How do we travel on a rainbow?
”It is a happy talent to know how to play.Ralph Waldo Emerson
Rainbows have been all around this year, hanging on our doors and windows, as an attempt to keep our minds and hearts focused on the strong belief that “this too shall pass”. But it seems it will be a very long and challenging journey to reach the other side of the rainbow without losing the colour and the magic of it. Even for children and youth who are certainly the experts we would rely on for this special issue. The truth is it might be difficult also for them to keep their creative minds as well as their adventurous, collaborative, and happy spirits, in a world of seriously worried adults, where schools and playgrounds keep (at least intermittently) closed, and confinement and social distancing rules are still a reality.
Although teachers and families have joint efforts to help children and youth navigate these demanding times in a more positive way, the consequences of constraining their opportunities to keep playing indoor and outdoor in spontaneous interactions with their beloved ones – being them friends or not so close family members – are undeniable. And we as educators should not let them loose their happy talent of knowing how to play! Instead, we should play along with them and discover all the magic doors we are able to open through play – motivation for
learning, learning transfer and development of the social and emotional skills we all need to ‘travel by’ these chaordic times.
And The LEGO Foundation may support us as teachers and educators in (re)starting this essential playful learning journey to recreate learning environments and pedagogical practices. Its mission is to re-define play and re-imagine learning to ensure that all young learners have the opportunity to develop the broad set of skills they will need to thrive and succeed as the builders of tomorrow.
By navigating their website we will be able to explore the foundations of learning through play, recognising the unique characteristics of playful experiences – joyful, social interactive, actively engaging, meaningful and iterative – and their potential to promote the development of a holistic set of (creative, social, emotional, physical and cognitive) skills. This will certainly help us to give play a more relevant and noble space when redesigning learning experiences, recognising it as an effective and powerful learning strategy.
We will also be able to find out how different types of free and guided play – physical play, symbolic play, pretend play, play with objects, and games with rules – may support learners’ development and explore a playlist of concrete play activities that can be performed both in family and school environments. This inspiration can be particularly relevant for teachers and educators at a moment when they are being challenged, as never before, to rethink their professional roles and amplify their contexts of action – embracing either face to face, distance or hybrid learning scenarios, where both students and families/guardians need to be actively engaged. Because play has the power to connect people to learning and to each other, building on strong learning partnerships that search for much more than achieving good marks on formal assessments.
And to help us going deeper on how to promote learning through play in a more structured way, a knowledge base is available with plenty of curated resources, selected and developed by renowned research centres and universities that are partners of The LEGO Foundation. There is where we may deep dive on why and how creativity matters or on how do children relate to play in a technology-embedded world. And it is also where we can find a very straight-forward guide for playful distance learning (online and offline), a playing together activity manual and a playbook with a selection of playful teaching designs.
So, even if you are not (already) a happy talent promoting play-based learning, it will worth the time to unleash it, for yourself, for your students, and for your and their families as well. Because, besides any other thing, the joy of play will surely help you travelling by this storm with some colour and magic around ,until we reach the other side of the rainbow, where we all expect to find a golden pot of happy moments together.
We clearly recognise teachers are always significant figures to their students and, so many times, role models and inspiring drivers in their lives. That is why we will be by your side monthly, from now on “Over the rainbow”! We will drop here some tips you can easily incorporate into your classes, whether they are face to face or cloud based. Let us make this cloud a super nest to both support and enable our students to fly wider.
Images retrieved from The LEGO Foundation website.
Ana Paulino is Pedagogy Specialists at jp.ik.