March 24 #WePlayChat – The Growing Need For Equitable Unstructured Play In Schools

Join us on Tuesday, March 24 at 9:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderators Eric Saibel and Scott Bedley from California to discuss the topic, “The growing need for equitable unstructured play in schools.”

New this year, #WePlayChat has a new look at feel. We are changing the flow of these professional learning opportunities to cover the what, how and why during chat. We look forward to the enriching dialogue this will create each month.

About The Moderators

Scott Bedley is a 5th Grade teacher from Orange County, CA. He is an Orange County Teacher of the Year (TOY) and California TOY Finalist. Eric Saibel is a middle school principal from Marin County, California. He is also an EdWeek and Edutopia contributor and proponent of standards-based grading. Along with Tim Bedley, they co-foundedGlobal School Play Day in 2015. The first year saw 65,000 children participate; this past February, over 560,000 children from 75 nations participated. This growth is due to their collaborative leadership in providing a strong voice to the value of play through their collective networks.

Here are the questions Eric an Scott will be covering during the #WePlayChat dialogue as well as some additional context to guide this topic:

Dr. Peter Gray’s research demonstrates the adverse effects of the decline of play in children of this generation. We can combat the epidemic of anxiety and depression in American youth by embracing unstructured play. Benefits include physical and emotional wellness, collaboration, pro-social skill development, conflict resolution, creativity. It is also an equity issue – many communities don’t have adequate open space or play facilities for kids, or are unsafe for children.

Q1. What are specific ways you are helping students/parents incorporate play during this time of social isolation?

Q2. What obstacles are you facing in adopting more play-based strategies in the classroom? At home?

Q3. Why is it so important that we talk about equity when talking about unstructured play in schools?

Q4. What are next steps we can take NOW to promote unstructured play and inspire more schools to participate in the 7th Global School Play Day on 2.3.21?____________________________________________________________________________________

#WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the wide open field of play. Launched in 2016, it is the longest running monthly play based chat in the world. Our #WePlayChat participants come from 9 countries, spanning 5 continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.  This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers and experts from across the globe.

Join us and contribute to the global conversation around the value of play!  When the time come for our chat, jump on Twitter and search for the hashtag #WePlayChat and follow along on the “Latest” tab.  Feel free to like, reply and retweet.  Just be sure to include the hashtag #WePlayChat so your input is part of the feed!

Learn more about #WePlayChat online at https://usplaycoalition.org/weplaychat-on-twitter


Inaugural “Health and PLAY” Institute to Launch at the 2021 Play Conference

“Health and PLAY” Institute

Sunday, March 28, 2021, 9:00am to 5:00pm
Madren Conference Center, Clemson University
Pre-registration is required, and participants are expected to participate for the entire institute.

The US Play Coalition is thrilled to announce an innovative one-day program featuring health experts from across the country and aimed specifically at health practitioners.  The inaugural “Health and PLAY” Institute will examine the synergies between play and health on Sunday, March 28, as part of the 2021 Conference on the Value of Play

Michael Suk, MD, a leading advocate on health and nature, outdoor recreation as a gateway to better health, and “play for life” champion, will be our Chair and Moderator for the Health and Play Institute.  Dr. Suk is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon, Professor and Chair of the Musculoskeletal Institute at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. In addition to his role as a Steering Committee Member for the US Play Coalition, Dr. Suk also serves on numerous Boards including the American Medical Association, Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Associations and SHIFT at the Center for Jackson Hole.  Previously he served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the US Department of the Interior and Senior Advisor on Health and Recreation to the National Park Service.

