Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Case For Play Based Learning

Last night, doped up on coffee. I posted this comment on the Montessori 101 Facebook page in a response to a discussion about whether Montessori learning is aligned with common core standards:

"The scope and sequence [of common core] IS better IF the child has had the correct exposure in the 3-6 years and has been given the correct tools in lower elementry to be successful. But, that isn't how common core works. They are trying to fit a montessori-esque scope and sequence into a standardized testing schooling format. Those two ideas go completely against each other because montessori isn't measured by tests, but demonstration through concrete experiences. There is a greater push by the government to have stronger ECE programs [that will] off-set this issue. But, do kids really need to be in school at that age if they have loving parents at home guiding them through these years (no offense to parents who work outside of the home, just saying it isn't necessary to make it a national standard when not all kids need it You all are hard workers, you rock, and you keep me in business as I have an in home learning center!)."
Dr. Maria Montessori explained it best: 

"The secret of success is found to lie in the right use of imagination in awakening interest, and the stimulation of seeds of interest already sown by attractive literary and pictorial material, but all correlated to a central idea, of greatly ennobling inspiration – the Cosmic Plan in which all, consciously or unconsciously, serve the Great Purpose of Life." (To Educate the Human Potential, p. 3)

My point was that there is not anything necessarily wrong with the sequence of common core. Rather, the issue is with the method being used to instill those concepts. 
Dr Montessori explained that a child's play and everyday experiences is the work of a child. At this age, their work is really about forming their ideas of the world and bringing context to experiences that have value to them.

 "But the child too is a worker and a producer. If he cannot take part in the adult's work, he has his own, a great, important, difficult work indeed - the work of producing man… The child's work belongs to another order and has a wholly different force from the work of the adult. Indeed one might say that the one is opposed to the other. The child’s work is done unconsciously, in abandonment to a mysterious spiritual energy, actively engaged in creation. It is indeed a creative work; it is perhaps the very spectacle of the creation of man, as symbolically outlined in the Bible." (Dr. Maria Montessori, 'The Secret of Childhood', Orient Longman Limited, 200)

 Unbeknownst to many, children are just like the rest of us in that, if an idea is not relevant to their lives, they do not work to retain that information. Children do not use geometric terminology or diagram sentences in their everyday lives. This implies that they don't have any context to enable them to apply those concepts. Instead, we should take their lead in guiding what is valuable to their learning experience.

 “Directing our action toward mankind means, first and foremost, doing so with regard to the child. The child, that ‘forgotten citizen’, must be appreciated in accordance with his true value. His rights as a human being who shapes all of mankind must become sacred, and the secret laws of his normal psychic development must light the way for civilisation.” (Education and Peace) 

It is still important to expose younger children to these ideas as their synapses are forming at a faster rate during this phase of development, allowing the content longer to develop and take root.  With this knowledge, it made sense to Dr. Montessori to develop a learning environment that would naturally lead to the acquisition of these skills. She did so through hands on experiences that allowed for concrete connections to be made using materials that were relevant to the child. She did not see an applicable need for standardized testing.

"My vision of the future is no longer of people taking exams and proceeding from secondary school to University but of passing from one stage of independence to a higher, by means of their own activity and effort of will." (From Childhood to Adolescence, opening)
That is why I was so excited to see this article that has been circulating the blogosphere today. One public school has recognized the need for children to create their own learning experiences. They are doing what they can to allow the students that attend their school to have the freedom to create their own learning experiences. This is so important for building up life-long learners. I am very sad to see that many parents are not pleased with this new policy. Lets get behind this school and show our support for this school's new no-homework policy!
 P.S. 116's principal announced that students will no longer be assigned traditional homework.

If you want to discuss more about topic like this, join me over at my new facebook page!

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