anthropology · behavior · children · health · learning · play · school

How schools ruined recess — and four things needed to fix it – The Washington Post

I am aghast at how much structure and lack of free play is out there for kids, “for their safety.”

What if we let children fully move their bodies during recess time, let them get dirty, and even test out new theories? What would recess look like then?

The closest I found to doing just that was the Swanson School in Auckland, New Zealand. I had heard of its nonconventional, yet successful approach to recess through social media and was instantly intrigued. Since I was already going to be in New Zealand for TimberNook, I decided to meet Swanson’s principal, Bruce McLachlan, in person.

We spent a good hour talking over coffee about his now-famous recess. His recess has gotten international attention, because he did something radical: he got rid of the rules. And guess what? When the rules left, so did their “behavior issues.” He saw more independence, improved creativity, healthy risk-taking, less falling, better coordination, and improved attention in the classroom.

There were four main ways he changed his recess in order to see these improvements. Four things that I happen to successfully use in my program as well to enhance child development and inspire creativity. Think of them as a recipe.

Read the 4 things at How schools ruined recess — and four things needed to fix it – The Washington Post.

I’ll wait…

Ok, so now that you’ve read them (and hopefully the full article later), I totally agree and feel like all of those are missing, but especially space and time. Creating playful spaces and allowing that boredom and downtime is crucial.

 

behavior · community · creativity · work

Organize an Office Recess and Create Your Own Game | Play on GOOD

Yes! I’m in!

When you think of our everyday endeavors and going through life as adults, we’re not really encouraged to be playful. But when we play games, we relax and become more receptive and less judgmental. Games trigger our creative juices—through solving problems, navigating complex systems and managing resources. They present us with hard problems; like solving a puzzle or defeating a boss. As players we need to be creative and come up with good ideas to solve those problems. They make us more playful in our way of being and experiencing life. Best of all, games bring us together. Go ahead, organize an office recess and create your own game—and use the toolkit at the link to help get you started.

sign up and find out more at Organize an Office Recess and Create Your Own Game | Play on GOOD.

anthropology · brain · children · education · health · learning · mental health

Attention Disorder or Not, Children Prescribed Pills to Help in School – NYTimes.com

English: Adderall
Doctor’s are prescribing Aderall to kids without ADHD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I find this article in today’s New York Times extremely disturbing:

When Dr. Michael Anderson hears about his low-income patients struggling in elementary school, he usually gives them a taste of some powerful medicine: Adderall.

The pills boost focus and impulse control in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although A.D.H.D is the diagnosis Dr. Anderson makes, he calls the disorder “made up” and “an excuse” to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children’s true ill — poor academic performance in inadequate schools.

“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

via Attention Disorder or Not, Children Prescribed Pills to Help in School – NYTimes.com.

Sadly the doctor is correct that many schools refuse to change a child’s environment to improve academic success, namely that they are cutting out activities like recess and P.E. in order to make more time for studying.

However, P.E., recess, and just getting outside for a quick breath of fresh air have all shown to also be extremely effective ways to improve attention and academic success. Yet because these activities are getting cut out of the school day, doctor’s feel like they must prescribe these incredibly strong, brain-chemistry changing medications to growing brains, many of these drugs with strong side effects .

I have no problem with using these drugs for what they were originally intended for, but prescribing them basically as “performance-enhancing” drugs just seems unethical to me. We frown upon athletes and grown-ups in the business world from taking speed and other kinds of drugs that are supposed to improve performance (other than coffee of course, that seems pretty much like a must-have for adults), but it’s okay for students so they can do well in elementary and middle school? To put in mildly, yuck!

I hope other people will be as outraged as I am and stand up for a child’s right to recess and P.E., and actually NOT studying from time to time, rather than encouraging giving them strong medications in order to perform well on standardized tests.

 

behavior · children · cognition · education · happiness · health · play · school

Play time vital for learning

Combination playground equipment (plastic)
Playground doesn’t need to be fancy to be effective (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we head back into the academic school year, a lot of people are focused on education and making sure students get the best possible opportunity to learn and thrive. Here’s one easy way to support that: give them space and time for play!

