I've been pleased to discover ever-more articles and books dedicated to topics like reducing homework and giving kids more time to learn through play. Today I share three links: one about ways to make kids happier in the classroom; one about fighting to keep / restore recess in schools; and one about restoring learning through play for kids younger than eight. To me, all of this is part of restoring a joy of learning for everyone's kids. I feel that this is urgent and important.
Jessica Lahey: "If we truly want to cultivate happiness in our homes and schools, we can’t just pay it lip service. We must model behaviors that, according to Dr. Seppala, make us happier, healthier and more productive.... (for example:)
Do nothing. “Taking time off to disconnect and relax focus helps promote kids’ creativity and insights,” Dr. Seppala wrote. “Children need time for idleness, fun and irrelevant interests, and as research shows C.E.O.s currently value creativity higher than any other trait in the incoming workforce, it behooves you to let your kids relax and access their inner inventor.”
Me: I have Jessica Lahey's book The Gift of Failure on my nightstand and have just downloaded the Kindle Sample of The Happiness Track. I like the focus in this article on concrete behaviors that parents and teachers should be modeling if we truly want kids to be happy in school. And I do believe that happier kids will end up being better, more engaged learners.
Heather Shumaker: "Recess replenishes and refreshes young minds. It’s a glimmer of free thought in an otherwise highly structured day, and it’s as important as a good night’s sleep for behavior and learning.
Recess is not a luxury from a bygone time. It is every bit as necessary today for children’s optimal learning. Regular, daily recess for every child must be recognized as a right."
Me: I've just finished reading Heather Shumaker's new book: It's OK to Go Up the Slide, and I highly recommend it to parents and teachers. In promoting the book, she's had articles in various publications. While her advocacy of eliminating elementary school homework resonates a bit more with me than the recess issue, I do think that this is all part of the same problem. We're turing elementary school students into little test-taking robots, instead of the curious learners that they should be. Cutting back on time for recess makes that situation worse and contributes to the obesity epidemic.
Lucy Ward: "A lack of understanding of the value of play is prompting parents and schools alike to reduce it as a priority, says Hanne Rasmussen, head of the LegoFoundation. If parents and governments push children towards numeracy and literacy earlier and earlier, it means they miss out on the early play-based learning that helps to develop creativity, problem-solving and empathy, she says. According to Rasmussen, the evidence for play-based learning has built enormously over the last decade, but parents don’t know about it...
The 29-year-old Lego Foundation, generously funded with a quarter of Lego’s post-tax profits, is beginning to flex its muscles. Where once it quietly dished out cash – and bricks – to lots of small projects, it has set its sights on campaigning for a mindset change in education around the world. “Our contribution to the world is to challenge the status quo by redefining play and reimagining learning,” says the foundation’s mission statement."
Me: This article, being from The Guardian, is about the implications of recent Lego Foundation-funded studies relative to the UK's educational system. But it certainly rang true for me as a parent in the United States, too. I would also like to see a mindset change in education for younger kids that restores the emphasis on play, and reduces the push to ever-more academic content at ever-younger ages. Lego, being a tiny bit more profitable an enterprise than my blog, might be able to make a real difference.