never actually exit in the physical.
Projective geometry takes the elements of Euclid but stretches them in space toying with the idea of infinity. This geometry has seen application in the perspective drawings done already during the Renaissance by such artists as DaVinci and Durer. Projective geometry challenges Euclid’s elements asking us to see points as lines of infinity and whole planes becoming points. The mysteries of infinity order the random and obscure the ordered.
This block is an exploration of space, projecting lines and points to infinity with geometric nets and conic sections, observing the phenomena as they occur. We can wrestle with the ideas, but this course also gives us the opportunity to step back and relish the beauty and magic of these lines and points as we strive for exactness and perfection.
Students need to develop an intuitive understanding of geometric relationships and how to manipulate them. Learning how to do geometric proofs with compass and straightedge is an essential part of developing that knowledge. That knowledge will be used by an architect in many ways, from the creation of complex computer models to hand-sketching. In fact, one of the first things they teach in architectural perspective drawing class is how to use basic geometric principles we all learned in 10th grade geometry to quickly draw realistic and correctly-proportioned perspective images.
The relationship between mind and hand through pencil and paper is very direct (same with sculpting clay, for that matter). You lose that direct connection when a computer interface is involved. Once you know and have intuitively internalized the principles, the computer allows you to magnify that knowledge in practical applications.
I insist on seeing a demonstration of hand-drawing skills even for prospective employees who will only be doing computer drafting or modeling. What they can do with a pencil shows me in a very direct way how their brains work and whether or not they really understand what they’re doing when they try to graphically represent spatial concepts and systems,
So, yes, I think it’s important that students still learn how to do geometry the old fashioned way. Even though a computer will automate a lot of the calculation and construction for you, you still need to understand the geometric principles at work in order to use them. – Archinect
Why We Teach This Way Matters
THIS IS EDUCATION THAT MATTERS
Geometry holds a central place in Waldorf education’s mathematics curriculum and emerges out of form drawing which students begin in Kindergarten. In sixth grade, students move from creating flat two-dimensional geometric designs to kinesthetic art with curve stitching, which creates circles and curves from straight lines. They are colorful and beautiful and very visually interesting but do you wonder what they have to do with math?
Artistic, but also Technical
In order to construct and shade those drawings or string designs, the students need to have learned many things, including a knowledge and understanding of circles and polygons, how to use a compass and ruler with competence, and how to bisect an arc or a line or an angle. The students learn how to construct straight lines from a curved line by drawing exact polygons within a circle as they learn how to divide a circle into 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, and 24 divisions. Line and string designs show them the many ways that curved lines can be constructed from straight lines. The drawings done in sixth grade represent foundational Geometric concepts, presented beautifully and artistically, that are carried into the high school when students learn about Conic Sections, Trigonometry and Projective Geometry.
Engaging the Hands Creates a Deeper Understanding
Use of string art in learning geometry is a powerful method to ‘experience’ the facts and laws of geometric forms. The precision and beauty of these geometric forms lead the children to a deeper understanding of mathematics as they use their hands to illustrate concepts and develop skills.
These constructions offer abundant opportunity for students to learn mathematical vocabulary and concepts, and the ability to follow directions. String designs helps to improve spatial perception, encourages students to experiment, enriches their learning and lays a foundation for advanced Projective Geometry and the three-dimensional graphs and surfaces encountered in Calculus in high school and college.
The brain discovers what the fingers explore.
In sixth grade, geometrical rules are sought and formulated:
Geometrical proof of sums of angles of triangles
Construction of angles using compasses, bisecting angles
Congruent triangles and the four principle cases for congruency
Movement properties of triangles and quadrilaterals
Congruent shapes, construction of similar angles, complementary, supplementary and other angles
Construction of triangles, with altitudes, and angle and side bisectors
Why We Teach This Way Matters
THIS IS EDUCATION THAT MATTERS
The Benefits of Chores
When it comes to assigning housework to children, there’s some debate. Many parents want to preserve childhood for as long as possible, letting the “kids be kids” and enjoy plenty of playtime while they’re still young. Others may see children as less capable, preferring to finish the housework as quickly and efficiently as possible. These arguments make sense, but they also overlook the many positive benefits of giving kids chores.
