Yesterday was an incredible day! I got to meet and spend time with three of my biggest educational inspirations: Helen Chapman, Laurel Fynes, and Julie May. Through blog posts and tweets, these three have taught me so much about the Reggio approach, the value of play-based and inquiry learning, and the remarkable capabilities of even our youngest learners. While there is so much that I could blog about from yesterday, our visit made me realize something that I’ve never really thought about before: the benefits of playing/tinkering/creating are not just for kids.
It was just after arriving at Helen’s house yesterday, that I started playing a game of Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe with her six-year-old daughter. Wow does this game get you thinking! While playing, I could help but make the links between this game and spatial awareness and patterning skills.
During our game time, Laurel happened to make this comment — originally Plato’s words — which Helen reminded me of this morning:
In many ways, this quotation was put to the test yesterday, as we continued to play and tinker. After finishing this Ultimate Tic-Tac-Toe Game, Helen’s younger daughter showed me how to play Fox and Hounds. This game has the fox trying to move across the chess board as the hounds try to block its way. The fox can move in both directions though, and the hounds can only move forwards. Again, thinking and spatial awareness skills are required, as both the fox and hounds strategize to win.
Helen surprised us by purchasing enough blank game boards for each of us to create our own Fox and Hound Game. She even drew out a sketch to help with determining the correct measurements to use. With a table full of loose parts and art supplies, we got immersed in playing/tinkering/creating.
While we did spend some time just talking, it’s amazing how much more we learned about each other and how the conversation continued to flow, as we played. It was even interesting to see our approaches to the same problem. We all wanted to create one of these game boards, but what supplies would we use? How would we attach them to the board?
- Helen decided to use the coloured tape with a backing, so that she could measure and cut the tiles, and then peel them off to put on the board. She figured out that the tape was 2 inches wide, but the tiles needed to be 1 inch. No problem! She just divided the amount in half, and cut the tape through the middle. There was some extra room around the outside of the board, but a little extra tape (this time a different colour) made a lovely border.
- Julie went with a similar approach. She wasn’t sure that her measurements were quite as accurate, but she started in the middle to affix the tiles, and then checked and measured, and checked again, to make a pretty border for her board as well.
- Laurel used ribbon to map out a board to start. When she got a feel for what she wanted her board to look like, she used a ruler and a pencil to accurately draw each of the squares. Then she used markers to colour in the squares, creating a final board much like a real chess board.
- I was not as accurate or patient as my friends. Instead of waiting for the ruler, I took the tape and measured the full length of one side of the board, and then I doubled this to get enough tape for the whole board … and maybe a little extra. I then folded the tape through the middle because I knew that I needed 1 inch tiles instead of 2 inch ones. At this point, I asked Helen for one of her tiles, marked off the size of it on the back of my tape, and then folded the tape back and forth so that the whole row was 1 inch squares. I cut along the lines — or kind of close to them — to create my tiles. Helen helped me find the middle of my board, with the help of a ruler, but I must have made a mistake somewhere, for despite starting in the middle to affix the tiles, my borders along the outside were not the same size. I’m going to call this board, Fox And Hound-ish. It’s a good reminder of why standard measurement may reign supreme.
The amount of math, thinking, and problem solving displayed and explicitly discussed during this creation time was amazing. The truth is that I’m not much a tinkerer. While Helen has rooms full of supplies to create and experiment with, I’ve never even thought of spending time at home doing this. Now I’m starting to wonder the value in adults playing/tinkering/creating more.
Look what Helen created just after I left! Thanks for tweeting this out, Laurel!
I have visions now of a Maker Staff Meeting. Imagine a set-up much like Helen’s house. Would the ability to make things, take them apart, and add light or sound help inspire educators to see what else is possible in the classroom? Coding could even be a component of this. As we play, we can also discuss the curriculum links and the links to learning already happening in the classroom. I wonder what we might bring back and try out with our students.
I’m thinking now of Paul Hatala‘s introduction to our Board’s recent Summer Institute Technology session. He spoke about the roll out of the Board’s Transforming Learning Everywhere initiative, and the importance of putting iPads in the hands of the teachers first. They need to see what’s possible and feel comfortable with the technology before using these devices with students. Maybe the same is also true for playing and tinkering. Do we need to engage in this time first to see the value for our kids? How might this change our practices? What do you think? Many thanks to Helen, Laurel, and Julie for giving me an opportunity to think, play, tinker, create, and learn!