Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Let the children play.

I was at a centre recently and we were discussing Learning Stories.  My question to this group of teachers was - what are your long term aspirations and goals for the children at the centre.  The teachers thought about this for a moment and replied - they would like the children to have empathy, to be socially competent, to have resilience and a surety about who they are.  I do think that there were a great deal more aspirations that these teachers had but in the moment that was their list.

After a bit of discussion about the aspirations we watched an interview with Sir Ken Robinson in which he was asked,  “What skills are essential for humanity to thrive in the modern world?”

Sir Ken Robinson has four areas that he thought we should grow in children - our long term aspirations for them.  These were the four area:

Creativity - which he described as the fruit of imagination.  I have heard others describe this also as divergent thinking.  Gansky  described divergent thinking as “the ability to branch out from a starting point and consider a variety of possible solutions, involves fluidity of thinking, broad scanning ability, and free association.”   

Compassion - Sir Ken Robinson says this comes from the same power as imagination.  It is being able to see things away from our immediate circumstances.   He calls it applied empathy and the cultural glue that holds us all together.

Composure - This he said is mindfulness.  He quoted recent statistics from the World Health Organisation that state in 2020 depression will be the biggest form of disability. He goes on to say that children need to feel whole.   Within ECE I think this about seeing the tamaiti as a whole person with spirituality, mana, a past, present and future who is rich in potential and ensuring that the tamaiti has the same understanding of themselves.  Maybe we would call this belonging - but belonging is very very big.  Small word big meaning. 

Collaboration - He said children need to learn to work together rather than as individuals.  Going into the future if children have learnt collaboration they will be facing common challenges together.  I can imagine that if children are sharing their ideas, thoughts and passions in a collaborative way when facing problems while they are young then when faced with new challenges in the future that they will have the multiple perspective and ideas available to them through this ability to collaborate.

The teachers from the centre had actually spoken about many of the skills essential for humanity listed by Sir Ken Robinson.   

It is always amazing to me that when you hear something for the first or second time then you start to notice and hear about it more.  It is a little like when you buy a car and all of a sudden you see that particular brand everywhere and you hadn’t noticed it before.  Well that feeling has happened to me over the last week - hearing those teachers speak, hearing Sir Ken Robinson’s interview and now today an article I found on the internet called, ‘The Decline of Play and Rise of Children’s Mental Disorders’.  In the article Peter Gray talks about the decline of play and the correlation between lack of time to play  and depression in older children.

Gray wrote, “Free play and exploration are, historically, the means by which children learn to:
solve their own problems
control their own lives
develop their own interests, 
and become competent in pursuit of their own interests.

Solve their own problems - creativity.
Control their own lives - composure.
Develop their own interests, and become competent in pursuit of their own interests - if you have seen they way children work together and share their passions and interests you would know there is a strong link to - compassion and collaboration.

If I were to ask how can we build creativity, composure, compassion and collaboration within the children we teach I wonder if we would all answer - ‘let the children play.’

This is a link to the article:  

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