(this was posted to a parent section in October, 2018)
When you think about fond memories of your childhood, which do you value most? Was it the times you spent going to soccer matches on Saturday mornings? How about those after-school academy lessons? Monday morning swim meets? Probably not. Don't get me wrong, there's some enjoyment and skill development to be found in these. However, for me, it was those times upon dismissal of traditional schooling when the neighborhood turned into my playground.
We rode bikes. We played hockey in the streets. We rode skateboards and learned how to build stuff like ramps from scrap wood. We caught fish. And with these activities, we got dirty, cut and scraped-up in the process. I would spend hours, upon hours in play. Yes, playing without adult supervision. Playing with kids older and younger than me.
However, play, or the lack thereof, has become one of my greatest worries now as a parent. How often does my son get to, well, ... play? The older he gets, the less this becomes so, and yes, I'm guilty of not allowing for enough experiences where he can do just that.
In my 14+ years of teaching, one thing that has become particularly salient is, when given the time and freedom to engage in self-directed learning, kids will do AMAZING things! Yet, why do many schools around the globe continue to reduce play times, add more curricula, increase the amount of assessments, homework and more?
Is the picture all doom and gloom for our next generation?
Thankfully not. Well, at least if your son or daughter is in Studio 5. It's a place that strongly values student agency through self-directed learning.
Luckily for you, our philosophies are not "pie-in-the-sky" ideals. Being educators, we value research, empirical evidence and trending data. This is where Peter Gray's work comes in, weighing in as an "expert" on the subject of self-directed learning.
Gray posits that there are six conditions that optimise children’s ability to educate themselves:
He sums these up visually here:
Being reflective on trying to establish a culture of self-directed learning, here's how I think we rate on Gray's six fundamentals. Yes, we try to put as much as possible to put the learners in the driver's seat, yet we could do much better at point two. Sure, we do quite well at point three, are mostly good at four (some days better than others), provide opportunities for five, and are excelling in point six.
Play, schmay ... What do the standardized test results say?!
In case you're not sold on the value in PLAY (well, at least yet), Gray's also led an excellent TED Talk on the very subject and the problems that have arisen over time since robbing children of this key aspect in human (mammal) development.
What are your thoughts on PLAY? Should it be valued in schools? Why/why not? Did you value it in your childhood? Feel free to post your thoughts below!
A special shout-out to my colleague, Taryn, for illuminating me on Peter Gray's work (and for being such an inspiring and eloquent advocate of the work we do).
Original post comments (before moving this post):