Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24 - Hopping a Jet to Mexico!

Mayan Ruins on Mexico's Yucatan Pennisula

So Nate was very excited when I dropped him off at school today.  This afternoon he and his class are departing for Mexico! They will be flying for five hours landing in Mexico City.  Their itinerary states that they will be visiting the”Sonoran Desert, Mexico’s rainforests, the ancient Mayan ruins in Chitchen Itza, the beaches of Acapulco and the Mexican farmland.  We will see an active volcano erupt and will visit Tijuana to browse the open market for souvenirs and listen to a mariachi band!”  They will be gone for three weeks.  Nate warned me that he might miss his swim lessons.  He even wanted me to go with him and was a little concerned when I said I couldn’t. 

Teachers who incorporate play into learning are wonderful!  I do not doubt that there will be some kindergarteners at JES that will some day visit Mexico as a result of their three week exploration of our Southern neighbor.  The imaginative side of play helps us connect with real life concepts.  Our imaginations can take us places that we cannot go on our own.  It would be nearly impossible to take thirty kindergarteners to Mexico for three weeks.  Imagine bedtime with that many five and six year olds!  However, as the teachers tell stories and transform their classrooms they provide  the students just enough information to let their imaginations run.   Much better than worksheets any day! 

Pottery Shop in Playa del Carmen

When our teachers and mentors embrace the imaginary it gives our children permission to do the same too.  Kathy Hirsh-Pakek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff (2003) reference the concept of convergent and divergent problems.  Convergent problems only have one solution while divergent problems can have a wide variety of solutions.  Imaginative play/learning gives kids a way of opening the door to future solutions to divergent problems.  When you are invited to use your imagination you can find solutions to all sorts of everyday situations.  In his book, Play, Stuart Brown (2007) gives the striking example of the differences between old engineers and young engineers and their abilities to solve problems.  Employers were finding that older engineers were much more likely to problem solve on the fly.  They could take a problem and see a range of solutions, whereas the younger engineers would often get stuck behind the problem.  It eventually came out that the older engineers had spent much more time in play.  Play gives us the ability to solve problems creatively. 

Fantasy play can also provide us with a script for life (Hirsh-Pakek & Golinkoff, 2003).  Nate’s class is gaining a script for travel.  How do you navigate an airport?  What are the words used?  How do you act when you travel?  What’s ok, what’s not?  This is a new script for many of these kindergarteners who may have never traveled outside of Vermont before.  Pretend play gives us practice scripts for all sorts of situations including the everyday.  Think about what our kids often play… When Elli’s hosting a tea party she’s practicing how to be a good host.  When Nate’s a chef presenting us with our “food” he’s learning the art of presentation.  When they’re shopping for items from all over the house they’re learning valuable skills about selection and searching for treasures.  Speaking of shopping, playing store introduces early math as they make change and figure out if Nate is charging a fair price for that car. 

“When imagination is unleashed, learning is truly meaningful.”

 (p. 257, Hirsh-Pakek & Golinkoff, 2003)

The beach outside our room - 2005 trip

Books referenced:

Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R.M., & Eyer, D. (2003) Einstein never used flash cards. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Inc.

Brown, S. and Vaughn, C. (2007). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul.  New York, NY: Penguin Group.

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