Playing with purpose

They may only be five, but spend just one day or even a mere hour in the Brisbane Boys’ College (BBC) Prep classroom and you’ll soon discover that these young learners are already paving their own path.

While their day may focus on a philosophy of play, according to BBC’s Prep Teacher Helen Gardener that’s how boys learn at this age; it’s how they interact with their world, how they socialise and develop as human beings.

“Our early learners explore their world through tactile senses and our program is geared to support them in this stage of their development,” explains Helen.

“Play gives boys the confidence to pursue a new direction; it enables us to capture their imaginations and to foster their creativity, a skill intrinsically linked to problem solving and fundamental to learning in other areas such as literacy,” said Helen.

“Unlike other year level intakes, boys arrive at Prep with no pre-conceived ideas of how they should learn, what they should do or how they should think. Yet they are serious about what we are learning – they want to know how to read it, write it, build it, make it and do it.

“Some may question the ability of a five-year-old knowing what they need to learn to move ahead, but spend a day in Prep and you can see that they are already thinkers, doers, participators and contributors.

“One of the many great things about Prep is that the boys know they will be able to handle any challenge because Prep is a safe, supportive and nurturing environment. They know that if they are going to have-a-go or take a risk even, it will be ok.

“Not a day goes by when I don’t sit back and wonder at the magnificent things that this group of five year olds have accomplished – the boys have a definite idea of what they want and an even clearer idea of how they are going to get there.”

For BBC’s Head of Junior School, Keith Dalleywater, Prep represents a pivotal point in the educational journey.

“The early years are a time where foundations are laid, new interests are found and talents unearthed; our role as educators is to help boys make these discoveries,” says Keith.

“At BBC we see life and learning as one and the same and drawing on our expertise in boys’ education seek to deliver unique experiences that help to create independent, resilient and creative thinkers,” he said.

“Parents often ask me about boys’ education and what that truly means. As educators we often see conversation focused on the different learning styles of boys and girls alone.

“While we know that boys prefer to engage in experiential learning – the act of learning by doing – boys’ education is about more than that.

“It’s about relationships and how our teachers – both men and women – are able to connect with the boys in their classroom and in turn, connect these boys to their learning.

"It’s about drawing on our knowledge of boys’ development to make conscious and deliberate decisions as to how we can inspire, motivate and empower each boy to find his place in the world.

“One of the things I love about BBC is that our boys do everything – they’re not bound by a stereotype or ‘what they think they should be doing’ but are driven by a genuine desire to explore and try new things.

“This becomes particularly apparent as they journey through the Junior years and we see them engage in various activities; where boys can shift seamlessly between playing the role of actor, sportsman, scientist, problem solver,  musician, builder or strategist as they engage with activities such as the school musical, playing in a band, joining the football team, through to exploring the fundamentals of mathematics and mearurement through hands on investigation and construction in the Hobby House or learning how to play chess.

“The opportunities are endless, as is each boy’s willingness to give everything a go and in doing so, to learn new things about himself and others.”