How We Learn

Play and its influence on the Brain

bullet At IPECS our children play AND learn and learn through play.

bullet At IPECS we believe children are capable and competent.

bullet At IPECS children learn from educators and educators learn from children.

bullet At IPECS we believe we teach children first before content.

bullet At IPECS relationships drive decision making.

As a result of these beliefs a typical school day looks a little different at IPECS and the following provides evidence as to why we actively adopt a play based approach in conjunction with more traditional methods of learning.

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International research on brain development and early learning environments proves that it is paramount for young children to be engaged in high-quality early childhood education programs if later academic success is to be achieved (Fleer, 2011; McCain, Mustard & Shanker, 2007; Shonkoff, 2011; Siraj-Blatchford, 2009 in Jay, Knaus & Hesterman; 2014).

Children must experience rich child-centred, play based experiences in conjunction with intentional teaching to develop the early learning required for future academic achievement. The emphasis on improving literacy and numeracy outcomes must not come at the expense of rich play-based learning (Fleer, 2011 in Jay, Knaus & Hesterman; 2014).

Some researchers believe that in terms of brain development time spent in the classroom may be less important than time spent playing (Hamilton, 2014). At IPECS we respond to such research by incorporating high quality play experiences into the structure of our school day. Play is a child's natural learning approach and contributes to their social, emotional, cognitive, physical and language learning. When engaged in play children are deeply engaged in negotiating, problem solving, critical thinking and self-directed learning.

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In short the research supports the notion that children must be an active participant in learning rather than a passive observer. As such you will not see children sitting at desks for most of the day listening to the teacher. Children at IPECS are active, moving, building, challenging and absorbed in co-creating learning. The enriched environment at IPECS allows some freedom of choice and time to act independently.

"The richer the environment, the greater the number of interconnections that are made. The larger the number of interconnections, the faster and more meaningful learning will be" (Southern Early Childhood Association, 2001). Educators at IPECS work very hard to create positive relationships with children and their families in order to enhance the interactions. Educators also take the time to set up, resource and find out from the children what they would like in their learning environment. Resources are sourced to stimulate interactions, open ended learning opportunities and to create a sense of belonging.

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Children don't learn by listening to teachers.

Movement is now realised to be helpful and even essential for increasing learning, develop creative thought and a high level of reasoning (Hannaford in Daily Montessori, 2014). Movement improves brain function and ultimately helps a child to build good foundations for learning.

At IPECS we have periods of sitting at desks and listening to the teacher as they take the lead for episodes of intentional teaching. Children at IPECS read, write, engage in mathematics learning every day as do Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 children across Australia. The difference is that the children at IPECS combine this more traditional learning approach with time spent on high-quality play. Research by paediatric neuropsychologists found that movement and a hands-on approach relate to brain development, asserting that "the hands are a child's strongest link to the brain" (Hughes, 2001).

He believes children are able to master information more quickly through a hands-on approach than when conventional methods are used.

It is based on such research that we invite and provide opportunities for children to engage in active learning through play. Learning that involves movement and the manipulation of a wide range of resources. The importance of rich learning experiences plays an essential role in building better brains and building vital social and emotional skills for life beyond school.

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Children learn by being actively engaged.

At IPECS we support the principles and practices of the Early Years Learning Framework by structuring learning programs around quality play in conjunction with the National Curriculum. We support Panksepp's (in Hamilton, 2014) belief that "the skills associated with play ultimately lead to better grades."