How a School Made Play Central to Learning
At a primary school in the UK, both students and teachers have become more engaged and curious as a result of a shift to a fully play-based approach—and learning has become more joyful for everyone.
In Aberdeen, Scotland, Dyce Primary School has undergone an impressive academic transformation by making learning more playful. In a wooded area near the school, even the smallest students are free to take risks in an unstructured environment—climbing trees, building structures from tarps, planks, and tires, exploring the landscape—while teachers observe from a distance. Once they are back indoors, the perseverance, independence, and resourcefulness the children developed while at play improve their focus and their academic work, as they dive into hands-on, largely student-directed learning initiatives.
To learn more about the research behind the practices seen in the video, check out the links below.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics’ report on how play enhances development in young children (2018)
- Kayleigh Skene, Christine M. O’Farrelly, Elizabeth M. Byrne, Natalie Kirby, Eloise C. Stevens, and Paul G. Ramchandani’s meta-analysis and review on whether guidance during play can enhance children’s learning and development in educational contexts (2022)
- Rachel Parker, Bo Stjerne Thomsen, and Amy Berry’s article on learning through play at school (2022)
- The American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on the critical role of recess in school (2013)
- Elizabeth Bonawitz, Patrick Shafto, Hyowon Gweon, Noah D. Goodman, Elizabeth Spelke, and Laura Schulz’s article about how instruction can limit spontaneous exploration and discovery (2011)
- Jennifer M. Zosh, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Emily J. Hopkins, Hanne Jensen, Claire Liu, Dave Neale, S. Lynneth Solis, and David Whitebread’s literature review on redefining play as a spectrum (2018)
- Deena Skolnick Weisberg, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Audrey K. Kittredge, and David Klahr’s article on the principles and practices of guided play (2016)