by Dale Mann - 1996
Reformers are stuck on interventions centered on the schooling institution and the act of formal instruction. The meager results should prompt us to look elsewhere. Play is an active learning method far more powerful than its passive cousin, entertainment. Children play for the expedience of control, for curiosity, for the intrinsic motivation of fun, and to learn. The types of play—sensory motor, dramatic symbolic, games with rules—are nicely intertwined with developmental stages. The activity grows the brain, lubricates action, and previews later life. Among the more important gains is a facilitation of symbolic manipulation. Play is underutilized as a learning strategy and nearly completely ignored by reformers despite the hundreds of empirical citations documenting its power in cognitive development, language development, the growth of imagination and creativity, and the development of social competence. With the benefits of play so firmly established, we should find ways to overcome the economic and political obstacles to harnessing play to reform.
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