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One of the best things about working in education is the ability to watch children learn as they tinker. Tinkering as it applies to a school setting is more than the act of fiddling; it is the act of play, exploration, and investigation. Unfortunately, the ability to tinker is slowly being pushed out of the curriculum, particularly for the adolescent learner, because schools are being asked more and more to substitute play with things like standardized testing. As an educator, I recognize the importance of testing; however, I don’t think it should come at the expense of a student’s creative expression. I’d rather see students creating something from scratch than sitting in a row of seats filling in bubbles.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could harness the elements within the curriculum that give students the ability to explore and investigate (at the appropriate developmental level) through tinkering while learning core content matter – math, reading, and writing? I am pleased to share a program that works to “foster student creativity, support student imagination, and honor exploration, [while also] encouraging discovery during the learning process.”
I first discovered Rachelle Vallon and Quest to Learn through Edutopia’s project based learning series last fall. Quest to Learn uses the latest “research in game-based learning to create a rigorous and engaging collaborative learning space” for middle and high school age students. The program was developed in conjunction with Institute of Play, and was specifically designed to “nurture social-emotional learning as [it also helps students acquire essential 21st century skills].” While this program may have begun with middle and high school students, I believe the program can easily be adapted for elementary age students as well. No matter the age group, I believe every student learns best when given time to play. I can only hope we never lose the true value of tinkering in education. To learn more about Quest to Learn, check out Rachelle’s blog post on Edutopia here. tlb