Friday, February 3, 2017

Play Needs a Rebrand... #GSPD

Play is not frivolous or only to be given as a reward. It's vital.

 It's hard to believe we just celebrated three years of Global School Play Day. This small idea born from Dr Peter Gray's Tedx talk and from the frustration of hearing about districts across the nation cancelling recess in the name of more test prep, has truly become a global movement. I remember Tim (my brother/a co-founder) and I talking about the hopes that in year one, GSPD's small leadership group (Eric, Oliver, Bethany, Misty, Tim and myself), could get the teachers of 10,000 students to agree with us that unstructured play was and is vital to a child's healthy development. It went beyond just asking them to support it, we were asking them to also back that belief with action that went against the current trend of hours of homework, test prep and the massive decline in the amount of unstructured play time for kids. Think about it...even play has become another scheduled event in a child's busy life, "play dates." 

    In 2015, we were blown away, that after a little more then one month of sharing on social media, teachers representing over 66,000 students had agreed to let their kids have unstructured play time on the first Wednesday in February. Even Brown University joined in that year.
One of the many tweets encouraging participation in #GSPD2016
  Despite the success that a small team of dedicated educators saw in year one, we were unsure what 2016 would hold for Global School Play Day. By GSPD 2016, there were more than 177,000 students playing in just the second year. It was incredible!
I'll never forget checking twitter on what was the night before GSPD 2016 for my class. I saw that it had really kicked off in South Korea and New Zealand with some great pictures and video of the fun being posted. A tweet came across the hashtag (#GSPD2016) with a video of some students at a school in New Zealand who had set up a plastic "slip and slide" at their school. A line of kids waited for their turn. When I saw that, I got goose bumps realizing the impact this movement could have for kids around the world. Each part of the day, each hour, each minute, each second more of these amazing moments of joy-filled play were shared. When the day ended, we already had signups for the next GSPD.

Last summer, I found myself questioning if we could pull this off for a third straight year. I was exhausted and facing some heartbreaking family health issues as we lead up to GSPD 2017. 

Twitter post from just a few days before #GSPD2017
  Well, #GSPD2017 just happened on February 1st. On that day, that beautiful day we call Global School Play Day 2017, over 280,000 kids from more than 50 nations, on 6 continents had been registered to play, and play they did. You can scroll through any of the hashtags from the last three years of GSPD to see tens of thousands of videos and images. In those images, you'll see is the true joy that this day allows for in each and every child who is given this gift from the caring educator who has made the decision to celebrate unstructured play. The amazing impact is not only for the kids, but you'll see it on the faces of the educators who took the risk giving up one day of traditional instruction and gave themselves the chance to see the power of play. 

   I've heard from many educators that this day has been a true revival for their spirit and passion and a renewal of the joy that their students can bring them. So many have said that the loss of play in the school day has been a gradual decline as the system has turned their vision of education towards testing, accountability and data all while shifting their focus away from joy of teaching, the love of learning and the passion for their positive impact.  While I don't want to overstate the impact of Global School Play Day, I have to believe that if every educator were to experience it, they would become a believer again in unstructured play and shift what they do every day in class. They would shift the demands they place on kids outside of the school day. They would shift their vision back to their first passion of impacting children's lives rather than feeling pushed into the single focus of delivering content to score high on a single high-stakes assessment. I found myself caught up in that mindset, but because of questioning why we had moved so far away from the needs of children and because of the educators around me who are constantly challenging the "why?" , I find myself free. Free to make my classroom student centered not content centered; free to love my students where they are in their learning journey; free to empower them as learners; and free to let them discover life on their own. 

Photo Credit to Eric Saibel
I want to challenge you, if you've yet to test out unstructured play in your own classroom. Try it. In the 180 plus school days, what harm could one day of play do compared to the massive benefits you will open up for your students. As always, thank you for reading this post and I value your comments. I know it's been a while since my last post, but I was driven by my passion for this movement to share my thoughts through writing.

Global School Play Day Info

What If the World Came Together Around Play? It did in February. More than 275,000 children, from 51 Nations, on 6 continents were given the gift of unstructured play! How many will play in 2018?

  1. Argentina,
  2. Angola,
  3. Australia,
  4. Austria,
  5. The Bahamas,
  6. Kingdom of Bahrain,
  7. Belarus,
  8. Belgium,
  9. Brazil,
  10. Canada,  
  11. Cambodia,
  12. Czech Republic,
  13. Dominican Republic,
  14. Egypt,
  15. England(UK),
  16. Ethiopia,
  17. France,
  18. Georgia,
  19. Germany,
  20. Ghana,
  21. Greece,
  22. Guatemala,
  23. India,
  24. Indonesia,
  25. Iraq,
  26. Japan,  
  27. Lithuania,
  28. Luxembourg,
  29. Malaysia,
  30. Montenegro,
  31. New Zealand,
  32. Nigeria,
  33. Pakistan,
  34. Philippines,
  35. Poland,
  36. Portugal,
  37. România,
  38. Russia,
  39. Saudi Arabia,
  40. Scotland (UK),
  41. Singapore,
  42. South Africa,
  43. South Korea,
  44. Spain,
  45. Switzerland,
  46. Thailand,
  47. Turkey,
  48. United Arab EmIrates,
  49. Ukraine,
  50. United States,
  51. Viet Nam

 Thanks to Greg Smith for his thoughts on play and title of this blog. He shared this idea of play needed a rebrand at Edcamp LA a few years ago and it's stuck with me ever since. I think it was and still is, yet another brilliant insight from Greg.