I just finished reading the book Play by Stuart Brown, a medical doctor and university professor who has made a living of studying play. It’s the choice for our next Diegueño Book Club, a new tradition at our school this year, and one that has seen parents and teachers come together to share laughter, ideas, and good conversation about learning, school, and growing up. Play will be a nice addition to our library, and promises some great material to discuss.
Brown’s premise is that play is valuable, and even necessary, and has value well beyond helping us feel good in the moment. As an educator, I found much of the book a nice reminder of how important it is to bring balance to the work we do at school. About halfway through Play he states something great teacher know from experience: “Learning itself is enhanced by play.” That phrase rings true to me, and I see examples of it every day at Diegueño.
I see play in science classes, when students hop in displacement barrels, or build cranes and catapults.
I see play in theater, when students design and create puppets, and then climb behind the puppet theater to put on a show for their peers.
I see play in computer programming classes, when I see students coding. And I see the pride they bring to their work when they cajole me to sit down and play a video game they’ve designed. …and laugh when I make a blunder and see the words GAME OVER on the screen.
As a person who spends his days with about a thousand 7th and 8th graders, I also see the benefits of play as a social action. The tweens and teens who make up Diegueño’s student body need opportunities to stretch who they are in safe ways, and play, in its many forms, supports that.
I know that when our Diegueño Book Club meets on May 19th, starting in the quad to play before we sit down and talk about the book, one example of the value I see in play will come from our recent school Spirit Day.
At Spirit Day our entire student body, as well as almost all our staff, put on either blue or gold t-shirts, designed with a Cougar Pride image by some student artists, and spent the afternoon playing. ASB designed a dozen events, including tossing horseshoes, tug of war, and “chariot racing.” The smiles, the teamwork, and the sense of community was profound, and not only did the day bring us closer together as a school, it provided students and teachers an opportunity to laugh and play together.
I’m looking forward to talking about Play with the teachers and parents (and any students) who come to the Diegueño Book Club next month. Just as much, I’m committed to doing my best to bring that sense of play to my work every day.
The Diegueño Book Club will meet in the grassy area by the flagpole in the heart of Diegueño’s campus on May 19th from 5:00-6:30 PM. Wear comfortable clothes; we’ll be talking, laughing, and playing!