Often, it seems that modern education is all about the individual and their road to success. We like to approach things from a different perspective – one of playful collaboration.
Cooperative play and learning, in contrast to competitive play, teaches children to divide efforts among each other in order to reach a common set goal. It also teaches them that others are on the same team rather than on the opposing side one must compete against. In this type of play, everyone wins.
An educational objective
Children need to be encouraged to play cooperatively in pre-school age. It might not always come naturally to them. Teachers should help them realize that cooperation can make it easier to achieve a goal. Cooperative play is the last and most sophisticated stage of play, according to Parten Newhall’s theory. It requires social maturity, advanced organizational skills and increased self-identification within a group. While the demands are high, the benefits are too. Cooperative play teaches children to listen to others and communicate effectively, negotiate (who goes first, whose turn it is), assign roles based on recognizing others’ strong and weak qualities, as well as to share their toys.
As soon as children enter primary school, however, they’re being molded into the each-on-their-own model. This model makes it difficult to carefully consider other people’s perspectives and prospective solutions. That is a pity, since a lot of the time, brainstorming and collaborating in a team are precisely the activities that broaden horizons and get things done.
Cooperative play + Robo Wunderkind
There are several ways to incite cooperative play among young children. We do it by manipulative play, which does not include manipulating children, but objects. The ideal tools to trigger this type of play are objects like puzzles or building blocks. They require some analytical thinking and gradually lead somewhere – to a complete puzzle picture, or a block tower – giving the children a goal to strive towards together. In our case, this leads them to a functional robot.
One of the best ways to harbor cooperative play is to give it a story. That is what we do in all our Robo lessons. We ask children to work in groups or pairs with one robot and include an independent activity stage in each play, in which they make their own project with one common project using one or two robots. For instance, Marc Faulder, ADE incorporates the story of Little Red Riding Hood into his lessons. By building a flashlight, his pre-school students are helping her find her way home. It’s a story they all know and one gives them a common mission they want to reach together, while also trying out everyone’s different ideas.
Here is how this works in practice:
Children are given their Robo kits and encouraged to get familiar with them. They play with the blocks, examine them from all sides, and explore their functions (connecting them, separating them, comparing them) before they are given a task.
The task is told to them through a story or a concrete objective, which is the perfect way to engage their minds and senses. They’re immediately drawn in and see Robo as an extension in the story.
They are then encouraged to build objects from the story together. They do this in groups and can either help one another with one robot set or watch what their friends and peers are doing next to them, asking questions and learning together, proposing their own strategies, and trying them out in the typical trial-and-error fashion.
By encouraging cooperation and engaging them through play, we hope to teach kids that the best types of ideas are made when people put their heads together and do their best to reach a common goal.