While small in size, LEGO has always added a larger than life playful element to the kids’ lives — from themed resorts to prosthetic arms to giant holiday displays, and now the educational arm of the toy giant is looking to exert influence during school hours as well. According to recent studies funded by The LEGO Foundation, test-taking and more formal instructional approaches to learning should take a backseat to play-based methodology until kids are age eight or older. Coming from a company that is focused on play, this news might seem like a conflict of interest, but LEGO says the actual research was carried out by highly respected scientific and academic institutions like Harvard and Cambridge (which will see the placement of a LEGO professor next month to conduct more of these types of studies). The Foundation also argues that the findings make sense considering the fact that over-scheduled and over-planned schedules for kids leave less time for play outside of school (i.e. when this sort of creative enrichment typically occurred for decades).
LEGO defines five different types of play: physical, symbolic, with rules, with objects, and pretense. Each helps develop a different skill set, from problem-solving to spatial sense to emotional awareness. While at least some of these types of play are likely incorporated into the academic day, many schools are overly concerned with scores, requirements, and specified knowledge that is frequently and extensively tested. Playtime is minimized or excised completely despite growing research (by The LEGO Foundation-funded bodies and otherwise) that supports play-based learning.
The LEGO Foundation, which is funded with a quarter of LEGO’s post-tax profits has been around for almost 30 years, but it’s only been in recent years that the company has come forward with status quo-changing educational recommendations. The fast-changing times and technologies are one of the reasons LEGO is making this push for outside-of-the-test-box thinking, or as The LEGO Foundation head Hanne Rasmussen says, “…things are changing so fast in our society so the understanding of how you gain and use content knowledge is for us much, much more important. It has to be a balance. You need skills to interact with others, to be able to seek knowledge yourself, because learnings will get outdated.” Obviously it isn’t necessary (or realistic) to postpone learning until the age of eight, but LEGO believes that the test-heavy tradition of desk-strapped kids following strict expectations for areas including early literacy and number awareness should make some room for more creative, yet difficult-to-quantify play.
via The Guardian