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The Importance of Playing With Science

Play versus Learning Facts

In the traditional science classroom, children are taught to memorize facts; the focus is on rote learning. It’s no wonder that so many kids today are uninterested in pursuing science topics above and beyond what is required in the classroom!

Unfortunately, the rote fact teaching methodology does not involve real science. It is concerned more with helping kids return the right answers in a passive learning framework which involves no risk, no decision-making and no demands on a child’s inquisitive nature.

Real science has tangible substance. Real learning of real science involves active participation and teaching kids how to use science by learning the process, not the facts. It encourages them to think, compare, investigate and experiment. And that can be considered “play” because it’s fun and exciting for kids to learn science in this manner.

Teaching Science In a Playful Manner

When teaching your kids about science, it’s important to get them involved both mentally and physically. There shouldn’t be any concrete answers in their science textbooks and workbooks; instead the curriculum should encourage questioning and help students probe for their own answers based on experimentation and observation. As E. Duckworth states in the 1987 work The Having of Wonderful Ideas and Other Essays on Teaching and Learning, “Any wrong idea that is corrected provides far more depth than if one never had a wrong idea to begin with. You master the idea much more thoroughly if you have considered alternatives, tried to work it out in areas where it didn’t work, and figured out why it was that it didn’t work, all of which takes time.”

Children want to try to understand the world around them. As they make observations, they will come to conclusions, some of which will be right, others will be wrong. Science becomes fun when kids can take their beliefs about the natural world and compare them to the way things really work, as noted through experimentation. This allows them to play with science and observe the results to form factual conclusions that gets them excited about learning more. This teaching methodology encourages kids to let their imagination run wild with new ideas and promotes the continual use of curiosity to form other hypotheses they can test.

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