Learning through play is the focus of a research project to investigate the potential of informal activities to support wider learning.
Exploring young people’s engagement with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, the research is being carried out by Dr Lizzie Rushton and Dr Heather King, of King’s College London (KCL). It is being supported by observational data collected during bridge building workshops organised by the Rochester Bridge Trust.
Dr Lizzie Rushton explained: “Understanding ‘making’ activities and the experiences they can offer is vitally important and we want to help and encourage more young people from a variety of backgrounds to participate in STEM subjects now and in the future.
“The Rochester Bridge Trust’s hands-on activities are an excellent opportunity for us to study because they reach out to a range of children in terms of age, gender, experience and ability. We are grateful to the Trust for enabling us to observe their activities.”
The workshops observed involve young people exploring different types of bridges through hands-on activities. They take place in locations as varied as Tonbridge Castle, Rochester Cathedral and Maidstone Museum, as part of the Trust’s education programme.
Caroline Chisholm, Education Manager at the Trust, added: “For many years the Trust has promoted the power of learning through play – or stealth learning – as a way of inspiring the civil engineers of tomorrow. This helps children to understand the practical implications of their classroom learning and inspires an interest in STEM subjects that can transcend stereotypes.
“We are very pleased to be able to support this research by King’s College London.”
The KCL research is part of a wider three-year project, COM n PLAY science, which in 2018 received a grant of €3.1m from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
The project draws on different European approaches to STEM education, with the aim of helping the team to identify how to share learning opportunities in informal settings, as well as providing evidence for future policy-making around science engagement across Europe and beyond.