Before heading into March break, students at Sherbrooke Elementary School (SES) tucked away their notebooks and buried themselves under a giant fort made of blankets – and teachers could not intervene.
This is part of a yearly initiative called Global School Play Day, which encourages anything between an hour to a full day of unstructured play time at school. According to Nicole Carrière, principal at SES, this is to encourage problem-solving and creativity.
At SES, Global School Play Day manifested itself through games of Twister, Uno, chess, drawing competitions, and many more.
“It’s a lot harder than it seems because the adults cannot intervene,” laughed Carrière. “We will set the rules and the parameters and the limits but then you let them play.”
Carrière initially pitched the idea to the Eastern Townships School Board three years ago after hearing about its benefits in a 2014 Ted Talk. According to the talk, there has been a continuous erasure of playtime over the years, with children being restricted in how they play and where they play.
“Kids don’t know how to [play] anymore,” said Carrière. “If you see kids playing outside, chances are they are wearing uniforms or there are adults directing the play, it’s not free play.”
The Ted Talk also mentioned how there exists an inherent understanding that children only learn in school-like settings and that free play takes away from that learning. In a sense, free play has come to mean decompression and has lost its ability to educate.
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