Learning through Play is one of the most exciting P’s to carry out (in all our versions of LTP, including learning through pictures and learning through participation), and one of the hardest to communicate across a language barrier. And yet, the process and the results are always memorable. Case in point: we were conducting a teacher’s workshop in Pangani, working with primary school science teachers to create visual aids in the classroom. Previous LTP examples in science were mostly body parts, the skeleton, or the five senses. Our group created our own versions of these, and they were useful visual aids, but not terribly unique.
As we rested by a hospital building, the idea of acting, specifically pretending to be a virus infecting a person’s immune system, popped into my head. My partner Helen and I tried a series of wild hand gestures, broken Kiswahili, and some acting of our own to express that many of the microscopic or cosmic events around us can’t be seen, but it is possible to act them out to make photographic representations. We thought this might also help with teaching more theoretical concepts through the ease of direct observation.
What followed was a fascinating series of photos from the teachers. The pictures above are my personal favorites, with positive and negative charges illustrating attraction and repulsion. Magnetism and electricity in real time.
The gender differences are incorporated as a clever and subtle addition. In fact, one of the teachers pointed out the possibility of using the same set of photos in HIV/AIDS education to reduce transmission risk, which I thought was extremely resourceful. When we set out we had no idea that this is where the project would go, but we were very happy with the results as well as energized from the exercise.
Cameras are not always available for teachers, but their students’ energy is. Play-acting brings the textbook to life in a wholly different way, either in the process of learning or in applying previously acquired knowledge. And by appealing to all the senses including touch and motion, participatory education can thus extend both inside and outside the classroom, shaping how students perceive the concepts they learn in school in their environment and the world around them. You play, and then you learn.