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Implementing and Assessing Loose Parts to Meet State Standards

November 4th, 2021 | 2 min. read

By Jaimee Council

The use of loose parts is a mindset that supports invention, promotes imagination, inspires innovation, instills problem-solving skills, and builds confidence. But how can teachers use open-ended, loose-parts learning and still ensure that children are meeting state standards and learning what they need to? Tricia Rosengarten, PhD—co-author of Loose Parts Learning in K-3 Classrooms— shares some insight into connecting the limitless possibilities of loose parts learning back to state standards. Get the book to discover more rich advice for meeting standards through loose parts learning, including specific activities in each of the STREAM disciplines!

Greetings. My name is Dr. Tricia Rosengarten. Thanks so much for taking time to watch my video. My goal is to provide just a few basic tips on how you could use loose parts in your classroom and school settings. Loose parts are often just associated with play— but they can be such a vital component to learning. Being able to build and create with natural, recycled, and other materials can be so empowering to our students. 

Starting Small with Loose-Parts Learning

So first, how do you start? Take some time to think about your educational environment. Where could you set up a space? Do you have an area in your classroom? Do you have access to a space outside? Is there possibly a spot in the library, the rec center, or is there an extra classroom that you could use? 

Now think of content or an activity where you and your students could use loose parts. Maybe it is a reading activity, a science experiment, or maybe you want to tackle a math concept.

Next, assess what you need. Use of loose parts can create far more opportunities for engagement than just static materials and environment. So consider what materials you can use to create that impactful learning opportunity. What do you already have? What could you easily gather and who could possibly help?

I want to give you some advice which is to start small so you're not overwhelmed. Loose parts are easy to find and obtain. So I promise you, your collection will grow in no time. 

Implementing and Assessing Loose Parts to Meet Standards

Finally, how do you implement and assess? Use of loose parts can provide a playful, but impactful, standards-based approach. Some questions you should ask yourself: Are you going to provide the students with a problem to solve? What standard or standards do you want to accomplish? How will you assess that learning using the loose parts? 

Here's a very, very simple example based on a few items I found in my yard. One of the second grade math standards is to measure and estimate links in standard units. So gather some loose parts with your students and help them measure. You could gather sticks, rocks, ropes, acorns, and even pieces of cardboard. Have the measuring tools available so that you can establish the lengths and measurements of all the loose parts that you want to use. Then allow students to use these parts to measure both inside and outside.

Students have so much fun using loose parts to measure and count anything and everything! An assessment idea is to then have the students record estimates and measurements on a chart. For example, when we measure— this stick is 12 inches or a foot, this flower is six inches, this acorn is one inch, and this rock is three inches. So if we look at my book—Loose Parts Learning in K-3 Classrooms—we could measure to find out that one flower, one rock, and one acorn equals the measurement of this book. So you do the math. 

I encourage you to check out the book, and any information you can find on loose parts. Cheers to lose-parts learning! Thanks!

Author(s)Carla Gull, Suzanne Goldstein, Tricia Rosengarten

Jaimee Council

A graduate of Appalachian State University with B.S. in Communication - Electronic Media and Broadcasting, Jaimee Council served a content strategy team lead for Gryphon House and Kaplan Early Learning Company from 2021-2022. Her talents include writing, photography, video production, audio production, blog management, website content management, social media management, some design, and data analytics for websites, social media, and customer relationship databases.