Monday, February 19, 2018

Play As Purposeful Activity

       A large amount of thought and time in any primary school program belongs legitimately to play. Play is the spontaneous expression of child life; it is child life. The teacher who does not weave play into her daily scheme, fails to grasp a central principle and to utilize one of the greatest assets in the education of the children under her guidance.
       Much has been written on the educational value of play. Five aspects of the question are especially vital to the success of the plan of work here presented. They are:
  1. The play spirit
  2. Representative play
  3. Dramatic play
  4. Play and games as determined by conditions of weather and other nature experiences
  5. Social and folk games and play
       The play spirit. This is an attitude of mind, an outlook upon life present in the child, necessary as basis for a sound philosophy in later years; as much of an asset to the grown person as to the child. It is the element in character which defies failure; which insists upon playing the game fairly and joyfully, but playing the game always; which meets difficulties, obstacles, drudgeries, with vigor and a determination to win, but to win always by fair means; which does not minimize or ignore existing evil, but which has faith in its ultimate overcoming by positive measures; which adds the touch of artistry to otherwise commonplace lives, and illuminates them with a ray of sunlight convincing to others by its glow, its penetration, and its effects. This play spirit does not exclude seriousness, concentration, application, reverence, or any of the other stable and basic qualities which are among the ideals to be realized by children; it runs side by side with and through them all as does a delicate theme or melody in a piece of music with orchestral accompaniment, binding together the various harmonies into a unified whole. The play spirit then is an essential which should permeate the atmosphere of every primary school, constituting its moving and directive force.
       Representative play. This is the play indulged in by children when reproducing the activities of their environment in imitation of their elders (" Olympians," as Kenneth Grahame calls them), and of institutional life as they see it. This furnishes opportunity for much first-hand contact and for introduction to the values which are to be established in the field of social experiences. Playing house, store, fire department, letter carrier, etc., with fidelity and devotion to actual detail, does much to help children to an intelligent understanding and appreciation of their environment, and to initiate that spirit of co-operation which must work out through them if they are to be happy, intelligent, helpful members of school and society.
       Dramatic play. Dramatic play deals with reproduction of experience gathered in the field of the past (primitive life, history), in fields remote from personal contact (for instance, geography), and in the idealized realm of literature, be it fairy tale, folklore, myth or whatever form the gem may take. Though dealing with material different in point of time, space, or reality, dramatic play has many of the same values as representative play, which is also, of course, dramatic in its expression. It gives to the child free and full expression through the body and the voice; it enlarges his horizon, exercises his imagination, enriches his experience; it gives him another's point of view and enables him to project himself into the lives of others, thus developing understanding, sympathy, and appreciation; by 'being some one else' and realizing in conduct the admirable qualities of another person, it starts the process of carrying these over into the child's own life and establishing permanent habits and ideals. This latter, of course, is only the beginning of a development which the wise teacher must encourage by elsewhere presenting conditions which will provide for repeated reaction along the desired paths of conduct. In addition to the above values the material used in dramatic play lays the foundation for the tastes and appreciations of things beautiful and worth while, which are so necessary to the background of every human being.
       Play and games as determined by season, location and other geographic and physiographic conditions. These are important leads to follow as introduction to interpretation of nature experiences. Flying kites; sailing boats; playing with bonfires; coasting; snowballing; skating; playing marbles, tops, jump-rope, rolling hoops; chewing birch, sorel, and other plant materials ; making daisy and dandelion chains; gathering materials for decoration; skipping stones ; digging and planting gardens; collecting stones, leaves, and other treasures; popping corn and chestnuts; baking apples; gilding nuts; stringing cranberries for the Christmas tree; feeding birds; caring for pets indoors and out all these and many more spontaneous activities are directly dependent upon physiographic and geographic conditions. Why not relate them to their natural background, interpret natural phenomena through them, and lead on from these simple relations to further appreciation and understanding of the beauty, the wonder, and the significance of nature? Effect and cause, mutual interdependence, the influence of geographic conditions on the lives of people, the gradual, increasing control by man of his physical environment all of these touch the lives even of children. In the simplest way we can employ these early points of contact and convert them into more far-reaching, ever-deepening, increasingly significant permanent controls.
       Social and folk games and play. This phase of play needs to be given no special emphasis here, as it is one of the child 's natural expressions in reacting to his social environment. It furnishes a valuable means for making the school a part of the child's real life.
       Play enters vitally into all of the child's problems and projects, and must be taken into account throughout any and all projects designed to instigate playful interactions between children and also when they play by themselves. It is, in fact, one of the most important factors in building up the physical and mental health of children. Krackowizer

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