I just read an excellent article that provides research to support what we here at Seneca Academy have always believed: “play-based,” or inquiry/exploration learning is best for students: Let the kids learn through play . With the pressure we currently have in this country (and particularly this county!) to increase educational achievement, some may think it is reasonable to have children engage in structured academic activities at an earlier age in order to “get a leg up.” However, research has consistently shown that young children learn in different ways than older students and adults, and I believe this type of information is critical for parents to read and understand. Parents want to do what is best for their children, and seek to provide them the best educational opportunities. However, pushing children to engage in a more teacher-lead, structured “learning” at an early age does not result in better outcomes or engagement.
What has been shown to be effective is opportunities for children to engage in child-initiated, open-ended, and exploratory learning activities. These activities look a lot like “play” in young children, and hands-on, inquiry-based activities in older children. However, as we demonstrate here at Seneca Academy, planning for and facilitating “play” or exploration/inquiry activities that lead to engagement, confidence, cooperation, and knowledge takes skill, planning and time. Our teachers work very hard to ensure that students are learning, while partaking in fun, relevant, and developmentally appropriate activities.
These activities produce preschool and early elementary students who have the self-control and perseverance to participate in a group, ask and answer meaningful questions, and solve problems, and older students who have the confidence and independence to communicate in large and small groups with
adults and peers, present supported opinions based on research, convey understandings in a variety of formats, and engage in activities outside of school that promote their learning. Along the way our students also develop important skills such as reading, writing, math, etc. The result is that we have knowledgeable and balanced students who have a depth of understanding about “academics” beyond what they would have gained through direct instruction, and who enjoy going to school.