Topics and honored faculty of the “Health and PLAY” Institute include (to date):

The Science of Play: What We Know
In this session, we will explore the history of play science and its relationship to human interaction, brain development and as a potential medical intervention. Confirmed panelists for this session:

  • Stuart Brown, MD, Founder of the National Institute for Play.  His background in psychiatry, the evolution of human and animal play, as well as his clinical research into the causes and prevention of violence, have shown him that authentic play is a state of being which can be accessed and used by everyone, and that play is as important to humans as vitamins or sleep.
  • Jessica M. Black, PhD, is pioneering and directing advancement of cognitive, educational and social neuroscience into social work research, education and training. Dr. Black is an Educational Neuroscientist and an Associate Professor at the Boston College School of Social Work. She is Chair of Children, Youth and Families Concentration and is the Chair of Teaching Excellence. Dr. Black directs the Cell to Society Lab that fuses biological and psycho-social fields to improve youth wellbeing.
  • Jenny Radesky, MD – Dr. Radesky is a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician whose research focuses on family digital media use, child social-emotional development, and parent-child interaction.  She uses a combination of observational, qualitative, and passive sensing methods to examine how parents and young children use mobile media throughout daily routines.  She authored the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics digital media guidelines for young children.

The Role of Play in Society
In this session, we ask you to explore the role of play from a population viewpoint and the role of non-profit advocacy groups and state government. Confirmed panelists for this session:

  • Erwin Tan, MD – Dr. Erwin Tan is Director of Thought Leadership – Health at AARP and a board-certified internist and geriatrician. He previously served as the director of Senior Corps at the Corporation for National and Community Service, where he oversaw the RSVP, Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs.
  • Hon. Jerome Loughridge, Secretary of Health and Mental Health, State of Oklahoma. In this position, he oversees Oklahoma’s health care industry that employs more than 215,000 professionals and has an impact of roughly $11.8 billion annually. Under Governor Kevin Stitt, Loughridge has been charged given the tasks of repairing Oklahoma’s rural health infrastructure, decreasing the number of uninsured Oklahomans and making Oklahoma a healthier state with a greater quality of life
  • Sarah Griffin, PhD, professor of Public Health Science at Clemson University, has over twenty years of experience in public health with a specific interest in eliminating health disparities. Dr. Griffin serves as Principal Investigator of the Greenville Health System (GHS) School-Based Health Center implementation study for OnTrack Greenville. She is also Co-Principal Investigator for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obesity prevention initiative with rural health extension

Provider Wellbeing and Burnout: Does Play Have a Role?
During this session, we would like to you to share your thoughts on the widely recognized and growing epidemic of physician “burnout,” with an eye toward using Play as a tool combat what many refer to as “moral injury.” Confirmed panelists for this session:

  • Marie Brown, MD, is a practicing internist, an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College, the director of practice redesign for the American Medical Association, and the immediate past governor of the American College of Physicians (ACP). Dr. Brown is a frequent guest lecturer at academic, national and international health care conferences. Her areas of expertise include: practice transformation, joy in medicine, adult immunizations, medication adherence and diabetes.
  • Brooke Buckley, MD, FACS, board certified general surgeon and national expert on physician well-being. Dr. Buckley has dedicated a significant portion of her training and professional life to organized medicine and taking a broader look at medical care delivery, with specific interests in emergency surgical care, health-care delivery to rural communities, and physician wellbeing.
  • Caroline Cárdenas, MSN, RN, CBCN, is a Masters-prepared oncology nurse, hoopdance teacher, and evangelist for play and physical movement as a means to preventing and recovering from burnout and compassion fatigue. She’s also the creator of The Hula Hoop Girl, an Embodied Movement Meditation Self-Care Body Play Practice that guides women to reconnect to their natural born rhythm, replenish their joy, and cultivate their creative courage.

Using Play as Bridge Between Technologies
During this session, we would like to you to introduce your specific technology platform and discuss how aspects of “Play” can be a bridge to consumer engagement and/or better health outcomes.  Invited panelists for this session:

  • Meaghan Praznik, is a health and wellness, social media expert and Head of Communications & Partnerships, AllTrails. She is a 13-time IRONMAN finisher and qualifier for the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships.
  • Amy Babington is Vice President of Client Success & Strategy at Force Therapeutics, leading a team that is responsible for supporting the patient and provider end users of the Force platform. In her tenure, she has been an integral part of the team to build out important functions and determine the needs of Force’s client base and market.

