"Play is the highest form of research." — Albert Einstein
The most important part of kids' learning and development involves play and creativity. Kids love to create; in fact, they are born creators. They learn best when they are given the opportunity to tinker. By working with tools and a variety of interesting materials, they are able to connect with the physical world and build lasting experiences and knowledge about how it works. This is why making and tinkering is such an important piece of a child's learning.
A maker's classroom:
- Invites children into an open-ended experience where they can create, build, and explore, rather than asking a child to memorize and produce the right answer to a question
- Creates an environment where children have materials and tools to explore and create using their imagination
- Provides the space and freedom for children to ask questions, take risks, make mistakes, try again, and build authentic knowledge
- Invites teachers to instill trust and self-confidence by providing the scaffolding and safety necessary for students to use various tools and materials (even a saw!)
- Is a space where a teacher doesn't hold all of the knowledge, only provides boundaries and parameters
- Is a space where the overall project choices come from the student
- Allows for greater long-term impact on a child's learning through more meaningful connections
Students are capable of so much more than we as teachers sometimes think. The beauty of a classroom focused on making and creating is that academic subjects are merged to create an authentic learning experience. Instead of compartmentalizing math, science, and language, the student must call upon all of their knowledge in these academic areas to arrive at solutions and products.
Michael Bonsignore and Jenni Scoggin are team teachers in Carolina Friends School's Sky Class, a blended class of third and fourth year Lower School students (the equivalent of third and fourth grade).
Michael found Carolina Friends School after student teaching in a primary school in Bristol, England. He has worked in the Lower School since 1979, taking breaks to attend graduate school, where he received an M.Ed. in Early Childhood, and a sabbatical to live and teach in the Grand Canyon. His two sons attended CFS from age three and both graduated from the school. His interests in the outdoors and in making things have helped inform the direction of his teaching. With colleague Jenni Scoggin, he's authored Maker Elementary: A Guide to Designing and Teaching in a Maker Classroom for Children in Upper Elementary Grades. Michael is a builder, a maker, and a tinkerer who enjoys playing music, gardening, rafting, and traveling.
Jenni joined the Lower School after teaching elementary school in Wake County Public Schools from 2005 to 2010. She holds a masters in early childhood education from Belmont University (Nashville, Tennessee) and is a National Board Certified teacher. Prior to teaching, Jenni worked in the music industry in web marketing. She incorporates her love of technology, music, and the arts into her teaching. In her free time Jenni enjoys cooking, singing, reading, and drinking coffee.