In our grade one class we value the importance of scheduled playtime. It offers a chance to witness students taking the lead in their own learning through inquiry. One morning, something magical happened when a group of students discovered a coconut tree husk outside our classroom. Their imaginative minds sparked, and they decided to repurpose it into a sailboat using recycled materials from our crafting center. Little did we know that this spontaneous creation would become the inspiration for an entire unit centered around imagination and problem-solving.
A change of plans
Originally, I had planned to launch a new unit the following day. However, captivated by the students’ sailboat project, I made the decision to cancel those plans and use their creation as the provocation for our unit instead. It was an opportunity to delve into their thought process, design steps, and problem-solving strategies.
Exploring imagination and creativity
Our class engaged in a discussion, reflecting on how they came up with the sailboat idea and the steps they took to design it. As we examined the boat, we noticed the mast leaning to one side. This challenge became an exciting problem to solve. Through collaboration and critical thinking, the students brainstormed ideas and found solutions to balance the mast.
Extending learning across subjects
The excitement spilled over into our literacy lesson, where students crafted imaginative stories about the sailboat. They focused on using descriptive language to bring their writing to life. The results were outstanding—some of the best writing they had produced all semester. Building on their enthusiasm, we decided to test the boat in the school pool. This real-world experiment allowed the students to witness firsthand how their design choices affected its functionality. Remarkably, they connected this experience to a video game coding challenge in our math class, recognizing the problem-solving skills they utilized in both contexts.
By embracing student-initiated inquiry during scheduled playtime, we provided authentic and meaningful contexts for exploration. The sailboat project became a catalyst for an entire unit centered around imagination, problem-solving, and creativity. It demonstrated the power of play in fostering engagement, collaboration, and deep learning across various subjects. As educators, we should seize every opportunity to unlock the immense potential that lies within our students’ imaginations, encouraging them to explore, inquire, and connect their experiences to the world around them.
Bianca Wagner was born in The Bahamas. She has an MA in teaching from Charles Sturt University Australia and a BA of arts and sciences from Quest University Canada. Her International Baccalaureate (IB) training focuses on implementing agency in the Primary Years Programme (PYP). Bianca currently teaches grade one at Lyford Cay International School, Bahamas in her hometown having also lived and worked in the United States, Canada, and Spain.