Going over the monthly newsletter from my daughter’s school I came across a nice piece by the schools Librarian about how she is integrating Free Play time into her instruction through puppets and a puppet theater. I found this great because in my Masters studies part of my research in the 90’s focused on Playfulness as a vital component of a creative organizational climate. The article also helped reiterate to me that with all the emphasis of the last decade first on “No Child Left Behind” and now the “Common Core” initiatives and “Race to the Top” that Play and Fun are easily lost as a vital part of an effective American education system. It is really becoming more and more important for parents and teachers to find innovative ways to integrate Free Play time into their daily interactions and lesson plans with both children and teens.
In Public School 101 in Forest Hills, Queens, some kindergarten parents wanted more free play time for their children. These parents decided to do something about it and approached the school officials and were able to get some changes to the curriculum. In a post titled “At One School, a Push for More Play Time” the author highlighted this parential action and makes the sad point that “Gone were the play kitchens, sand and water tables, and dress-up areas; half-days were now full days. Instead, there were whiteboards, and the kindergartners, in classes of up to 27, practiced reading and math on work sheets on desks“.
Now the push in New York is to make Pre-K an educational standard and the NY State Dept. of Education has already put forward the Common Core Learning Standards for Pre-K. Funny thing is that Pre-K and Kindergarten, according to the State’s Dept. of Education and State education law, is still just an optional grade for schools to offer and for parents to place their children in…if they desire to. However, as reported in the NY Times the option was removed for NYC schools by NY State legislation in 2012. Parents must now sent their children to school at the age of 5 rather then 6.
I wonder how many decades it will take for our ‘brilliant’ leaders in Albany to officially and legally put this into our State Education system. Hopefully, all of us can remember to leave a bit of time for the children to play, laugh and have fun for fun sake. One day we just might empirically find that this fun and imagination is just as important as math and language arts.