Play is inquiry or inquiry is play


During a conference on play based learning, a room of talented teachers discussed, researched and shared their beliefs, wonderful knowledge and daily practice as teachers who believe in children’s play as an authentic way for children to learn. We know and accept this in early childhood but we also know and believe it to be true into the primary school.

But throughout the conference we discussed the statement: is play inquiry?

From the perspective of purist philosophy where the topic, the project comes from the child and is facilitated by the teacher it seems that play is more open than an inquiry. But as it was an IB PYP conference, the variables began to exist.

Personally, I agree to some degree that the IB units of inquiry can potentially limit a child’s exploration. But as teachers we can creatively make links that can connect a child’s exploration, interests with a unit of inquiry. But it requires creativity, time and commitment.

It is important to recognise and state that play based learning is not just play. Educators MUST be accountable to learning needs, curriculum standards and they must be documenting and collecting data to ensure students are gaining the necessary academic skills.

It is a complex issue as teacher’s who embrace this philosophy and the potential and value of childhood have had to advocate constantly for the opportunities to practise this philosophy. Therefore, it can be difficult to vary the ideology. However, the compromises can be made. But, to some degree it takes more work and for some teachers, the need to justify once again.

It is important to recognise that this approach can apply to the higher grade levels. The way it looks is different but it comes from children’s interests and the educator makes the links and sets the guidelines. For example, if poetry is the genre being studied, a student or group of students, with an interest in music, explore poetry through this interest. They write songs, analyse their favourite lyrics, study musicians and document there learning. Many practitioners have called this project based learning as opposed to play based. But the approach and philosophy is the same.

So can it be done?

How can it be done?

What are you doing to ensure play is a part of your program and what are the experiences you are able to offer children?

This blog can be a forum for sharing, questioning and learning from each other.

Let us “open our minds” to the possibilities and challenges to support children in linking their passions, their curiosities and their education with the natural developmental needs of childhood.

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