“The Manips”

“Play with me! Play with me!” the colorful materials tucked away in organized bins appear to call to the young children every morning. While the classroom features at least five open centers at all times, the manipulatives area is always the hub of the room. Each morning you find the carpet enclosed by these materials completely filled with busy children and bins of toys spread everywhere. Teachers barely have room to join in the fun!

Building my own world…

In the manipulatives center, children find delight in building different towers and castles, constructing different patterns, and experimenting with how they can fit pieces of different shapes and sizes together. Sometimes the students enjoy building independently, while other times they work as a group to build the tallest tower using the materials available. Provided with a wide variety of materials, the design possibilities are truly endless for these creative and imaginative individuals. Some of their favorite objects to play with in this center include magnetic tiles, peg boards, and combs.

                              

Magnetic Tiles                                 Peg Boards                                    Combs

The students’ persistent interest in these manipulative materials intrigued me. While the number of students at stations such as the library, writing, and block centers fluctuates from day to day, the manipulatives center is always lively. Noticing the amount of time the children spend experimenting with these materials, I began to consider the advantages these hours of play afford the children. This led me to investigate the question: “How does playing with manipulatives benefit young learners?”

…prepares me for success in the future.

Providing access to objects that children can physically manipulate is essential to the development of their understanding of the physical world. When children play with blocks, magnets, and other materials, they construct spatial-mathematical reasoning, develop skills related to planning and executing, strengthen their problem-solving abilities, explore the properties of the objects they work with, and observe and experience magnetic and gravitational forces. Therefore, children build their foundation for the study of STEM disciplines through these captivating play experiences. Every time a child plays with the magnetic tiles, they physically experience the behaviors of positive and negative forces. Similarly, whenever a resounding CRASH is heard throughout the classroom, a child has witnessed the force of gravity acting on their once majestic tower. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of manipulatives in fostering the development of these STEM-related skills and understandings, check out the article Children’s Exploration of Physical Phenomena During Object Play by clicking here.

Miss H and “The Manips”

As a person with an inconcealable passion for math, I highly anticipate incorporating manipulatives into my future classroom. Why? They’re fun and I want my students to find the same joy in math and problem solving that I do! Many students who dislike math develop a phobia for the subject in elementary school, which makes my position as an early childhood educator all the more important. If my students associate math with positive, enjoyable, playful experiences, they will be more likely to express interest and feel confident in the subject as they progress through subsequent grades. Physically working with these concrete objects will also provide them with a true understanding of foundational math concepts that they may build on throughout their life. Below, you can see some of the manipulatives I hope to offer my students.

                  

    Linking Cubes                          Fraction Tiles                  Multiplication Cards

Begin considering all of the fun you can bring into your classroom by exploring the variety of math manipulatives here. Who knows, maybe you will resolve your own math phobia!

· For Further Reading ·

Solis, S. L., Curtis, K. N., & Hayes-Messinger, A. (2017). Children’s exploration of physical phenomena during object play. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 31(1), 122-140.

Educational Inspirations

I would not be half the person I am today without all of the incredible people who have supported, encouraged, and inspired me throughout my years of learning and growing. Check out some of the powerful individuals I have had the privilege of learning from below!

· Millersville Professors ·

The professors at Millersville University have significantly impacted me as a future educator. While I always loved working with kids and spent many summers as a camp counselor, these individuals have shared their knowledge and expertise on how to teach. They make teaching look so easy! I absolutely love learning from their prior experiences and about their favorite strategies. They have given me so many ideas for my future classroom, from engagement techniques, to possible lesson designs, and strategies for creating a positive classroom environment.

Their unceasing curiosity has also rubbed off on me and led me to fall in love with learning all over again. They push me to dive deeper by providing me with opportunities to engage in individual research and follow current research on best practices. I never would have imagined conducting my own research project three years ago. One of my primary goals as an educator is to foster this same curiosity in my students that similarly leads them to become lifelong learners. Learning can be overwhelming, but it is also fun, fascinating, and exhilarating! I hope that my students find the same energy in learning.

· Theorists ·

John Dewey’s philosophy regarding the importance of experiential learning especially resonates with me as I have a strong interest in integrative STEM education. STEM pedagogy emphasizes practical, hands-on learning experiences for students. These opportunities for authentic learning can be structured for any content area, and Duke, Halvorsen, and Strachan offer advice for applying project based learning to social studies and literacy in their article “Project-Based Learning Not Just for STEM Anymore” (Duke et al., 2016). I personally value providing my students with meaningful learning experiences that are relevant to their lives. I never want to hear my students question why they are learning a concept because that means they view learning as a chore. Rather, I strive to design lessons that are engaging, relate to students’ current interests, and clearly have applications to the world beyond the classroom.

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” -John Dewey

My perspective on education also prioritizes Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I recognize that, biologically, learning is not an essential need like food or water. If my students come to school hungry, tired, or anxious, learning quickly becomes a low priority. The hierarchy of needs pyramid will influence my future classroom as I plan to maintain a supply of snacks for my students, create a safe space where they feel comfortable taking risks and realize the value of mistakes, and offer them time to rest when they are clearly exhausted. I remember getting headaches in elementary school when we were not allowed to have water bottles. Even at eight years old this blew my mind. I will NEVER let my students experience this discomfort!

Finally, Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural learning theory and concept of the zone of proximal development heavily influence my philosophy. Students spend a lot of time at home with their families and constantly interact with their peers. Of course they learn from all of these social experiences! As a teacher, I will try to build on this wealth of knowledge my students bring to the classroom. I will also design appropriately challenging opportunities for my students that push them just enough outside of their comfort zone to optimally learn and grow.

· Fellow Aspiring Educators ·

My peers at Millersville have significantly impacted me throughout our journey toward becoming preservice teachers. I find that our passions for education continue to grow as we become increasingly immersed in the education program. It is so energizing to be around people working toward the same goal! We continually encourage each other to become better educators by sharing ideas and collaborating both on projects in class and on events through education organizations. My peers are the best support system throughout all of the “firsts” that come with teaching. I love being surrounded by such creative and inspiring people as a member of the education community at Millersville.

· For Further Reading ·

Duke, N., Halvorsen, A., & Strachan, S. (2016). Project-based learning not just for STEM anymore. The Phi Delta Kappan, 98(1), 14-19. Retrieved February 21, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/24893301