Play On…

I cannot believe it was an accident when I encountered Ms. Hall’s interactive obstacle course at Byrd Elementary School just moments after hearing Dr. Peter Gray’s provocative talk on “The Decline of Play.”

Gray, a research professor and author of Free to Learn, asserts that play – free, expressive interaction necessary to learning – has been sacrificed to what he calls a “schoolish view of child development.” Take a look at about 6:50 into the video:

A “schoolish” view. It’s offensive. And he’s right.

He refers to the myth that kids learn best when they learn from adults, period. And he attributes that to a widespread philosophy at work in schools, spreading now deeper beyond the classroom walls into the rest of a child’s world. All decreasing the importance – and availability – of play.

And he says play is necessary to learning. Watch the video, read his book – and agree or disagree.

Having spent 26 years in this field and raising three of my own, I agree without hesitation. Kids learn a great deal when they are free to play, to roam, to explore, to create, to question, to wonder.

Imagine the wash of comfort I experienced when I encountered Karen Hall’s Halloween maze, designed to incorporate creativity, collaboration and kinesthetic strategy into a smorgasbord of what would invariably be seriously fun for Dr. Papert.

Ah yes, I remember. Goochland is different.

I’m reminded of our deep commitment to personalized learning in Goochland. Our pledge to strive for engagement – not entertainment – but the kind of involvement in learning whereby kids become resilient, persistent, and gritty, committed to their work, co-designers of lessons.

Our work to build authentic assessments that are truly formative.

Thank you, Ms Hall.

May fun be “hard” for our students. And let them play on…