Learning Outside the Box

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Dear Flint Hill Families,

I am sure you may have noticed an event on the schedule recently called, “Day of Play.” On October 3, the Lower School held its third annual “Day of Play” and it was something to behold! The event began in the Olson Theater with “It’s Not a Box,” a performance led by teachers demonstrating how children could use their imaginations to create new uses for everyday things. The teachers took the stage with cardboard boxes, which were “transformed” into exciting new objects through creativity and play. By the end of the performance, every student in the theatre was excitedly shouting, “IT’S NOT A BOX!!!” With this remark, the entire day was brought into focus for everyone. It came down to the very simple concepts of how to make learning fun, and how to make fun a learning experience.

As it turns out, that’s pretty easy. In just one day, this project allowed our students to work on creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and communication. Everyone experienced a true sense of community and a true sense of learning…outside the box!

The project this year was to build a playground. In groups of four, students had to come up with a concept for what to build for a playground. They even had an architect on site – an accomplished architect from Washington, DC came in to talk about the building of a school and what such a project involved. Students had to stop and think. Words and phrases like “recyclable materials,” “sustainability,” “durable,” and a whole host of comments had them stretching their ideas, rethinking how you look at things, and realizing the need for focus in their plans for the day.

The architect talked about the need to talk with others first. How, at the start of a project, you have to collaborate, make drawings, create a “rendering” of the final result, and then form a model prior to your final product. Our students were learning right there and then the kind of creativity, planning and focus their day of play would entail. Bottom line – it was going to be hard work mixed with the excitement and joy that come from this kind of learning.

They then began the process of thinking about the boxes they were provided and coming up with a number of possibilities for what could be done with the boxes. From working alone to working together, they zeroed in on the final concepts for what their boxes could be. Inside each of these boxes was a host of other goodies for the construction of this playground. The students had to work on the rough construction phase and then work on the components, which involved guided discovery, and then into the construction and feedback phases. Ultimately, their activity piece for the playground was done. The students were moved into the gym due to rain, and they had time to enjoy the activities that all the classes had created.

Sometimes people may think that an activity like that is a waste of time, that it is just  “kids messing with cardboard and tape” with no learning involved. I have to tell you that there wasn’t a single child in the building that day who was not learning at a very high level. And there wasn’t an adult in the building, who witnessed this event, who was not learning and re-learning a host of valuable lessons. Students were using math, they were using science, they were using creativity and the list can go and on.  In talking with Director of the Lower School, Sheena Hall, she shared with me that a young man was concerned because his brother was not able to be there.  Unfortunately, he was sick, and it was really upsetting him that he was missing it.  When Sheena talked with him about why he was so upset, he said that this was his last Day of Play, because he is moving up to the fifth grade, and that he really loves doing this. He looks forward to it every year!

Please know that innovation and creativity are a part of the everyday experience here at school. And sometimes, activities involving “play” may have far more impact on them than anyone could ever imagine. To see for yourself, here is a short video put together by Coach Chris Brown.

Learning by doing, by engaging in the process, makes it personal, meaningful and real. And in the long run, it makes it memorable.

Best wishes for a super week!! Fall is here for sure.

 

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
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