Active Engagement

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Piggybacking on the post from yesterday called “Is It Educational?” I want to share more about the “School Of Applied Knowledge.” It is a term I have used for years when talking to other educators and parents about what exactly we do in afterschool care. 

In the simplest terms we invite the children to play, socialize, create, have questions, search for answers, and use the knowledge they have acquired during their school day to fuel the advancement of play. The knowledge the children gain during the school day has a greater purpose than being repeated on a test. The higher purpose of this information is to use it for something. The challenge for the children is to apply this knowledge for the advancement of their interests and wonderings.

On Twitter, I came across a video created by the Lego Foundation. The link is here. In the video a question is asked that ties into what I believe about the practice of children applying knowledge in school age care. The question is simple. What can we do with what we know? The video advances the idea that children experience five areas of practice when at play. In the next few posts, I want to talk about those five areas in terms of what I see everyday in our afterschool program and how embracing a philosophy that employs these attributes is the best practice for school age children.

The first attribute is that play is actively engaging. In my experience the children are most happy when they choose their own work. The reason for their happiness is because of being invested in what they are doing. The school age children choose an interest and then dive in. Their involvement usually is in conjunction with peers that have a similar interest. This type of engagement is challenging and affords much conversation in the form of feedback. 

This feedback is an important aspect in the creation and continuation of play. The children give feedback to each other and it is the roadmap to where play or the creative process is going. Feedback also creates new ideas, extends, and offers depth to the play experience. Finally feedback creates a social involvement that keeps the play experience growing and encourages other children to join in the experience. 

In practice, active engagement is encouraged by our openness as an educator. Our environment needs to be rich with interesting materials and opportunities to make discoveries or try new ideas. Our work is done before the children arrive with our greatest effort going into the prepared environment. 

Most school age programs have pre-programmed activities that are tied to a theme or holiday. To invite active engagement this type of work needs to be avoided. Instead invite the children to play, explore materials, use some time to slow down and think, read a good book, talk with friends, and just be. 

When the children in our program have time and space they are motivated to become actively engaged with their wonderings and the workflows easily from idea to action. Our role is to be a co-learner and observer watching and taking notes and scaffolding when the children are stuck or need some assistance with a social situation. When the children are actively engaged it is a beautiful thing to watch their creativity and focus as they explore what is most important to them on that day in the pursuit of a rich play experience.

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