Posted by: schooleducator | February 24, 2009

The Importance of Play

New research shows that increased physical activity boosts academic performance, with greater concentration and focus seen in children (“The 3 R’s? A Fourth Is Crucial, Too: Recess.” – NYT – 2/24/09). Anybody who has spent time teaching middle school boys or who is trying to raise boys does not need academic researchers to tell them that if boys cannot have time outside, away from the seatbelt classroom, it can be a long day, for the teacher and the rest of the class. Rainy days are torture for children and teachers. With the push for test scores, many schools curb recess, in the belief that children benefit from more time on task in the classroom. If you ask a middle school boy what his favorite part of the day is, oftentimes the first and quickest response is “recess.” It is heartening to know that there is formal research to support what educators and parents of boys have known through direct experience.

Michael Thompson has written extensively about boys and their need to be given space to play, and even be a bit physical with each other, as long as there is “no blood spilled.” Schools are quick to quash this type of play, for fear of escalation and reprisal. It is a fine line, for sure, between physicality and harm, but boys need time, like puppies do, to roll around and get dirty. Just take a look at Arne Duncan and Barack Obama. With Mr. Duncan taking the reins of the U.S. Department of Education, there is hope for an emphasis on play. He is after all, an avid basketball player, just like President Obama is. Much has been written about President Obama’s obsessive need for a morning workout, and the President is already assembling a basketball crew at the White House. Role modeling is so critical, and what better way for kids to see the value of physical activity than to see photos of President Obama playing pick up with the North Carolina basketball team, or even to see pictures of him on the beach in Hawaii. He lives a healthy, balanced life.

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