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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Principal: Play is Non-Negotiable for Elementary Students' Cognitive Development

From Education Dive

By Roger Riddell
August 21, 2018

Dive Brief
  • Tremont Elementary School (New York) Principal Lori Koerner writes for District Administration that elementary schools cannot forsake play in the face of pressure to increase instructional time and meet standards like the Common Core.
  • Koerner writes that 1983's "A Nation at Risk" led to a succession of reform efforts that didn't actually improve educational quality for all children while also leading teachers to question practices and adopt scripted curriculum packages, with recess among the casualties.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests at least 60 minutes of recess for students, she writes, with play helping students develop important social skills and physical abilities — and its value has further been made evident by leading educational countries like Finland.

Dive Insight

The value of play in students' cognitive development — especially in the early grades — can't be understated. Yet it has significantly been scaled back, if not phased out entirely, in recent decades.

It's an issue Sir Ken Robinson tackled in a keynote earlier this year at FETC 2018 in Orlando, lambasting a news report about a school "discovering" the value of play.

“What’s happened to us that we’ve had to rediscover play in children’s lives and the importance of running around and making up games in free, unstructured time?” he asked.

Recent years have seen play's star rise again due to employer demands for more soft skills like communication, collaboration, creative and critical thinking, and empathy. Taking shape as social-emotional learning, much of these demands can ultimately be met with the infusion of play back into curriculum.

And, while policymakers seem to be getting the message, more pressure may be required before a significant rollback occurs on high-stakes assessment practices and other "reforms" that led to the diminishing of play in the school day.

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