Play is frequently associated with ‘just having fun’, giving it a bad reputation amongst learning practitioners. However, neuroscience and psychological research indicates that play is essential for human development and wellbeing. We argue that play is integral to curiosity driven science and engineering, helping to promote creativity, physical development, positive affect (happiness) and social experiences. In this workshop we will describe and demonstrate activities from informal, non-formal and formal learning settings, with the aim of spreading play-based activities for all ages.
Science from the Start
Informal science learning opportunities are rare for under-fives, but ‘Science from the Start’ has been pioneering activities appropriate for toddlers and parents. Encouraging and developing science-oriented interests and skills in both children and their parents/carers from an early age is important for building future science capital. Play and support from adults are crucial to learning at this life-stage and play and creativity are key communication tools when engaging with children with limited or no language skills. This section will present the experiences of delivering informal science learning material for young children using play and creative activities as the basis for communication.
Robots vs Animals
Memories are made when new information is relevant and meaningful to the learner. Stories provide exactly this context, enabling participants to assimilate facts while still being supported in a playful environment. The Robots vs Animals project took place in the non-formal setting of Bristol Zoo Gardens, bringing secondary school children and families into an out-of-school location. Engineers and zoology educators collaborated to develop stories and narratives about animals and robots to demonstrate biomimetic engineering. The engineering design process and the role of engineers were stressed to demonstrate how inspiration and creativity are just as important for successful STEM careers as are good grades!
Fogg-Rogers, L. A., & Hobbs, L. (2016, January). Science learning through play. Paper presented at Association for Science Education Conference, Birmingham, UK