47 0 0 0 13 6. In classrooms across the country, the countdown to summer vacation has begun. The winter doldrums have always taken a toll, but in the era of test-how do preschoolers learn through play schooling and the controversial Common Core, it seems increasingly that it’s not until summer that teenagers have any prospect for having fun any more.
One of the casualties of current education reform efforts has been the erosion of play, creativity, and joy from teenagers’ classrooms and lives, with devastating effects. Researchers have documented a rise in mental health problems—such as anxiety and depression—among young people that has paralleled a decline in children’s opportunities to play. Parents Newsletter Sign up to receive the smartest parenting tips, news and tools. Early childhood educators have known about and capitalized on the learning and developmental benefits of play for ages. My five-year-old daughter has daily opportunities to play dress-up in her preschool classroom, transforming into a stethoscope-wearing fairy princess and tending to the imaginary creatures in her care. Happily, in recent research that I conducted, I found promising ways that middle school teachers are incorporating elements of play into their classrooms—with joyful results.
Across the classrooms where teachers gave students these opportunities, the young adolescents I surveyed were happy and interested in their work. I have had one of the best school years because of this class. Amid the passive, rote, and dulling experiences that are all too common for adolescents, Fine found teachers like Ms. Giving students occasions to learn through play not only fosters creative thinking, problem solving, independence, and perseverance, but also addresses teenagers’ developmental needs for greater independence and ownership in their learning, opportunities for physical activity and creative expression, and the ability to demonstrate competence. To be sure, there are times to be serious in school. The complex study of genocide or racism in social studies classrooms, for example, warrant students’ thoughtful, ethical engagement, while crafting an evidence-based argument in support of a public policy calls upon another set of student skills and understandings.