 

The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The three day event includes keynote and featured speakers, round tables on critical issues and trends, research symposium for academics, educational sessions for practitioners, action and research grant opportunities, PLAYtalks and PLAYinstitutes, networking, EPIC play breaks and more.


Early Childhood Professional Development Day to help kickoff
2020 Play Conference POSTPONED!

“Play and Early Childhood” Institute

POSTPONED – TO BE RESCHEDULED IN LATE SUMMER/EARLY FALL

Pre-registration is required, and participants are expected to participate for the entire institute.

This unique Early Childhood Professional Development Day is one of our 2020 PLAYinstitutes.  It is essentially 6 workshops in one amazing full day training aimed at early childhood educators and caregivers.

Chaired and moderated by Dee Stegelin, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Clemson University, the “Play and Early Childhood” Institute featured sessions presented by early childhood education experts from across the country.

SPECIAL NOTE – This institute has been approved for 6 hours of SC Endeavors/SC-CCCCD state-approved training credits in the Curriculum Category.  

Presentations included with this 6-hour institute are:

Integrating Play and STEAM Teaching into Early Childhood Classrooms
Amanda Bennett, M.Ed., ABD, PhD Student, Clemson University

Strategies for Supporting Preschool Children Who Have Experienced Trauma
Jill C. Shelnut, M.Ed., ABD, Lecturer, Clemson University

Children Think Better on Their Feet Than Their Seat
Mary Mackenzie, M.Ed., United Kingdom, Senior Fellow, Institute for Child Success

Reggio Inspired Indoor and Outdoor Play
Dee Stegelin, Ph. D., Professor Emerita, Clemson University & Senior Fellow, Institute for Child Success
and
Jill C. Shelnut, M. Ed. , ABD, Lecturer, Clemson University

Voices for Play: Advocating for Active Play
Amity Buckner, M. Ed., Director, Pickens County Office of First Steps

Playing with Vivian Paley’s Storytelling and Storyacting Approach
Debora Wisneski, Ph. D., Associate Professor, University of Omaha


The cost of this PLAYinstitute is  just $45/person.


February 24 #WePlayChat on Recess and Play in School with Dr. Michael Hynes

Join us on Monday, February 24 at 6:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Dr. Michael Hynes from Long Island, New York to discuss the topic, “The Importance of Recess and Play in School.

New this year, #WePlayChat has a new look at feel. We are changing the flow of these professional learning opportunities to cover the what, how and why during chat. We look forward to the enriching dialogue this will create each month.

About The Moderator

Dr. Michael Hynes works as a public school superintendent of schools for the Port Washington School District, Fulbright Specialist and an associate professor of education and leadership on Long Island, NY. His mission is to spread the message of the importance of a holistic approach to educating children. He emphasizes the importance of play, recess in schools, mental health and yoga and mindfulness in the classroom. Dr. Hynes is a former assistant superintendent, principal and teacher. Hynes is also a public school advocate, TEDx and keynote speaker and has published numerous articles and featured on several podcasts and articles on school leadership. Hynes has focused his work on transforming schools by tapping into Potential Based Education, which focuses on the significance of social, emotional, physical and cognitive development for students as well as developing strategic plans for school buildings and school districts. Dr. Hynes educates the masses on global school initiatives and universal best practices. He has studied and worked with the Finnish school system. Hynes received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Bethany College and his doctorate in educational administration from Dowling College. He has undergone professional training to integrate organizational learning and school leadership into programs at New York University, Stony Brook University and Harvard University. Dr. Hynes has been awarded the “Friend of Education Award” and the “Distinguished Leadership Award” by Phi Delta Kappa as well as numerous other awards related to leadership.

Here are the questions Dr. Hynes will be covering during the #WePlayChat dialogue:

Q1. What can you do to make sure all children receive the proper amount of recess every day in school?

Q2. How can we foster more mix-aged play in school?

Q3. How much recess do you feel all elementary children should have every day and why?

