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The Woods Academy

Where curiosity and confidence thrive.

The Importance of Play

The Importance of Play
Mrs. Megan Mullally, 5th & 6th Grade Science Teacher

Most people acknowledge the importance of play for young children. However, it is still important for middle schoolers. A recent article on Edutopia, a popular teacher site, titled Playing to Learn in Middle and High School discusses the benefits of learning through play. According to the article, “Play-based learning can help older students remember new material and transfer their learning from one context to another.”

In 6th grade science, students are constantly playing to learn. When learning about force and work, students developed an experiment to determine how the force or stretch distance impacted the launch distance of a beanbag. They then went to the back field and launched beanbags to collect data. Two years later, the 8th graders still remember conducting this experiment. They may not remember the exact formula for how to calculate work, but they will always remember that the more force used and greater distance stretched increased the launch distance.

Students at The Woods Academy in Bethesda, MD use play to learn in science.

During our study of simple machines, 6th graders have been creating mini chain reaction machines that incorporate incline planes and levers. The only rule…their machine must include simple machines. According to the Edutopia article, “the use of manipulatives in play, over traditional assignments, is more abstract, which leads to conceptual or higher-level learning that may result in students asking more questions, seeing where their understanding could be muddy, or endeavoring to make a cross-curricular connection for a deeper knowledge."

Middle school students at The Woods Academy create mini chain reaction machines in 6th grade science.

Throughout the first trimester, 6th graders have taken advantage of “free build Fridays” when they have access to bins of Lego bricks, robotics pieces, K’Nex, and Minecraft. The only rule…they must build something. “This openness to explore and play with thinking by creating something…is an invitation to unearth new ideas and questions, to explain knowledge in a conceptual and unique manner, or to simply make personal connections that may help to better define themselves as learners.”

Middle school students in 6th grade at The Woods Academy have taken advantage of “free build Fridays” when they have access t


Check out some of our pictures on Vidigami to see how we are playing to learn today!