Page 15 - FIS World May 2019
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their lives,” says Gioia Morasch, FIS IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) Coordinator. “There’s lots of re- search that backs the movement of play, and we are becoming more mindful in addressing the need for play with our young learners.”
In many classrooms around the world, including here in Germany, play is the main focus of early child- hood education, incorporating unstructured activi- tiesandanabundanceofoutdoorplay.TheAmerican Academy of Pediatrics also agrees that play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development, and newly published research by the Lego Foundation suggests children should learn mainly through play until the age of eight.
However, despite the research findings on the im- portance of play, on a global level, play is decreas- ing in early childhood education. Educators are con- cerned about the decline of play. Due to pressures to focus more on academics and an increased use of technology, children are playing less.
It is through play that children learn to be social, communicate, manage time, research, and think.
FIS Primary School Principal Caroline Joslin-Callahan agrees that play is key to early childhood educa- tion. “It’s the natural way that children learn about the world and social relationships. We are creating a setting that values and nurtures children’s play while introducing them to literacy, mathematics and units of inquiry that expand their repertoire in ways they play and learn.”
Do You Want to Play Today?
Ms. Joslin-Callahan and her team first heard about the Global School Play Day last year. Established in 2015, this one day is set aside for unstructured play, with teacher supervision, in order to highlight the im- portance of play in children’s development. This past February, the FIS Primary School joined over half a million students from 72 nations for the Global Play Day. During the morning-long session, Primary School children chose how to structure their time – where, with whom, and for how long to play. Teachers were silent observers or moderators within the school and outside on the playground.
“We had two main goals,”said Ms. Joslin-Callahan,”To provide the opportunity for children to make deci- sions and allow them to play across age groups.” In planning their time, the children had to consider when to get their snacks, go to the toilet, and get outdoor clothes on for the playground. It was clear
that the children are far more independent than we give them credit for.”
The students could decide between technology and construction activities in the Makerspace, German board games and puzzles in the German classrooms, stories in the library, Lunar New Year activities in the Learning Center, obstacle courses in the gym, and many other open-ended opportunities across the PrimarySchool.“Therewasaninitialburstofactivity when the Play Day started and children made their choices, but it soon settled into currents of move- ment with children deciding on their next stations,” Ms. Joslin-Callahan said.
Let’s Play Every Day
Student feedback for Play Days has been a mix of enthusiasm and excitement and Ms. Joslin-Callahan says students continually ask her when the next Play Day will take place.
“I loved Play Day,” said Grade 1 student Rowan. “We got to go wherever we wanted. It’s important to test out new things.” Rowan’s classmate, Carolina, added,
“I liked [Play Day] because I could play the whole day with Valentina,” her sister who is in First Steps.
Because students are separated by grade level, it’s not often they get to see friends from the bus or their siblings during the day. Becoming familiar with dif- ferent classrooms and other children will make tran- sition to the next grade level easier, according to Ms. Joslin-Callahan.“Play Days are beneficial because stu- dents get to play in mixed-age groups, perhaps with a sibling, or meet new friends from other classes, ex- pose themselves to new surroundings, and have some choice,” Ms. Karr agrees. “It’s also nice for teachers to see past students and observe groupings that might work well for placements in the coming school year.”
Clean Up Time? Let’s Keep Playing
Due to the success of the initial Play Day, the Primary School team decided just one day wasn’t enough so they planned five for the current school year in- stead. “It will take some time before the idea of un- structured play becomes routine,” says Ms. Morasch.
“But the school has grown in its acknowledgement of the importance of play.”
FIS educators are continually working to balance par- ent expectations with best practices and sound ped- agogical research. As these Play Days improve and evolve, parents and students – including Grades 2 through 5 – may experience more opportunities for free play both inside and outdoors.
Linda Kerr FIS Parent
May 2019 FIS World 13

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