I run because it’s fun (although this week’s temperatures has made it significantly less enjoyable than usual), it makes me happy, and it helps me keep my priorities in check. On days that I cannot fit a run or a gym session in, I am cranky, stressed, and unfocused. On the run I went on this week that was for the specific purpose of this class, I went a step further to turn it into a play session by keeping all of my electronics and trackers at home. I took a five mile run down the (icy) trail for the sole purpose of enjoying the experience, for the sole purpose of PLAYING!
On my run, my toes went numb, the noise in my head turned down and eventually shut off, I re-worked my strategy for introducing literary theory to my senior class, I realized I forgot to e-mail a student about one of her concerns, I smiled, I noticed the steadiness of my breath and felt good about that, and feeling returned to my toes.
I know that this form of play in my life is essential for me to be the best I can be in each and every professional and private facet that I am present in. Thinking about my relationship with running in the context of this class, I wonder about the majority of my students who go straight from school to work each day and are left with very little time to explore (play) their own hobbies. How can I expect the best from them, if they are never given the outlet and opportunity to play?
I think the answer is simple; I cannot.
This week’s topic coincided with my district’s professional development days, during which I explored research about Brain-Based Learning and STEM. I came away from this week with the realization that we can call it the former two terms, we can call it gaming in the classroom, we can refer to it as tinkering, but one thing is for sure, if we do not soon incorporate play in the classroom on our own, we will be forced to.
In the article, “All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten,” Mitchel Resnick asserts that “play and learning can and should be intimately linked. Each, at its best, involves a process of experimentation, exploration, and testing the boundaries.” I understand, through my running, how play follows this similar process to learning. I also understand how my play IS learning. Thanks to my running, I am an amateur expert in foam rolling, pacing, race day strategy, program planning, strength training circuits, and recovery nutrition. When John Seely Brown talks about the learning implicit in the multitude of Harry Potter communities, or James Paul Gee discusses the parallels between video gaming communities and learning, I get it. Playing is learning.
In thinking about this week’s learning and the issue of inequity in education, I realize that my students do not have the gift of time outside of school to play, tinker, or explore their passions. I do not have a set curriculum for ESL, a gift that I see great advantage in as I consider implementing a Genius Hour in my class. One day a week, if we take a class period and structure it so that my students may pursue their own passions, this week’s readings argue that they will be better prepared for the 21st century network that awaits them.