I hope that our Arlington Kindergarten and Primary campus is seen to offer a place of calm and security to all of our children as they settle into their classes this year.

At a time when many people in our community are enduring harrowing and alarming experiences, more than ever we want our children to have recourse to the world of serenity and delight that is available to them through their imaginations; an accessible world that they carry with them, regardless of where they are and what is happening around them.

Imagination offers much more than escape from day-to-day worries. At Preshil there is a well-understood connection between imagination, play, conceptual understandings and philosophy, each one offering an entry point into the abstract world of ideas. Genuine creativity, problem-solving, reason, curiosity and big ideas are all interconnected and available to children from their earliest years.

Too often imagination and play are seen as childish, belonging only to that delightful world of unicorns and fairytales and, while we want children to have access to these imaginary worlds, the preservation and cultivation of imagination into adulthood is a very serious objective.

At Arlington we have a team of teachers who are now specialists in leading ‘conceptual play’, where they take an active and carefully planned role in setting up a ‘play world’ with the children where problems are identified and require solutions. This play is especially effective in teaching STEM concepts. It deliberately engages the children in complex ideas, collaborative discussions, role plays and direct instruction.

Playing with ideas is equally important in philosophy, and confident playfulness is a powerful tool. In secondary school students are presented with scenarios which require ethical decisions, confronting moral dilemmas, taking up a position and using abstract concepts such as logic to defend that position. This is child’s play for students who are familiar with imaginary, make-believe worlds.

In their first two days back at school all the teachers at Arlington, including our Kindergarten and specialist teachers, completed the rigorous PYP advanced training in Concept Based Learning, in which they are trained to teach the children significant ideas through conceptually driven inquiry. Led by Cressida and an IB Educator, Rachel Poff, this was another step to ensuring all our teachers are supported to becoming highly qualified PYP experts.

Concept-based learning is what really sets the IB apart from the factory model of learning, which consists of delivery of the information, practice, then test the class on their recall; grade them, rank them and repeat. Information memorising and recall, while they form the basic thinking skills, give children no grounding for the essential higher-order thinking of analysis, evaluation and creation of new ideas and solutions, whereas conceptual understandings are transferable and allow children to build on their understandings across disciplines and areas of interest.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” according to Albert Einstein. More than ever our children need access to the higher order thinking skills that allow them to think their own thoughts, make their own judgements and work with others to imagine the world they want to evolve – and solve the problems that stand in their way.