The Patchogue-Medford School District on Long Island is piloting the Let Grow Free Play Club -- and boy are they having fun!
The principals, that is. Oh, and so are the kids. They meet before school for mixed-age free play. The adults don't organize the games or wade in. And as Patch.com reports, the administrators can't believe their eyes (boldface, mine):
..."It's amazing to see the benefits that this program has provided our children," said Dr. Michael Hynes, Superintendent of Patchogue-Medford Schools. "Children have the opportunity for self-directed mixed-age play for an hour before school.Kids must be free to play in school."
This takes place once per week for one hour in the fall and spring. It's monitored by the building's faculty and staff, and students of all grades play amongst each other.
In January, Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College, was a featured speaker in Pat-Med and spoke about the benefit of play for children. Dr. Hynes is a large voice in the educational world about the power of play.
"This may have been one of the most amazing experiences in my 28 years in education," said Lori Koerner, Principal of Tremont Elementary. "To watch children across all ages and grade levels come together to play was fascinating to observe! This club is self-directed with minimal interference from the adult advisors. Children were communicating, collaborating, cooperating and learning together."
The program has also manifested in other positive ways across the district. At Bay Elementary, Principal Rui Mendes has instituted a play/recess at the beginning of every school day. From 9:30 a.m. through 10:00 a.m., students engage in play.
"Teachers in the building have agreed that this time of physical activity has allowed for students to be focused and ready to learn at 10 a.m.," said Mendes.
River Principal Dr. Tania Davenport-Dalley saw kids start the fall in smaller groups that expanded and became very inclusive in a quick amount of time.
"I think the program is important in building social skills and teaching students how to navigate each other's feelings as well as difficult situations," said Dr. Davenport-Dalley.
The only direction given to the students was that attendance would be taken at the start of each session. Other than that, children were free to choose who they wanted to play with, the games they wanted to play and the area to play.
"What was completely unexpected was how the older children took it upon themselves to include and guide the little ones," said Barton Elementary Principal, Judith a. Soltner. "It was amazing and awesome to watch."
Read the rest here. And watch our Let Grow Play Club video below. Please drop a line if your school would like to see kids interacting, helping, making new friends and solving problems in a whole new way: Lenore@LetGrow.org