More Play. More Questions!
In a world where local and state-level standardized tests and state accountability reigns, creativity is often sacrificed or devalued in secondary educational settings. Researchers Bronson and Merryman (2010) stated that prior to 1990,
“The correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment was more than three times stronger for childhood creativity than childhood IQ”
However, the trend has reversed with prescribed academic curricula which provide little time for student inspiration. An underlying reason creativity is missing is due to devaluing of creativity within schools (Bronson & Merryman, 2010). Without true intentional focus, “its left to the luck of the draw who becomes creative: there’s no concerted effort to nurture the creativity of all children” (Bronson & Merryman, 2010, para. 8). The current system prevents educational leadership from being the transformational entrepreneurs our students demand to progress and fully reach their individual intelligences “taking away from higher order thinking skills, which has been proven to have long term benefits for students and is a much needed 21st-century skill” (Lewis, 2019). Like schools, countless organizations seem to be structured to force round pegs into square holes, absent of play and thus diminishing the efficacy of its leaders along with those they are leading. According to Hallowell (2011), a clear majority of leaders acknowledge the value of work ethic, “but there is a great need for them to also see play as a vital role in improving and reaching highest potential and performance” (p. 36).
An environment of play places an emphasis on personal growth and can build a culture which encourages leaders to look for collaboration, hence bridging their colleague’s talents to accomplish a common goal. Play in the workplace allows for deeper conversations to take place, laying a foundation of empathy and concern perpetuating a thriving organization. For leaders, considering play as an invaluable benefit can represent a potential paradigm shift for most cultures and serves as a barrier to achieving the peak performance needed in all successful teams and individual performance. Without leaders implanting play, the outcome of learning becomes a predictable absence of inventiveness. Hallowell’s (2011) concept,
“Play leads to all great discoveries, needing to be internalized and becoming a standard for operations in order to see organizations thriving and reaching their highest performance potential
In many cases, students end up waiting until college or beyond to experience and explore their passions. Many students attending our universities across this nation have left their inner child far behind. Most educators and researchers agree play not only benefits children's mental and physical health, it teaches them risk taking and problem-solving skills, promoting imagination, independence and creativity, but according to Jenkin (2013a) “Play's use in education beyond early years, however, is a much more contentious issue” (p. 3). In this debate, beyond kindergarten, laser focus on curriculum geared towards standardized testing drives classroom pedagogy. In a world of ever evolving high tech, the emphasis of play leading to creativity and innovation within higher education is not clearly designed. From concentrated and intentional role-playing kindergarten to devoting significant classroom time to state exam preparation, play is squeezed out by rows of desks in every school classroom. Along the way, the emphasis diverts from learning as exploration and investigation to learning for results. The quest for learning becomes lost as students move away from their early childhood years to adolescence. Preschool children ask on average 100 questions a day. As children move to be middle school age, the questions all but cease. The questions stop along with a decrease in student engagement and interest (Bronson & Merryman, 2010, para. 29). These facts lead to the question, why do students stop asking questions and engaging? According to Bronson and Merryman (2010),
“They do not stop asking questions
because they lost interest. They lost interest because they stopped asking questions”
Even successful students who possess a naturally innovation aptitude, their full creativity surface is only scratched. According to Conklin (2015), “play not only fosters creative thinking, problem solving, independence, and perseverance, but also addresses teenagers’ developmental needs for greater independence and ownership in their learning” (para 7). The extension of play deemed by many play theorists as essential across all learning environments, curriculum, and educational levels gets buried in the definition of “work” where there is no room for play. Researchers add, “creativity should not be found only in the art room but into homeroom” (Bronson and Merryman, 2010, para12). The influence of play needs to be incorporated into other aspects of education beyond art and music. Early childhood development in kindergarten is a basis for play and creativity to be reinforced throughout the educational system. The play “gap” is visibly and tangibly obvious within the secondary school years. Conklin (2015) explains that adolescents, in comparison to children in early childhood years, are “largely left out of these important conversations” (para 2). Moreover, Conklin argues that adults, too, need play.
In a classroom or in the boardroom, “life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival” (Hallowell, 2011, p. 124). The fundamental aspects and their role in summit performance reveals play is critical for connecting those that have been selected to achieve excellence. Woven into what perpetuates a life that is enjoyable, one will find play. Brown (2009) exhorts, “play is a catalyst. The beneficial effects of getting just a little true play can spread through our lives, usually making us more productive and happier in everything we do” (p. 67). It is in the arts, travel, discovery, good conversation and laughter, literature, athletics, our clothing choices; much of what we think of in defining our own culture comes out of our play (Brown, 2009). Although hard pressed to narrow and confine play to a single definition, at the heart of play, Hallowell (2011) suggests, “play is the viral essence of life. It is what makes life lively” (p. 2011).
Dr. Jeffrey A. Springer
Executive Coaching/Mentor - Spring Strategies- LLC
"Cultivating Playful Entrepreneurs"