ACS International School Doha: How parents can leverage the power of play in their child's education
As schools across Qatar start to look to the future awaiting the easement of lockdown, mental health experts have warned of the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on children, calling for schools to prioritize play and socializing over formal lessons and academic progress, when they do re-open.
"Through play, children develop their social, emotional, and cognitive domains. Children explore their immediate environment, delve into scientific and mathematical concepts, and develop their language, fine motor, and gross motor skills. At ACS International School Doha, we employ play as our main teaching approach toward the early development of the child. However, with quarantine in place, many of these techniques can be continued at home," explains Rachel McLeod, Early Childhood Principal at ACS Doha.
Building on this and advocating for the value of play in young children, Pam Mundy, ACS International Schools board trustee, and Early Childhood education specialist, has shared her advice on how parents can leverage the power of play activities to drive development and learning outcomes.
Pam says, "Structuring a day of remote home learning for children of every age and stage is a huge burden on millions of families. In the case that Qatar continues remote learning in the next academic year, parents should be prepared to provide the opportunity for play to their kids at home."
"By nurturing holistic, inquiry-based learning opportunities, parents are facilitating the best learning support for their children during this challenging time. This is the same approach we use at ACS Doha to deliver education holistically. At home, parents should feel confident that they can facilitate these techniques by focusing on play. Play is meaningful; it allows children to play to make sense of the world around them and to find meaning in experience by connecting it to something already known and co-constructing it with adults."
Pam Mundy shares insight into how parents can put this approach into practice, at home, and when schools return:
Talking to children about play
Parents should feel encouraged to bring up the topic of play, indicating that what they are doing has value and is helping to extend their current knowledge and make new connections between activities. By modeling behaviors that support the child in continuing their play, such as resilience, problem-solving, and taking turns, parents are providing source material from which their children can learn and are strengthening the foundations of such learning for the eventual return to a level of normality.
Encouraging children to ask their own questions
Within the current situation, as schools are unsure whether ‘learning at home’ will continue for the next academic year, teachers and parents can support each child to ask their own questions and develop their own areas of exploration. In this way, children are encouraged to acquire knowledge, new skills and explore the world around them at their own pace, building an understanding of themselves as a learner and as an active participant in their own learning, rather than a passive recipient of information.
Prompting children to answer questions too
Using questions to stimulate different skills and areas of exploration during play is also key in providing learning structure to play-time. For example, parents can experiment with thinking skills by asking prompting questions like “I wonder what would happen if you …?” and “What do you think made this happen?”. Self-management skills can be engaged with questions such as “What might be another way to solve this problem?”. And, while open-ended questions are great to encourage discussion during play-based learning, there is also the opportunity for closed questions such as “How many pieces of paper did you use?” or “Which story took longer for us to share - this one or that?” to encourage key skills in maths and English.
"The resilience, kindness, patience and empathy parents are displaying every day within their families in the current situation will form a key learning point for every child on the other side of this crisis, and for that alone parents should feel empowered in their ability to facilitate learning," Rachel McLeod adds.
Teamwork is a central tenet of the approach taken by teachers and staff at ACS Doha who work with parents to facilitate learning. Navigating through this difficult time, the school urges parents, as part of the team, to work with their children in creating space for different types of learning.
“Soon, we will re-start something more like our ‘normal’ lives. In the meantime, learning continues, and we are all gaining new wisdom from the precious and extended time of children learning at home. We are confident that teachers will build on children’s learning at home experiences and weave them as golden threads in the rich tapestry of childhood, created together as a firm foundation for their life and learning ahead,” concludes Pam Mundy.
ACS Doha is entering an exciting new phase as the school is opening its 60,000 sqm state of the art campus in September 2020.
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