Early Childhood News

Playful Learning for Educators – Utilizing Play in the Classroom

When you think about attending a conference for your professional development, getting to play throughout the day isn’t the first thing that springs to mind! However, when KET conducts the PBS Kids Playful Learning for Educators workshops, that is exactly what happens!

What is PBS Kids Playful Learning for Educators?

It is a series of in-person workshops designed to support early childhood educators (ECEs) exploring and developing playful learning experiences for young learners that utilize age-appropriate media and technology from PBS KIDS. The workshops are designed to provide ECEs with the time, space, and resources to play, learn, and discover alongside a group of peers and to consider how to use what they experience in their teaching.

KET recently hosted three of these sessions at the Early Childhood Institute and on a visit to George Unseld Early Learning Center: Integrating Media, Inquiry with “Cat in the Hat”, and Engineering with Ruff Ruffman.

This workshop lays a foundation for educators interested in creating playful learning environments that integrate media content to help support learning objectives. Participants are supported as they engage in activities that explore how digital content can factor into children’s play and learning while supporting critical 21st century skills.

Throughout the session, the teachers explored four different apps and how to use them. Most in attendance didn’t know PBS Kids had these apps available and they hadn’t considered how their usage could be teacher facilitated.

Learning how to incorporate technology is an obstacle to many teachers. “We try to show teachers how they need to preview the digital materials to make sure it is age appropriate and how they can pause the video to get predictions on what might happen,” Amanda Wright, Director – Early Childhood Education says, “teachers already use these techniques when reading a book so we just make them realize they can do the same thing with videos.”

In this workshop educators explored hands-on, learner-centered experiences that were designed to support young learners engagement with scientific inquiry. Participants made connections between the activities, featured media content from The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, and their own experiences.

One of the activities involved learning about shadows. The teachers had fun creating different shadows and exploring how they changed relative to the light source.

The lay out of each session gave the educators a teaching structure they could use in their own classrooms. First, they could play a video clip, then ask the children a question based on the video, and finally, allow the children to explore with the provided materials to develop an answer. This made many teachers more comfortable with using video as a tool in the classroom.

A crucial part of the learning process is teaching children how to become critical thinkers. It is just as important for them to understand the process behind a concept as it is for them to just be able to say the correct answer. During this session, the Early Childhood team showed the teachers how they are using the engineering design process all the time and just not realizing it.

For one of the activities, they had to team up to build a tower with index cards and tape in less than ten minutes. The tallest tower would win! The KET team shouldn’t have been surprised at how competitive the teachers became!

The adaptability of all of the activities amazed the educators. One wrote in her survey comments, “PBS understands education isn’t a one size fits all.”

At the end of each workshop, teachers commented on how they weren’t used to such interactive sessions. The ability to experience the activities themselves and the guided discussions on how to integrate what they learned into their own classrooms really engaged them on all levels. They all wanted to go back and allow the kids to do their own learning through exploration and then reviewing and enforcing the main concepts through teacher-led discussion.

Follow Early Childhood Education on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter to keep up-to-date on events, giveaways, resources, and more!