“How can learning through play benefit my child?” This might be one of the wonders parents with young child/ren might have. Research suggests that it’s important to highlight progressive and forward-thinking classroom-based settings to empower children to be more creative and engaged learners. Socio-emotional, physical, creative, and cognitive abilities are deeply intertwined within play as it is just as critical to secure a child’s well-being, learning, and growth.
At The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL), in the Early Childhood (EC) program (Prep Reception, Prep Junior, and Prep Senior), learning is inspired by curiosity through play, where creative skills are developed to encourage students to become lifelong learners.
The play based approach uses guided inquiry to nurture a child’s curiosity whilst providing learning opportunities to develop in all areas from social-emotional to cognitive to pre-academic skills. This approach is a powerful pedagogy to build the foundational skills our youngest learners in EC need to demonstrate the readiness skills that will ensure success in their transition into Elementary School.
It is crucial, then, to nurture our student’s creative abilities to best express themselves, understand others, and navigate through the early years so that they can be confident and spirited young individuals in an ever-changing world.
This process is exemplified through the EC program, Provocations, ISKL’s educational terminology, which describes a learning journey where students in Prep Junior (PJ) and Prep Reception (PR) are invited to explore, create, and build using different materials that are open-ended and hands-on to encourage the students to think and wonder and to discover all the possibilities.
Elementary School (ES) Assistant Principal Azra Pathan explains that Provocations are set up in the classroom to provide students with intentional experiences to help inspire them to explore, wonder, talk to each other, and share different ideas. “During the process, our youngest learners participate in an investigation, inquiry, and discovery process and are encouraged to be inventive and creative while learning to negotiate and work collaboratively,” she adds.
Group Provocations start at the beginning of the academic year with introductory videos created by ISKL’s faculty that help provoke the students’ sense of wonder, with the intention to immerse them in a learning exploration.
“When our youngest learners explore the classroom, we watch them and begin to notice their interests and document them. With this information, we provide more Provocations during the second semester which are geared towards their interests,” says Azra.
Whole group Provocations and in-class engagements culminate with the young students voting on a particular interest that sparks each classroom’s creative spirits. “Allowing students to vote for themselves promotes self-advocacy, develops effective communication, and heightens critical reasoning skills,” adds Azra.
Azra continues, “After completing their first semester, we identify three common child-led interests, which our EC faculty have observed throughout the school year – and this year this was buildings, animals, and imaginative identity play.”
As the academic year came to a close in April, the students’ efforts were recognized in a “Learning Celebration”, an exhibition that features each class’s interest projects, self-portraits created by each student, and two self-selected individual pieces of artwork made during the school year.
“It is a beautiful opportunity to make visible all the student’s wonderings, collaboration, and creativity through various art forms and media,” commended Azra. “Each of the PR and PJ students reflected on what it was about their chosen topic that ignited their passion most. As a class, they then collaborated their ideas to deep dive into their particular interest topic,” she continued.
Azra explained that by inviting special guests via Zoom or ISKL specialists into their classes, the students experienced individual and collaborative work where they create imaginative handmade artwork, self-portraits, and unique artistic creations. Each class engages by working with various materials, such as loose parts, recycled materials, clays, and materials from the natural world.
Based on the students’ interests, here is what some of the classes created as part of their Provocations projects:
- The PRPJLN Pythons got in touch with their inner builder by engaging in the elements of carpentry by using pieces of wood, glue, drills, woodwork tools, and other materials from the classroom to build houses and hotels for their makeshift mini-city. Inspired by the Kuala Lumpur city skyline and the world around them, the little builders got to work. Planning, journaling, and brainstorming for what a city requires involves thinking about roads, bridges, ramps, cars, flower beds, houses complete with carpets and roofs, a city flag and even a mermaid!
- The PJYN Orangutans voted for sea animals by learning with experts, and engaging in collaborative work presentations. This involved exploring the works of sculpture artist Stephanie Kilgast who uses recycled materials to create sculptures, and meeting diving enthusiasts and ISKL faculty members, Max and Chris Wright, who shared their expertise on sharks. The Orangutans then worked on a fabulous life-size recreation of a mobile basking shark for their showcase.
- The PRKG Tigers engaged in a Provocation spirited by the book “Commotion in the Ocean” by Giles Andreae. ‘Wibbly wobbly jellyfish‘ inspired by the book were created from recycled materials, and students made a sea of swimming turtles, starfishes, vibrant ocean corals, and ocean plants. A visit from four turtles from the ISKL pond spurred students to continue to reuse and recycle materials in the classroom with much passion.
Azra also expressed how ISKL’s faculty are there to guide the students throughout the entire process – from ideation to creation and exhibition. “Our faculty are here to support our student’s learning process through these Provocations, and we want our students to know and understand that not only can they make a difference and positively impact the world but also HOW to take action to do so.”
As parents, you are the biggest supporters of your child/ren’s well-being, and we are here to empower our families to actively stimulate child/ren’s learning and development through play. To learn more about Provocations, read the ISKL blog, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube to stay connected!