Since the last couple of years, i have been hearing the word play based learning pretty much everywhere I turn. Schools talk about informal learning, learning beyond the books, courses have sprung up online and offline on creating conducive learning environments for children. Terms such as grounded living and learning by doing have become synonymous with learning.
Last year, I went through a mild episode of depression. Much of the work I did, I did on auto pilot. Call it a kind of mid life crisis or something, but it took a lot from the world to satisfy me. The whole episode lasted some six to eight months, during which period, I also went through several personal changes - as husband said, 2012 was a year that took a lot out of us in one way or another.
But two things helped me a lot through out the year. The first was this blog and the second was making. Going through the archives I have made and facilitated making more in 2012 than I have ever done any time previously. At the end of last year, when I was asked to MC at the girls' kindergarten for their graduation, the principal Mrs Chan said "I really wanted to meet you - everytime Sophia walked into school with a craft, i really wanted to meet her mother". Of course, I didnt tell Mrs Chan then how totally messed up my inner life was.
But looking back, I can see that there was something very nice that came out of all this making, and it is that, somehow, inadverdantly, I had been an inspiration for the kids to get into this self directed learn every moment through making spirit. Right now, Anjali and Sophia are in the kitchen, making cup cakes. An hour earlier, when we had gone grocery shopping, Anjali, who had a bread talk craving, took her notebook into bread talk and wrote down the name of the bread that she wanted to buy with the promise that we would make it at home. This morning, Sophia wanted to go out to kick scooter in the lift lobby. Anjali wanted to accompany her to bike. On their way out, they discovered that the handlebars of the bikes were dirty, owing to Thursday's mud pie making session (a story for another day). So they began a spree of wiping down their bikes with wet rags, ending with a bike- bathing session in the bathroom.
They didnt end up going kick scootering in the lift lobby in the end, but they had a load load of fun and quite possibly a few lessons in responsibility and probably some lessons in Science. Does inferring that boiling water on bikes can be used to kill germs count??
I can go backward and give many examples of how Anjali and Sophia are being empowered into making their own activities and how it teaches them, very observably important skills like Math, Science, Imagination and language. Just for fun, I took out a primary one practice Math book and Sophia can do quite a number of the questions.
I am reminded of a TED talk where this lady from a school in India talked about how she empowered her students with the power to make decisions and the power to change and these children, aside from changing the world also scored good results in the national exams. Maybe that is what learning is all about - getting empowered and the national exams are a byproduct which has become the core product.
Just random thoughts. I am off to eat cupcakes.