On the first day of the Biblioteca project in Huadhua, after speaking with the teachers and parents and playing some games with the students, the first thing we did was divide the students into groups and give each group an unopened digital camera. We then proceeded to open the boxes together and search for each component inside: the camera, the battery, the memory card, the case, etc. We discussed each component – its use and where it goes – but the students themselves had to put everything together. We then let them play with the cameras for 30 minutes with the set goals of learning how to take a picture, how to take a video, how to play back the video, and how to delete it. The purpose of this exercise goes beyond learning about the camera, a tool the students will use to document and present their progress within the project. It is a simple, but often overlooked, component to their education: fun.
Fun is a powerful tool in education and we ensure that we fully utilize it from the very first day of our projects. Fun creates a dynamic learning environment. Fun provides context to otherwise dull subject matter which helps with content retention. Fun makes it okay to make a mistake, encourages risk taking and divergent thinking. Fun creates room for creativity.
We recently began the Biblioteca project in Huadhua with the whole community in attendance. Fun is a centerpiece of the project in Huadhua, as it is in all of our projects. We’ve found that the projects work better that way. Last year, in our Tucsa Biblioteca project, the students petitioned us to continue our project during their vacations in August and December! Why? Because they are fun. But fun helps with more than just attendance.
When we allow the students to take an academic theme and play with it before the actual lesson, we see several benefits: one is that the students receive the context necessary to develop thoughtful questions and answers about the theme before being introduced to the lesson and this allows them to participate in the lesson more critically; we also see that, due to the previously provided context, students have a way to relate the lesson back to their experience which is essential to the retention of information. Students also enjoy the lesson – which makes education something done independently and not by obligation. I could go on and on…
The point is that fun is good for everyone. Students learn more, teachers accomplish more, and parents see results. Our projects challenge students to think critically and creatively. We push the children to find academic content within games and activities. We measure their progress.
Some things are just better understood when seen. In Huadhua during the first day of the Biblioteca project, there was no doubt that the children were having fun. We plan on keeping it that way.