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PBEL - Play Based Experiential Learning

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This toolkit is intended to serve as a resource and is not designed to be prescriptive in nature. The following guiding questions can help you reflect on how to implement play based experiential learning.



Setting the Stage

  • What is your perception of Play Based Experiential Learning?
  • In what ways do you see Play Based Experiential Learning supporting children’s development?
  • What factors support your ability to implement Play Based Experiential Learning in your classroom?
  • What, if any, obstacles are preventing you from implementing play based experiential learning in your classroom? How can these obstacles be addressed?
  • What specific actions can you take in the next week, month, year?

The Learning Environment

  • In what ways are you providing for play in your learning environment?
  • What areas of the daily routine provide the most opportunity for child directed play? For teacher-led activities?
  • What are the areas of the daily routine with little to no play? 
  • How are you incorporating varied and open ended materials into each area of your classroom? To what areas can/should you add additional resources?
  • What activities are you currently doing indoors that could be conducted as outside activities as well?
  • Does your outside space allow for storage and easy access to rich play materials, or to open-ended play materials, often called loose parts?
  • How does the design of your outdoor environment support children’s natural desire to play? In what ways can you use this as an opportunity to extend children's curisosity, exploration and learning?
  • What themes or activities do your children show interest in? Can you seed areas of the learning environment with supporting materials?

Child Initiated Play

  • Think about your daily routine. How often are children given choices in activities they want to engage in?
  • Are there areas in the classroom that support a wide range of play opportunities? Areas that could be further strenghthened? 
  • Do children feel empowered to use materials in the classroom space and outdoors in unexpected ways?
  • How might your attitude or demeanor toward certain activities impact children’s choices throughout the day?
  • What is your understanding of children's ability to assess risk and what is your tolerance for developmentally appropriate play that contains some phyiscal risk?
  • In what ways are you providing children with opportunities to work on self-regulation?
  • How can you encourage children to engage in social play, building on one another's ideas? 

Teacher- Led Activities 

  • What goals are you trying to achieve through play based learning?
  • What concepts, skills or ideas do you want your students to be able to understand and/or make use of?
  • What concepts, skills, or ideas are your students already bringing to the activity?
  • Which play based strategies or hands-on activities used in the past have helped you achieve your desired objectives?
  • Which  activities have children learned most from? What factors led to deeper learning?
  • In what ways are you scaffolding children’s learning, ie., building upon and extending what they already know?
  • How can Play Based Experiential Learning help you build relationships with your students?

Documenting Children’s Learning

  • What skills or knowledge are important for children to have? How can their mastery of these be documented?
  • In what ways are you currently documenting children’s learning?
  • Does the documentation allow you to see progress over a long period by comparing individual snapshots? 
  • How can documentation be used to extend learning by identifying interests to be developed or lags in children's knowledge base?
  • How frequently are you reviewing the documentation to identify, trends including growth and lags?
  • What forms of documentation are you using written, photo, electronic, etc.?
  • How might you use a variety of documentation techniques to highlight children’s learning to others (parents, teachers, administrators, students)?

Including All Children

  • In what ways are play opportunities and teacher-led activities designed to include all children?
  • In what ways are you providing resources for children’s diverse needs? Consider materials, sensory activities, quiet spaces, etc.
  • Do the children have particular needs in the classroom environment that are not being met? What steps can you take to accommodate those needs through play or teacher-led activites?

Advocacy and Educating Others

  • How do you currently talk about the importance of play and teacher-led activites for young children?
  • How have you worked to build a coalition of people interested in the cause of play based experiential learning?
  • What elements of your pitch resonate most?
  • What elements of your message get lost on your intended audience?
  • In what ways are you using qualitative data and anecdotes combined to illustrate children’s learning?  If you are not how can you begin to adopt this practice?
  • What audiences are you sharing your data with? Is it packaged in a way that will help them support your objectives?
  • How do you envision parents extending play based experiential learning at home for their children? What resources can you provide them?