I wonder when, or if, we will ever make the connection that experience provides the best opportunity for learning. When I think back over my education, early childhood through my Masters, I remember experiences field trips, debates, group projects, experiments, review games and activities, and class presentations. What I don’t remember are the isolated paper and pencil tasks.

Experiences are critical to learning. A driver’s education class can never compete with time behind the wheel. Likewise, I would venture to say teachers learn more in one semester of student teaching than in four years of college classes. Without an experience, learning doesn’t stick. This is why it makes me so sad that many children are having the experience of play stripped from the classroom.

“What does a six-year-old care for print? His fingers are itching for contact with things, and his legs are set for chasing butterflies.”

“Too much formalism in childhood kills spontaneity and interest. Education cannot, by formulating courses of study, force intellectual functions.”

These quotes from Arnold Gesell sum it up beautifully. Play provides experience, and without these opportunities, learning just won’t be the same.