I. General Information
School Name: Cedar Elementary School
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members: Katie Loos: firstname.lastname@example.org, Joanne Allair: email@example.com, Aimee Blow: firstname.lastname@example.org, Marisol Chatton: Marisol.Chatton@sd68.bc.ca
Inquiry Team Contact Email: email@example.com
II. Inquiry Project Information
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels Addressed Through Inquiry: Primary (K-3)
Curricular Areas Addressed: Applied Design, skills & Technology, Arts Education, Language Arts – Oral Language
Focus Addressed: Community-based learning, Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Experiential learning, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? How can we link children’s play to the curriculum and discover how to communicate these links to a variety of members in our school community.
III. Spirals of Inquiry Details
Scanning: Throughout the beginning of the school year, there were a variety of members of our school community questioning the how’s and why’s of the play-based and outdoor focus of our early primary classes. We began scanning more deeply into these questions and discovered the need for more knowledge in our community, but also a desire from each of us to more deeply and transparently connect our student’s play with the curriculum.
We used the second and third of the four key questions, specifically, as reflective prompts for ourselves as educators. We recognize that our comfort and curricular knowledge directly relates to the learning of the students. In a play-based context, we need to be able to see and name the learning that is happening – for ourselves, for students, for our school community, and to communicate this to families.
To see ‘what is going on for our learners’ we engaged in a ‘pedagogy of listening’ (BC ELF). Through our listening we noticed that our students are most successful and joyful in social relationships, curiosity, problem-solving, focus & engagement while they are in free play – they are thriving in play and extending their thinking. These observations were important to our team as we all agreed on the importance of play and our desire to share this information with our communities.
Focus: As a group of educators who are passionate about play-based and outdoor learning, we wanted to share our experiences and knowledge with other members of our school community. This community includes staff, students, and families. We perceive that play-based learning is not well understood, and would like to explore how play and the learning in play can be communicated and valued by others outside of our classrooms.
We are hoping to improve our understanding of the benefits of play for our students, so we can provide our students with motivating, enjoyable and powerful learning experiences. We want to provide open-ended play experiences that build confidence and allow students to grow an understanding of concepts at a level appropriate for them, including considerations of their prior knowledge.
Hunch: Our hunch is that as early primary educators, we have been working somewhat in isolation the last few years. During this time, our early primary team has been moving more deeply into play-based outdoor learning, but we haven’t effectively shared our knowledge with our school community. We tend to stick with our own age groups for school activities, and while navigating through Covid-19 our school communities have been distanced.
New Professional Learning: We frequently referred to the BC Early Learning Framework, Play Today Handbook, the works of Gordon Neufeld, the Innovative Learning Environments Project (https://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/50300814.pdf), and our BC Curriculum documents.
Taking Action: Our team chose several different methods to share our actions. Each staff member diligently shared photos and play experiences through FreshGrade. We ensured that many of our FreshGrade posts included pedagogical narration (stories) from teacher observations. These comments also would include reference to a curricular area.
As a team, we chose to complete several Ongoing Communications of Student Learning that were based on students’ play experiences. This allowed us to show families a connection between play and curriculum.
In partnership with our student leadership team and several other staff members, we hosted a whole school art show. The art exhibited from our students was created through play, and each teacher created a pedagogical narration to go along with the exhibit. In our written stories we used student quotes to link together play, outdoor learning, and curriculum. Through these exhibits our community was able to see the play process of each student’s art and “hear” (through the quotes) the students confidence, joy, and pride in their work.
Checking: We feel that through deepening our own curricular knowledge, sharing more detailed writing and visual observations of the students’ play, and inviting the community into the school with our art show, we were able to create some understanding around the importance of play in the early years classrooms.
We also observed that parents/guardians of our students were interacting with us (teachers) and asking more questions about their child’s play and outdoor learning experiences at school. Overall, we feel that we made some progress into making the links between play and curriculum more transparent for our classroom families.
Reflections/Advice: We confirmed our beliefs that play and outdoor education opportunities are important and integral to student learning.
We continue to raise questions and discuss ways for school staff and systems to support play-based learning through human resources, material resources, and time and planning. We are also continuing to explore ways to share about the learning in play, including methods, with families and the school community through reporting and communication, in a movement towards becoming a place of well-being and joy that values and protects play as meaningful learning for children that nurtures the vision of BC’s Early Learning Framework.
We would encourage other schools to jump in and start building blocks of free play time into their class timetables. Don’t be afraid to take your class outside and let them explore.