OKLAHOMA CITY — Two third-graders sat on the floor of their classroom and lined up a row of dominoes along the edge of a low-lying table. They positioned themselves at each end of the row of rectangles, leaned in, and blew. The dominoes tumbled forward, crashing into each other. The girls flung their heads back and laughed.
In another part of the room, two students spontaneously connected a set of wooden orbs to sticks to mimic planets circling a sun.
“It’s a solar system,” one of the students said.
The third-graders in Crystal O’Brien’s class darted from station to station — laughing, arguing, playing. But it wasn’t indoor recess — play is one of the ways students learn every day in O’Brien’s science and social studies class at Shidler Elementary School. Throughout the day, O’Brien weaves free and structured play into her class time. During structured play, O’Brien guides the topic and provides parameters. But during free play, she only asks them to connect something they learned that day to their chosen play activity.
This story about play-based learning was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.
Jackie Mader contributed reporting to this story.
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