One day to take a deep breath and play
For six years now, the first Wednesday in February has been designated as Global School Play Day. On February 3rd, 2021, schools worldwide will pledge to allow students to spend an entire day playing with their classmates. However, COVID-19 may give this annual tradition a different feel. After months of students learning with masks on, a day of play may be needed now more than ever.
In this episode of Class Dismissed, GSPD co-founders, Scott Bedley and Eric Saibel explain why it’s so important to give kids an opportunity to take a break from the screens and lessons and just have unstructured play.
“So at the beginning of all the quarantining I got a chance to see play in action with my own son,” said Bedley. “I saw him pull out his legos and I saw him pull out his action figures. And I saw talking through some of the fears that he has with everything that is going on.”
Global School Play Day is not a free for all. In fact, the grassroots organization offers some guardrails.
- Don’t organize anything for the students
- Supervise students, but don’t tell them how to play
- Call for toys – board games, Legos, blocks, balls, cards, puzzles
- Don’t suggest how to use toys or games
- No screens or battery-powered devices
Why play is essential to social and emotional learning
The catalyst for Global School Play Day was a Tedx Talk given by Dr. Peter Gray. During the 16 minute talk, Gray presents a compelling argument that today’s kids do not grow up playing and this could have a negative impact. He backs his case with the science of how animals develop.
“Young mammals of essentially all species play. In play, they develop fit bodies they practice physical skills that are crucial to their survival and they also practice social and emotional skills,” says Gray. “By playing together they learn to cooperate with one another. They learn to be in close vicinity to one another without losing their tempers, very important for social animals to develop.
Gray also points out that “risky play” teaches animals how to take risks and experience fear without losing their minds.
The Start of GSPD
Gray’s lecture so influenced a group of educators; they decided to do something about it. Global School Play Day was their answer. The movement in 2015 had over 65,000 participants, and by 2019, GSPD had over half a million involved.
GSPD Co-Founders would love to see a million participants in 2021. Co-founder, Eric Saibel, says it’s incredible to see images of students in New Zealand doing slip and slide while the kids in Minnesota are building a snowman.
“There’s this idea that has kind of crept into American society and education over the last 50-60 years that things need to be directed by adults for them to have importance for kids. And that is simply not true,” says Saibel.
Saibel says GSPD is about building awareness. He knows that one day out of the year will not build a new paradigm, but he hopes it will build a new culture at a school and maybe across a community.
A culture where people interact says Saibel, “Where there is a greater value placed on connecting face-to-face, person to person.”
To hear our full conversation with Saibel and Bedley and learn how you can participate in GSPD, listen to episode 172 of Class Dismissed.
You can listen to all the Class Dismissed Podcast episodes on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.