"Why Play?"… Ashley Speakman & Alissa Davies
Our inquiry looked at the benefits of play and how it is linked to the Alberta Kindergarten curriculum.
We have both found that some people may not fully understand the learning that occurs during play. We both had an interest in this area and wanted to show that play can be integrated into all areas of the classroom. Whether it is the traditional sense of play, using play as a tool for classroom management, or applying play to create imaginative thought and emergent literacy, play benefits young students. We applied our research throughout our internship and left our resources for our teachers and students' parents to further their understanding.
Our project focused specifically on researching the importance of play and how it can be incorporated throughout all 7 areas of the Alberta Kindergarten Program of Studies. We researched multiple articles focused on play as well as the book Explorations – Learning through inquiry and play by Lalie Harcourt and Ricki Wortzman. Kindergarten students were engaged in “superhero” themed learning activities that all involved some form of play and were developmentally appropriate for kindergarten-aged students. These learning activities fit into the learning areas of: Early Literacy, Early Numeracy, Citizenship and Identity, Environment and Community Awareness, Personal and Social Responsibility, Physical Skills and Well-Being and Creative Expression.
The final project that the students created as part of this theme was a comic book page with three separate entries. The entries included a written and artistic component related to superheroes. The first entry focused on what the student’s favorite superhero was and why, and the second required students to draw and write about someone who was their real life superhero. The third and final entry introduced the five senses and required students to create their own superhero emblem highlighting their favorite super sense. This project was developed based on the project based learning philosophy. The final component of the superhero project required students to give an oral presentation of their comic book page in which they were assessed according to a project based learning rubric. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) was also included within our project although the ICT curriculum is not specific for kindergarten. However, in kindergarten we began to cover some of the curriculum including teaching students the foundational operations, knowledge and concepts of working on the computers.
The students were actively engaged throughout the superhero project. In particular, boys who were not engaged in the free play center areas containing the house or kitchen were extremely engaged in the superhero free play center where they could act out their own scenarios and take on the roles of their favorite superheroes.
Communicating our results on play to parents was an important aspect of our project. We wanted to communicate to parents and other school staff members that play has many important benefits for kindergarten-aged students. Play expands intelligence, stimulates the imagination and encourages problem solving, helps develop confidence, self-esteem, and a positive attitude towards learning. Play is also a significant factor in brain and muscle development.
Our research on play has impacted the way we will respond to as well as encourage play in our kindergarten classroom. It is important to note that the way that teachers and other adults respond to children’s play is important. When adults respond to play by asking open-ended inquiry based questions, this leads to powerful connections while promoting the curriculum. It is also important to note that without adult support, the play of many children will never reach its full potential. Teachers need to intentionally teach children how to play within the classroom. This includes how to plan their play, the roles to assume, the props to use, the language to use, the scenario as well as the time frame of their play. Play should be both nurtured and preserved as it provides a beneficial context for child development.
Both Alissa and Ashley have an early childhood education specialization and did their internships in kindergarten at Mike Mountain Horse. Owing to their similar interests, they chose to do the inquiry project collaboratively.