Too often, I hear educators ask, "How do you connect loose parts to standards?" I often see that standards have taken over children's ability to create, design, and innovate. There are many educational toy stores selling items by making connections to standards. Educators spend too much time setting activities to observe and record that the children meet the required learning criteria to please parents and administrators. We have basically reduced the power of childhood to a few measurements. Furthermore, when we look at the dictionary definition of standards, we find that when the term is used as an adjective, it means; "used or accepted as normal or average." I fail to see how we want children to meet this limiting definition.
This constant need to make sure that we test what children know is taking away from children's power to guide their learning. When we observe children engage in play, we can clearly tell that they are not only meeting the adult's much-needed standards, they are going beyond them. We fail to see that children have more knowledge, abilities, and skills than what is being measured by standards. Children are incredibly competent, capable, creative, and innovative. They know what they want and enter learning with gusto and passion, only to have it taken away by an adult more worried to meet an assessment standard.
So, allow me to answer the above question. Loose Parts do not need to be connected to standards. Instead, focus on how children play and how they use Loose Parts. In other words, focus on the children and not the standards. Loose Parts give children multiple affordances that engage them in deep inquiry and an essential search for knowledge. Loose Parts and other open-ended tools and materials allow children to enter into the world of "what if" that promotes critical thinking, problem-solving and theoretical reasoning. Loose Parts support children's ability to think imaginatively, and they bring a sense of adventure and excitement to children's play. In the book, Awakening Genius in the Classroom, Thomas Armstrong describes twelve qualities of genius: curiosity, playfulness, imagination, creativity, wonder, wisdom, inventiveness, vitality, sensitivity, flexibility, humor, and joy. These are all characteristics that are not part of the current measured standards. These are also characteristics promoted by play.
Perhaps it is time to let go of attempting to have children fit into limiting standards. Let's stop readying children for the next step in their lives. Instead, shift our questions, focus, and energy to see children for the unique and incredible human beings they are today and preserve childhood as an essential moment in time.
© 2021, Miriam Beloglovsky
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