The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast, Episode 113
Jennifer Gonzalez, host
When I first agreed to do a podcast on this topic, my enthusiasm was at about a six. The idea of schools taking an entire day to do nothing but play sounded….well, it sounded like a nice idea. I was aware that time in school for things like recess, art, music, and physical education was shrinking, and I’d read the stories about how kids in other countries like Finland and Japan play a lot more than kids in the U.S. do, so I knew it was a topic worth looking at, but I still wasn’t too fired up about it.
I should have been, because my own awareness of our problem with play has certainly increased. I’ve watched my own three children grow from small kids who could spend hours toddling around a playroom finding endless ways to entertain themsevles into pre-teens who can lose half a day staring at tiny screens. And I’ve seen what happens when we take those screens away, when we tell them to take a couple hours off and do something else, how they flounder around, clueless, completely incapable of coming up with their own fun.
Until about a week ago, that was the extent of my thinking about the problem, a prolonged shrug as I told myself that my husband and I really needed to do better at getting our kids away from their screens so they could wake up those other areas of their brains.
But then I watched this TED talk called “The Decline of Play,” given by a psychology professor named Peter Gray. It had a profound impact on my awareness of how serious this problem really is. If you can make the time, I’d really like you to watch it, because without having that talk as a foundation, you might be right where I was, kind of shrugging it off, then moving on to more “serious” academic topics. In the talk, Gray details how over the decades, we have gradually taken more and more play away from kids and replaced it with structured activities, academic work, and digital experiences to the point where they hardly ever “play” at all. As this trend has continued, we’ve seen a rise in childhood anxiety, childhood suicide, and a growing number of kids who simply don’t know how to play.
Here’s one of Gray’s quotes from the talk: “(One) reason for the decline of play has been the spread…of what I call a ‘schoolish’ view of child development, the view that children learn best–everything–from adults, that children’s own self-directed activities with other children are wastes of time. We don’t often say it that way but that’s the implicit understanding that underlies so much of our policy with regard to children. So childhood has turned from a time of freedom to a time of resume-building.”
It got me thinking about the emphasis some schools place on bell-to-bell teaching, on making sure our students are never idle, and how this push is doing more harm than good. It got me thinking about how kids in our town can’t explore new sports once they’re past the age of about 8, because at that point they’re “too old” and the other kids have already been seriously at it for years. It got me thinking about how many teachers tell me that every year, they see more and more students with severe emotional issues and how badly they need training on trauma-informed teaching. It also got me thinking about the terrifying rise in school shootings in the U.S., and how we are all desperately looking for answers to why they keep happening.
By the time I finished watching, my interest level was at a 10. I now feel a deep sense of urgency about Dr. Gray’s appeal to teachers, parents, and community members to make play a priority again. Three educators who also heard the talk—Eric Saibel, Scott Bedley, and Tim Bedley—responded to that call in 2015. Along with a group of other educators, they launched the Global School Play Day, a full day in February set aside to just let students play. All day long. Now in its fifth year, the Global School Play Day has spread across the world. Although one day out of the year isn’t nearly enough, they are hoping that the day will inspire schools to build more time for unstructured play into every school day.
In this episode, I talk with Eric, Scott, and Tim about the movement, how it has evolved over time, and how your school can join in.
Before we get started, I’d like to thank Listenwise for sponsoring this episode. Listenwise is an online listening curriculum featuring curated podcasts from NPR . Explore engaging and relevant non-fiction audio stories aligned with ELA, social studies, and science curriculum for middle and high school students. With Listenwise Premium, you also get classroom ready lessons with built-in literacy supports, and automatically scored comprehension quizzes, which track student progress on skills such as identifying the main idea, inferencing, and point of view. To learn more about Listenwise go to listenwise.com.
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Now let’s learn about the Global School Play Day.
GONZALEZ: I would like to welcome Eric Saibel, Tim Bedley, and Scott Bedley to the podcast. Welcome, guys.
BEDLEY, T: Thank you.
BEDLEY, S: Thanks for having us.
GONZALEZ: We are here to talk about Global School Play Day, and so before we talk about that, just go ahead and introduce yourselves, give us an idea of what your current roles are in school.
BEDLEY, T: My name’s Tim Bedley, I teach fifth grade in Southern California in a little town called Lake Elsinore, and I do a little professional development on the side and student-centered pedagogy. And I’m a YouTuber and a lazy bum, basically.
