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Katrina Schwartz: Welcome to Mindshift, where we explore the future of learning and how we raise our. So, Katrina, as you and I were talking about earlier, back at the start of the year, we saw an unusual amount of buzz on our social media channels. Katrina Schwartz: Right! Ki Sung: Totally. We got thousands of responses to an article we posted about schools that have set aside one day a year to cancel classes and let students play instead of work. Ki Sung: Right. Other parents were intrigued. Ki Sung: Me too. So I went there.

And these families have resources, so a lot of these kids have lots of extracurricular activities. I just want to play you some tape of how these kids spend their time afterschool. Student 2: Even if you have time, your friends are usually not free. Ki Sung: Kids are busy.

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So here at Hall Middle School, a small group of passionate teachers have done something about it. Half a million kids do it once a year. When I first heard about this, it was kind of hard for me to wrap my head around. Like, why would a school use class time for play? Kath Irving: Tomorrow we are going to be participating in doing global school play day.

Instead, they seemed a little confused. They had questions. Ki Sung: Did you hear that last kid? Hearing these kids made me think back to my own childhood as a latchkey. I had tons of time with nothing to do but roam my suburban L. It was a sunny, nearly cloudless day, perfect for whatever trouble the kids could get into.

But soon enough, they were playing games like Apples to Apples and Sorry. Irving started making a paper chain garland and other kids ed in. A couple of boys go outside to fly paper airplanes. Ki Sung: Some self-possessed kids stayed at their desks reading books. And a few kids were goofing off on a chair, pushing each other and tipping the chair over. Jake: They threw me down, picked me up, started swinging me. They placed me down, and then I grabbed their foot and they tripped and started running. Ki Sung: Ms.

Throwing things in class is not OK. Then, I Looking for curious Irving teen adult swingerss a walk to other classes. Nearby, in Mr. Ki Sung: And just beyond his class, kids were doing flips on their scooters during what would normally be science class. And some girls were super excited about face-painting. The kids got to paint a school administrator, which they loved. Student: Even the vice principal got make up.

And Miss Brown, Miss Brown. Ki Sung: In the face of all this chaos, I might have expected to find principal Eric Saibel, walkie-talkie in hand, calling for reinforcements. Instead, he was all smiles. He says, there is logic to the chaos. Eric Saibel: Play is a part of learning. And that schools are a wonderful place for children to experience play in a social setting. Depending on the neighborhood you live in, you might not necessarily have a lot of kids around you. Ki Sung: Saibel grew up in the Bay Area, competing in sports teams and loving the outdoors.

He started his career teaching at a high school, where the social norms are different than middle school. Eric Saibel: So, the first fall that I was here at the middle school as an assistant principal after 16 years of working in high school. And you know and I think that it really started to dawn on me just how powerful the biological imperative is for children to play.

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They came up with the idea of a day devoted to play. Still not sold on the value of play? Allow me to share an intriguing bit of research with you. Young rats. Inthere was a well-known experiment on two groups of young rats.

One group was allowed to play play play with their friends 24 hours a day. And then there was another group of rats who were more of the loners -- they were raised in isolation. Then, both groups of young rats were introduced to a third colony of rats that already had an established pecking order, alpha male and all.

The researchers quickly observed a vast difference in the social skills between the groups. The bottom line: young rats need free play with other young rats to become well-adjusted adult rats. Peter Gray: The view that children learn best, everything, from adults. So childhood is turned from a time of freedom to a time of building. Ki Sung: Now, as someone who grew up unsupervised without afterschool enrichment, this kind of research feels kind of counter intuitive.

I never thought that there would be an upside to being a latchkey. It may also be about saving lives. About five miles away is Tamalpais High School. In andwhen Eric Saibel was a Spanish teacher, two students from that school committed suicide.

There was another pair of suicides in a neighboring community. Eric Saibel: Two of them were my students. Mm hmmm. One was a graduate. And Looking for curious Irving teen adult swingerss was a mid-year suicide. And then the other two children were not my students. But you know at a school of eleven twelve hundred students you know it feels very personal regardless of if you know the child or not. Ki Sung: More than a decade after their deaths, long since these kids were featured in the local news, he still thinks about them -- deeply.

I feel so bad that I haven't reached out to those families subsequently to just tell them that I think about them that their kids are still a part of my DNA as a person and as a professional. Ki Sung: Teachers across the nation are really concerned about student mental health. I hear this from them all the time. Fortunately, schools are trying to help kids develop better coping skills.

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And on this day, play is a part of the solution. Nathan Beach: This is probably my favorite day of the year. Ki Sung: Like Saibel, he has witnessed students struggling with mental health, both as a fellow student in Palo Alto in the s and later on as a teacher in that community. Nathan Beach: And then once I became a teacher, I really started to see it.

I grew up in Palo Alto and there was a couple of different suicide clusters in the high schools there after I was a student but I did teach in the district during one of those clusters and so it's just something that has been growing in my awareness but especially since I became an educator. Ki Sung: When Beach was earning his masters degree in education, he made it his focus to study mental health in school.

Nathan Beach : You know, answering questions.

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I feel calm. I am worried. Ki Sung: What he learned was that kids are most stressed on Mondays and Thursdays. Nathan Beach: Mondays because that's when everybody ass work for the week and then Thursdays because they have to finish everything because it's all due on Friday. Just kind of exploring the data opened my eyes and really helped me figure out ways I can tweak my own classroom procedures, and the way I as work and everything, to kind of reduce that as much as I can. Not only is Global School Play Day analog and not digital, they took away their phones.

Eric Saibel: What's been really beautiful is that I think it really gives the kids a sense of liberation that they don't have to check their phone for the hundred messages that they need to respond to. And the upside of that, according to Principal Eric Saibel, is that kids play every day at recess. Eric Saibel : Like here on this field of play. Experience time together if all these kids had open access to their telephones I guarantee you this would look a lot different.

But educators here know that one day of play can only do so much for kids who might feel stress, especially from something like grades. So, this school year, they have taken the bold step of getting rid of A through F letter grades. Kids at this public school will of course be assessed according to state standards, but instead of points and letter grades, the teacher will write a detailed report. Eric Saibel: If learning is what matters, instead of the scores, then we need to make sure we're showing the kids that we need to de-escalate the rat race to take as many AP classes as humanly, or inhumanly possible, to look as best as you can for some so-called elite school.

So this is a huge cultural effort that we all have to undertake. And if, like me, you grew up without those things, it might be that much harder to restrain yourself. With other. For Emily Hitchcock, a student in Ms. Emily Hitchcock: Usually we do work so much that I just want to keep doing my work to get it finished.

And it took some adjustment for Emily. A time in her life when she felt more able to play. Emily Hitchcock: Like playing is so much fun. I feel like nowadays like we just completely get swept away with the Looking for curious Irving teen adult swingerss like we don't have a time to play.

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We don't play as much as we used to, and I feel like this gives us the opportunity to feel like kind of be again. Ki Sung: For sure, buy-in is important for any initiative. Anything like that really helps other people find our show.

Katrina Schwartz: Our editor is Julia Scott. Seth Samuel is our sound deer.

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Transcript: Childhood As ' Building': Why Play Needs A Comeback