Schemas, for me, are a fundamental part of understanding loose parts play. That child who mixes the sand and the water, transformation schema. That child who scatters all the resources, trajectory schema. And, that child who spends their time sorting all the loose parts, positioning schema.
I am not saying that all loose parts play is schema exploration but a common misconception that many practitioners have, when it comes to loose parts, is the way in which they're used. Some children will use loose parts to create beautifully imaginative structures and transient art but others will use them to explore concepts. And, exploring these concepts is what underpins children's learning, how can we expect children to create imaginative structures if they haven't explored balancing, connecting, shape or space?
If you don't know what schemas are, here is a very concise explanation. Schemas are patterns of behaviour that allow young children to construct knowledge and an understanding of how the world works. And, when children explore loose parts, their types of play will be very much dependent on their knowledge and understanding. Therefore, children will explore loose parts through their senses before using loose parts to construct knowledge before using loose parts to create.
Here are some comments I hear and read frequently with regards to loose parts
-The children just make a mess with them-
-All the children want to do is throw them-
-The children don't know how to use them-
-The children do the same thing with them-
My answer to all of the above - Have you heard about schemas?
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Schemas: A Practical Handbook not only explains what schemas are and how to identify them, but also expands on that knowledge. With the use of pragmatic ideas, rather than being based solely on theory, it explores how schemas are useful in developing children's learning alongside what they already do.
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