It’s a cheesy idea in many ways: practice compassion. pay it forward. Do unto others. It seems nice, but in a society where trust has been broken and kindness can be seen as weakness – whether that is a prison or school or work or a city – it can be hard to practice.
However, if there IS an immediate reward – a points system that helps people keep score of their kindness and gives them some immediate positive return – then it makes more sense for people to engage and feed into the compassion system.
Similar programs like dog training and tutoring provide a similar immediate benefit – the trainer is rewarded for training others.
Of course there are long-term personal benefits – less mental stress, larger social network, etc. – but humans typically work for the “right now” and being able to demonstrate the “right now” benefits can be pretty powerful.
This is a great example of how even “country kids” – all of these kids come from communities surrounded by farmland and agriculture – enjoy and appreciate hands-on experiences and learning about gardening and the natural environment.
About 70 classmates participated Thursday in the Washington State University Skagit County Extension Master Gardener’s “Discovery In Gardening — Is Terrific” (DIG-IT) youth education program.
“It introduces kids to how the garden works, from the growth of the plants to how it arrives in your kitchen and what to do with the scraps,” said Master Gardener Chuck Howell.
The program was started in 2002 by two teachers, Master Gardener Gail Messett said.
The format of the program has changed over the years, Messett said, but the goal has remained the same: Get kids outside and into the garden.
“They’re learning respect for insects and bees and flowers,” Messet said. “I think they go home pretty awestruck, actually.”
Play IS a form of learning and experimentation, so it’s nice to see a school try to incorporate this very basic, very elemental learning process into the heart of their education system.
How can we make school a joyful experience without sacrificing rigor? What’s the best way to measure true learning? What’s the purpose of school? The founders and teachers at the PlayMaker School (watch the PBS Newshour report by April Brown), an all-game based school in Los Angeles, are asking those big, abstract questions that all teachers grapple with. And they’re trying to find their own answers through their constantly morphing, complex experiment.
Here are their thoughts about these issues, in their own words, from extended answers to the PBS NewsHour report. How can teachers, parents, and administrators these ideologies to existing public schools?
Environmental Psychology and conservationists have, for awhile now, been advocating the importance of letting children get out and play in and with nature to educate them on the value of preserving their environment and benefiting from natural surroundings. It’s nice to see pediatricians also start to embrace and advocate for the need for everyone, including children, get outside and get dirty.
Dr. Lawrence Rosen writes that throughout his practice, seeing children on a daily basis, “I’m often reminded of Winslow Homer’s 1872 painting, “Snap the Whip,” depicting boys playing with abandon in a field outside their rural schoolhouse.”
So eloquently portrayed is the simplicity of another time, kids out in the natural world for no other purpose than to play, freely and without a care in the world.Contrast this with contemporary schoolyards with their meticulously designed jungle gyms and artificial surfacing, often empty throughout the day as more and more schools abolish recess or replace free play with highly structured, adult-supervised activities. I’ve realized, as I see increasingly anxious and depressed children come to my office looking for guidance, that the answers often lie not in my prescription pad but outside my window.
One very recent publication from Dr. Kirsten Beyer and associates at the Medical College of Wisconsin described the influence of green space on mental health outcomes, concluding that “higher levels of neighborhood green space were associated with significantly lower levels of symptomology for depression, anxiety and stress” and that “’greening’ could be a potential population mental health improvement strategy in the United States.”
In the stuffy, little gymnasium at Richard Kluge Elementary in Milwaukee, 16 boys and girls are stretching, jumping and marching to music.
Two years ago, the school had no gym, art or music classes due to budget cuts. But now, Kluge students get a so-called “special” class three days a week.
Milwaukee Public Schools is one of several school systems across the country — including Los Angeles, San Diego and Nashville, Tenn. — that are re-investing in subjects like art and physical education. The Milwaukee school district is hiring new specialty teachers with the hope of attracting more families and boosting academic achievement.Music teacher Angie Dvorak is one of the teachers that’s been effected. Last year, Dvorak was part time and traveled between schools. This year, she’s stays at Kluge all day, teaching music upstairs from the school’s gymnasium.
Dvorak says she’s seen a different in her students: “I get to have them for class more frequently, which is awesome because their music skills are shooting through the roof this year.”
This is a nice study that looks at the value for kids, but unstructured creative and/or play time is important for adults AND kids.