Q4. Knowing that self-directed play is critical for child development, what is one thing an educator can do to make that happen in school?____________________________________________________________________________________

#WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the wide open field of play. Launched in 2016, our #WePlayChat participants come from 9 countries, spanning 4 continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.  This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers and experts from across the globe.

We love sharing the voice of play on Twitter through our #WePlayChat.  We have our chats at different times on different days to get the most involvement across our membership.  You will not want to miss them! Tune in and to join in and contribute to the conversation around the value of play.


Here is your LAST CHANCE to
GIVE THE GIFT OF PLAY with a
year-end donation to our Grants Fund

Inspired by the generosity of so many, we are extending our action and research grant fundraising effort through December 31. Please support our action and research grants with a gift of any denomination to the US Play Coalition.

We will give 100% of all donations made through December 31, 2019, to our grants fund. There are no hidden costs or fees…everything we raise through the end of the year goes to our 2020 grants. Please go online to GIVE PLAY- http://bit.ly/DonatePlay

YOU can support PLAY by donating to our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement. Big or small, your gift MATTERS!!

Grant funding is a distinctive feature of our annual Play Conference, and we are proud to have awarded close to $60,000 in funding to date.   The 2019 grant winners are bringing play to children in Baltimore and Frisco, Texas, providing Spanish tools for families to understand the benefits of toys and developing a tool to assess the quality and efficacy of outdoor play environments.  Check out all of the projects our grants have supported over the years – https://usplaycoalition.org/action-research-grants

Our 2019 goal is to fund at least one Research Grant and one Action Grant at our upcoming 2020 Play Conference.  All funds raised through 12/31/19 will go to our grant fund – 100% of it!

YOU can help us provide action and research grants in 2020 with your gift!  We can’t wait to share the future of play with you!

 

 

The U.S. Play Coalition
The U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promotes the value of play throughout life. Formed in 2009, the coalition is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.


Here is YOUR chance to GIVE the
gift of PLAY on Giving TuesPLAY!

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday is #GivingTuesday. It is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 3, 2019, the US Play Coalition will be a part of #GivingTuesday, encouraging YOU to support PLAY by donating to our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement. We call it Giving TuesPLAY! (Get it?!) Big or small, your gift MATTERS!!

Grant funding is a distinctive feature of our annual Play Conference, and we are proud to have awarded close to $60,000 in funding to date.   The 2019 grant winners are bringing play to children in Baltimore and Frisco, Texas, providing Spanish tools for families to understand the benefits of toys and developing a tool to assess the quality and efficacy of outdoor play environments.  Check out all of the projects our grants have supported over the years – https://usplaycoalition.org/action-research-grants

Our 2019 Giving TuesPLAY goal is to fund at least one Research Grant and one Action Grant at our upcoming 2020 Play Conference.  All funds raised on Giving TuesPLAY go to our grant fund – 100% of it!

YOU can help us provide action and research grants in 2020 with your Giving TuesPLAY gift!  Join the global movement and donate on Tuesday, December 3! Big or small, your gift MATTERS!! We can’t wait to share the future of play with you!

 

 

The U.S. Play Coalition
The U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promotes the value of play throughout life. Formed in 2009, the coalition is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.


2019 Summer PLAY Reading Review

This summer we are featuring some great PLAY resources for your Summer Reading List!

PLAY is important no matter what season it is…so NO SUMMER LEARNING LOSS here!

Check out this summer’s PLAY reading recommendations that include books on outdoor play, loose parts play, education and play, the brain and play, and inclusive play:

 

Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children, by Angela Hanscom

According to Heather Von Bank, “Hanscom’s book advocates for unstructured outdoors play and promotes it as the most optimal way for children to development healthy bodies, minds, and social skills.”  Read on…!

 

Playing it Up — With Loose Parts, Playpods, and Adventure Playgrounds, by Joan Almon

In August 2017, we published this book review below of Joan Almon’s then-new publication by Debora B. Wisneski, Ph.D. (University of Nebraska- Omaha) with Melany Spiehs and Carol Burk (Omaha Public Schools). As news of Joan’s passing continues to be on our heart, we wanted to include this as a special part of our Summer PLAY Reading Review series.

