SEL Development, Part 1: Play is for All Students

We previously posted about the report released on March 12th by the Aspen Institute called The Practice Base For How We Learn: Supporting Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.

In this first of a five part series, we will look at each section of the report, and show how Play-Based Communication is the natural solution to the problems presented.

Premise 1) Play is for All Students

From the first section of the report:

“Social and emotional learning is sometimes regarded too narrowly as a targeted intervention just for students who experienced trauma or who have behavior issues or other special needs. Although the integration of social, emotional, and academic learning does benefit students who are confronting challenges, this integrated approach is for all students. This reality shifts the emphasis from addressing particular students’ behavior or motivation to understanding the central role of the learning environment. By not viewing students as the problem, this approach directs adults to explore the broader environmental and social context in which students learn.”

We are pleased that there is understanding that it is the learning culture itself that needs to be renewed. It is the work of Play Tectonics to initiate a comprehensive re-visioning of our learning culture, and to ultimately break away from the Prussian factory model that has kept education too long stuck in the 19th century. We call this re-imagining of the learning culture Education’s “Moonshot Moment”.

The report goes on to stress that these environments must reach and immerse all students:

“Through approaches such as explicit skill instruction, classroom community-building activities, and the embedding of social and emotional learning into academic instruction, educators create a culture and climate that enhance the growth of each student’s social and emotional competencies in ways that also support equity and excellence in academic achievement. As educators, as policymakers, as parents and community leaders, we must consciously design, implement, and support environments where all students can successfully develop the social, emotional, and academic skills required for success in an increasingly complex world. To do otherwise is to risk accelerating and deepening inequality.”

It is precisely the following process of transformation that constitutes the body of work of Play Tectonics – the mainstreaming of Play into academic instruction and the treating of “art” not as a subject to be studied, but as a uniquely equipped communication expression that informs the art of teaching and learning itself; art capable of creating powerful and enriched experiences through a medium of communication we call ‘the language of Play.’

Based on 40 years of internationally recognized research and innovation by Play science pioneer Jeffrey L. Peyton, Play Tectonics puts into the field and into the hands of teachers and students, the incredibly versatile, powerful, and economical communication device, the Papertalker™ Hinge.

The first section of the Aspen Institute report concludes:

“We need to ensure that all schools, especially those in high-poverty areas, have sufficient person power, resources, and the necessary partners to provide students with the educational opportunities they deserve. Combined, these strategies can serve as a buffer against the effects of chronic stress, enabling students’ social and emotional competencies to blossom and heightening their engagement in academics.”

It is the reality that many of the students who most need Play integrated into their learning environments live in economically deprived communities. This is why, when inventing a device capable of transmitting communication through Play, Jeff sought material that was economical and potentially ubiquitous in classrooms - paper.

It is an unlikely but surprising strategy to wield against forces intent on isolating children, and depriving them of true social and emotional interaction; forces intent on depriving them of Play. As we continue to do the groundwork of bringing SEL and Play into public communities, we look forward to working with institutions that are willing to follow through on the recommendations of the Aspen Institute report, and that are open to experimenting with ways to embed SEL and Play into classrooms everywhere. We look forward to the day when those institutions realize that their Moonshot Moment is at hand.

Up next, Part 2: Play Starts with Adults

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