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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Children learn through play

For nine months I am part of ICS. My project, Strengthening Families, has a section aimed at children: Ludoteca. This term refers to an area of ​​recreation, conservation and learning for children through a variety of methods and teaching materials and games.

The work of volunteers involves creating teaching modules, with structured lesson plans around art, crafts, math or physics. Ludoteca volunteers work within this framework in delivering modules to children (between the ages of three and six) at children’s centres supported by SOS Aldeas Infantiles across La Paz.

Initially I had thought that teaching through play would be a relatively straightforward. However, as the project began to develop, the volunteers and I quickly discovered many challenges. We saw a need to look more closely at the social, emotional and cognitive development of children.

We firstly observed the behaviour and environment of the children, so that we could better understand the world of these little ones. We came to realize that our work with Ludoteca would be driven by our affection and care for the children and their wellbeing. So, it all begins when we offer a smile, and the child smiles back.  Upon this, relationships form and volunteers and children listen to one another (although the language sometimes barriers made ​​complicated this situation). Volunteers work to highlight their strengths, correct their mistakes, and essentially encourage good habits (behaviour or hygiene).

Turning to the strictly pedagogical, we design lessons focused on teaching skills to children to develop cognitive, psychosocial and sensory processes, across different science classes. We have focused on the sciences, whereby the children expand their previous knowledge in subjects like physics ( day or night, light , darkness , the sun , stars , moon or planets ) arts ( free creation of drawings) and mathematics ( logical relationship of numbers to objects and learning to write numbers ). To do this, we have implemented activities and auditory learning materials ( songs) visual ( murals , freehand drawing ) sensory (birds cardboard , composition drawings with coloured paper ) , playful ( dances and role play where children imitated the motion of planets ) and audio-visual ( videos and photos). Needless to say, this does not replace free play in the yards of schools or board games. We also taught English lessons with my first cohort.

In order for our planning to be effective, good behaviour is essential for cooperation of children. Thus we also utilise a training material, a behaviour chart called “Did I do good things today?", or ‘He hecho buenas cosas hoy?’. This works to promote proper behaviour through the establishment of clear rules that educators should encourage.

It is gratifying to see the enthusiasm, joy, energy, that the children express when we do activities. In educational terms, it is has been revealing to see how after a short time frame of only a few months, children have are able to develop a little more knowledge about the universe, the world and about themselves.
Moving forward, we hope to find ways to measure the level of this cognitive and emotional development of the children. Regardless of this need to measure impact however, I believe that the value of our work can be found in these affective experiences, whereby the smallest of impacts can have the greatest meanings.

Written by Favio Jaramillo
Edited by Desirée Benson

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