Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Creative Play in a Montessori Environment

Experts acknowledge that the loss of creative play has negative consequences. Imagination and creativity; cornerstones of higher math and science are developed through creative play. David Elkind, author of The Power of Play, writes "Creativity and imagination are like muscles; if you don't use them, you lose them,"

Aldie Kindergarten student's collaborative extension.
It is a common misconception that the Montessori method of learning limits creative play. This is far from actuality. In the Montessori learning environment children are often presented with materials that lay the foundation to traditional areas of education, such as the basic understanding of area and volume learned by working with the brown stair materials. However, once a child begins to grasp the geometry of these objects, an extension of this exercise allows for children to explore the possibilities of construction limited only by their imagination but grounded in a far better understanding of plane geometry. Perhaps a simpler explanation would be a comparison of two approaches to music education. Would you consider it the best method for a person to develop musical skills or to understand musical composition by simply providing a person with a set of bells without guidance or would an introduction to the chromatic scale to develop a sense of tone before doing so lead to a better learning experience and honestly, more fun? When children have a basic understanding of skills or concepts it allows for a heightened learning experience and improves a child’s confidence while playing.
Herndon students using loose parts for outdoor building.
Children have a natural and intrinsic desire to play, explore, adapt and cooperate, especially in the outdoors. The benefits of outdoor play are easily identified and the development of large-motor skills and social interactions are well documented. Although traditional playground equipment such as slides, climbers, balls, etc. provide children a great deal of benefit and avenues for development, true creative activity is somewhat limited. Providing children with materials and equipment (loose parts) that can stimulate, facilitate and enhance children’s play leads to a high level of ownership which is a powerful ingredient in providing a positive play and learning experience for a child. Jeff Hill of the Childrens Scrapstore, a UK business providing children with these loose parts for playground use since 1982 states, “Giving children the opportunity to experience higher levels of creative activity during playtime, makes a difference to them, to their relationships with others and ultimately to the whole school environment.”

Westfields children on board the train climber.
At The Boyd School, we have enhanced our children’s outdoor experience through a number of playground extensions. Through the use of loose parts, children have the opportunity to construct on a larger scale than within the walls of the classroom using similar materials. Currently, children can build with custom designed, lightweight outdoor building blocks and small tires. The buildings, towers, and vehicles are only limited by their imagination. Additional and various loose parts are introduced to constantly provide children new materials in which to play. Children at the Aldie Campus have the opportunity to manipulate their playground experience through the use of a Snug Play system. The Snug Play system, generously donated by Van Metre to the school, is a series of lightweight, open-ended and moveable collection of play equipment. Children have the opportunity to create entirely new play environments and experiences through collaboration and the use of their imaginations. The Snug Play system at The Boyd School is one of the first installations in Virginia. Children at the Broadlands Campus have the opportunity to manipulate and build with natural materials creating paths, walls, and tunnels. The Boyd School - Westfields Campus offers children the opportunity to ‘travel’ as far as their imaginations allow on board an Amish built train climber.

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