WRITTEN BY: LAURA GUZMÁN, PEDAGOGICAL PROFESSIONAL AT AEIOTU – FUNDACIÓN CARULLA, COLOMBIA
A growing body of evidence now supports the assertion that play is fundamental for children’s positive development, and an essential way to foster the skills required to thrive in today’s world. ‘aeioTU at the Park’ is an experience developed by educators from aieoTU* in Colombia that improves how children develop through play, and connect with their senses, thoughts and nature.
Play, is a vehicle for the construction of knowledge and learning. A fundamental process that impacts the development of children. Play enables children to express their thoughts and beliefs about the world around them. Children create hypotheses with play and then corroborate them, thus building their knowledge while they develop essential skills that include creative thinking, cooperation, empathy, problem solving and decision making. Play helps this hypothesis construction take place in an imaginative, exploratory and pleasurable way.
This is why the aeioTU Educational Experience recognises play as a fundamental learning strategy. We encourage children to create playful experiences along with their peers and adults. These experiences enrich relationships by supporting collective agreement building and recognising the ideas of others.
aeioTU at the Park
Play is even more enriching when it takes place in a suitably stimulating environment that promotes children’s confidence and security to explore, ask and inquire. In 2013, educators from the aeioTU Nogal Center therefore created aeioTU at the Park, a strategy to promote play amongst children and their families.
Through an outdoor play experience that promotes connections with the open spaces in the community, children and their families had the opportunity to explore a diversity of materials, all selected with a defined pedagogical intention.
This first creative experience was so successful that it was scaled to other centres and venues, in such a way that it has now impacted approximately 1,500 children and their families.
Enabling learning in outdoor spaces
Organising aeioTU at the Park involves teachers and artists who are passionate about early childhood. They propose play and exploration stations with large-scale arrangements of materials that can be easily worked and transformed. These materials include cardboard, paper, cloth, paint, plastic, seedlings, branches, magnifying glasses, earth, water, pumps and soap.
Children and their families are invited to develop open compositions, i.e. by letting children choose materials they wish to explore and that enable them to carry out creative processes without preconceived ideas. This experience paves the way to exploration and the development of the imagination, starting from free play and moving to activities pre-designed with a pedagogical intention.
To make this possible, educators have stations that invite children and adults to communicate beyond words, to organise their thinking, their behaviours, and to use different language structures while playing with materials. Consequently, educators find an innovative excuse to help children build learning, spontaneously and joyfully.
Building the full potential of children via aeioTU at the Park
The main objective of aeioTU at the Park is to contribute to the development of the full potential of children through play. Fundamental processes for development are made visible by taking into account the basic dimensions of children’s development– cognitive, emotional, creative, physical and social.
For example, decision-making becomes visible when children exercise choice in picking stations and the materials with which they wish to interact. Children having to share materials with peers and adults helps build character. Critically, families also improve their parenting practices with play as the mediator.
Update from 2018 and collaboration with the LEGO Foundation
In July 2018, aeioTU at the Park moved to Mexico City during the aeioTU Lab 2018 Mexico–Colombia event, with the support of the LEGO Foundation and the DIF Nacional. Here, 80 children and families discovered the power of play, showcasing to the more than 450 educators who participated in the aieoTU Lab how meaningful learning that takes place outdoors can be for children and families, and how learning through play can be organised in the open spaces within the community.
The educators reached during this 2018 setup have the potential to impact more than 9,000 children, enrich relationships and interactions between children and adults in a playful environment, and enable experiences that help adults rediscover the infinite capacities of children. This will mean starting to spread the aieoTU in the Park concept from its humble beginnings in Nogal, Bogota in Colombia to children across Mexico.
* About aeioTU
aeioTU works in partnership with the public and private actors to provide high-quality attention (education, nutrition and care) to children under five years of age, and accompany other educational centres to improve their practices. www.aeiotu.org