GONZALEZ: And I have been, just as a side note, Tim was one of the very first YouTubers I ever followed in 2008 when I was teaching pre-service teachers, I used to share Tim’s videos with my students. This was before I had a blog or anything. So I’m still sort of fangirling over you two.
BEDLEY, T: That’s a joke.
BEDLEY, S: I’m fangirling over him too, Jennifer.
GONZALEZ: It’s so funny. Guys, I just watched one of your old videos the other day, and I was like, “He was just good.” You’re just good. So anyway. I’m sorry to interrupt you.
BEDLEY, S: Hey, Jennifer, he has a fantastic “how to paint your living room” video as well. So don’t just stick with the school stuff.
BEDLEY, T: OK, moving right along.
BEDLEY, S: OK. My name is Scott Bedley. I’m a fourth-fifth grade combination teacher in Southern California, and this is my 25th year in teaching and I teach, speak, write, connect and play, for sure.
GONZALEZ: Awesome. Welcome, Scott.
BEDLEY, S: Thanks.
SAIBEL: And I love Scott too. Actually started off as a fan of his before we connected. So just again, Bedley brothers, both of them are stars in my eyes. So I’m Eric Saibel, and I’m a middle school principal, public school, Hall Middle School here in Larkspur, California, just north of San Francisco in Marin County. Prior to working here I was a high school Spanish teacher and assistant principal for 16 years before I made the wisest move of my career to date and joined middle school, which has been amazing. And then honestly my real work in life is, the education is kind of my second gig, youth soccer coach, youth basketball coach and hanging out with lots of sixth and second graders is sort of my thing.
GONZALEZ: Fantastic. Okay. So we are going to talk about, because all three of you do all kinds of other things. Scott and Tim have a podcast, and we’ve just got a lot of other things. Eric, you and I had actually talked about a completely different topic before we ended up switching to this, but we’re focusing today on something that the three of you are a big part of, which is called the Global School Play Day. So we’re going to get into the details of it, but can you just start by giving us an overview of what is this day?
BEDLEY, T: Yeah, Global School Play Day is basically a day to celebrate unstructured play in schools. We do a lot of play, I think naturally, in classrooms and in school. We do have recess that is unstructured play, so it’s basically an all-day recess day, which sounds kind of crazy and like a waste of time, and that’s why we do it is because we’re challenging teachers, and we do it in our classrooms and our schools as well, Scott and Eric and I. But we’re doing it as a day to bring awareness to the community, to the kids, to the parents and to the administrators a lot of times that unstructured play is super important in the lives of kids.
School is a place where kids — we just talked to John Hattie not too long ago, and he was saying, why do we have school? When the kids can learn things on YouTube and on the internet, why do we even have school? It’s to introduce kids to new concepts, things that they wouldn’t naturally do on their own, and believe it or not, in this day and age, kids do not just play on their own. Everything’s structured for them. They have soccer practice, which there’s nothing wrong with any of these things, soccer practice, they’re on their devices, they go to dance, they go to church, they do all these different things in their lives, but everything is told to them, it’s scripted out for them of what they’re exactly supposed to do. And so Global School Play Day is a day in classrooms, in schools, in school districts where we just say, let’s see if you can actually play for a whole day without screens, without us telling you what to do, and it is mind-blowing what happens.
GONZALEZ: That is fantastic. So you started to talk a little bit about sort of the reasoning behind this, but if we could sort of roll back a little bit to how this actually all got started, who started it and why and how has it evolved over the years since you got started, and I think Eric’s going to take this question.
SAIBEL: Yeah, so I mean I think first and foremost it’s a story about the power of connecting with other educators and other people via any means necessary. Obviously it’s great to be able to meet people at our school sites, at our district, at a conference, but that’s also a small sample size of all the great thinkers out there. And so we are continuously trying to encourage more educators to get out on social media, obviously social media gets a lot of pushback, correctly, for having a lot of junk and fluff and cotton candy, as Scott and I call it. That’s fine. But underneath that is so much quality and real relationships that can form and then real ideas that come out of those relationships.
