by Kat Griffith

     (Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part “Community Perspective” Griffith has written about a proposed competency-based, play-based charter school at Barlow Park Elementary. Last week’s installment focused on competence-based education. This  week’s covers the play-based component of the proposed charter school.)

     Teachers note that many lessons children have traditionally learned through free play — negotiating with peers, using their bodies in varied ways, manipulating objects and materials — have given way to adult-directed and screen-based activities.

     The result: children who struggle to set their own goals, organize themselves, resolve conflicts independently, or use their bodies with skill, confidence and awareness. These realities hold true even for many children who are able to handle conventional academics, suggesting that they may benefit just as much from a play-based school as those who are struggling.

     “All students, regardless of academic ability, benefit from the different types of indoor and outdoor play we plan to infuse in our school,” said Tammy Fox, Barlow Park/Journey literacy coach.  “Play helps foster creativity, innovation, positive social/emotional skills and engagement with the learning process. It is how children are built to learn.”

     But it isn’t just about having fun. Play doesn’t replace all academic time, it just enhances it. There is also considerable intention built into the time allotted for play, based on reams of research on how kids learn.

     Barlow Park Elementary first-grade teacher Mary Preston describes an example. She is  experimenting with adding writing to her first-grade classroom play time. Students choose a notepad or journal to bring along with them while playing in small groups.

     Throughout the play time, students stop to write/draw about what they are creating, discussing or thinking. “Students are drawing pictures, writing goals, writing sentences, making lists, and evaluating their play-time adventures. They’re excited to share what they’ve written with classmates and to ask and answer questions.” ...

     Kat Griffith is a Ripon High School Spanish teacher.

To read the entire column, see the June 20, 2019 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.