Nurturing the problem solvers of tomorrow through play-based learning

Harnessing curiosity, promoting choice, encouraging exploration and giving purpose

BSB’s award-winning careers programme, BSB Futures, opened its 2023-2024 season of events with a series of discussions and Q&As with industry professionals from the engineering sector in September. Experts from the electrical, automotive, chemical and photonics industries delivered insights to those students who are interested in pursuing a career or further studies in engineering.

Engineering skills are essential for preparing the next generation of problem solvers, inventors, and innovators. BSB recognises the significance of fostering a passion for engineering among its students from an early age. BSB’s dedicated staff provide various activities and programmes that effectively promote and develop engineering skills in young minds.

At BSB, we begin stimulating an interest in such things at an early age. While the path to an engineering degree and career is a long and complex one, it begins with a simple awakening of curiosity. BSB parent Dr. Gauri Karve, an electrical and computer engineer, and the Scientific Director at IMEC, emphasised this point in her talk during September’s sessions, telling the potential engineering students that they should, above all, ‘stay curious.’

Curiosity opens up a world of learning

This curiosity, along with a strong emphasis on choice, exploration, and purpose, has been part of the play-based learning which has been integrated into the curriculum at Lower and Upper Primary level over the past few years by Esther O’Connor, Team Leader Primary, and teachers like Paul Somers.

“Curiosity is the driving force behind play,” says Paul, Year 3 Class Teacher and PSHE Curriculum Leader for Primary. “It is what motivates children to explore and learn new things. As educators, we can foster curiosity by asking open-ended questions, encouraging children to share their ideas, and providing them with opportunities to investigate and experiment.”


“When children have choices about what they want to play and how they want to play, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated,” he adds. “We can give children choices by offering them a variety of materials and activities to choose from, and by allowing them to direct their own learning.”

“Exploration is also essential for learning. Play-based learning provides children with opportunities to explore their world and to learn at their own pace. And when children have a purpose for their play, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated. We can give children purpose by providing them with real-world problems to solve, and by encouraging them to use their imaginations to create new things.”

Developing essential skills through play-based learning

Play-based learning is a powerful approach to education that can help children to develop their cognitive, social-emotional, and physical skills. By incorporating curiosity, choice, exploration, and purpose into play-based learning activities, we can help children to learn and grow in the best possible way.

Esther, who was Early Years Team Leader and Innovation Leader from 2020 to 2022, was a driving force behind the introduction of a playful pedagogy at BSB from Early years through to Upper Primary.

“Playful pedagogy is at the heartbeat of our approach across our Early Years provision at BSB,” she says. “It is through play that we observe lifelong 21st Century skills being observed and facilitated. We see how ‘play,’ which can often be misunderstood, encourages children to experience learning through trial and error, without fear of failing, or pressure to adhere to adult-imposed expectations.”


“Playful learning can offer children an ideal opportunity to practise and master skills they have been taught, learn from each other and most importantly, direct their own learning,” she adds. “It is this agency that evokes creativity and a curious mind which we know is the superpower of the future.”

“It is here, that in recent years we have trialled a playful pedagogy beyond the Early Years Foundation Stage. This has meant flipping the way we look at curriculum with teachers across Primary.”

Nurturing the critical thinkers of the future

There is extensive research, like that conducted by the Lego Foundation, to support the notion of building future engineers and problem solvers and preparing the next generation for the future. For example, 94% of businesses say they expect people to learn new skills on the job (as recently as 2018, only 65% said the same).

The skills they most want to see are critical thinking, problem-solving, active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, creativity, and flexibility. Importantly, these are intricately linked to the five super skills children develop naturally when they learn through play.

“We don’t have time to waste: the Education Commission reports that 40% of employers say they’re already struggling to find people with those skills,” Esther says. “Children won’t develop those skills if they’re just repeating facts at school. But by learning through play – in school and out – they can become adaptable, creative learners.”

It is for this reason that we at BSB continue to think innovatively about our role in shaping what our future generation needs to equip them in tackling and dealing with an ever-changing world.

The world is changing at a rapid pace. In this scenario, if we simply teach our children what we already know, we will fall short. That is why BSB begins nurturing the engineers and innovators of tomorrow today, and why BSB Futures delivers a comprehensive three goal approach for student development, which prepares our students for the challenges ahead.

For more on our award-winning BSB Futures careers programme, click here.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about the amazing work being done in Lower and Upper Primary at BSB.

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