So basically in the fall of 2014 there was a conference in San Francisco, Integrated SF, which was organized by Darren Hudgins and Jon Samuelson of Portland, Dr. Peter Gray was a keynote. Now I didn’t even attend this conference. But a fellow principal, Curt Rees from Wisconsin was there, and I said, hey, I know Curt through social media, through Twitter and Voxer, so I went into San Francisco. We hung out for dinner, and he raved about what Dr. Gray was talking about in terms of the adverse effects of the decline of play in children in this society. And this just hit home with me. And so Scott and I, who were also talking via Voxer, we had connected over the topic of homework and the role of homework and optional homework for students, something that he’s done so much research on and something that was, we were struggling with at my school. And so I mentioned this to him, and then it was just a domino effect. Scott talked with Tim and from those two, the germ of this idea to dedicate one day out of an entire school year dedicated to play, that’s where it was born.
And then I think the most amazing part of this is that that was January, and basically with just shoestrings, social media, we said hey, let’s do this the first Wednesday of February. It seems kind of like a nice, kind of mid-point of the year sort of time to do this, a great day for schools to kind of press pause and have a celebration. I think our initial goal or hope was that a thousand kids would participate. And within a month, on six continents, we had 65,000 children participating in the first ever. So again, I take it back to the power of how ideas can spread through all of these different means.
GONZALEZ: Oh yeah, definitely. And that really is such a fast turnaround. So that was your first year, you got over 65,000 kids, just in the first year. And you said across continents? Where was it the first year? How did it spread?
BEDLEY, S: Jennifer it went to all inhabited continents. In this last year, in the fourth year, just the fourth year of it, we had almost 400,000 kids from I think it was 58 nations —
BEDLEY, S: — joining in the play, and it’s incredible to watch the tweets and the Instagram posts starting for us on the West Coast the night before coming out of New Zealand and Australia and South Korea, and then see it trickle around the world and all the pictures posted of just joy and teachers posting “best day ever,” not kids posting this, teachers posting “best day ever.”
BEDLEY, S: It’s really incredible, and it is out of that seed of Dr. Peter Gray and his TEDx talk, you can listen to his TEDx talk, it’s fantastic.
GONZALEZ: Yes. I’m going to post it too.
BEDLEY, S: He talked about the ill effects of the decline, yeah, the ill effects of the decline of play on this entire generation of kids. And that was a huge inspiration. I still remember Eric forwarding that to me and then forwarded it to Tim, and Tim’s like, we need to do something, we need to do it now, and we can do it, let’s do this.
BEDLEY, T: One of the things that hit me was, I was like, we got to do something about this. I want to get, like my kids are older and they played, but I think they were like the last generation to go outside and just play. I go down the street right now, I run sometimes, and it’s like a ghost town.
BEDLEY, T: On the blocks, right? So it’s like it used to be that you had to stop your car, I mean excuse me, they had to stop the football game, because there was a car coming down the street. And now that never happens.
BEDLEY, T: And so I’m like, well, I can’t exactly, as an adult man go around knocking on kids’ doors saying, “Hey, why don’t you come out and play?”
BEDLEY, S: That’s not a good idea.
BEDLEY, T: No, no. And so where, how can we possibly get kids outside playing? And Scott and I realized, and we talked to Eric about it, our biggest influence is in the schools, and so that’s where we can start the movement back towards unstructured play is in the schools.
BEDLEY, S: Jennifer, really quick on that. We were seeing article like out of Florida that school districts were canceling recess for test prep.
GONZALEZ: Yeah. Oh, I’ve seen it too.
BEDLEY, S: And that’s what infuriated us was that this time that is so vital for kids just to release. And 15-minute recess, or 20-minute recess, that’s still not a lot of time.
BEDLEY, S: For a child of 6, 7, 8. And so we said, it was just like this kind of, this tipping point for us that it had to be done, and it had to come from schools.
GONZALEZ: Well you know, and I want to pause for one second too and just make sure that we get this piece of it in, because I’m coming right off of watching Peter Gray’s TED talk, right before I got on here with you guys, and I do think that there is probably a natural tendency among some educators, and I probably could fall into that sometimes too that just says, oh, that sort of sees this as that’s nice, yeah, kids do need to play sort of in theory, in quotes. And he really helps us understand that there are cognitive and sort of psychological consequences of the fact that so much play has been taken away. It’s not just like, “Oh, let them be kids.” There’s serious stuff going on here, because we haven’t given them enough actual free play.
SAIBEL: Well listen, I just, I want to piggyback on that, and I want to, this day is about children, and schools exist, and I love how Tim and Scott, and that’s a fantastic episode, by the way, with John Hattie, helping kids experience things they wouldn’t otherwise experience. But I want for a moment to pivot and have us think about the adults. And there’s been so much good thinking and correct thinking about the toxic effects of burnout.
