Our Great Escape – 9/F Playground

Amidst growing concerns regarding the pressure-cooker education system in Hong Kong, Canadian International School of Hong Kong is recognizing the benefits of offering play-based learning to its younger years students in order to stimulate growth and creativity.

Lisa Kipfer, CDNIS’ Lower School Vice Principal is keen to dispel any notions that play-based learning is simply an opportunity for children to “play”. Rather, the effectiveness of the practice is better described as a “learning through play” experience – one where our Pre Reception students actively engage with surrounding stimuli in order to help make sense of their social worlds.

“Some parents may say that with play-based learning, their children aren’t learning to read or write. However, I can assure you that they are – it just looks different,” said Ms. Kipfer.

“For example, instead of simply sitting down and writing in a notebook, the kids could be playing in the kitchen and jotting down a shopping list or menu for a restaurant. These are natural learning experiences that are infused with fun.”

Numerous researches have shown that play-based learning support the development of social and emotional skills needed for young children to succeed in their later years.

“We see it as the foundation where our students can naturally progress onto Grade 1, 2 and 3 where they will learn more specific reading and writing skills. Going in, they have the basic emotional and social skills to do that.”

Such benefits encouraged CDNIS to upgrade its 9/F playground, which opened this academic year. The project, made possible by the Annual Fund and kind donations by parents and staff alike, was developed with the vision “to create an environmentally friendly, dynamic, functional, inviting and effective play suite for younger kids to learn through interaction”. As Ms. Kipfer noted, the development of the playground complements our school’s commitment to play-based learning.

“Motor skills development is an important aspect of any healthy child’s upbringing. It helps to improve their coordination as well as brain development – so much so that when they do get to the point where they’re doing more academic things, they’re well-prepared for it.”

“It also helps their maturity as well. Research has shown that when kids do not have the opportunity to play or learn to take risks at a young age, they become less capable of managing pressure.”

Looking ahead, Ms. Kipfer has high hopes for the playground and shared the school’s long-term plans for it. In particular, the prominent circular area has been designated as the “learning zone”, and will exist as a platform where classes can be conducted outdoors in the open space. The surrounding play area will also be used to develop the “Loose Parts” area – filled with materials that our students can use to build things creatively.

“The long-term view is to use this space outside of recess, but to also make it an area where our students would like to socialize or work in,” said Ms. Kipfer.

“While the playground was initially developed for the younger children, we’ve decided to open it up all the way to our Grade 6 students. While they probably wouldn’t be using the equipment, the wealth of open space provides plenty of opportunities for them.”

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