Our creativity focus for this final unit of CEP 818 is play or the ability to use fun, unstructured activity as a springboard to learning and discovery.
Our project was to create a play infused introductory activity to the unit topic we have been focused on throughout this semester. My topic has been space and my introduction is outlined in this graphic:
There were several considerations that played into my decision to design the activity in this way. The first is the age of my students. They are third graders which means they are only 8 years old; however, they are being asked to sit and focus in ways that are difficult for older students and adults. I felt that this type of play activity would be beneficial to them because it will allow them to move, use their large motor skills and activate different parts of their brain. Second, they are young enough that many of them still engage in pretend play even though it is frowned upon by many adults as “babyish”. This activity allows students who enjoy this type of activity, but are afraid of what other kids will think to shine and adopt a leadership position. Thirdly, that play structure is new to our school and the kids love it. Allowing them to play on it will encourage more students to be engaged in the activity. Even those who may not be engaged in the activity will be playing and learning from those around them. Lastly, pretend play requires students to draw on prior knowledge. You cannot pretend to do something if you do not have any idea how that something might work. For the duration of this course, I have looked at space not only through the scientific lens, but also through the affective lens depending on the activity. This pretend play scenario allows the students to draw on both the scientific aspects of space travel that they might know about through books and movies, but also allows those that may not have that background to participate by drawing on their knowledge of what it is like to be in a small space with other people and how that feels. Both are equally important when discussing long distance space travel.
This activity fits the requirement of being both playful and meaningful because it allows students to play at long distance space travel without the consequences to their mistakes while still having the opportunity to experience some of the realities. It is easier for them to make connections to the experiences and feelings of these long distance travelers by playing out some of these situations on a lesser scale. Two students disagree about how to proceed. What are their options? How are these options the same or different if you are really stuck on a spacecraft truly in the middle of nowhere? These small interactions in play can make for more meaningful conversation later.
I have found the discussion of play and its role in our lives to be among the most meaningful this semester. The idea of lack of play being at the heart of many of our bigger societal problems resonates with me and really makes me want to research the role of play more in depth.