Play-based learning is at the heart of everything we do at Playful Engineers, that’s why it’s in our name! And that’s why we encourage (though we don’t require) teachers to follow our 3 step sequence, making the most of the materials, and of what we have to offer as teaching artists, before, during, and after our live-streamed session/s. We’ve developed this sequence based on our experience in play-based learning, and informed by principles of Constructionism and UDL (Universal Design for Learning).
Allowing time for unguided activities makes room for play (in this instance, socially-driven play) to be the childrens’ best guide for self-directed learning. By making more room for play before and after the instruction, kids may be more able to deepen their understanding of specific concepts and skill sets through direct instruction coupled with related hands-on activities with the teaching artist.
Following this sequence (or making your own) also greatly increases the value of dollars you may be spending on materials costs and teaching artist fees.
Phase 1) Pre-Workshop Activities: exploration, discovery
Teachers are encouraged to introduce the workshop materials BEFORE the workshop session, allowing time for plenty of random exploration, discovery, and generation of creative ideas. Through this time of unguided and ungraded socially-driven classroom play, kids develop, try out, and assess their own and their classmates’ ideas about what might be possible.
When we present the live-streamed session later on, Kids will tend to be less constrained in their work by ‘shoulds’, and at the same time, more open to the ‘coulds’ that we’ll demonstrate.
You may choose to document this activity by taking pics and videos, and by making time for post-activity discussion. We provide suggestions to engage students’ own formative assessments both during and after the activity. Afterwards, students see a short video introduction from Playful Engineers which introduces Jay as a teaching artist, and outlines what to expect from the upcoming, live-streamed session.
At any time, teachers are encouraged to invite Jay to view classroom pics, videos, comments and questions on a google doc, or through the ‘Flipgrid’ platform, before the live-streamed session, to enhance connection and engagement.
Phase 2) Live-Streamed Workshop: demonstration, inspiration, replication (from instruction to construction)
This is the live-streamed visit with teaching artist Jay Mankita. Prior to start time, teachers distribute the materials. The session begins with introductions, and some feedback from any comments, questions, pics, or videos, that may have been shared with Jay from the classroom’s prior activity. Next, Jay demonstrates and explains the basics of the mechanisms we’ll be building together.
Now Jay’s instructions begin, and the kids begin working with the materials, following step-by-step, and replicating the basic mechanical forms that will become the foundations of their individual creations. During this time, students may be planning, imagining, or trying to figure out their own modifications of the basic form, based on their own creative input – each at their own pace, and their own level of ability and understanding.
Phase 3) After the workshop: extension, integration, and reflection
Now teachers are encouraged to allow the class to access the materials for a longer period of time. Try polling the class for ideas as to how they’d like to set it up. Different students may want different things – competition, teams, total freedom, solo work – find what fits best for your classroom, and your teaching style, from free-form chaos to guided, curriculum-relevant activities.
Observe to what extent are students integrating specific techniques or approaches they may have picked up in Phase 2, with their own creative approaches and ideas. Allow time for student-driven discussion, and if possible, allow for different forms of expression other than verbal – does anyone want to draw a picture of their ideas?
Finally, make available when possible, more time, space, materials, books, videos, and other teaching resources* to the class, and especially to those students that want to deepen their understanding, skills, and relationship to this type of work/play.