A stat when I started teaching over 20 years ago was that within five years, half of all teachers leave the profession, not just leave their school, they leave education. And I’m sorry, but there’s just too much on the line in this day and age to have the best minds abandoning education. So as a school leader, one thing that I take just as seriously as student learning is the emotional, psychological, physical well-being of my staff.
In fact, the last two years, we’ve spent a full professional development day at the ropes course at Fort Miley, which is in San Francisco overlooking the ocean. Now you could argue well, is that productive? And was any curriculum developed? And the answer to the first thing, was it productive? Absolutely. Because adults are coming together as a family, as a team, to experience something exciting, something challenging, something that pushes their own boundaries, builds relationships amongst teachers that wouldn’t necessarily be interacting, especially in a secondary setting with different departments. So the deeper positive effects that play has are not just beneficial for kids but also for us grownups too.
GONZALEZ: Thanks for adding that. That’s really important.
BEDLEY, T: I have to admit that I was, before we got into this, before these awesome educators sent me the video of Peter Gray, I was totally naive on the subject, and I needed to have my awareness raised on what was happening with the kids because they were not engaging in unstructured play, and I was just sold on it as soon as I saw that video. So part of our reason for doing this is to have people kind of be shocked into going and watching the video. Like why would you use a whole day of school to have the kids just doing basically recess all day and unstructured play? And if you watched the video, I just don’t know how you can say that this is a waste of time at all.
BEDLEY, T: And I feel like, you know how as teachers we get into stuff over the years, and we get excited about this movement or this app or whatever, and then it kind of fades away after a while?
BEDLEY, T: I feel like with the unstructured play, I feel more passionate now about it than I did even five years ago when I learned about it, because the more I think about unstructured play and how it relates to the lives of kids, the more I realize that they are just getting messed up because they don’t, and I’m not saying all kids are messed up. But the negative impact on kids because they’re not doing unstructured play I think is so deep-seated and so wide spreading in their lives.
GONZALEZ: Can you list off, in case we end up with some people listening to this and they never bother to listen to that TED talk, could we just sort of itemize a couple of the ways that they — I see it in my own kids. My kids are 11, 12 and 14, and when the electricity goes out in the house, they don’t know what to do. And I know that’s my fault, but it seems epidemic, and I know that in school, a lot of times when they have free time, they don’t get that unstructured play. So what are some of the bigger consequences of kids not having time to play in an unstructured, not through an organized, adult-mandated system?
BEDLEY, S: I think some of the things that Dr. Gray will talk about if they don’t get a chance to listen to that is a decline in the ability to have empathy, which is huge in our society. Also increased suicide attempts at younger and younger ages. I mean it’s something that I’ve seen in my career over the last 25 years. Like, things that I would never imagine, young kids attempting suicide at the age that’s going on is just incredibly horrible. He talks about the lack of ability to be creative. Socialization is a huge piece of this, and he really relates it back to that there’s this belief that somehow homework and all these structured things leads to something great, and so you have this kind of “keeping up with the Joneses” going on with families and the number of activities they have their kids in. When in reality, the fact that they’re missing out on something is huge.
BEDLEY, S: I good friend of mine, Jennifer, named Greg Smith at one of the ed camps in LA said, “Play needs a rebrand.” Because it’s seen at this frivolous or reward-type activity.
BEDLEY, S: And he was so right when he said that, and I think that’s kind of what Peter Gray talks a lot about, but he does talk about the actual impacts from the lack of unstructured play time.
GONZALEZ: Thanks for sharing some of that. So let us move just to a couple of basic logistical questions. No. 1, I’ll actually ask them all, and then you can answer them all. Do middle schools and high schools participate in this, or is it only basically elementary schools? Does it need to be a whole school day? And also what kinds of things do kids actually do? What do you see them doing on these days?
BEDLEY, S: Jennifer, absolutely. I mean we’ve seen everything from TKs of course, all the way up to Brown University classes signing up to participate in this. There’s an incredible amount of classrooms at the elementary levels that do sign up, but there’s an incredible benefit for middle and high school students. I think a couple of good examples are there’s a few English teachers out here in Southern California, David Tario and Sean Ziebart, who teach close to us. And David’s had his students blog about Global School Play Day each of the years that they’ve participated.
