Children’s Play as Life Sustaining Deep Education

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Children’s Play as Life Sustaining Deep Education

Adopting the deep approach for early childhood education requires honoring children’s self-selected playful learning processes. Children are naturally transdisciplinary learners who use a deep approach during spontaneous, uninterrupted playful interactions to create coherence from their experiences and generate narrative stories and counterstories. When we are able to creatively and fluidly generate new stories for our own lives and for our local and global communities we increase our ability to adapt to our ever changing needs within an ever changing world. When children are subjected to standardized, objective-based teaching practices the missed opportunity goes beyond developmental outcomes to loss of a deeper form of self knowledge in which children are able to generate and regenerate identity through the fluid creation of coherent life stories and counterstories. When adults project their own agenda on children's play to "teach" them school lessons they prevent children from engaging in essential play that supports deep integration of their sense of self and place in the world. The dominance of standards that dictate teaching according to predetermined outcomes stifles teacher’s abilities to integrate holistic concepts of care with education. This type of prescriptive outcomes-based lesson planning interrupts children’s ability to form and follow their preferred patterns of thinking and learning. Further, it increases the potential for normative ideologies of family and culture and acts as a form of intellectual colonization. Ultimately, the outcomes-based approach reduces, if not eliminates the potential for teachers to allow children time for sustained play and exploration that incorporates the deep education approach and supports children’s full integration of knowledge. By broadening understanding of the benefits of self-selected, open-ended learning processes we can create opportunities for children to engage in more holistic, deep education experiences.

Connie Lent, University of Wisconsin, United States

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