Play & Learning – an intricate maze

Learning is not a linear process, even though it is often treated that way in school.  Years after my school days were over, it astonished me how history, for example, is taught.   American history is taught in linear fashion, as is World history.   Parallel, linear lines that never intersect.   Of course the truth is that you cannot separate American history from World history or vice versa.     But learning is not circular (or elliptical or oval), either.  In fact, it’s kind of all over the place, and if drawn out it might look more like a starburst or an intricate maze with no defined beginning or end.

Nowhere is this more evident than in life learning.

Many are the times when I have no idea where my kids learned something, though my guess is that they learn mostly through play & discovery, through reading and observing the world around them.

Today produced a perfect example.   Maya, Ben & their friend Greta were all in Maya’s room this afternoon, writing stories.   Ben came up to me and asked if he could read his to me.   It revolved around a boy who was sitting in a Math class and hating it.  One of the problems he had to solve was “What is 2+2-100?”   He didn’t know, but went home and looked it up on line.   The answer was -96.

At that point Ben stopped and said, “I didn’t look that up, by the way.  I just figured it out.  Want to know how?”    “Sure” I said,   “Well, I just took 100, subtracted 4; so 99, 98, 97, 96, and then, you know, minus 96!”   “Right!”  I said, thinking “Ok, how does he know about negative numbers?”   And the thing I’ve learned is, if I say, “So Ben, how do you know about negative numbers?”  he would probably shrug and say, “I don’t know.  I just do.”   He just does.   I like that.

Kids play.  And when they do so without constraint, they learn.  A lot.   A fellow NYCHEA member posted this video today.  It’s a stop motion animation video that her 9 year old daughter made.   Her 9 year old daughter who taught herself stop motion.   Which is pretty remarkable.   The other remarkable thing is that this video is over a minute long.   Anyone who had done any kind of stop motion knows how much work and patience goes into creating it.   But I have a feeling that for Annalisa, it was just another type of play.

Finally, if there are any doubts lingering in your mind about the vital nature of play, check out this trailer for a new documentary titled “SERIOUSLY! The Future Depends on Play”  (and if you really like it, go to their site and make a donation to help finance their project).

Play, learning, life, success, joy.   Inextricably tied together in a beautiful, crazy maze.

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