An approach to early education where content is presented in rich, experiential ways by caring adults, combined with children’s own play that is freely chosen and self-directed.
Play- Based Experiential Learning (PBEL) is an approach to early education where content is presented in rich, experiential ways by caring adults, combined with children’s own play that is freely chosen and self-directed. The acronym represents the first stepping stones toward formal learning.
Often when adults hear “play” mentioned in conjunction with schooling, they view it as a waste of time or a frightening, chaotic experience. But when child-initiated play is part of a well-balanced preschool or kindergarten it helps children make sense of the content they are learning. They try it on and make it their own. Then learning goes all the way to their finger tips and toes and does not just stay in their heads.
A classroom rich in play and experiential learning is neither chaotic where anything goes nor highly structured where the eyes of the children are aimed at the teacher for lengthy periods. On a continuum from a chaotic classroom to an over-structured one, PBEL is in the middle.
Much play and child-initiated activity but with little or no support from the teachers. The play often sinks into chaos.
Rich in child-initiated, self-directed play with appropriate support from teachers
Teachers provide developmentally appropriate content in hands-on, experiential ways
Teacher-led instruction is the dominant form of education and can include scripted programs.
The middle two comprise a play based experiential classroom that is high in child-initiated activity and high in teacher input. The role of the teacher is vital but subtle when supporting the children’s own play. She is present but does not direct or dominate the play.
To prepare and support teachers for play based learning, teachers will benefit from a high quality teacher education program that is rich in child development, play, and active learning. In addition to participating in high quality teacher education programs, teachers also need time for ongoing- collaboration, continuing education, and coaching.