Imagine your child could be as engaged and absorbed at school as they are when they’re playing. This takes place every day at The Willow School, and it’s so much more than simply making learning fun. One of the ways that Willow students learn through play is called Imaginative Inquiry.
Imaginative inquiry is a dynamic teaching approach that integrates “pretend play” into the curriculum to create meaning and understanding across all academic subjects. Always looking for ways to continue to innovate our program and nurture curiosity, Willow teachers recently attended Institute for Imaginative Inquiry workshops, bringing new ideas back to our school.
Children of the Forest
Our first grade teacher used imaginative inquiry to create a new integrated curriculum: “Children of the Forest.” Students first read the book Children of the Forest by Elsa Beskow. Then, they took on the role of the Children of the Forest at Willow, becoming enthralled with imaginary forest gnomes on campus. These gnomes left letters prompting the children to solve problems, like building homes for the creatures on campus.
This led them to research the surrounding forest community — fundamentally, an exercise in social studies. Then, they progressed to studying live forest creatures and their habitat — science. While learning about birds and what they eat, the students applied math skills to make an inventory of acorns in their outdoor classroom. Throughout the entire process, students wrote letters and read stories, reinforcing language arts skills. They also came together as a classroom community, establishing what values are important to them using the language of our Virtues Program. By playing pretend, first graders were immersed in their lessons, becoming active participants in their own learning process and responsible members of the school community.
Benefits of Imaginative Inquiry
Imaginative inquiry is a powerful tool in childhood development. It builds attention span and supports critical thinking and problem-solving. During experiences like “Children of the Forest,” students at Willow learn to collaborate, developing important social skills like empathy and compassion. Moreover, pretend play instills confidence and encourages ideas. When children realize their own power, they are motivated to explore their interests and take the lead in their own learning.
The possibilities for growth and learning are as unlimited as your child’s imagination. Watch our Imaginative Inquiry Webinar to learn more about this first grade project, and see all of the ways that Willow students learn through experience HERE.