Playing Is Learning

"..the more pressure put on kids at a younger age, the more results are diminished."

By Gwenne Culpepper
University of Northern Iowa News Service

"A lot of learning can occur in a play setting," says Lynn Nielsen, now working with UNI's Office of Student Field Experiences. "And the elementary years are, developmentally, when this should occur.

"Schools should be more like a garden and not a factory, but many of the no-recess proponents look at input and output, sometimes turning it into a mathematical equation. Five, 10 or 30 minutes of input in an academic area does not necessarily equal the same amount of intellectual output."

Nielsen says research has indicated the more pressure put on kids at a younger age, the more results are diminished. Researchers found by putting more pressure on kids in the kindergarten through second grade area, there is some initial growth but, longitudinally, their academic performance declines.

He says the classroom model used at UNI's Price Laboratory School is a play-based curriculum blending many of the things people know work well and are natural learning for kids in a kindergarten setting, and carrying them on up through the first and second grade.

This way, he says, there isn't a stair-step progression as students move through the elementary program, but more of a blended program where they move from a play-based socialization process in content-oriented kindergarten to about third or fourth grade where it becomes more academic-oriented and desks, books and those types of things become more visible.

"Recess and playtime are seen as being an important part of the socialization process with kids," Nielsen says. "Learning to negotiate and to play informally can help children learn to get along, to include others and to negotiate some problem-solving situations."

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