Work Hard. Play Hard.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” -George Bernard Shaw

Education is important, everyone can agree with that. The real question is how important? How is the importance of learning compared to the importance of our health or wellbeing?

School and grades have more or less become a label for students, ironically this label means absolutely nothing about a student’s intelligence, uniqueness, or talents. Yet it is the determining factor for society to determine an individual’s success and future. We as students brainlessly trudge to school everyday more tired than before as we attempt to remain awake and complete our work.  School for me personally feels no longer exciting, rather an obligation or obstacle. But it was not always this way.

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From my earliest memories of the time I spent in preschool, the memories of recess or playtime stand out undisputedly.  If it were not for recesses, I would not have met one of my best friends to this day. I remember  my favorite activity to do was play in the sandbox. My teachers would always place little sparkly stones or sequins in the sand, it was almost like we were digging for treasure. I remember building sandcastles taller than me and catching lady bugs in the grass. Armed with two red buckets and shovels, these were our tools to exercise our imagination.

My class participated in Global School Play Day on February 1, it was a day simply dedicated to play.

Reflecting on my experience, it was different. Oddly enough, I realized  it was the first time in awhile that I had been happy and worry free. Usually I am always worrying about something and focused on a multitude of work or things I have yet to accomplish. However, amongst the commotion I found myself to only be focused on the activity I was working on, my mind was wandering off thinking about all the things I had to do. I was only focused on having a good time with my friends.

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This global event gained participation from people from all over the world attracted more than 283,000 kids. It is no surprise how many people participated in this innovative event, especially because of the decline of play in society now is an issue. Dr. Peter Gray’s Ted Talk: The Decline of Play discusses the dramatic declination of unsupervised play in today’s world, and how free play is essential to children’s health and development. Consequently the increase of anxiety, depression, suicide, and narcissism has accompanied the decrease of play. Play is fundamental to developing a children’s social skills as well as personality, without it many grow up to be narcissistic and socially awkward in a sense. Without play, depression and anxiety in children is at an all time high. In fact, Gray states:

“Children are more depressed today than they were in the Great Depression, they are more anxious today than they were during the Cold War.”

I found the most interesting part of Gray’s Tedtalk to be about his idea that play is essentially where children learn to be in control of their lives, because it really is the only place they have control at that age. I feel that being in control of your own life is essential to being successful because it allows individuals to take their life into their own hands, it creates a sense of direction. At times, I find it is common amongst my peers that they feel as if they have no control over their lives. This is an absurd idea to me because if anyone should have control in your life, it should be you.

It’s your life, you are the only one who should control it.

I found a video from the Toy Industries of Europe, who interviewed children about the importance of play. It was interesting to hear how most of the children enjoyed play because it was unstructured. They had control of what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do, and how they wanted to do it. Playtime was a time where they were in control. One boy stated:

“I like playing with Legos because you don’t have to read instructions, you can make anything!”

The aspects that I loved most about Global Play Day were the independence, creativity, and social elements. I have to admit that it was a pretty strange feeling at first, not being given a task or assignment to complete in class, but to play and have fun. I noticed that at first everyone was hesitant to get up and move about, but shortly after we all had gotten out of our seats and wandered about. As highschoolers, playtime and fun is all but a fantasy as I find it difficult to even find time to eat often. Usually the only opportunities that I have to spend time with my friends is at lunch or when we’re doing projects together outside of school. It was nice to let loose and have a genuine good time with my friends . I loved the freedom and creativity of the Global School Play day the most, it was refreshing to be able to choose what to do and be independent in our actions.

A couple of my friends and I began playing with Play-doh and we all decided to play a game of charades all together. I had a genuine good time as we attempted to model pickles and backpacks out of the colorful play-doh. I also loved the social factor of playtime, it was overall a great bonding experience. However, when it first started I noticed everyone was huddled in little groups. It was interesting to observe how as time progressed, people merged and everyone began to play together. There was a big group of people playing volleyball outside, a group of people playing board games together, and people playing charades. I even found myself talking and playing with people who I usually would never talk to. Usually the only opportunities that I have to spend time with my friends is at lunch or when we are doing projects together outside of school. It was fun to talk and connect to others as play time had given us a bonding experience.

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I encourage other teachers and schools to partake in this Global School Play Day and allow their students to reap the benefits of play time. It would be amazing and mind blowing if we have a school wide play day, a day of school dedicated to just play and allow everyone to participate. During the playtime I recalled days in elementary school that would be dedicated to playing outside or festivals, it would be super cool to experience something like that again.

In my experience, I learned more about my classmates in one period than in the months we have been in school. It provided us with freedom and the independence to just let loose for some time, to only focus on having fun with our peers. It is an unexplainable feeling, the weight that was lifted off of my shoulders during this one period of play time.We all work very hard to achieve our goals and strive to do our best, but in the midst forget to have some fun along the way.

From this experience, I learned the monumental effect of play time in just 45 minutes and from now on will definitely incorporate it in my daily life.

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A photo taken by Mr. Theriault of students playing a game of volleyball during Global School Play Day.

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