Just the Relevant Curriculum Outcomes and Nothing but...
Play is learning and PLANKS play, in all its forms, is a valuable medium for authentic learning.
At Green Hat Workshop we specialise in making this learning as clear as possible and in optimising opportunities for learning of different types.
As open ended play-based learning is cognitive in nature, multidimensional, intuitive and often invisible, this work can be challenging. We continue to do our best and hope that, with your help, we can provide a valuable resource for all teachers and parents who want to understand the great value in block play and in PLANKS play, for all ages.
We pride ourselves, at Green Hat Workshop, on running experiences which authentically fit with the abilities and interests of all participants and with the values of their communities.
We welcome the opportunity to work with teachers in tailoring a workshop to fit with preplanned class’ investigations and curriculum outcomes. (Contact us)
Our experience is that the authentic manner in which participants practice and develop a wide range of skills during the course of open ended play is of greatest value. Open ended play is therefore a feature of our work.
Analyse, Understand, Communicate and Build Relationships
Speaking and listening (Language)
Open ended play, as a shared experience, draws upon a wide range of speaking and listening skills and is commonly characterised by an almost euphoric engagement with the task.
During an open ended PLANKS workshop participants of all ages are motived by a natural desire to create and solve their own challenges. Working within the restriction of time, materials and energy, they quickly find it necessary to negotiate with and to convince their peers, in order to be successful.
The component nature of PLANKS authentically draws participants together and those builders who would like to create a taller tower or a larger city, quickly find that many builders make these projects possible.
Convincing peers to participate in 'your' project is quickly found to be more challenging than simply sharing ideas, creatvity and the ownership of a construction.
Working in this way demands the use of language and conventions of discussion and negotiation; including appropriate body language, volume and tone of voice, personal space, active listening and clarifying of ideas, putting forward a point of view, using inclusive and empathic language and the development of feedback and judgement skills.
Importantly, the task itself is not instructed to be team building or strictly collaborative. Feedback that peers give eachother is therefore both honest and authentic, as while both parties can simply leave and set up somewhere else, they are motivated to work together to enable taller and larger structures.
A PLANKS workshop is an environment where there is free movement and no task expectation. Peers simply move away from, or gravitate towards, those who don't share their vision or communicate it well and those who offer collaboration and inspiration.
It should also be noted that even participants with a more socially introverted style of behaviour find the lack of collaborative expectation, in open ended play, quite liberating and it is not uncommon for them to work in a more socially integrated way during our workshops.
In these videos a group member explains their collaborative construction.
Text use (Literacy)
Using PLANKS to create lettering and to communicate written meaning is not uncommon in a Green Hat workshop. Particularly Foundation and Grade One aged participants demonstrate a need to label, so as to explain their work, and to instruct their peers to
"Keep Out" or "Stay Away" from their delicate constructions.
Older particiants create more intricate messages of appreciation, or reflection.
Reflection and Response (Literature)
Some builders opt for a framework for their creations, seeking inspiration from written text, fictional movie locations or a personal experience. Great effort is usually made to keep the construction true to the text or experience and negotaition then becomes about whether the construction is being successful in this, or not.
Understanding, Fluency, Problem-Solving and Reasoning
The mathematical value of arranging multiple identical shapes freely in a space is that a builder must rely on their intuitive spatial awareness, aesthetic judgement of whether something looks a correct likeness or shape, and also physically balances its weight evenly.
Without the distraction of guides and labelling, and shape, weight and colour variations, builders develop a greater personal understanding of quantity and orientation relationships.
Builders form and deeply strengthen understandings of the physical patterns of quantity increase and decrease, comparison, order and arrangement, as well as the instant recognition of small quantities (subitising) and the relationships between angles and of fractional amounts.
While becoming increasingly valuable in a digital world, the physicality and concrete understandings of these concepts are often neglected, assumed to be consolidated or taught exclusively through abstract symbols from as early as Foundation or Prep Grade.
Playing with blocks at every age, enables a greater level of sophistication in how these concepts are used and offers deeper understanding of their many contexts.
Measurement & Geometry
Making constant camparisons in the measurement of size and area of constructions seems to be a common theme in our PLANKS workshops. An open ended PLANKS play activity often contains measurement and a sense of pride in the creation of "The Largest" or "Tallest" structure.
Location and Transformation
A fundamental value in construction play is its role in the development of Spatial Literacy; variously termed Spatial Reasoning and Spatial Cognition. This is the sense of our position in relation to another object's, another object's position to a further object, the prediction of how objects will look when rotated or how they may look from a viewpoint other than our own. There is always a section devoted to this type of thinking in standardised maths tests and in NAPLAN. It is used in map reading, design communication, theatre staging and in a wide range of physical skills.
Drawing on the aesthetic values of balance and pattern, builders quickly see what 'looks right' and what does not, leading to further understanding of symmetry, ratio, fractions and more commonly displayed in our workshops as flooring, mapping, symmetrical patterning and spirals.
Probably the most direct teaching we do at Green Hat Workshop is the identification of the characteristics of our rectangular prism PLANKS in the introduction to our Primary School Maths themed workshops. We also identify some of the basic designs and shapes that can be made using PLANKS and this necessarily requires further description of shape, ie. The difference between a circle and a sphere, how many faces, edges, corners/vertices do they have?
Statistics and Probability
The balanced and delicate nature of PLANKS constructions often leads to discussions about chance ratings and what makes their survival more or less likely. Children learn to minimise risk through better and better design.
Science Understanding, Physical Sciences
The primary forces affecting PLANKS constructions are Friction and Gravity. These are the main topics of our introduction to science-based PLANKS workshops, where we discuss the holding power of friction and how it is increased by the weight of mass.
Balance and counter-balance are critically important with towers and bridges and as the sophistication of builders inscreases, so does their understanding of how forces can push and pull to create a variety of shapes.
Play and experiment can also provide a great deal of learning during the deconstruction phase of our workshop.
Science Inquiry Skills, Questioning and predicting
Assessment of structural integrity