I wonder when, or if, we will ever make the connection that experience provides the best opportunity for learning. When I think back over my education, early childhood through my Masters, I remember experiences – field trips, debates, group projects, experiments, review games and activities, and class presentations. What I don’t remember are the paper and pencil tasks.
An experience makes an isolated concept meaningful and helps learning stick. A driver education class can never compete with time behind the wheel. Likewise, I would venture to say teachers learn more in one semester of student teaching than in four years of college classes.
This is why play should be the foundation of the early childhood classroom. Play combines experience with positive emotions – and this duo creates a powerful learning formula. So, as we work to catch up our youngest learners from academic deficits created by Covid, we need to keep the vehicle of play embedded in their school activities.
“What does a six-year-old care for print? His fingers are itching for contact with things, and his legs are set for chasing butterflies.”
“Too much formalism in childhood kills spontaneity and interest. Education cannot, by formulating courses of study, force intellectual functions.”
These quotes from Arnold Gesell (The Gesell Institute) sum it up beautifully. How we teach our kids is just as important as what we teach them. Play creates experience, and without this opportunity, learning just isn’t the same.