An Introduction to Play-based Project Design (Pedagogic Play)

This is an introduction to a series on how to design play-based projects.  It is mainly for educators in schools or daycare settings, but can also be utilized by parents at home.  This approach to play pedagogy is centered around an imaginary, pretend play situation in which children and educators are play partners.  The imaginary, pretend play situation involves roles, scripts, scenarios and props, and often emulates a real life situation.  Within this imaginary, pretend play situation, children engage with learning objectives across disciplines that act as resources needed to achieve a more active and meaningful participation in the play activity.

For those who study the theory and practice of play and play pedagogy, this work is rooted in a Vygotskian, cultural-historical conception of play and the work of progressivist educator, Dewey and critical pedagogue, Freire.  In order to discuss 4 key aspects to designing play-based projects: time, space, relationships and resources, I would like to share the Contemporary Education Framework as the overarching foundation upon which this play-based project design is based.  I would also like to pay homage to the work of Bodrova, Van Oers, Liberali and Fleer in the work they have done on play pedagogy that has been an inspiration to my work.

This proposal of play-based project design is based around the Contemporary Education Framework and the Pedagogic Play curriculum.  The play-based project design process starts at the junction of a theme, the integration of curricular content or learning objectives from different disciplines and children’s interests.  Many early childhood units of study depart from a theme, but it is often a generic theme and is the start and end point of study.  By working with Human Development Themes, children can get to know what is common to all human beings - our most basic needs, and these needs are what generate Real Life Activities that are aimed at meeting these needs.  Real life activities involve other people utilizing material and conceptual resources to achieve their objectives.  In different historical moments and different cultures around the world people have participated in these real life activities in a multiplicity of ways.  By developing children’s Awareness of Practices, they can learn that there is not only one way of knowing, doing and being in the world.  As the Contemporary Education focuses on developing children’s tool chest of material and conceptual resources to empower them to act with greater agency in real life situations, this Awareness of Practices is analyzed through a Theoretical Inquiry to make sense of the reasons people choose to act in different ways and how these ways are meaningful to them.  Finally, these is a Deliberation of Theory and Practice to support children to make informed and intentional decisions in real life activities, which are literally “played out” in the imaginary, pretend play situations of a play-based project design.

This series is organized into four parts: how to organize space, time, relationships and resources in a play-based project design.  A play-based project design is anchored in an imaginary, pretend play situation that is revisited again and again as children and educators create roles, scripts, scenarios and props based on researching the material and conceptual resources that people utilize in the real life activities that are being emulated in play. 

In terms of TIME, 4 different moments need to be considered in a play-based project design: 

1. Pre-Play: Sustained Inquiry about the Human Development Theme, Real World Activity, Awareness of Practice and Theoretical Inquiry.  

2. Pre-Play: Preparation, Organization and Planning of the scenario, props, roles and scripts.  

3. During Play: Joint Play amongst children and educators.

4. Post-Play: Reflective Dialogue and Guided Feedback that often brings the Deliberation of Theory and Practice to light.

These moments are interwoven and typically constitute a full pedagogic unit of study that integrates various learning objectives from different disciplines.  See the segment of this series on pedagogy play moments for a more detailed explanation.

In terms of SPACE, there are 3 principle spaces that need to be considered in constituting a play-based project design:

  1. A Preparation Space
  2. A Joint Play Area 
  3. A Space for Sharing and Discussion (Sustained Inquiry & Reflective Dialogue/Guided Feedback)

These spaces can be permanent spaces organized within a classroom, they can be switched in and out within a classroom (especially considered smaller classrooms) or they can be spread out amongst multiple spaces inside and outside of the classroom.  See the segment of this series on pedagogic play spaces for a more detailed explanation.  

In terms of RELATIONSHIPS, a play-based project design involves multiple positions for educators and children inside and outside of the imaginary, pretend play situation.  Educators and children can position themselves as:

  1. Leading play (Inside the imaginary, pretend play situation) 
  2. Following play (Inside the imaginary, pretend play situation)
  3. Balancing play (Inside the imaginary, pretend play situation)
  4. Observing play (Outside the imaginary, pretend play situation)
  5. Directing play (Outside the imaginary, pretend play situation)

Educators and children can lead, follow and balance their initiatives in play through their development of roles, creation of scenarios and props and proposals of problems and solutions to the narrative play scripts that add layers of complexity to an ever-evolving imaginary, pretend play situations.  They can also observe and direct play from outside the imaginary, pretend play situation to make suggestions and ask questions.  See the segment of this series on pedagogic play relationships for a more detailed explanation.

In terms of RESOURCES, the more children’s tool chest of material and conceptual resources is developed, they are more equipped they are to solve problems that mobilize these resources.  Thinking about the Contemporary Education Framework, by raising children’s conscious awareness of the wide range of practices for participating in real life activities and the theoretical inquiry of what sustains those practices  over time and across cultures, children can learn about the 2 key types of resources: Material Resources and Conceptual Resources.  These resources can be introduced inside the imaginary, pretend play situation or outside of it through: 

  1. Sustained Inquiry
  2. Reflective Dialogue & Guided Feedback

This can broaden children’s repertoire of resources and when deliberated, they can make more conscious, responsive and deliberated decisions in solving the real world problems in their imaginary, pretend play situations that emulate real life activities.  See the segment of this series on pedagogic play resources for a more detailed explanation. 

Join me in transforming education to meet the challenges of the 21st century by checking out Contemporary Education on:

YouTube Channel:



Tags : , ,

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts

About Us

To transform education in order to move humanity forward to face the challenges of the 21st century, increasingly globalized world in a collaborative, creative, critical, connected and caring way.

The founder and primary contributor to Education for Contemporary Times is Sarah O. Weiler, long-time educator with a M.A. in Global Education from the University of Illinois and a M.A. in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Education at the prestigious Institute of Education at the University of London in the UK.
See More +

Pre-register for Upcoming Certification Course and Earn Continuing Education University Credits. If you are interested in upcoming online courses and earning continuing education university credits please click on the link.

For consultancy services please click on the following link.