Originally published on Plumfield Academy’s blog.
We sat around the teacher’s lounge today at lunch and chatted. We call it the teacher’s lounge fondly, because one woman has a horrible memory of accidentally opening the door to the teacher’s lounge when she was young, and being vehemently scolded and forcibly escorted. At Plumfield, the “teacher’s lounge” is four folding chairs set up on the porch so that the adults can eat their lunch, enjoy conversation, help littles put on snow gear and watch the children play outside.
This outside play is an integral part of the day at Plumfield. Students have one hour at lunch of free time, and many days – cold, snow, rain or shine – students are outside playing. Today was a near hour of sledding (yes, we still have plenty of snow for that!). There were boys (and one girl, who enjoyed herself as the boys did) of all ages, sleds of all sizes; the most common route was down the sloping hill, over the huge mound in an attempt to get airborne and still land upright and/or on the sled.
Aside from the sheer joy, the whoops of delight, the grins, cheering and laughter that accompanied each race downward, there was something more subtle but no less significant happening. As the hour went on, we, watching from the porch, noticed how the boys were interacting with one another. There are a few first and second grade boys who have copious amounts of energy and less practice in self-control; their natural instinct involves whipping snowballs, whacking on one another, and veers toward craziness in no time at all. But a few older boys and an eighth grader in particular were sledding as well, and these boys set the tone. By taking turns going down the hill with the younger ones, these older boys communicated by their example: sledding, shouting, laughing, slipping, falling, rolling are all part of the game. Thwacking, thumping, pushing, snowballs in the face and/or back are not. We didn’t hear the conversations, but we could read the body language and see the improvement in the younger ones’ behavior. What a joy it was to watch this all unfold, to see such freedom and delight in play and self-monitoring occur, all without input or correction from an adult. It’s amazing – still – to me when I see good kids in action.
Plumfield Academy offers students an hour of free time each day. This is an important part of our philosophy and methodology; there is much learning and development that happens during this hour of child-driven play. Experiencing an hour of vigorous physical activity, out of doors, like the hour of sledding I witnessed today is part of having a well-balanced child who is emotionally, physically and academically ready to engage in the pursuits of life, both now and in the future. See what else the American Academy of Pediatrics says about the importance of play.