Guest Post By: Dr. Beverlie Dietze.
We are excited to present another fun-filled guest post by Dr. Beverlie Dietze, an internationally-known author, researcher and expert in the field of early childhood education and outdoor play.
More Than “Just Play”
Often children’s play is viewed as “just play”. But that is never the case. Wherever children play, the space and place becomes their laboratory for learning, especially when they have open-ended, stimulating materials that trigger their curiosity. The more open-ended the materials are, the more enriching the overall play experience becomes. Engaging play experiences lead children to develop flexible and divergent thoughts and stronger problem solving and critical thinking skills.
Sometimes when adults design play spaces with stationary products, the decisions about what to place in the play space are based more on what children “might be attracted to and want to play with” rather than clearly examining the potential play value and child development features within the products.
The Waterways play system is one of the many products that Waterplay offers that is rich with play value and options that set the foundation for children’s later academic learning.
A Scientific Laboratory for Children
What is exciting about the characteristics of the design of Waterways is that visually it naturally attracts children to it and triggers their curiosity. Its play options are numerous for both individual children and peer groups.
Look at the various movable options that are built into the design. Further examine the technological elements, physical movement options and science principles that children experience as they manipulate each component of the feature to make the water flow in different directions.
Waterways creates the perfect play laboratory for children to try to figure out the answers to:
- “What happens if I move this over here?”
- “Why does that happen?”
- “Would my idea of [this] work?”
- And, more!
Children try ideas, repeat processes and figure out how to move their explorations and thinking processes from simple to more complex explorations.
Children’s play that occurs with Waterways actually advances their understanding of scientific principle processes through trial, error and discovery. For example, as children explore various strategies to make the water flow, combined with the technical attributes of the moving parts, they experience the cause and effect of their movements.
Depending on the results, they are stimulated to try new ideas, figure out processes and ideas, and expand their experimentation on how their manipulations of the features and their actions lead to results. This trial and error play process is vital in leading children to engage in a more in-depth thinking-and-doing process that includes observations and experimentation.
Like scientists in laboratories, as outlined in Figure 1, Waterways engages children in a play process that requires them to continuously refine, extend, and revise their body of knowledge, which is known as the act of scientific inquiry.
Figure 1. Scientific Principles
When children engage in exploratory and inquisitive play, they develop the confidence to observe, try ideas and experiment with new discoveries leading to the process of scientific inquiry.
Scientific inquiry is a sequential play and learning process that children use to develop an understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math concepts, known as STEM. For example, features of Waterways draws children to determine what and how they can manipulate the various features.
As they engage in this process, they explore water flow, pressure, volume, how to change volume and flow by manipulating one or more features, and comparing what happens to the water flow when one item is moved and another is not.
This play requires children to use the same sequential processes that scientists use:
- Predicting and hypothesizing
- Experimenting and testing
- Summarizing and analyzing to form a conclusion
Depending on who is present in their environment, children may communicate their discoveries and finally, identify new questions or ideas about how and what they can do next in their play with Waterways.
Figure 2 further illustrates the types of STEM skills that children develop through their play with Waterways.
Figure 2. STEM and Waterways
The Waterways play system is the perfect children’s science water play laboratory where they become scientists that learn about STEM concepts through their play. The discovery-based learning from the Waterways supports children in building a foundation of knowledge that is transferred to other experiences and their lifelong learning journey.
McLean, K., Jones, M., & Schaper, C. (2015). Children’s literature as an invitation to science inquiry in early childhood education. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 40(4), 49-56.
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About the Author
Dr. Beverlie Dietze, is the Director of Learning and Applied Research at Okanagan College, Kelowna, British Columbia. She is involved in research with non-profit organizations and industry, including Waterplay, related to children’s play, child development, and learning.
In addition to her position at Okanagan College, Beverlie is an internationally-known expert and has written and co-authored seven books on early childhood education and outdoor play. She is also, the lead researcher for a national and local research project that is examining strategies to advance children’s outdoor play through training and space design.