BEDLEY, S: And the kind of blog posts and messages coming from his high school students, they’re incredible. I couldn’t even do them justice by trying to explain them, but they talk about the power of being empowered to make choices for their day, to being respected as a person and saying hey, we’re going to take 181 of your days, we’re going to give you one back so that you can make those choices around today. And that’s a really powerful part of it is the kind of respect that comes from a teacher saying, “You know what? I take all of these days, I’m going to give you one. And you know what? We’re going to have some fun, and we’re going to interact.” The socialization that’s happening at the high school, it’s really important between peer groups. The relationship building that happens across those peer groups where they might be separated normally when they’re in a class and they can kind of let those boundaries go is a powerful piece of it as well.
BEDLEY, S: And I would say, I know teachers that have done it the first year, and they do it for an hour or just a short time, and I say bravo to them. But the one thing I think they’re missing out on is the chance for kids to get bored. And Tim talks really well about this, and I have a great story about it, but Tim, talk about that.
BEDLEY, T: Yeah. You know, when we were kids, how often did we go to our parents and say, I’m bored, Right? We would complain about being bored. I never have my youngest son, who is not an adult unlike the other three, come up to me and say he’s bored, because he’s got a phone. And so kids never have the opportunity or the experience or the challenge of becoming un-bored.
BEDLEY, T: And really if you only do it for an hour, you won’t experience that. I remember our second year of doing Global School Play Day, I had this little girl that talked to me and said, Mr. Bedley, this is boring, I don’t know what to do. And I’m like, “Well, this day is for you then, because you need to learn how to get un-bored.” She’s surrounded by kids with playground equipment and all these board games and all this stuff, and she doesn’t know what to do.
BEDLEY, T: That’s this generation of kids.
BEDLEY, T: We need to do this for them.
BEDLEY, S: Jennifer, one quick story. When you have an entire day, you see kids go from that un-bored. I watched one of the students who had a real difficult time connecting with his peers. He stood outside. He watched, he watched. He wouldn’t go and connect. By the end of the day, I saw him inch closer to this group of boys that was playing a board game. By the end of the day, he was in there, he was bonding, he had let go of whatever boundaries he had built, and it was such a powerful moment for me to see him sitting there finally after an entire day and just forcing himself to connect on a different level, and it changed his life. The reflection from him was, “I found friends I never knew I could have had.”
GONZALEZ: Oh my goodness.
BEDLEY, S: And to me, that powerful relationship-building is another important part of why this day is vital.
GONZALEZ: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. The kids really have sort of lost the ability to socialize, and I do think especially older kids. And I see them with their phones taken away for some reason, they don’t know what to do. It’s like, oh, I’m not sure about this face-to-face business. It’s a lot. And the point you’re making is really important too, because one of the questions I asked is does it have to be a whole day, and you’re saying no, but without sufficient time, they aren’t going to take the time that’s necessary to get bored and pull themselves out of it or start to make some of these social connections that require a little bit more courage than you’re going to get in just one hour that’s going to be up in no time.
BEDLEY, S: Right. And for me as a teacher, Jennifer, and I think Tim would agree and Eric would agree as a principal, for me the day that I get to observe and see the kids and who needs help with that, when parents come to me and say, “How’s my child doing?” I know it’s not just about grades. It’s also about their peer relationships.
BEDLEY, S: And that’s what I want to know about my son. I want to know how he’s doing academically, but also how he’s doing socially.
BEDLEY, S: And can we really say that if we see our kids in a structured environment all the time? We could say how they do in structured, but not how they’re really truly doing with their peers. And even if you see them at recess, it’s not quite the same as an entire day of watching them and how they interact, how much empathy they may show, how they can help each other, how they problem solve, how they’re creative. So many ways to use that day as a teacher to observe, to give feedback information to parents.
GONZALEZ: Yeah, yeah.
BEDLEY, T: Scott, do you remember what the researchers say about the amount of time that kids need to have, of that free time before they kind of get into that rhythm of play? There was a certain timeframe. I don’t remember what that was.
BEDLEY, S: I don’t.
GONZALEZ: I know what you mean though. I know what you mean though. I see, there have been times when we’ve taken our kids’ devices away for a certain amount of time. We say just the afternoon, you’re going to take the next three hours or whatever. If it’s too short, then they’re just watching the clock to when the time is going to be up. But there does seem to be this period of time where they have to really surrender to it, and then they can start to get into, and then there is that shift of being able to get into that zone of whatever it is they’ve chosen to do. They’ve got to sink in. And that does require a certain amount of time. So if anybody happens to find that research between now and the time we put this out, let me know, and I will link to it.
