“When I play my brain is inspired!”

I love that technology  allows us to share and view short videos  easily. A quick two minute video or a 20 minute TED talk can be  so inspiring. It might remind us of something to which we had a previous connection  or it might open a window to new ideas that we continue to explore.

I had the former “ah ha!” moment today. Last spring I wrote about the importance of play in learning (here and here). In a video that Sonya terBorg shared on her blog today, we hear from children about how play and learning are connected. It is a beautiful reminder.

The opening line by a child says it all:

When I play my brain is inspired!

And near the end a child states:

I like to play to learn and when I am playing I don’t want to stop.

Here is the video from the Opal School in Portland, Oregon:

Thanks, Sonya!

What We Already Know

Play is the answer to how anything new comes about. – Jean Piaget

Where do we get our ideas? Jonathan Drori (TED Talk “What We Think We Know“) says:

Children get their ideas not from teachers, as teachers often think, but actually from common sense, from experience of the world around them, from all the things that go on between them and their peers, and their carers, and their parents, and all of that. Experience.

Our Grade 3 students are inquiring into forces. As they experiment with inclined planes and friction, gravity and inertia, pushes and pulls, I realize that the students already inherently ‘know’ all about Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion because, for the last 9 years of their lives, they have being playing with cars, balls, buckets of water, and engaging in running games with each other.

We don’t need to teach them these laws.   They are already applying and proving these laws daily. They are experts. So, what is it that we want to get into the students’ heads about the laws of motion? I am not a physics teacher. I am learning with the students as we experiment and play with the laws. So, I need to be careful what I plan to ‘get into their heads.’

Drori warns us, paraphrased from Cardinal Wolsey,:

Be very careful what you get into people’s heads because it’s virtually impossible to shift it afterwards.

Maybe we don’t need to teach them. Maybe we can, instead,  provide them the opportunity to consider what they already know and provoke them with the question:

What cool things can you do using Newton’s Laws of Motion?

Show me.

And let them fly.

May 2013 update: During Grade 3 unit on forces we introduced Rube Goldberg machines to the students. My colleague, John Rinker, blogged about the success of allowing kids to create ‘cool things’ like Rube Goldberg machines here.