Let the Children Play      

Preschool 1, 2 and 3

Since the beginning of time, children have not liked to study.  They would much rather play, and if you have their interests at heart you will let them learn while they play.  They will find what they have mastered is child’s play.” – Carl Orff

No one knows how important learning through play is this better than our young learners and teachers in Preschool.  This past week the students of Preschool 1, 2 and 3 have been meeting in the DP auditorium where they are combining their music, movement, singing and expression in preparation for a celebration of learning presentation.

Current research on brain development indicates that play shapes the structural design of the brain. We know that secure attachments and stimulation are significant aspects of brain development; play provides active exploration that assists in building and strengthening brain pathways. Play creates a brain that has increased ‘flexibility and improved potential for learning later in life’.[1]

Young children’s play allows them to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks and create meaning. The intellectual and cognitive benefits of playing are now well documented. Children who engage in quality play experiences are more likely to have well-developed memory skills, language development, and are able to regulate their behavior, leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning. [2]

Music/movement plays (no pun intended) a bit part of their learning. Throughout the school year, twice a week, our youngest students are actively participating in music classes using the Orff Approach designed by Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman. This approach to learning combines music, movement, drama, and speech into lessons that are similar to child‘s world of play. It is often called “Elemental Music making because the materials needed to teach students are basic, natural, and close to a child’s world of thought and fantasy.”[3] “Orff activities awaken the child’s total awareness” and “sensitize the child’s awareness of space, time, form, line, color, design, and mood- aesthetic data that musicians are acutely aware of, yet find hard to explain to musical novices”.[4] What is the Orff Approach?

Here is a look into the process of how our PS classroom teachers, Hindi and Music teachers incorporated learning into playing.

A classic Russian folk story was read, “The Enormous Turnip” by Aleksey Tolstoy.  “The Enormous Carrot” by Vladimir Vagan was then read with the people in the story changed to animals. The next ingredient to our learning was  to add a song which was introduced in Hindi, telling the original story.

Preschool 2 & 3 children came up with the idea to turn the song/story into a performance where they created their own characters which included elephants, birds, and for a while, there was even a dinosaur. They all explored how different animals moved and talked. Slowly but surely we all learned the meaning of the Hindi song which has greatly increasing our vocabulary of our host culture language. As we sang the song, the students came together to create a wonderful story, using movement and gestures, showing how we succeed when we all work together and how it was the smallest that made the biggest difference.

As this was evolving, our learners connected songs and games they have been learning in the music classes.  Songs such as, “Elephants Have Wrinkles” and “The Old Grey Cats are sleeping”. Children watched Galloping Horses and listened to The Wild Horseman by Robert Schumann when identifying high/low changes in music.

Music and art were integrated with an event held behind the PS classrooms, in what they called their “Enchanted Garden”. Children selected their favorite color and were invited to let the music tell them what and when and how to paint.  Prior to this, in their music lessons, they listened to the Russian Dance Trepak by Petr Tchaikovsky, discussing how the music changes, how it makes them feel, if there is a steady beat, does it go up or down and how could it connect with colors, movement, painting. They allowed their entire body to move as the music directed them, some became conductors.  The following week, they were given a wide brush, a white paper and their favorite color…the music began and the masterpieces revealed themselves.

At MBIS we are committed to fostering a passion for life-long learners who are acutely aware of, engaged in, participating with and appreciative of the aesthetic world around us. This begins in Preschool and continues throughout, including our teaching, support and administrative staff. It is through the medium of play that we learn life’s most valuable teachings. The saying goes, “We don’t stop playing because we get old.  We get old because we stop playing”.

References

1, Bodrova, E. & Leong, D. J. (2005). Uniquely preschool: What research tells us about the ways young children learn. Educational Leadership, 63(1), 44-47.

  1. Lester, S. & Russell, S. (2008). Play for a change. Play policy and practice: A review of contemporary perspectives. Play England. Retrieved 21.6.2010 from http://www.worldleisure. org/pdfs/Copy%20of%20book_rev_play_for_change.pdf
  2. Jump Up Shamrock, Mary (May 1997). “Orff- Schulwerk: An Integrated Method”. Music Educators Journal. 83 (6): 41–44. JSTOR 3399024
  3. Banks, Susan (March 1982). “Orff- Schulwerk Teaches Musical Responsiveness”. Music Educators Journal. 68 (7): 42–43. JSTOR 3395939.