BEDLEY, T: Cool.
GONZALEZ: We can move to the next question, which is what have been some of the most positive outcomes from this project? What are schools telling you, just in general about their results or some feedback that you’ve been getting?
BEDLEY, S: Jennifer, just the growth of it from five educators tweeting out and putting it on Facebook, it says a lot to us. And we’ve had companies reach out to us and wanting to support it, and we just said no, this is a grassroots effort. This is not about that. This is about, you know, the group of educators saying, hey, we believe in this. This is important. Let’s spread this from classroom to classroom, from school to school. And I think another really big positive that we’ve seen from it, besides all the stories that you can find online if you go to GSPD and then the year, so GSPD 2018, you can see tons of pictures and stories and links to blog posts and things like that, is that the number of schools that are adding play days in addition to this day. It’s really cool to know. Like my school itself, we start off the year back in August with a play day so we can get to know our kids better, they can get to know each other better, and then we’ll still continue to have play days throughout the year. I know there’s teachers that even do it monthly now. But I think that continued growth and that when kids come back and they feel that empowerment and they understand, oh, that’s what play is. It’s not somebody doing this, telling me what to do. It’s not a play date. This is what play is. It’s just me getting to self-direct and develop my responsibility. It’s been really cool.
GONZALEZ: I’m glad that you mentioned that about adding extra days, because after watching that TED talk and seeing this, my first thought was well one day is definitely not enough, and I would hope that it would just basically be an inspiration for schools to find ways to just build more of this into every day, basically, build chunks of time into their week or their days.
BEDLEY, T: Yeah. Because of the awareness that was raised in me, I started doing more brain breaks with my kids. I mean our built-in schedule at our school, the kids are supposed to be sitting doing education stuff, you know, academics from 8 a.m. until 10:30. And for a 10-year-old, that’s just like a ridiculously, I can’t sit for that long. So yeah, I’ve built in brain breaks.
SAIBEL: Something that’s been really special about working here at Hall Middle School actually coincided with, Global School Play Day coincided with my first year here, and just to see teachers really jump into it. And again, in secondary settings, as we’ve talked about before, it can feel like play is what we reserve for recess and lunch. But to see teachers really setting up their classroom spaces, inside and outside, and really inviting kids to just really create that space with them, to bring games, to bring music, and also too for the teachers themselves to really sink into those activities. And that’s something that we hear from participants every year. Not only how wonderful it is to observe how the kids are interacting with each other, in different combinations and different dynamics, but also how they the adults have this opportunity to get to know the kids in different ways. So those have definitely been some really special things that we continue to see every play day.
BEDLEY, S: You know, one of the things that I really like to do is connect online before and after with another class so we can share our play experience. And so you can use any of the tools you want, but if people go to the #GSPD2019, they’ll be able to see other teachers and connect with them. It’s been awesome to have my kids in Southern California connect with a class in Canada and hear about how they’re playing hockey in the halls and having snowball fights and things like that during the day. And just to get an idea that this moment in this day can connect so many of us and build empathy not only in our own classrooms, but across classrooms, and so I think that’s a really powerful piece of doing this is making sure that you can try to take that beyond your school boundaries.
GONZALEZ: That is fantastic, yeah. I wasn’t even thinking about that, but that would be another fantastic just outcropping of all of this, so thanks for sharing that.
BEDLEY, T: One of my favorite things is at the end of Global School Play Day inevitably every year at the end of the day, the kids get all excited and they look at you and they say, “That was the best day ever. Can we do that again?” And my answer to them is, I’ve got it ready to go, I said, “Yes, you can do it every single day after school.”
GONZALEZ: Oh there you go.
BEDLEY, T: And they look at you like, “What?” It’s like, yeah, but you don’t go home and play. You just go home and stare at your device, or ask your parents, “Can I go outside and play?”
BEDLEY, T: “Can I knock on a friend’s door?” I mean I remember we used to find our friends by where the pile of bikes were, right?
BEDLEY, T: I mean the kids, they text each other or whatever, but so that they can get together and play on their devices. So yeah, they just discover the joy of play, because they’ve never done that before and spent a good considerable amount of time just having free time and putting the devices away. So we need to return this love, this passion, this growth experience to our kids, and one way to do that is to introduce them to Global School Play Day.
