Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.
—O. Fred Donaldson
Contemporary American martial arts master
Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.
Contemporary American author
Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.
American psychologist, 1908–1970
As a young learner, I loved being in the Classroom. I found so much joy in learning, and knew that this was the site of exploration and discovery (or perhaps more importantly a place/space of validation and encouragement from my educators). Now that I am a teacher-in-training, my love for classroom spaces persists. Yet my favorite time of the school day has become Recess.
Every morning, I go out to Recess with the primary classes in my student teaching placement. There are so many benefits of this daily practice. The opportunity to go outside, run around, get some exercise; the ability to observe my students in more unstructured social situations/settings; the act of directly modeling for my students a transition from “class time” to “play time” and back again; the critical moments of intervening in conflict, facilitating conversation/reconciliation, inviting a lonely child to play too. I am still processing and exploring what advantages and opportunities can come from participating in Recess. At this point, I believe the most valuable product of this practice has been the effect that play has had on my relationships with my students. Spending even just fifteen minutes a day playing with the kids—smiling and laughing, creating new games together, simply being goofy—has opened up and (radically) transformed many of our student-teacher dialogues and dynamics, both in the classroom and without. Our play seems to have cultivated a sense of mutual respect, confidence, comfort/safety, and (most importantly) trust.
Play is the heart of a (or at least my) Pedagogy of Belonging. I strongly believe that all teachers can benefit from going/coming out to Recess. Not as a monitor on “Recess Duty,” but as a co-participant in the creative and collective play that goes on. I am eager to experience the continuing transformation and transgression this practice permits/provides.