Playshops – an emerging curriculum model

What is a playshop?

According to Wohlwend and Peppler (2015), playshops are a curricular model that was developed to encourage playful and collaborative learning as well as rigorous learning as; each playshop features various combinations of literacy, arts, sciences, or technology. The playshop model is intended to bring together and combine children’s strengths with the school curriculum (Wohlwend & Peppler, 2015).

On March 15, in my second-to-last Children & Technology class, my group and I had the opportunity to design, create, and represent our very own playshop! Our professor provided us with a wide array of random (to us) materials to choose from, and we had to think of a theme or idea we wanted to center our playshop around, taking on the roles of children within a playshop experience. In anticipation of the season, we decided on creating a nature/garden theme scene–combining arts and science. We used play-doh, chenille sticks, water bottles, poms poms, and other every day materials.


For a lot of parents and educators today, there is still a huge dichotomy between play and learning; however, in actuality, play can be the key to deepening learning and tapping into children’s interests and strengths (Wohlwend & Peppler, 2015). The playshop model enriches learning across technologies and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts, inventive and creative thinking, design and creative learning, collaborative experiences, and sustaining participation (Wohlwend & Peppler, 2015).

Each playshop experience is unique and individual to the children participating and their environment. Wohlwend and Peppler (2015) provide an example of a Grade 1 child who would typically only write a few words at a time transform into a screen-writer able to produce fifteen minutes of dramatic dialog within the context of a flim-making playshop. In the playshop model, children are active leaders in their own learning as they are given the freedom to create personal, meaningful experiences, take on different roles of their choosing, and scaffold on their previous knowledge.

I would love to see more of this model at work in school settings, considering there is so many socio-emotional and academic benefits to such a curriculum design that really taps into children’s interests and developmental needs.

Happy playing!

(Image credit: me)



What is tinkering?

According to The Tinkering Studio, “[Tinkering] is more of a perspective than a vocation. It’s fooling around directly with phenomena, tools, and materials. It’s thinking with your hands and learning through doing. It’s slowing down and getting curious about the mechanics and mysteries of the everyday stuff around you. It’s whimsical, enjoyable, fraught with dead ends, frustrating, and ultimately about inquiry.”

Examples of tinkering projects from The Tinkering Studio:


Bevan, Petrich, and Wilkinson (2014) observed that learning in tinkering presents as engagement, initiative and intentional, social scaffolding, and developing understanding. I have had a few memorable experiences with tinkering in the past; both my Concept Development in Science and Concept Development in Math courses last semester presented many opportunities for tinkering and hands-on learning.

Most recently, in my Children & Technology course, my group was given the challenge to create a marble run! Scaffolding, innovation and intention, engagement and interaction, and developing our understanding  were all elements that were present when my group and I were creating our marble run. Our challenge was to create a marble run that would run all the way through the structure we created and come to a contained stop at the end so that the marble wouldn’t fall off the table. We went through several different designs and tried different configurations of materials before we found one that worked; at one point, we even used my cell phone to create the successful run.


We went through several different designs and tried different configurations of materials before we found one that worked; at one point, we even used my cell phone to create the successful run. We were asked to reflect on our process of learning through tinkering and this is what we came up with:  


We had to work together and collaborate, share our ideas, come up with creative uses for the materials we had, and make sure that we were giving one and another an equal amount of opportunity and support to test out our individual theories. There was a lot of trial and error and moments of excitement and frustration, but we had fun the whole time!

(Image credits: The Tinkering Studio; me)