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Play in Education

In education, atmosphere can mean the difference between a student succeeding and student falling through the cracks. When we take a minute to compare the various education methods afforded to the young people in our nation, the decision to place your child in one school or another can be pretty daunting. When we expand that view to the global map and we look at schools like the kindergarten in Fuji, the comparison shines even more light on the situation. Today, the majority of us will enroll our children in traditional public education. This method of education accommodates only a small portion of the students and it fails the rest.

School supports our students in a vast number of ways. Not only does it act as an academic support structure, but it also acts to support the social, emotional, and creative development of our children. In the debate that surrounds preschools across the country, we seem to be focused on preparing younger and younger children for admission into an ivy- league university. Research tells us that rushing our children into rigorous academic programs does not speed up the rate at which our children develop. In some cases, rushing academia can even slow that rate at which children are developing. All to often schools focus that vast majority of their resources on supporting the academic development of the children and they neglect the social, emotional, and creative development. We are now measuring that this can have serious negative implications for our children.

As the debate on education continues to pick up momentum, we see more and more options for education. In our panel conversation we heard diverse voices explain how they integrate play into their classrooms or learning environments. The range of the panel helped to highlight the importance of play in academics throughout the life and development of children.

Not only does it support children in their development, it also acts as a way to help children through adverse childhood experiences.

The common thread running through each of the different education systems we analyzed seemed to be standards. The United States public education system continues to release demanding sets of standards. The more academic standards we introduce into the classroom, the less likely we are to leave room for play. In Rae Pica’s book, she says “We talk so much about preparing kids for school but give very little thought to preparing schools for kids.” This comment was with regard to the development process of the common core standards and the absence of people who understood child development in the process.

The kindergarten in Fuji provided an exemplary example of how schools can be designed around the child. The 19th century classroom is not structured to support children. Instead, it is designed to control children. The kindergarten in Fiji capitalizes on core components of child development to completely integrate play into the education of children. This method is mirrored in the model of Pride Prep. Both schools understand developmentally appropriate ways to educate the young people they are designed to serve and they design the school around that. This provides better results than the alternative: build a school and encourage young people to fit in it.

The conversation in class last week excited me. It reminded me that there are alternatives to public education in the united states and, while we are not expending vast resources to improve education, nations around the world are dedicated to design an education system for it’s original purpose: to support the social, emotional, academic and creative development of children.

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