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Learning Through Make-Believe

Learning Through Make-Believe

When the Primary School’s new Center of Disguise opened in April, students were asked to describe a disguise. ”It’s like when one hides, like a grasshopper. Like camouflage,” said one student. “It means to be dressed up,” remarked another.
 
A disguise is used to give oneself a new appearance, and can help create a new persona, and change the way one acts and speaks. 
 
You may be thinking back to your own childhood and the disguises you wore – those of a superhero, a veterinarian, a teacher, or even an astronaut. You created and gathered props and costumes, and acted out the knowledge you had of that particular character. Along the way, you may have also learned that playing with others could be frustrating, but learned to work through that frustration. 
 
Role play, make-believe play, or simply “play”, has always been an important part in children’s lives. Whether a child lives in a large city and has access to the latest technology or they come from a remote village in a developing country, imaginative play is how children developmentally grow and learn.  Through play, children learn skills, habits, and attitudes that they will carry with them through life.  In playing with others they learn how to communicate, become social and build relationships.  Their language expands and they learn that pushing and hitting doesn’t get the rewards that sharing and kindness do.  Within a school setting, the role of a teacher is to advance children developmentally in play.
 
With this awareness, and sparked by an inspiring in-service with play expert Jo Fahey last fall, the Primary School team decided to create a space dedicated to developmentally-appropriate dramatic play that could be used by all children at the Primary School. “When our teachers plan the Units of Inquiry, they think carefully about the different experiences that will engage the children’s curiosity and how exploration through play can further extend their learning,” says Primary School Principal Caroline Joslin-Callahan. 
 
With help from Primary School’s PYP Coordinator Rachel French, the Center of Disguise began taking shape in late January, as cardboard boxes placed in the Primary School’s foyer began filling up with donations, including scarves and phones, guitars, clothing, purses and much more.  Then, in mid-February an all parent volunteer “sewing bee” was held in the cafeteria.  Those with no sewing experience made tutus; those willing to operate a sewing machine, made aprons, vests and capes.  The results now make up the bulk of the costumes available to help stir children’s imaginations.
 
On the Center’s opening day, I listened to the role play between the children and heard a leopard at a police checkpoint, asking for passports.  A fully dressed cowboy tried to cross into the Wild West in search of “bad guys to catch” with a lasso that he had created out of yarn.  Two others in the group were hard at work creating passports for everyone in the class. 
 
In another space, a special party was unfolding.  Not a six-year-old’s birthday party, but a teenage party for a famous pop star wearing a pink-feathered cowgirl hat and carrying a pink guitar.  It was her ‘15th’ birthday.
 
Even Ms. Joslin-Callahan found time to play.  After receiving a dessert menu with options and prices, she placed her order and paid the bill.  After all, there was no good reason to pass on an 8 Euro ice cream cone on a day like that!
 
Suzanne Mason
FIS Parent