Upon learning of Joan’s death, Melany Spiehs, one of the co-authors of the review, shared this sentiment: “Joan was such an inspiration and her spirit must live on through us!”  Read the review…

 

 Wrong Turns, Right Moves in Education, by Deborah Rhea, Ed.D.

This is the new book by our favorite recess advocate Debbie Rhea. Debbie is famous (at least to us!) for her research findings that show that MORE RECESS leads to improved behavior and academic performance in the classroom. This book takes the reader to where it all began – a sabbatical in Finland.  Learn more…

 

Playful Intelligence, by Anthony DeBenedet, MD

It is a “Back to School” edition of our Summer PLAY reading reviews! Julie Padgett Jones reviews Playful Intelligence, the latest book from 2018 PLAYtalk-er Anthony DeBenedet, MD. As an educator of educators, Julie puts a teacher’s spin on the takeaways from this read! As she says it’s “Playful Intelligence… for teachers. Because playing is fun. And school should be.” Read more…

 

You Can’t Say, You Can’t Play, by Vivian Gussin Paley

In this  book, Paley describes a year long process of discovering what inclusive play in an inclusive community means by listening to children’s stories, telling her own, and discussing a new class rule for her kindergartners: “You can’t say, you can’t play.”  Read the review…

 

What are some of YOUR favorite PLAY books and resources???!!
Send your suggestions to usplaycoalition@clemson.edu

 

The U.S. Play Coalition
The U.S. Play Coalition is a partnership to promote the value of play throughout life. Formed in 2009, we are an international network of individuals and organizations that recognize play as a valuable and necessary part of a healthy and productive life. Our membership is diverse – including play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians, parents and more. Membership is free, and simply requires a declaration of shared commitment to the value of play. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.


Summer PLAY Reading Review:
You Can’t Say, You Can’t Play

Paley, Vivian Gussin.(1992) You Can’t Say, You Can’t Play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Every summer I teach a graduate course on “Play as a Learning Medium,” and I always recommend that the students read a book–any book– by Vivian Paley. I try to coax them into extra reading by adding that Paley’s books on play are great summer beach or back yard reads. From a graduate student’s point of view, Paley’s books of stories about children’s play in her classroom, seems simple and entertaining compared to their regular diet of scientific research articles and dense theoretical essays.  Yet, while Paley’s stories and reflections on children’s play may seem simple, once one begins reading her stories, one may find themselves reconsidering how they understand children, play, and even the world.

Of all of Paley’s books, my favorite is You Can’t Say, You Can’t Play because it challenges children and adults to rethink how we treat one another.  Paley shines a light on one of the more difficult aspects of free play in early childhood education settings—rejection of others.  Teachers can probably attest to the many times they have observed small groups of children excluding another child.  Or many adults may still feel the sting of rejection from their own memories of their childhood play when a classmate or peer said, “NO, you can’t play with us.”  As Paley acknowledges, “Too often, the same children are rejected year after year. The burden of being rejected falls on a few children. They are made to feel like strangers.” (p. 22)

Rather than accepting this behavior as “that’s just the way things are” or ‘we all must get used to rejection,” Paley calls such reasoning into question.  In the book, Paley describes a year long process of discovering what inclusive play in an inclusive community means by listening to children’s stories, telling her own, and discussing a new class rule for her kindergartners: “You can’t say, you can’t play.”

 

After observing the same children being excluded from play in her classroom by the same children who do the excluding, Paley recognized that if not interrupted children grow up thinking it is okay for others with more power to reject others. She asks her students,

“Is it fair for children in school to keep another child out of play?  After all, the classroom belongs to all of us. It is not a private place, like our homes.” p 16

In the book, Paley documents the children’s thoughts on this question from kindergarten to upper elementary.  Their thinking about play is quite revealing of human nature and sometimes difficult to hear coming from such young voices.  The children’s play is also documented and reveals how they learn to treat each other more kindly.  In the end, inclusion in play is not resolved by fixing the rejected individual but by a different way in which, “The group must change its attitudes and expectations toward those who, for whatever reason, are not yet part of the system.” (p 33).

