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What is a Conceptual PlayWorld?

The Conceptual PlayWorld is a model of intentional teaching that Monash Professor Marilyn Fleer developed based on extensive research and experience working with young children and how they form concepts in science, technology and engineering.

A Conceptual PlayWorld is an imaginary scenario created by an educator where young children are invited to go on imaginary journeys, meet and solve challenges, and learn STEM concepts – all while playing. A Conceptual PlayWorld can be inspired by a children’s book or a fairy tale story, and it can be setup in an average classroom. Imagination is the limit!

This imaginary world enables educators to deliver play-based programs for young children where they get to experience and live through concepts that would otherwise be difficult to explain.

PlayWorlds in action

Here are examples of Conceptual PlayWorlds that we've trialled in kindergartens and primary schools.

Example 1: Charlotte’s Web

At Preshil, the Margaret Lyttle Memorial School Kindergarten, we worked with the teachers to develop a Conceptual PlayWorld based around Charlotte’s Web.

Over 10 weeks the children explored the imaginary world of Zuckerman’s Farm. Along the way, they needed to help Farmer Zuckerman solve the insect problem in the apple orchard.

For the children, it opened up all sorts of questions and ideas about the natural world, ecosystems and growing food.

Example 2: Rosie’s Walk

At Mount Barker Community College in Western Australia, we worked with the pre-primary teaching team to conduct a Conceptual PlayWorld starter in a single lesson. We read Rosie’s Walk and the children then took the role of the characters in the story.

When Rosie’s cousin got lost, and was scared of the fox, the children were quick to help – and worked to solve the problem by creating special maps.

Watch the five steps we took to create this imaginary PlayWorld.

Example 3: Secret Garden

At Preshil Primary School we worked with prep and Year 1 teachers to conduct a Land of Learning PlayWorld over a term. They read the Secret Garden and used the idea of hidden worlds to blast off to the moon.

The children received a satellite distress message from Cousin Robin who was stuck on the far side of the moon. The children investigated how to bring Cousin Robin safely back to Earth. They prepared a space travel rescue plan, and it was a success.

You can follow their journey – and STEM problems solved along the way – in this video.

Create your own PlayWorld

There are five steps to setting up and developing a Conceptual PlayWorld:

  • Step 1: Selecting a story for the Conceptual PlayWorld
  • Step 2: Designing the imaginary spaces
  • Step 3: Entering and exiting the PlayWorld
  • Step 4: Planning your problem to be solved
  • Step 5: What role will you, as the teacher, take in the Conceptual PlayWorld

You can use a special app – Fleer's Conceptual Playworld –  that has been developed to help you create your own imaginary PlayWorld for young children in your classroom.

Read more about the steps in Five steps for early childhood educators to create a Conceptual PlayWorld and encourage a love of STEM.