One of the biggest hurdles any parent, teacher, librarian, or school faculty member will face when teaching is classroom engagement. How does one get their students to pay attention, listen, and retain the information they need to learn? Where is the line that separates a “dry, boring lecture” from a lecture that provokes active student participation? I truly believe the key to engaging your students is to reach them on an emotional level. That means connecting vital learning material, no matter the subject, with a topic that resonates with each particular age group. The thing that captivates a first grader won’t be the same thing that captivates a fifth grader, or a middle school student.
Which brings me to the second hurdle: promoting education outside a classroom environment. How does an English teacher inspire his students to read for pleasure? How does a Science teacher inspire her students to recycle? How can we reinforce classroom knowledge and apply it to real life situations for long term success?
While there is no single solution, one way to embrace learning in and out of the classroom is by making learning FUN. And how do we achieve this? Through play!
I try to make my school assemblies and library shows as fun and interactive as possible, while also making them educational, so that students are engaged from start to finish. But sometimes it’s nice to get out of the classroom and take a field trip, or leave the house, rather than stay cooped up indoors during the long summer months. Western New York is fortunate enough to have a destination whose sole purpose is encouraging learning, creativity, and discovery through play, and that is the incredible The Strong National Museum of Play® in Rochester, New York.
The Strong is not your average museum. It’s a cultural center that “owns and cares for the world’s most comprehensive collection of toys, dolls, board games, video games, other electronic games, books, documents, and other historical materials related to play. These ever-growing resources enable and support a multifaceted array of interpretive and educational activities that serve a diverse audience of adults, families, children, students, teachers, scholars, collectors, and others interested in play.” (Source: MuseumOfPlay.org)
The Strong offers a really great quote from The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds (2007), the American Academy of Pediatrics says:
“Play is integral to the academic environment. It ensures that the school setting attends to the social and emotional development of children as well as their cognitive development. It has been shown to help children adjust to the school setting and even to enhance children’s learning readiness, learning behaviors, and problem- solving skills. Social-emotional learning is best integrated with academic learning; it is concerning if some of the forces that enhance children’s ability to learn are elevated at the expense of others. Play and unscheduled time that allow for peer interactions are important components of social-emotional learning.”
All images associated with this blog post are Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, New York.