Ever experienced that feeling of zen when working side by side with a colleague? Perhaps you’re working on the same project (maybe not), but there’s a definite sense of “achieving” and working together to reach similar results. We could think about this as “parallel working” - working side by side, with limited interaction on possibly different levels, but still learning, achieving and mindful of each other.
When it comes to play and education, “parallel play” is considered a very normal and first step in a child’s development and fundamental when learning to play and interact with other children.
There’s a little bit of magic when it comes to playing side by side (with little interaction). Parallel play (in the early years) and parallel learning (for older children) plays an important role in developing social skills, learning boundaries and mindfulness.
As young children play alongside each other (not playing together), they are observing and listening to others - picking up on new words and language, their first social interactions, expressing themselves and learning to share (still hard for some adults!).
As children grow, this parallel play moves onto the next step and forms a basis when they start interacting with their peers - possibly working together, problem solving and co-operation.
As educator and influencer Gavin McCormack describes,
Parallel learning is simply when two or more students are working side by side on different projects. Every so often they will chat, laugh or giggle. Each is busy on their own items of achievement, stopping once in a while to compliment each other. “I like your picture.” Or to discuss something random. These children are at different levels, on different topics but love each other’s company.
The beauty of this kind of learning is each student not only teaches and inspires the other but they learn so much more than any teacher or test could ever deliver.
Parallel learning can be an effective way of reaching many students at once - allowing richer and more immersive learning experiences, maximising participation and self-guided learning and fostering independence.
With its foundation in loose-parts play and STEM, Nüdel Kart products offer children the opportunity to play in parallel. The Rover (with 140 play pieces) and the original Nüdel Kart (with 340 play pieces) allows endless creative possibilities. Nüdel resources can be arranged for students to work independently yet side by side, enjoying the companionship and support of their peers.
The versatility of Nüdel Kart means that the pieces can be arranged in endless ways - unlocking creative play potential. A classroom is always rich in different personalities, skills and interests. The Kart can be set up to enhance individual or parallel learning, where students can still inspire each other, but also develop independent thinking. Bringing the group back together again to build on this is easy too - the dynamic nature of Nüdel Kart allows the environment to be set up to promote more group interaction.
To find out more about Nüdel Kart and the power of loose parts play, visit https://www.nudelkart.com/.
McCormack, G. (2018) Parallel Learning in the Classroom https://gavinmccormack.com.au/parallel-learning-in-the-classroomin-the-average/
Ranae, Stage 4 - Parallel Play https://www.seriouslykids.com.au/about-parallel-play/
5 ways toddlers benefit from Parallel Play, https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/parallel-play
By Jeni Wilson and the Nüdel Kart team
STEM is definitely the new buzz word. But what exactly is STEM???
What does it really mean?
STEM stands for Science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
STEM is not coding and robotics. Rather "it covers a wide range of disciplines and skills, which are increasingly in demand in our rapidly changing world. STEM skills and knowledge are important for all stages of our learning, jobs and everyday lives." (Victoria State Government, Department of Education)
Why is STEM important?
STEM empowers individuals with the skills to succeed and adapt to this increasingly complex, changing, technological world. STEM is intended to lead to innovation necessary to sustain our economy. This innovation and science literacy depends on a solid knowledge base in the STEM areas.
STEM is important because it pervades every part of our lives. Science is everywhere in the world around us and is used to impact people and every living thing on earth.
What are STEM skills?
STEM skills relate subject specific skills in science, mathematics, and engineering to generic skills and dispositions.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but skills can include'
There are multiple reasons why STEM skills are considered more important than ever.
What are some easy to implement resources for STEM?
There are limitless opportunities to practise STEM skills and learn about STEM concepts when engaging in free or structured play. STEM activities and lessons should be child led and help children learn how to use these skills in the real world.
In fact longitudinal studies conduced over the last 55 years show that early childhood play-based programs have the largest impacts on the education and long-term life outcomes of children (living in poverty) including a 42% rise in yearly earning, increase in high schools graduations and an increase in bachelor degrees.
At Playground Ideas, we created the Nüdel Kart, a mobile, deconstructable playground based on the theory of loose parts. Loose Parts create an environment of endless possibilities that unlock a child's creative potential, build brain complexity, and creates very high levels of mental health and well being.
The Nüdel Kart can be used in or out of the classroom to help support STEM learning.
How does it do this?
Nüdel Kart is a mobile play kart that can be reconfigured in endless ways to encourage self-directed learning. It contains research-backed specially selected materials to stimulate children’s development. Nüdel Kart supports educational approaches, such as student directed learning, that aims to develop 21st century and first principle skills increasingly in demand in our rapidly changing world.
Designed for children 3-12 years, of all abilities, the Nüdel Kart and allows all children to adapt the kart to their needs. It engages up to 30 children at a time.
Nüdel Kart is a loose parts educational resource that promotes problem solving and creativity.
It comes with a supervisor manual that helps teach all the principles of STEM, and it can also be used to aid in STEM curriculum and support many other aspects of the curriculum.
Here are a couple of examples of how you can link to curriculum for different age groups.
For the full manual go here.
Vehicles and moving things: Discuss push and pull. Use wood dowels and straps to try pushing and pulling a variety of objects. Alternatively Inquiry into force. Test how to make things move faster and slower. Explore friction building a pulley from Nüdel Kart pieces.
Go to market: Count and order coins and notes. Use Nüdel Kart pieces as currency and count, add and tally amounts. Alternatively, using real shopper dockets and brochures, use Nüdel Kart pieces to represent products and organise them according to price.
Other ideas include:
All of these and more are explained in the Nüdel Kart Supervisor Manual.
Engineering for kids, (2016). https://www.engineeringforkids.com/about/news/2016/february/why-is-stem-education-so-important-/
Sewell, C. Wilson, J. Laing, B. and Veerman, M. (2020) Nudel Kart Teacher Manual.
Seven awesome facts about STEM education https://visual.ly/community/infographic/education/7-interesting-facts-about-stem-educationGet into energy. Get into STEM. https://stem.getintoenergy.com/stem-skills-list/
What is STEM? Western Australia Department of Education https://www.education.wa.edu.au/what-is-stem
OUR TEAM AT PLAYGROUNDIDEAS.ORG, A leading NGO on Play....