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A Summer Challenge from the Head of School: Go out and play!

June 07, 2018
By Barrie Hillman

Dear WSA,

The last three weeks have been full of joy and exploration through our June Term classes. The campus has been hopping with creativity and creation. We also are happy to welcome home our June TREC travelers from their trip to France and Spain!

The Maker Playground class with 'The Bunker' that they made for WSA's new adventure playgroundHaving worked so hard all year long on academics, this experiential learning opportunity allows for deeper collaboration, innovation and problem-solving with students of all ages in each group. While the faculty can recognize the achievements of the students, the students often think of it as play. In fact, I am such a huge fan of play that I created the Maker Playground June Term class specifically for the purpose of encouraging more free play that is not sanitized with lots of direction and adult intervention.

Play can stimulate brain activity, relieve stress and build valuable skills and we, adults and kids, simply do not do enough of it. Teens and tweens desperately need more play and we often forget about this as kids grow more autonomous. So my challenge for you all this summer ( need to play too) is to mindfully embrace play. Look for opportunities to create play in unexpected places. Stuck in a ferry line? Create a game out of items you can find in the car. Going on a hike? Find a cool stick to carve. Hanging out with friends? Put down your phones and play cards. Play with electronics is not the same as unstructured play and doesn't reap the same benefits.

At "The Gully," as our maker playground was named, we play with "loose materials" and tools. We hope to have some open sessions this summer and will invite you to come play with us! It was a great school year and to everyone: students, parents, staff, faculty and dogs...job well done and happy summer!


Nickey says:
June 13, 2018 03:29 PM CST

This is wonderful! For three years my son has attended Tinkering School south of San Francisco. At Tinkering School, children are allowed to pick up and use tools that are commonly viewed as dangerous by our overprotective society and be trusted not to hurt themselves or others. They use wood, nails, rope, wheels and lots of tools...real tools. Check out the founders TEDTalk “Life lessons through tinkering” (2009). Most importantly, the kids are given time...something that’s in short order these days with stressed-out, overworked parents and packed extracurricular schedules. Having the time to start these open-ended building projects, to fail at them, then to persevere and ultimately succeed (with the help of adults who are guiding the projects to completion) is a glorious thing. Tinkering School operates under three unusual and refreshing assumptions about kids: (1) They are more capable than they know. By giving them big responsibility, you build competency and self-confidence, while creating lasting memories. (2) The freedom to fail is essential. “A failure-positive atmosphere allows children to play in the face of adversity.” (3) It can be done bigger and bolder. There’s no limit to the ambitiousness and awesomeness of the projects that these kids tackle. In the three years my son has attended, he's built a fort over a river bed, a roller coaster and a Mario Cart styled obstacle course. So grateful schools like WSA exist... a school that encourages the best qualities of youthfulness...curiosity, adventure, resilience and the capacity for surprising insight. Our family is excited to be a part of it in the fall!