Over the past few weeks, we have been preparing for our Make the Road by Walking meeting, which we held last night to give parents a clear understanding of Blue School's status and where we are going. In general, I believe so strongly that we need to show more than tell, so I prepared a short video to illustrate the types of wonderings and questions our children have each day in our school.
So, to wit, a day in the life of questions at Blue School.
And it's true: here, when a child wonders (do horses sneeze? where do dreams come from?) we respond with a set of paints and a big sheet of paper. When a child cries, a friend goes to help. When children ask questions about a devastating hurricane, about friendship, about plants, people from the past, we include those questions in our studies. When it is time to look at their progress, we ask them to speak first. Children are, most profoundly, at our center and our core. They are known. And seen. We push, respond, and listen. We play.
And here’s the thing. While good educators have instinctively known for a while that play is productive, we now know that it’s actually a requirement for learning – indeed, at its best, learning IS the best kind of play (joy, engagement, passion and people) all the way through. So, we play because of the way it changes the brain to handle complex experiences, to consolidate new ideas, and to increase insights and creativity. We play because then, when children get to interview the elderly of the Seaport or discuss the nuances of the American revolution and its causes, they can do so with the flexibility they need to understand and consolidate their learning. We do it so that they can learn about boundaries with their friends and with grown ups too. So that when they read the Odyssey in 5th grade and study the hero and its match, the innocent, they can create and apply complex theories to the world they see around them. Just as they will in early adolescence when their brains change as or more rapidly than they do from 0-3, and they become the big and critical thinkers that we all know them to be. Play is not about lessening expectations – it's the opposite, in fact. Every minute that children play, they are preparing for reading and writing, connections and ideas, becoming resilient, collaborating, and building relationships and meaning.