I am really enjoying Peter Gray's book, Free to Learn. It is so thought provoking and inspiring. I have typed out a small excerpt from the book in response to some wonderful conversations that I have been having with teachers about giving children not only the time to play but the the time to play without adult intervention.
“In our culture today, parents and other adults overprotect children from possible dangers in play. We seriously underestimate children’s ability to take care of themselves and make good judgements. In this respect, we differ not just from hunter-gatherer cultures, but from all traditional cultures in which children played freely. Our underestimation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy - by depriving children of freedom, we deprive them of the opportunities they need to learn how to take control of their own behaviour and emotions.”
Gray then talks about the rise in narcissism and the decline in empathy and the findings of a study carried out on a group of college students. From this point he concludes:
“From all I have said in this chapter, it should be no mystery why a decline in play would be accompanied by a rise in emotional and social disorders. Play is nature’s way of teaching children how to solve their own problems, control their impulses, modulate their emotions, see from others’ perspectives, negotiate differences, and get along with others as equals. There is no substitute for play as a means of learning these skills. They can’t be taught in school. For life in the real world, these lessons of personal responsibility, self-control, and sociability are far more important than any lessons that can be taught in school.” (Free to Learn, Pg.174-175)
While I am inspired by Peter Gray, Sir Ken Robinson, Nathan Mikaere-Wallis and many others I have recently re-looked at Te Whāriki. This too is such an inspirational and forward thinking curriculum that is talking about much of what current research is now saying.
Within the principles of Te Whāriki there is a lot of the current discourse that we have now about children leading their own learning.
"The early childhood curriculum builds on the child's own experiences, knowledge, skills, attitudes, needs, interests, and views of the world within each particular setting. Children will have the opportunity to create and act on their own ideas, to develop knowledge and skills in areas that interest them, and to make an increasing number of their own decisions and judgements." (Pg. 40)
"Adults provide encouragement, warmth, and acceptance. They also provide challenges for creative and complex learning and thinking, helping children to extend their ideas and actions.... (Pg.43)
I will certainly be looking more closely at the links between Te Whāriki, the New Zealand Curriculum, current research and the importance of inquiry / play based learning.
Note to self: Maybe I should just call inquiry/play based learning - tinkering. Tinkering with your own ideas, thoughts, passions, environments, resources, words, relationships, the list goes on. Yes tinkering it is, because it gives me and others the freedom to consider many possibilities and this will lead to limitless thinking and learning.