German psychologists find people who were allowed to play freely as children have greater social success as adults.
There has been plenty of hand-wringing in recent years about the “overscheduled child.” With after-school hours increasingly dominated by piano lessons, soccer practice, and countless other planned activities, many of us have a nagging sense that kids are missing out on something important if they have no time for unstructured play.New research from Germany suggests these fears are justified. It finds people who recall having plenty of free time during childhood enjoy high levels of social success as adults.
A team of three psychologists from the University of Hildesheim, led by Werner Greve, conducted a survey of 134 people. Participants were presented with a list of seven statements and reported the degree to which they conformed with their own childhood experiences that is, ages three to 10.
Nice to see toys being introduced that work with already existing toys (sticks!), and encourages kids to go find their own sticks and go play in nature.
As an inductee to the National Toy Hall of Fame, the stick doesn’t need much improving as a classic toy. For as long as there have been children and sticks, sticks have served as a versatile toy in outdoor play. But connecting sticks takes a bit of ingenuity.
Enter Christina Kazakia, a design student with a mission. As she explains, “I designed these flexible silicone connectors as part of my graduate thesis in Industrial Design at the Rhode Island School of Design. My goal was to create prompts to engage children with their surrounding natural environment.” Called Stick-lets™, these connectors help small children build big structures like forts, teepees, lean-tos, or other creations.
We’re too late to join Elisabeth Stone on her group session she had back in February, but I still loved this idea of making a 21 day challenge to get outside!
21 Days in the Woods is a connection project to get you and your family out in the woods once a day for 21 days. It is well-structured and adaptable to any age range. When you purchase your immediate download of the workbook, you can choose to work through it now or later
Now that we’re officially into fall, with the weather getting colder and wetter by the day, and all back to school or indoors,it’s important to remind ourselves of opportunities to get out and play.
Idea is Free Museum and Park Day tomorrow; September 28: over 1500 museums, and national and state parks, are opening up their doors to the public for free!
For some more structured play, there are great art, dance, and play-based programs for little and big kids. One just opened up in Colorado, and definitely understands the value of play:
The Curious About Art program is just one of many preschool arts education programs the South Suburban Parks and Recreation District offers throughout the year. It’s not so much about the final product the kids create, but the journey and experiencing sensory exploration with their parents.
“It will probably look like something you expect an 18-month-old to make, something unrecognizable but still pretty wonderful,” said Vickie Willis, culture and enrichment supervisor for South Suburban.
“Everyone needs to play,” Willis said. “It makes us feel good, it unleashes possibilities in our brain, it makes us think better.”
Aside from encouraging play, the purpose of the classes is to prepare kids for a school environment by getting them socialized to being around other children, as well as developing motor skills.
“It’s to develop the motor skills, and the little ones just want to explore their world so music and art is a good way of doing that,” said Janice Schindler, the culture and enrichment coordinator at Goodson Recreation Center
Seattle has a newly-minted hip-hop program for little kids that also focuses on the value of play and silliness in education:
Mini BREAKS is the original hip-hop dance class (breakin’ or “break dance”) for toddlers and preschoolers.
In this unique class, young students will have fun while they exercise, express themselves, think creatively, build self-esteem, practice respect, learn discipline and make new friends!
Outside of a dance studio, hip-hop culture (including breakin’) is not taught through choreography or 8-counts but more intuitively through interactive demonstration. Mini BREAKS focuses on encouraging young children to be creative and courageous – to come up with their own ideas and be able to express themselves by sharing those ideas with others. All children are artists – Mini BREAKS helps them remain artists as they grow up!
For teachers, it’s time to start thinking about Back-to-School planning. Thankfully this teacher’s got an awesome plan to teach world politics:
Ask any student the following question; would you prefer to start the year with a lecture or playing a game? I’d wager the that nearly all learners would choose to spend their time with the game. As a younger student, I recall only being able to play in class once all of the curriculum was “done”, usually at the end of the school year. Of course, we know that learners of all stripes acquire, apply, synthesize, and communicate knowledge through participation in games and simulations. As a result, there’s a strong case to be made to embed complex critical thinking simulations and games right from the outset of the school year.
I’m currently putting the final touches on all of my lesson plans for the first term of both years of IB Global Politics. Here’s a partial list of the games and simulations the students and I will be playing in the first thirteen weeks: