Wired for Play

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19th, 2017 by dkerr

So ​I’m currently reading this amazing book titled, The Importance of Being Little,  by Erika Christakis, and I literally cannot put it down. An outstanding educator, leader and friend of mine, Paola Pereira lent it to me after I saw her carrying it around last week, and it’s one of those books that makes you sad as you get closer to the end because you truly hope that it goes on and on forever…you’ve all read books like this I’m sure. Anyway, there is one chapter in particular that has resonated deeply with me, and has got me thinking again about something that I’ve been passionate about since I first stepped into a classroom many years ago….the paramount importance of play in the lives of our children. 

 

Christakis puts it beautifully at the end of the chapter by suggesting that as educators, “we should do our best to get out of young children’s way as much as possible to let them draw their own conclusions about how the world does and doesn’t work. A reinvigorated play habitat is just the place for this”… I love that! The idea of getting out of children’s way is something that can be difficult for us as educators I know, and giving up the reigns can often be a struggle as we do our best to “teach” our kids. That said, it’s probably the biggest gift that we can give as educators to all of our students, regardless of how old they are…unstructured play, trial and error learning, and the incorporation of the natural world often leads to the beauty of that serendipitous learning that we’ve all seen in our students at some point or another. It makes me wonder why we tend to get further and further away from this approach to learning as the students move up in grades, and as traditional educational models continue to hang on by their fangs. 

 

It’s not just kids though, as adults we are guilty, I think, of losing that love of play as we grow up and “mature”, but I’m here to tell you that this is not a good thing for us or for our kids. I wrote a blog post just over five years ago that speaks to this, and I’d like to share it again because I believe it’s worth repeating. Think about how playful you are in your own lives these days, and how much you try to inspire this in the lives of your students…I bet there are improvements that we all can make, regardless of what grade you teach, to bring the idea of play more to the forefront of your day to day experiences with kids. Here’s a piece from that older post…

 

Last week, I watched kids playing tag, cops and robbers, hopscotch and hide and seek, not to mention all the great games of soccer and basketball and football where kids were pretending to be their favorite players from their favorite teams. I saw kids jumping in puddles and playing rock, paper, scissors, and every single one of them was smiling, free, and completely engaged. I started to wonder why as adults we don’t play more together? I thought about how maybe it’s actually the kids who’ve really got it right, and how maybe it’s time for us as educators to let the kids teach us an important lesson for once. Then I thought about the times in my life when I’m the happiest and it occurred to me that it’s when I’m playing. Either playing soccer with my boy, or dolls or moms and dads with my girl, or when I’m out for a run just letting my imagination and that dreamy state of mind take over. I also thought about the best teachers that I’ve ever had in my life and it struck me that it was the ones who played with us as students. The teachers who found ways to bring “play” into the classrooms, and the ones who found time to incorporate “play” into their lessons…..and the ones were out on the field at recess throwing footballs and playing horse. The teachers who hadn’t lost their inner child, and who knew the importance of having fun like a kid.

 

I’m not really sure when “play” becomes immature, irresponsible, or un-cool in the minds of most adults but I think it’s time to take “play” more seriously. I think most of us tend to get saddled with the seriousness of work, and paying the bills, and the responsibility that we have to ourselves, our students, and our own kids…….and I think it’s the wrong approach. I think that finding time to play may just be one of the most important things that we can do as adults. I think it will make us better educators, better mentors, better colleagues, and better parents. Like balance, finding time to play in your life is hard, and maybe something that you haven’t put as a priority of late. I guess I’m asking you all this week to think about how much you play with your students throughout the school day, and how much time you set aside in your own lives to escape like those kids on the playground…….it might just change your life for the better.

 

Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be playful with our kids and good to each other!

 

 

Quote of the Week –

The opposite of play is not work, it’s depression! – Stuart Brown

 

 

Great TED Talks on the Importance of Play – (watch these)

http://www.ted.com/talks/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital

http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_brown_on_creativity_and_play

http://www.ted.com/talks/takaharu_tezuka_the_best_kindergarten_you_ve_ever_seen

http://www.ted.com/talks/charlie_todd_the_shared_experience_of_absurdity

http://www.ted.com/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids
Interesting Articles –

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1987/03/the-importance-of-play/305129/

http://www.playengland.org.uk/about-us/why-play-is-important/

https://www.education.com/reference/article/importance-play–social-emotional/

https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/feb/27/play-education-creative-learning-teachers-schools

http://www.naeyc.org/play

Students At The Helm

Posted in Uncategorized on March 5th, 2017 by dkerr

So we have been spending a lot of time and energy of late finding ways to inspire our students to lead their own learning. It’s been a true passion of ours as a school over the past few years honestly, to break out of the traditional model of education, and to come up with programs, units, assessments, structures and spaces that are conducive to putting our students at the helm…and it’s been very exciting. I have to be honest though, this change in mindset, curriculum, and approach takes a great deal of planning, and time, and commitment, but I’m happy to say that things are finally starting to stick around here.

 

I took a casual walk around the school last Friday morning just to see what I could see, and in many ways I was inspired by what I saw…here are few things that stood out for me, and a few examples of how students across our grade levels are starting to take ownership of their education, and how teachers are there as mentors and facilitators…

 

  • A 7th grade social studies class all becoming entrepreneurs, working on their sustainable entrepreneurial projects, trying to create small businesses that will help raise money for Earthquake victims on the coast. A transdisciplinary unit written in partnership with our 11th grade economics classes. 
  • Our GIN (Global Issues Network) students putting the finishing touches on their projects that they are about to showcase in Panama next week at the regional conference (Gender Equality, Reduced Inequalities, and Climate Change). Student inspired projects that have affected local change in our community. 
  • Students working through the design cycle in our Middle School Design Technology class and Maker Space, finding solutions to the question, “How can we make our school and community better?” Empathizing, ideating, and prototyping
  • A 4th grade class of kids sharing passion/inspiration project ideas that they will showcase at our next Inspiration Project morning on March 17th for our community. These projects have taken the place of traditional homework in our upper elementary grades, and have truly inspired our kids to bring their passions to life in any way, shape, or form
  • Grade 1 classes reflecting on their Friday morning PYP assembly, where they took on the role of student environmentalists, looking critically at how we can reduce our food waste at school, our use of plants around campus to protect animal life, how we can use our resources (water and electricity) more efficiently…they presented fantastic solutions that will make our campus a greener, more environmentally friendly space for all of us
  • Our Life Skills class working behind the scenes to grow their Sweet Morning Charities business, which supports a local charity focused on children with Down Syndrome…researching sustainable coffee growers, training High School and Middle School student volunteers, updating inventory, and modeling a true entrepreneurial spirit
Anyway, what I noticed more than anything was the shift that has happened with our students and teachers all across our school…less direct teacher instruction, more authentic questioning from kids, and ultimately, more engaged, curious, and thoughtful students really looking for ways to lead their learning, and to connect this learning to relevant, real life situations and problems. Like I said, we’ve done a lot of work in this area lately, bringing in Suzie Boss to help us with our PBL (Project Based Learning) journey, digging deep into the Design Thinking model, looking for ways to inspire an Entrepreneurial spirit in our students, thinking critically about how to best use technology to inspire student learning, and writing curriculum that breaks down the traditional, stand alone subject specific approach, and brings cross curricular standards together with an eye on affecting sustainable change in our local community…all good.
I know this isn’t really ground breaking stuff, as many fantastic schools around the world have been doing amazing things in this regard for a while now, but for us, it’s a celebration. I feel like we have just scratched the surface of what’s possible, but we have momentum and passion on our side…and that’s a great start. Keep up the outstanding work everyone and feel empowered to go even deeper. There’s nothing more important that you can do as an educator than to let our students take the helm. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the week…

School can be a torture or an instrument of inspiration – Higgins and Dolva

 

 

Fun and Inspiring Videos –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1K2jdjLhbo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7bJR3yu1G4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnzCGNnU_WM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6QuYiY1EJg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKBb_2wn-i0

 

 

Interesting Articles –

http://www.ed.ac.uk/staff/teaching-matters/features/let-students-lead-their-learning

http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/using-technology-help-students-lead-learning/
http://www.upworthy.com/students-have-designed-an-amazing-new-afterlife-for-our-leftover-coffee-grounds?c=fea

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/10/what-happens-when-students-control-their-own-education/381828/

 

 

Great Websites –

https://www.bie.org/about/what_pbl

http://www.aeseducation.com/blog/2015/05/entrepreneurship-lesson-plans

https://www.bizworld.org/

https://haas.berkeley.edu/businessacademy/middle-school/

http://www.entre-ed.org/teacher-classroom-resources/