Our daily lives are full of moments where we can connect, empower and teach our children. All the chores that may feel like drudgery to us as adults are often a delight to the young child. A dish tub full of bubbles, a basket full of laundry, a floor needing sweeping or a window sill asking for a dusting. All of these tasks offer endless opportunities for our families as a whole.
For the young child the gift of being entrusted with meaningful work builds their self-esteem, develops lifelong capabilities and life skills and bonds the family by distributing the work of the household. Young children naturally want to take part in the world around them. Research indicates that those children who do have a set of chores have higher self-esteem, are more responsible, and are better able to deal with frustration and delay gratification, all of which contribute to greater success in school.
If we as adults can be present and open to their help then we will give the gift of purposeful work to the children in our care. It requires our presence because often in this busy world mundane tasks are overlooked or at best rushed thru to completion. Think of all the daily conveniences that are used almost daily in our homes: the dishwasher, the washer/dryer, the vacuum, etc. These serve a purpose but also deprive our children from seeing the cyclical process of things.
When we wash dishes by hand we can see the full process. The plate going in dirty, the need for us to scrub it clean, to rinse it, to dry it. These cycles are important for young children to witness and take part-in. It’s important to consciously choose to perform these tasks in our homes offering the gift of participating in the full process to our children.
When we are conscious and present we are able to engage with both our child and the work at hand. The demands of the modern world surely can distract: the ping of an email, the buzz of our phone, our laptops open for work, the TV on in the background; these all call us out of the moment. Minimizing our distractions in our home helps to create a sanctuary and allows us to remain focused. Our children will observe when we choose to complete these tasks mindfully and with joy. It is much like a meditation practice where we become conscious of our thoughts and choose to remain present as we work. This allows us to fully engage with what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with.
This presence is a natural state of being for the young child. When we show up and work with joy our children learn to do the same. Viewing our household chores as a meditative practice makes our work a spiritual endeavor and bonds us with our children in the only moment they know: The Present!
By Molly Brett
Kimberton Waldorf Preschool Teacher
Parent Child Program Teacher
Happy Children Do Chores – NY Times
Benefits of Chores – Center for Parenting Education
Mindful Simplicity: Decluttering and Cleaning
5 Ways To Be More Present With Your Child – Huffington Post
Why Kids Should Have Chores
We had our kids in a private school before that was based on common core curriculum. Watching our kids approaching different assignments, seeing them being constantly stressed about grades, tests and overall performance, we asked ourselves if this is what we want to give them. Seeing their schooling as a very stressful race from one test to another, with lack of common sense in many assignments, lack of logic in many homework tasks, constant push on repetition instead of encouragement to free thinking, and finally suppressing our kids’ freedom to ask questions, was very concerning.
Having four kids, we don’t know who they will become as adults, but we certainly want them to be people who aren’t afraid to question the status quo and find their own ways towards happiness and fullness in their lives. Common core education didn’t give us the perspective nor tools to help them grow as individuals who discover themselves and the world around, rather it was a process of creating stressed, tired and discouraged young souls who were not interested in learning as an adventure. It was seeing education as a system, an artificial way of possessing enough short-term knowledge necessary only for purposes of tests.
Waldorf showed itself as a journey, where kids are approached according to their age and current state of being. Where even complex matters can be explained in accordance with kids’ natural way of understanding, processing and absorbing information. Waldorf appeared to be the answer to help kids to fall in love with learning, reading, counting and discovering beauty of the world without unnecessary stress and encouraging a long-term interest in expanding their interest in many topics instead of the “learn-pass test-forget” process.
The amount of time the kids spend with nature, from feeding goats to getting dirty in the woods, is absolutely wonderful! As Eastern Europeans we missed this at our previous school. The emphasis of art being largely incorporated into Waldorf curriculum, in our eyes, was a very important factor in helping kids become fascinated with education. No electronic devices policy: what a relief it is. Since we came to KWS my kids don’t even mention anything about cellphones. We decided to completely give up on TV a couple years ago, so we have great evening times together, more time for fun, reading, discussions, games, Torah studies, or simply to be together. It is a very liberating experience. – Current KWS parent