On Wednesday, September 14, our class took a field trip to The Children’s Museum of the Upstate in Greenville, South Carolina. During this time, we were able to hear from the Early Childhood Director as well as the CEO of the museum. We learned about the exhibits, the staff, and the intentions behind the museum as a whole. This experience was unbelievably meaningful to me. I was able to put myself in the position of a child so that I could learn through play, and by doing so, I firmly believe that I was able to add to my knowledge and my skill set so that I will be an even better educator than I originally could have imagined.
Immediately upon our arrival at the museum, we gathered together in a room upstairs and had the opportunity to hear from Karen, the Early Childhood Director of the museum. She explained how her heart for children has led her to assume a position on staff at the museum. Karen explained in detail the events and activities that take place in the museum. A wide variety of classes are offered to provide academic enrichment to the children that attend. In addition, children may come in and explore the multiple exhibits without actually attending classes. Regardless of what a child decides to do in the museum, he will leave having learned something through play and exploration. After Karen finished talking, my classmates and I had the incredible opportunity to be able to explore the museum for ourselves. We were able to see all three floors of the museum, so we devoted part of our time to each exhibit so that we were able to see as much as possible. A few of my favorite exhibits were the climbing structure, the grocery store, the music room, the outside playground, and the water exhibit. I tried to keep an open mind, making an effort to try everything, even if it did not appear to be extremely captivating. I believe that this truly helped me to make the most of my experience at the museum. By viewing things through the eyes of a child, I feel as if I was able to learn through play. After our time to play was finished, we gathered together in a conference room upstairs in order to discuss our experience. We each had the opportunity to ask questions about the museum, and we were even fortunate enough to hear from the CEO about future plans that The Children’s Museum has in store.
Considering that I am from the Upstate, I did not necessarily think that I was going to get very much out of the experience. Little did I know, I was entirely incorrect. Despite the fact that I have attended The Children’s Museum close to ten times now, I was still able to learn from my experience during the field trip. One of the most meaningful experiences that I had was visiting the storytelling room. While we were in the room, I began to look around while Karen continued to talk to my classmates and me. I viewed the art projects and overall classroom environment with admiration. At this moment, I realized how enriching the museum truly is. For years, I have viewed this as a place of entertainment and a refuge for caretakers who had no other ways to entertain their children. However, spending time in this room truly changed my opinions. As I listened to Karen, I realized that the museum is a place where children are able to roam free and explore the depths of their mind through play, and I suddenly realized that play is such a significant channel through which learning takes place. The Children’s Museum is full of so many more opportunities than just wandering around and climbing on exhibits. Everything in the building is designed so that children can learn in some way, shape, or form. Even the storytelling room was indicative of this. Children can enter into an environment in which they are able to read books, make arts and crafts, and collaborate with other peers in order to enhance their learning. This revelation gave me such a new appreciation for the museum and for the overall importance of play.
My experience in the museum can be connected to the content that we have read and discussed in class. In The Play’s the Thing, the authors explain the importance of play as well as the teacher’s role in play. In the introduction, the author writes, “The process that gives way to knowledge—constructivism—is a child’s experimentation or playfulness with materials and reflection on the effects of his actions” (Jones & Reynolds, 2015). Essentially, play is crucial for learning. Through play, children experience emotional, social, and intellectual development that would not be possible strictly through academics. They are able to use the materials in their surroundings to encourage their own learning. Play encourages children to develop fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and collaborative skills, thus making it a necessity for the learning environment. This was unbelievably evident while we were at The Children’s Museum. My classmates and I were able to play with the materials in our environment, and both during and after play, we were able to reflect on our experiences. The reflection is the aspect of play that truly encouraged learning. We asked ourselves questions and tried to develop new strategies to make the most of our experiences. What is the goal of this activity? What can I do differently to get the same result? How is this game applicable to science/math/technology/literacy? By reflecting on our experiences with our materials, we were able to expand our knowledge base. Consequently, the reading was very accurate in its description of the importance of play. The content of the book could be put into practice during our firsthand experience in the actual museum.
I’m incredibly thankful for my opportunity to attend The Children’s Museum. I was able to expand my knowledge on the importance of play, and I am truly surprised about how much I learned through this experience. The connections between class content and my experience on the field trip helped me to learn that play is crucial for the learning process. Because of this, I feel as if I can serve as an even better educator in the future.
Above: Caroline and I were able to climb in the structure in the middle of the museum. We explored the variety of paths that allowed us to climb all the way to the top!
Above: Caroline and I were able to play dress-up! The camera was not working, so we were unfortunately not able to create a music video in front of the green screen.
Jones, E. & Reynolds, G. (2015). The play’s the thing: Teachers’ roles in children’s play. New York, New York: Teachers College.
Having the opportunity to explore The Children’s Museum of the upstate was a truly enlightening experience. It was a joy to spend the day at play, but I walked away from the museum with a broadened sense of knowledge that allowed me to grasp the significance of play and creativity in academic curriculum. It was memorable because I was able to put myself in the position of a child. I walked into the museum with an uncontainable excitement and left that day learning more than I thought possible. I realized that it is crucial to maintain an open-mind in all circumstances so that I can consider the strengths and weaknesses of any educational environment. This assignment inspired me as an educator in many ways. First of all, it inspired me to create an educational environment that encourages and facilitates play. I want to respect the value and balance of play and academic rigor, thus enabling me to one day create a classroom in which learning is made enjoyable.