GONZALEZ: Yeah. So if a school is ready, and they’re hearing this, and they’re ready to participate, this is going to be Feb. 6 of this year. We’re in 2019 right now. So if they want to participate on Feb. 6, what do they do?
BEDLEY, T: Well it’s the first Wednesday of February every year. So this year it’s Feb. 6, and they can just do it. This is not a money-making thing. This is just a movement, a grassroots movement because we care about kids. So they can just do it, but if they want to go to Global School Play Day and sign up on our form, that’s awesome, because then that adds to the voice as we present this to different administrators and people that are concerned, people that are making decisions for our kids, that we can present and say, look at all these educators that believe in the power of play for kids. And so they can sign up there and commit to doing it for an hour or half of a day or a full day. And so yeah, that’s how they would get involved. We also have a form for anybody that’s listening that does not actually oversee kids, but they really believe in Global School Play Day. They can sign up there and put in their opinions about how great Global School Play Day, and that adds to the voice as well.
SAIBEL: One thing that we have the opportunity to do in education is to partner with organizations that are outside of education that are community-based organizations that are local, national, international, that have, frankly, the same mission, which is to enhance the lives of children and all communities through the power of play. There’s two I want to mention specifically.
One is just across the bridge in Richmond, California, which is one of the communities that has been most economically hard hit since the end of World War II. It’s known as a place where there’s a lot of violence. It’s known as a community that’s really been underserved decade after decade. This organization called Pogo Park, and you can find it on Twitter @PogoPark, is a local nonprofit whose mission is to revitalize the community, starting with the park spaces. And it’s not just a question of putting up a new play structure. It’s about staffing the parks with community members to run programs for children, programs for adults, to bring together the community for different special events, to work with the city to create safe throughways for bicyclists and pedestrians, to work with the city to buy up neighboring houses that were drug houses. This is a community where some parents wouldn’t let their kids go outside for fear of their safety.
In fact, their executive director Toody Maher told me a story about a 5-year-old who came out at the start of the summer and had very delayed language skills. She talked like she was 2 or 3 years old. By the end of the summer, she was talking and interacting like every other 5-year-old out there. And why is that? It’s because she was out playing with her peers. She was out interacting in ways that only play can bring about. So it’s not just about building a shiny new structure. It’s about a holistic approach to community transformation that makes it safe for everybody, and then the educational and the life outcomes only improve after that.
Another organization is called Changing the Game Project, founded by Joe O’Sullivan. He came and spoke to our community last year, and their mission is to really bring about a cultural change in youth sports. As an athlete myself, as a youth sports coach, I know just as so many of us know that the culture around youth sports has become hyper competitive and very toxic, and the effects on kids are really tragic, because about 70 percent of children at the age of 13 walk away from competitive sports. They’re like, “I’m fed up with this. I’m done with it.” And so this is terrible, because again, participating in sports is not about, “Oh, one day I’m going to be a professional.” It’s about the joy of having a team, about competing, about challenging ourselves, the physical health, the sense of confidence and overall well-being that that can bring about, regardless of how good we are. So the Changing the Game project is another really powerful organization that’s doing amazing work, and we educators should be really paying attention to organizations like this, because again, we work with kids from communities of all different backgrounds. We have at one school people that are affluent, people that are struggling, and also too we’re also working with folks that are involved in sports and other things out in the community. So we, in education, can really learn so much from organizations like these, and we feel really strongly that Global School Play Day has a lot to share, and a lot to learn from organizations like these.
GONZALEZ: Great. Okay. And so if somebody wanted to go and learn more, they would go to GlobalSchoolPlayDay.com, and beyond that, if they wanted to get ahold of any of you, how would they find you?
BEDLEY, S: Well they can find me on Twitter, I’m @Scotteach. They can also tweet at Global School Play Day, which is @GSPlayDay, or you can check out what we’ve done in our class and Mr. Bedley’s class, @MrBedleysClass on Twitter.
BEDLEY, T: Yeah, my Twitter handle is @tbed63, “T” as in Tim, “bed” as in Bedley, and “63” as in when my dad was born or somebody like that.
BEDLEY, S: You wish.
SAIBEL: You can find me on Twitter at @ecsaibel and also on Instagram @esaibel.
GONZALEZ: Fantastic. Thank you guys so much for taking the time, well first of all for starting this, and then for coming on here and explaining it to people. Hopefully we can get more schools on board this year.
BEDLEY, S: Sounds great.