Considering the current state of the world today where policies, systems, and rhetoric often dwell on labeling others and rejecting the powerless, the book You Can’t Say, You Can’t Play offers us an alternative way of being that is more inclusive and reminds us of the power of children’s play.

 

Vivian Gussin Paley is a former kindergarten teacher and a MacArthur Genius Award winner.  She is best known for her storytelling- story acting/play teaching technique and for her many books about the play and stories of the children. Other books she has authored over the years are Wally’s Stories, White Teacher, The Girl with the Brown Crayon, The Kindness of Children and A Child’s Work: The Importance of Play.  A great listener of children and an inspiration for many early childhood educators, Paley passed away this summer July 26, 2019.  “It shall be added to my headstone. ‘Here lies a schoolteacher in whose time ‘You can’t say you can’t play’ was put into rhyme.” (p. 73)

Debora Basler Wisneski, PhD, is a former preschool and kindergarten teacher who discovered the joy of learning through play by using Paley’s storytelling/storyacting techniques. She is currently the John T. Langan Community Chair of Early Childhood Education at the University of Nebraska- Omaha and serves on the board of directors for The Association for the Study of Play.


Summer PLAY Reading Review:
Playful Intelligence …for Teachers

Playful Intelligence… for teachers.
Because playing is fun.
And school should be.

I first met Anthony T. DeBenedet at the 2018 US Play Coalition Conference in Clemson, SC. He was tasked with the role of keynote- slotted to speak just after the lunch hour. With an audience whose stomachs were full of turkey sandwiches, tomato soup, and one (or in my case, three) cookies, Dr. DeBenedet’s task was to inform and entertain. A tall order for a crowd in a food coma.

There were no fireworks.
There was no fanfare.
What did transpire was 20 minutes of endearing stories- a description of Dr. DeBenedet’s path to discovering the qualities of what would come to be called Playful Intelligence.

I felt myself leaning in.
Then leaning back.
Then leaning in again. Elbow on the table- against my Southern Belle upbringing- I was really listening.

I’ve attended many keynote addresses and listened to the hype of many fads, or what critics would call pop-psychology. As a long time educator, I am highly sensitive to these types of talks.

Refreshingly, this event was not what I feared.

Rather, Dr. DeBenedet spoke to the value of relationships- how he was able to study adult playfulness through genuine conversations with his patients. In his theory, DeBenedet extends the interpersonal and intrapersonal aspects of Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences– the knowledge of how playfulness can influence both our inner and outer selves. Of the more than 40 behavioral qualities linked to adult playfulness, DeBenedet found five that may best influence our adult lives.

Imagination

You might expect imagination to be associated here with artistic or musical expression. DeBenedet did too, but that’s not where he found it popping up. In his work, the quality of imagination in healthy adults manifested in the ability to psychologically reframe difficult situations. Not escaping our struggles, but rather viewing them differently- using imagination to problem-solve and cope. Imagination, when practiced through deep play and daydreaming, increases our capacity for empathy.

Imagination is also a quality that helps us move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. For example, take a moment to Google “the Einstellung Effect.” This study, which focused on identifying solution bias, showed participants solving a problem based on previous experience even when a better solution exists. Their mindsets were fixed based on the experiences they had been provided.

If we rely too much on our past experiences to solve a problem, we allow those neural connections to strengthen, thus limiting our ability to think creatively.  We use our thought-defaults and get stuck.  When we exercise our imaginations, we reframe problems, open our minds and look at the world a new way.

How many times as a teacher, do we do it the way it’s always been done because it worked one time in the past? Every class I’ve taught has been different and has required different things from us as educators. Teachers with a strong imagination are able to recognize opportunities to follow paths to new outcomes instead of relying on the same ol’ same ol’.

