Adding Play and Maker Education to the Equation

By |2018-08-09T01:41:15-07:00September 24th, 2015|

Kids need hands-on interactive learning activities that let them tinker, play, prototype, learn, fail, (re)create, in order to learn. They need to play, create, and “do”. This is the reason why you need to add play and maker education to it. Unfortunately, the Western schools removed a significant portion of play and hands-on engagement in an effort to make classrooms more ‘efficient’ and organized. Students sit in desks, receive knowledge, and regurgitate in order to be deemed ‘successful’. Sadly, with the gradual removal of hands-on play has come sharp increases in anxiety, depression, suicide, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism in children, adolescents, and young adults (Gray, 2011).

Gray suggests this inverse relationship is because, “Play functions as the major means by which children (1) develop intrinsic interests and competencies; (2) learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, and follow rules; (3) learn to regulate their emotions; (4) make friends and learn to get along with others as equals; and (5) experience joy.” In short, play fosters learning, problem solving and promotes mental health. Consequently, play should be a critical part of ALL children’s learning, and not just young kids’ learning according to Gray.

Play and Maker Education create such a natural intersection. Maker Education and the integration of Arts and the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines promote this type of hands-on learning as children are encouraged to tinker, create, investigate and play. By adding the arts and play back into the equation along with ensuring a solid foundation in the STEM fields, our students will be positioned for success as healthy and happy citizens in addition to being future ready.

Need some helpful resources to get more buy-in for the benefits of play?  Try these:

The Art of Play: Why the Arts are Essential

The Rigor of Play

Science is Play

Institute of Play

Play and Art

PlayMaker School

Maker Movement Reinvents Education: Article in Newsweek, September 8, 2014

Building a Better Brain through Play: NPR article, August 6, 2014

One Comment

  1. Chantel November 10, 2015 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    Hi Gina,

    Thank you so much for this article and your TEDx Talk!! They perfectly synthesize what I’ve been feeling and thinking since I pulled my daughter from second grade in January to home school her. At not quite 8 years old, my sweet, funny, creative daughter had decided she was “not good in math” and “wasn’t very smart.” It was heartbreaking… and also infuriating.

    We are now finding our own ways to learn math concepts through play, exploration and hands-on activities as we home school, but it still bothers me that schools are doing our children (and their parents and society) a huge disservice in the way they teach math. I hope more educators will recognize that ALL children can learn math and ALL children deserve to be taught math in a way that works for them!

    P.S – I love the term STEAM and I’m loving the term E-STEAM even more!

    P.S.S. – I love Peter Gray and his writing as well!

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