Day 100 (of 187) Play! #GSPD2019
I have some particular bias towards the need for more unstructured play. I’m not sure if it’s correlation or causation but the “rise” in anxiety (or better awareness and recognition of anxiety) is in part due to the over-scheduling of lives. Structure and predictability is important, but being able to adjust and cope with un-structure is also vital. So often, play-dates are organized. School is structured. After school? Well, I used to “joke” that kids could either play soccer or take karate – because it seemed that every kid I was working with had very busy lives. Every hour seemed accounted for.
It’s why I’ve sometimes scheduled “boredom breaks” and while some people like to say “if kids tell me they’re bored, I’ll give them something to do” my own kids hate my reaction: “you’re lucky. I wish I was bored. Enjoy it.”
It’s why I loved the brain child of Scott and Tim Bedley @bedleybros @scotteach @tbed63 the Global School Play Day www.globalschoolplayday @GSplayday gibing the permission and encouragement to let students explore unstructured play. Their caveat: no batteries or electronics (I’ll bend this rule when I know we are using some great collaboration electronic games) because we want some face to face interactions. Humans are social creatures. Play is an important self regulation strategy.
Play is also a powerful learning strategy. And here is where traditionalists who yearn for the “good old days” of provincial examinations when we could cut up to 50% of the grade 8 cohort out of school because test taking and memorization were the key ways to see if “learning” happened, often speak out. The brain makes deeper connections when there is an element of social play than when the emphasis is on read-memorize-regurgitate (spelling quizzes and chapter tests et al are great reinforcers on valuing short term recall over authentic understanding and learning) But elements of play can be engaging – even for factoids – that’s why trivial pursuit, jeopardy, who wants to be a millionaire, the weakest link etc etc are popular games on TV and even in the classroom!
I’ve even shared (and explored) one of the more complex elements of “play” that of: Deep Play. Complex because in a very structured school environment where the bell is the thing, Deep Play requires more than 45 minutes with an ambiguous end time (can’t be a time or a bell – just has to “be”) with an awareness that minutes 20-40 will have different elements of “let’s end this” that have to be pushed through (this is the rigor I like!) as kids work through “boredom” (as they are so/too often told what to do and for how long) and conflict (which are so/too often intervened with by adults – admittedly sometimes necessary, but ofttimes and opportunity for non-curricular learning).
Play also helps blur the distinction that I usually push: consuming or creating – it’s a bit of both….and it focuses instead on some of the key competencies: communicating (taking turns, teaching) along with personal and social awareness (waiting, playing something someone else wants to play) and of course thinking – both critically and creatively because some of the games….have winners and losers – and as we say in chess, you have to lose in order to win….later – in play, you learn by losing (even though it feels sucky at time) and I remember a talented chess player who plateaued because he liked winning and would only play against people he knew he could beat (while some of us were experimenting with 4 board games – 2 sets vs 2 sets and the ability to sacrifice a king….)
But if it was always “compete to win” then the play element would be gone – and as much as I like to win, I never mind losing to a new move/risk – because I know those can backfire just as easily and taking a risk is…risky. Fortunately play is “low risk” because even if you sink my battleship this time….I will get yours eventually… and this is a flexible mindset that is helpful in so much of “real life”.
I was lucky enough to get to asynchronously know the Bedleys through some twitter and other social media interactions and have been doing the Global School Play Day since the first one in 2015. And the best part is that “play” doesn’t just have to happen on the first Wednesday of February…it can happen any day. I even have shifted those “celebration days” that too often had movies and behavioural management issues into game-days (or afternoons or or or) and use those as times to bring in batteries and electronics – as long as they are shareable!
But it’s a great time to practice what we aren’t always good at: letting go of the structure and routine and embracing the unstructured flow that play can enable. We should be doing more of this…..! Play is awesome! 😎