Sociability

Playful sociability includes the ability to reject a THEM vs. US mentality. Those with the quality of playful sociability see only WE.  Those who embody this trait have a strong sense of egalitarianism, built by the approach to social situations with humility and powerlessness. These people have a way of making everyone around them feel valued. They interact with authenticity, seeing others as humans rather than labels. Teachers who personify playful sociability reject stereotypes, loving their students first and teaching them second.

To truly educate, those with the trait of playful sociability, block labels and listen to student stories.
We must hear them.
We must listen.

These nuggets of authenticity are clues to their needs.

  • Do they need remediation?
  • Do they need challenge?
  • Do they need the connection of friendship?
  • Do they crave leadership roles?

In the medical field, listening is key to diagnosis. In the field of education, listening is key to meeting the needs of our students. In the end, we are all working on the diagnosis of how to be a better human.

In our path to diagnosis, we must beware of the trap of anchoring bias. When we place too much value on initial information (think- data, test scores, grades, last year’s teacher, first impressions), our brain starts anchoring. Once this occurs, it’s hard to adjust our thinking.

Teachers, don’t try to act like y’all don’t know about this… Mrs. Smith the fourth grade teacher runs down the hall at the beginning of every year to tell all the fifth grade teachers about the new batch of “precious kiddos” coming up. Sadly, she never has precious words to say because she just wants to rant about the ones she didn’t like.

Y’all… Shut that down.  Ain’t nothing playful about a gossiping teacher.

Humor

Because we recognize humor as laughter, it is the easiest characteristic of the playful mindset to spot. Insert, neuroscience. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The area of the brain that controls laughter is the sub-cortex- the same area that controls breathing and muscle reflexes. The areas of the brain that light up when we experience joy are known as the ventral tegmental area. So, basically we’re looking at the bottom and the back. When we experience joy or laughter, the “pleasure chemical” dopamine pushes from those areas toward the front of the brain (the part responsible for judgment, creativity, and problem solving). Here’s the key. Are you ready? Joy, pleasure, creativity, and critical thinking are connected.

That’s not all.

Our brain’s connective, dendrite-firing awesomeness pairs an emotion with each learning experience. Educators have a choice: we have students potentially shut down from frustration, or we build strong connections by associating learning with positive emotions.

DeBenedet calls this effect resiliency- one of the main benefits of humor.

Another benefit of humor is human connection. The right kind of humor “says to others that it’s safe to explore, play, and nurture a relationship together.” When we use affiliative humor (the kind that puts others at ease, amuses, and improves relationships), we allow ourselves to drop personal walls and engage openly in conversations.

We already know that education is first about relationships, but now you can add humor to that list of essential elements in a successful classroom community.

Spontaneity

Spontaneity is the trait exhibited when we do unplanned things, outside of routine. The art of teaching uses spontaneity when we teach in the moment, when we use student questions to follow curiosities to their aha moments. Students trust us to let them explore, and spontaneity allows exploration to take the lead in classrooms.

There’s a science to spontaneity as well; it manifests itself in our day-to-day lives as psychological flexibility- the mental response to the unplanned and unpredictable.

You know those folks who get all bent out of sorts when they get a new student? When they are given a new paperwork task? When their carefully planned lesson goes off the rails? Those folks might need a little practice in rolling with it- in spontaneity.

I’d like to say I’m the kind of teacher who eases through disruptions, but in reality I feel a little scattered. It’s not that I don’t ease through- it’s that I can’t remember where I was before the phone rang, the visitor came, or where my dog-gone clipboard went. It’s like that old saying about lemons and lemonade, if we have the mindset of psychological flexibility- we don’t get rattled. Our students won’t worry what will set us off. We won’t take away recess because we’ve HAD IT! Or throw silent lunch around like glitter.  We breathe. We smile. We reassess, and we roll through.

