Play2Learn: promoting learning through play during the academic day
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Education and student success are among the U.S. citizens’ highest priorities. Changes in educational policies have led to academic “push down,” in which children are expected to achieve academic milestones in core subjects (reading, writing, and mathematics) at younger grades. However, although performance expectations have increased, child development sequences and timelines have not changed to support expectations. Various solutions including sensorimotor, educational, and play programs have been trialed, but the academic achievement gap continues to grow. Successful programs include opportunities to develop foundational sensorimotor skills, follow developmental sequence, align with curriculum, and use aspects of a child-driven play-based approach to learning. In response to the need to better prepare students to meet academic expectations, the Play2Learn (P2L) program was developed based on the previous evidence. The program’s premise is to use play as a learning tool with an educational approach to promote student academic success. The P2L is a 6-week program (six educational modules) for occupational therapy practitioners and teachers. Each module includes 50- minute interactive lectures, expert mentoring and practical application. Topics include defining play and its benefits, risk factors of play, strategies and justification for play in the classroom, how to be playful with students, and application of play strategies. With this program, teachers will confidently and effectively use play in the classroom setting to promote learning, adapt familiar lessons to make them developmentally appropriate and playful, and justify how it aligns with the curriculum. Program objectives are to enhance student academic performance and improve behavior, attention, sensorimotor skills, social-emotional skills, language, and processing and cognition. The desired long-term outcomes are to increase play during the school day, changes curriculum design to be more developmentally appropriate, develop new ways to assess student performance, and educate all students regardless of their academic abilities.
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