Numerous academic studies [sources stored in a weird place, will update soon] on school-aged kids have demonstrated that recess time is valuable for learning and aids in the overall learning process. But I think it can be more powerful to hear how valuable it is from someone who actually lives with the results of life with more or less recess; the teachers.

From the Sydney Morning Herald, educator Susanne North writes about the values of recess from an education viewpoint:

Apart from being a fun activity, it is widely recognised that play is one of the most important ways in which brain development occurs in children.

Sadly, in some schools valuable recess and lunch time has been reduced in favour of more rigorous academic pursuit within the classroom. In other schools, running or ball games have been banned due to a perceived high injury risk factor.

As many families now choose structured and adult-directed play activities after school or on weekends, the school playground becomes one of a few outlets where children can engage in free outdoor play with their peers. More than 28 hours a week, often spent solitarily, are devoted to computers, mobile phones, television and other electronic devices. Considering that as much as 25 per cent of time spent at school is playground time, we need to rethink the benefits of play at school.

Conversely, a lack of play can result in challenging behaviour and negative performances in the classroom, according to an American educational psychologist, Anthony Pellegrini.

Also, playgrounds that lack play stimuli become spaces where children often wander around aimlessly, become frustrated and bully other children. Not many schools can afford expensive playground equipment, but the good news is that this is not needed anyway.

Professor Anita Bundy, from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Sydney University, has launched a large-scale study involving 12 primary schools in NSW, introducing simple, recycled play resources during recess, with outstanding results. This included crates, car tyres, foam pool noodles, plastic barrels, tarpaulins, foam cubes and other open-ended materials that lend themselves to creative, imaginary play.

Not only do children become physically more active, they also hone important social skills, build resilience and are encouraged to think creatively.

Read more: Play time vital for children | Sydney Morning Herald

The entire Op-Ed is very strongly written and makes a great case for play, and it’s great to hear it from the teacher’s standpoint, so please read it and share. And be sure to support play time in school, whether it’s by voting, volunteering, donating red rubber balls, or whatever you can do.
children · education · happiness · health · learning · play

Play is a crucial part of learning

Great article from The Atlantic about how squeezing recess and playtime out of education is a really bad idea:

Play is important for the emotional, social, cognitive, and physical development of children. In addition to being critical for general health and a preventative against overweight, play develops life skills for children and communication skills among peers and family members.

But because of over-scheduling, over-supervision, lack of appropriate play environments, and too many entertaining screens many children have less access to play time and play spaces than children in the past.

Children living in poverty experience these barriers and more, according to a recent clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Underprivileged children often have less access to recess and school-based creative arts, music, and physical education programs. Additionally, the socioeconomic stressors on poor families often conspire against parents having the time, energy, or skills to engage in play with their children.

Poor children’s access to outdoor play spaces may be compromised by the safety of their neighborhoods and the decrease in parks and open spaces in urban areas. Children who are unable to play outside tend to spend more time on screen-based activities such as watching TV or playing video games. Excessive screen time takes a huge toll on mental and physical health and academic achievement

Many urban schools have replaced recess and purely recreational after-school activities with academic enrichment activities to help close the academic achievement gaps between lower-income children and their more privileged peers. While improved academics is an important goal, the report emphasizes that the developmental role of play should not be forgotten and the benefits of play should not be traded off in favor of academics.

According to the report, play’s benefits extend to psychological well-being. Play provides an opportunity for a student to shine in areas that are not strictly academic and thus contributes to the child’s personal sense of pride and belonging in her school environment. This has the potential to discourage truancy and encourage children to remain in school to complete their education

Twenty-eight percent of schools with children in the highest poverty levels have no recess at all. This impacts a population of children who already have limited opportunities for creative experiences and social play, especially since research that has shown that physical education periods and recess enhance a child’s readiness for academic pursuits during the school day. They suggest that the elimination of these pace-changing opportunities may in fact be counterproductive for academic success.

More at Recreational Play Can Be Far More Important Than Academics