KNOWLEDGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION: The Importance of Play in Developing Children’s Spatial and Geometric Thinking
Bensen, Lynn E
KNOWLEDGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION: The Importance of Play in Developing Children’s Spatial and Geometric Thinking. Daniel Ness & Stephen J. Farenga. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007. 228 pp. $32.95. Knowledge Under Construction: The Importance of Play in Developing Children’s Spatial and Geometric Thinking explores space and how children use it in everyday play to construct knowledge about the world around them. In today’s frenzy to prepare children for taking standardized tests, adults often regard play as trivial and extraneous to the business of learning. , To counter this diminished view of play, the authors identified three methods for better appreciating the spatial and geometric thinking of young children during block play. The authors drew upon the observations of a professor of architecture at Columbia University, an empirical investigation, and case study analyses to support their assertion that Lego and block play areas at home or in school provide fertile ground for the emergence of young children’s mathematical and scientific behaviors. The authors created a measurement system that educators can use to identify and categorize spatial-geometricarchitectural (SPAGAR) behaviors that they observe in the classroom to support the instructional and cognitive value of block play.
Educators will appreciate that Ness and Farenga did not intend the justification of block play in the classroom to serve as an end in itself. The final chapter of their book is devoted to identifying how everyday free play and the development of mathematical and scientific concepts are related so that the needs of each child can be met by the teacher in the classroom. The authors assert that although Lego and block activities present children with examples of mathematics and science concepts, teachers must be able to recognize the importance of what the child is doing and how it relates to formal understanding. Theythenmusthelp the child build a bridge between his or her experience and formal understanding. The authors suggest that teachers use an inquiry-based method to facilitate this process, and they provide educators with guidelines for studying inquiry-based learning in their own classrooms through evaluations of the physical environment and the behaviors of the children and teachers.
Children of all ages who possess strong spatial skills often are underserved in the classroom, because their strengths lie in the process of grasping systems and discovering relationships, rather than in a product easily measured by standardized tests. The work of Ness and Farenga can meet the needs of early childhood educators by helping them understand how the everyday actions of young children in block play summon spatial characteristics and how educators can support the continued learning of young children through free play, rather than through more formal learning methods. By providing a measurement system for spatial-geometricarchitectural (SPAGAR) behaviors, thisbookalso can serve as aresource for educators of any age group who seek a more robust way of assessing spatial and geometric knowledge. This book provides educators who wish to support children in their need to explore the world around them through free play with the tools they need to do so. Reviewed by Lynn E. Bensen, Doctoral Candidate, Adrian Dominican School of Education, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL.
Reviewed by Lynn E. Bensen, Doctoral Candidate, Adrian Dominican School of Education, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL
Copyright Association for Childhood Education International Spring 2008
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