Blue Oak School recognizes what biologists, neuroscientists, and anthropologists confirm, that play is so much more than fun. At Blue Oak, we provide our student have ample opportunity for developmentally appropriate play, both structured and free, which inevitably results in authentic situations that promote social competence and resilience. Related to play, at Blue Oak, we also emphasize the importance of being in the out-of-doors as a critical element in our students’ physical and emotional health.
There is a profound wisdom in the exhortation, “go out and play!”
Increasingly children’s play has become scheduled and controlled by adults – we save time at Blue Oak for free play. Also, while we are always attuned to our students’ safety, we recognize that low-stakes conflicts that arise in play provide all-important opportunities for children to practice their skills of negotiation and compromise. This is what psychologist Madeline Levine so eloquently calls the “blessing of a skinned knee.”
At Blue Oak, we also value free play as it provides students the time to imagine. It is not unusual to find our Lower School students busily at work at recess building fairy houses, digging elaborate boat channels in the sandbox, and imagining they are a pack of horses. We take pride that our students maintain their sense of imaginative play at our Middle School, where our students fill the playground with elaborate ball games of their own invention.
Teachers observing structured and free play often gain insight into the personalities of classes and growth in individual development. These new understandings immeasurably help teachers interact with each student as an individual, an essential element of progressive education.