Blog

7 Apr
Play and Inquiry
Posted by client_admin
By Jeni Wilson

 

Play and Inquiry – ‘Perhaps the most pure form of inquiry occurs through play. Murdoch (p119, 2015). And people often think they need to choose between inquiry and play based learning. 

But they don’t!

 

What is inquiry based learning?

“Inquiry-based learning is a more structured approach to developmental learning. Students operate within a framework supported by a driving question or problematic scenario.

As a curriculum approach, inquiry-based learning builds from a natural process of inquiry in which students experience a ‘need to know’ that motivates and deepens learning. Inquiry-based learning requires guidance from the teacher in the role of facilitator: providing structure and support for students as appropriate to their developmental stage.”*

 

Types of Inquiry

Inquiries may be teacher guided, negotiated, personal, action-based, problem based, issue based or play-oriented. Play-oriented enquiry is more likely, but not limited to, the early years. Hands-on and sensory activities are seen as crucial for younger children, but all children benefit from concrete materials, experimentation and play-oriented inquiry.

 

Incorporate play into inquiry

In contrast to more structured inquiry, free play is more hands-on, less teacher guided, can be shorter, and is often more free flowing. No matter what level or focus, children will enjoy play being incorporated into inquiry.

 

Discover through Inquiry

During inquiry, children learn about the world, their role in their world, and explore and create through play. This can be more or less structured depending on the teacher’s intentions. 

 

Regardless of the type of inquiry, students work through the same stages. In play-oriented inquiry, students are encouraged to ask questions, build on their prior knowledge, and observe and make their own discoveries. Students will rely on the materials provided and make connections between ideas, experiences and concepts. No matter the focus of inquiry, there’s always ways to integrate play. (Refer to table below)

 

Some ways to incorporate play into inquiry stages

 

Stage of Inquiry

  Examples of how to integrate play

Tuning in

  For immersion 

 

  To gauge prior knowledge

 

  As a stimulus for developing questions

Finding Out

  Exploration and Experimentation

 

  Simulation/Role play

Sorting Out

  To practise skills, eg cooperative group *

 

  As part of skills based workshops

 

  To process, organise and represent what  has been learnt

 

  To show learning through play

Reflection & Action

  To demonstrate what has been learnt

 

  For creation 

*Could be used at multiple stages of Inquiry.

 

While some materials will be suitable for all inquiries, other materials will depend upon the inquiry focus. 

 

Materials that might support play within inquiry

 

Inquiry Concept

Example materials for play

Design and Innovation 

 Recyclable materials such as boxes, cylinders, yoghurt containers, foil, broken   toys and pieces of jewellery.  

Living things

 Seeds, leaves, shells, fossils, magnifying glasses

Expression and performance 

 Steps for a stage, pieces of fabric, scarves

Force- Push and pull

 Levers, wedges, pulleys, ramps, cars, cylinders

 

The Nudel Kart Teacher and Facilitator Manual provides ideas for multiple focuses.  This includes thirty-six possible curriculum based contexts and extension ideas, with examples for different levels of the curriculum. (4-12 year olds)

Children interacting with the Nüdel Kart as part of curriculum and play based learning

 
What is the Nüdel Kart?

Playground Ideas created the Nüdel Kart, a social enterprise by non-profit Playground Ideas, ​where 100% of the profits go towards creating stimulating play spaces for children anywhere in the world. The Nüdel Kart is a deconstructable, mobile play kart that can be reconfigured in endless ways to encourage self-directed learning. It contains research-backed specially selected materials to stimulate children’s development.

The Nüdel Kart packed up

For a list of example materials for loose parts play.

When play is incorporated into inquiry, teachers have the opportunity to observe and respond to skills development. These skills are pertinent to all students across different inquiries.

 

Examples of  skills and dispositions

Thinking

 Social

 Personal

 Communication

Asking questions

 Listening

 Managing  impulsivity

 Speaking respectfully

Generating ideas

 Taking turns

 Showing  initiative

 Explaining procedure

Using imagination

 Managing conflict

 Staying on  task

 Recounting what was done

Hypothesising 

 Building resilience

 Using trial  and error

 Reflecting on achievements

Evaluating

 Organisation

 Being curious

 Expressing feelings

Being open-minded

 Showing empathy

 Managing time

 Justifying actions

Planning

 Sharing

 Persisting

 Speaking assertively

Self-regulating

 Being accountable

 Seeking  and using   feedback

 Using language for different   purposes

Reflecting

 Accepting      responsibility

 Being self- motivated

 Presenting information in   different ways

 

Play enhances inquiry

Whether teachers start with a focus in mind, skills to be developed, a question, issue, problem to be solved, or a collection of materials, play can enhance the inquiry experience providing inclusive opportunities to promote student voice and agency.

 In conclusion, I need to mention the ‘f’ word that is linked to curiosity, self-motivation and resilience.  We can so easily forget the impact when the focus of learning is shifted away from the learners.

…play is the icing on the cake – FUN!  

 

References

*https://www.vu.edu.au/learning-teaching/learning-teaching-development/learning-teaching-approaches/active-and-inquiry-based-learning

Murdoch, K. (2015) The Power of Inquiry. Seastar Education, Northcote.

Murdoch, K. and Wilson, J. (2004) Learning Links. Curriculum Corporation, Carlton South.

Sewell, C. Wilson, J. Laing, B. and Veerman, M. (2020) Nudel Kart Teachers Manual (2020)

Wilson, J. and Wing Jan, L. Focus on Inquiry (second edition). Education Services Australia, Carlton South.