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Authentic learning is a very positive experience for your little ones, but sometimes if a very narrow view is taken, it can be the opposite in the long term. Piaget believed the learner must be active to be engaged in real learning and that authentic learning is a pedagogical approach that allows children to explore and problem-solve.

This is where things can go wrong if you are too rigid. Imagination is key to exploration and problem-solving! If we don’t nurture their imagination, they will not gain the full experience and potential of the learning process through play.

How we support children through authentic learning is so important. We all know that the trick to engaging children is for them to be CURIOUS. We want children to be curious to find out about their own environment and ask questions. I have found that over the last 30-plus years that using imagination when seeing the world or outer space, helps create a sense of belonging, and appreciation of their own world around them. In other words, think outside your immediate surroundings otherwise learning can become very insular and ultimately boring for some.

There are many ways of using imagination to enhance authentic learning for example, what could be better than a magical adventure into our amazing solar system to learn about night and day? You never know you may even meet an alien on your adventure...

Let them enjoy and see the fun of maths with imagination ranging from countdown to blast off and comparing sizes, and properties of different planets. Create invitation activities for your little ones. Blasting off into space can be a wonderful multi-sensory experience from the dashboard of the rocket to the sensation of taking off and moving. For some extra fun use, a hairdryer (or battery-operated fan), attached to the inner tube of a loo roll and with crinkly paper attached. Outer space is full of endless fun and mirth especially when you learn that farts are the reason astronauts have a bean-free diet. Who knew farts could be so dangerous?

Farts aside, when you look up, on a clear night, at the moon you can see the craters making the moon an authentic experience as it exists in their immediate surroundings. You could extend that experience by creating an activity using moon sand or flour to see the impact on the moon, or earth when they drop different-sized pebbles with different forces. Add a bit of imagination and add dinosaurs to the mix. Go back in time and find out what happened when the extinction-sized meteor hit the earth.

Poor dinosaurs! This is part of our history on Earth and a great way to inspire the next generation of scientists and palaeontologists with fossil-hunting activities – all this from a trip into outer space!

While you are in outer space you can increase their vocabulary with words from gravity to satellites. Do peek at the bunny-hopping astronauts on the Moon as a fun way to look at gravity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKdwcLytloU 

Between your bunny hopping or avoiding meteors you could spend a few moments watching the oceans on Earth and discover how the moon affects the tides. The way this is presented will depend on their age and abilities.

A follow-on from this could be a fun day trip to the seaside. The children will love searching for and counting sea creatures, shells, and pebbles. At the same time, you can point out the marks in the sand of the high and low tides which are a direct link to the moon. This shows the impact of the moon on their natural environment. I do hope you can see how much fun and authentic learning there is with a sprinkling of imagination. Please do not discount space travel and trips to the moon by viewing them as something they won’t experience directly. In fact, if you are working on the ‘Seasons’ a journey to the moon, is a wonderful way of looking at why we have longer days in the summer and shorter in the winter. The moon helps the earth to maintain its tilt which gives us our seasons as we travel around the sun.

Did you know the other planets in the solar system that have a tilt also have seasons?

Why not celebrate the winter and summer solstice and the children can monitor the length of the day around those events? So many exciting early STEM activities with the magical ingredient I-M-A-G-I-N-A-T-I-O-N!

I know some may feel still feel that a trip to the moon and learning about satellites is not authentic learning as the children will never experience it. But every time you check your Google maps or watch Sky (other brands are available) just think about those satellites in space giving your directions and bouncing a signal to your TV.

Most importantly… you may have the next Neil Armstrong, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs sitting right in front of you. If we don’t inspire and stimulate their imagination, they will never be confident to explore and see the world and fulfil their full potential. We need creative and imaginative minds to help improve the world. Everything we see around us that is man-made came from our imagination. If we become too insular in our learning and only focus on the immediate surrounding, as I have seen in some early-years settings, we can have too narrow a view of what authentic learning is. This narrow view is curtailing their imagination and creativity. Every child is different, and one size doesn’t fit all. Imagination is disappearing in our little ones. I have seen this myself over the last 30 years of teaching, making me sad. This is the reason for my passion for creating opportunities for imaginative role-play and play. Children need the imagination to be able to be CURIOUS to wonder WHAT, IF, WHY, and HOW?

There are no limits to how imagination, role play, and play lead to valuable and amazing authentic learning experiences for your little ones. Using role-play to visit far-flung places can help them become ethical and informed about the sustainability of our planet. Learning about other countries, cultures, and places enable them to become more knowledgeable. This knowledge will help them to respect the needs and rights of others, as a member of a diverse society. Creativity, imagination, and the arts make us human and connect on so many different levels.

References:

https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/farts-an-underappreciated-threat-to-astronauts 

About the author:

Gina is a dynamic and accomplished educator with a rich background in movement and dance. Initially trained in ballet, she has dedicated the past 27 years to imparting her passion for movement and dance across various educational settings, ranging from mainstream to early years and SEND environments, as well as esteemed dance schools.

About the author:

Gina is a dynamic and accomplished educator with a rich background in movement and dance. Initially trained in ballet, she has dedicated the past 27 years to imparting her passion for movement and dance across various educational settings, ranging from mainstream to early years and SEND environments, as well as esteemed dance schools.

About the author:

Gina is a dynamic and accomplished educator with a rich background in movement and dance. Initially trained in ballet, she has dedicated the past 27 years to imparting her passion for movement and dance across various educational settings, ranging from mainstream to early years and SEND environments, as well as esteemed dance schools.

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