How do we encourage spontaneity in our students? We can start by giving them opportunities to problem solve. Did someone in the back say PBL? (That’s project-based learning for those who might not know) Yeah, I heard you. Yes. Any kind of learning situation that’s messy and unpredictable (yes, like real life) will do it. Think about how often we ask students to imagine alternate solutions or reframe problems. In personality science, this is called “openness to experience.”

If we’re open, we’ll be spontaneous.
If we’re spontaneous, we have flexibility.
If we’re flexible, we give ourselves permission to create, have bold ideas, and craft new solutions.

Wonder

You might read this section title and think wonder is the same as curiosity here. While these two can be interchangeable as synonyms, the mindset for wonder here is different.

Curiosity spurs action, but the kind of wonder Dr. DeBenedet is referring to with wonder is the kind that stops you in your tracks. It’s awe. It’s that moment when time freezes and you appreciate the raw emotion in a moment.

Kids experience wonder all the time. They’ll pause to watch a woolly worm make its way up a tree. They’ll turn their heads to the side, mouth falling open as they experience the push and pull of magnetic forces.

The wonder can be seen on their faces.
We know it because their eyes light up.
There may be a grin.
There may be scrunched up eyebrows.
But there’s always a pause.

The pause is when the emotional experience occurs- it’s our brain allowing time to regroup and reflect. Wonder, on a neuropsychological level, is an emotion. I know what you’re thinking here- “Yes! This is great. I’m going to hook all my learners though wonder-ful experiences.” And I do want you to do just that, but if you start making lists of more hooks for tomorrow’s plans, you’ll be going about this wonder bit all wrong. Wonder is not the what of the experience- it’s the how.

The playful quality of wonder is more about focusing on how we perceive our environment than in what we’re seeing. If we keep going bigger and better, allowing our students to experience wonder through the grand and majestic, we’ll cause wonder inflation. Students may begin to depend on the “extra,” and their wonder threshold gets higher and higher.

So what do we do? Easy. We model for our students how we find wonder in the small things. Each experience, each lesson has an opportunity for wonder. Find it, whisper it to them. Your eyes are wide, your voice is low. They’re leaning in… do you see it? Wonder is contagious.

My favorite part

Perhaps my favorite part of DeBenedet’s book is the final chapter. There’s a story he tells that gave me pause. It’s of his encounter and lesson learned from a home visit to Eleanor Schapffer. Seems to me that many educators would benefit from a visit with Eleanor. The lesson you ask? Well, it’s summed up in this [edited] line from DeBenedet’s mentor:

“In the course of your training, you will learn every detail of what we do for [students]. Never forget the power of just being there with them.”

Isn’t that true for us all?

Dr. Julie Jones is the Director for Student Teaching in Converse College’s School of Education and Graduate Studies. She maintains an active research agenda with interests including instructional technology and validated instructional approaches, strategies, and assessments- always with a mix of creativity and play.

Follow her on Twitter @JuliePJones, and view her full curriculum vitae at www.juliepjones.com.


New, Updated “A Research-Based Case for Recess” is Now Available

A new, updated position paper “A Research-Based Case for Recess” is now available as a free download.  This paper made its first appearance in 2013 as something of a review of literature by Olga Jarrett, Ph.D.  Since then the paper has been used by play advocates across the country to support recess in schools and recess legislation at the state level. Six years later, a new version was needed to reflect the changing landscape of recess.

Dr. Jarrett said she “discovered hundreds of new articles on recess, many of them empirical studies showing the benefits of recess. Also, since 2013, more organizations have developed policies in support of recess and several states have mandated recess.”

The 2019 position paper was produced by the US Play Coalition in collaboration with American Association for the Child’s Right to Play (IPA/USA) and the Alliance for Childhood.

According to Stephanie Garst, executive director of the US Play Coalition and editor of the 2019 update, “Things are changing so rapidly that we had to just stop looking so that this latest edition could go to print in time for the new school year! It is as comprehensive as it can be and will surely be a great resource for educators, school administrators, childcare providers, parents and many others in our play community!

Collateral resources are coming soon. Until then, check out the full paper for FREE online at http://bit.ly/recess-paper