Recess without rules

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

There are no rules on the playground at Swanson Primary School in Auckland, New Zealand. Students are allowed to climb trees, ride skateboards, and play contact games. This relaxed approach to playtime started as a research experiment conducted by two local universities, but it went so well that the school opted to make the changes permanent. According to a recent article, the school “is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.”

Swanson’s principal, Bruce McLachlan, said, “We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Auckland University of Technology professor Grant Schofield, who worked on the experiment, claims there are too many rules on modern school playgrounds. He says that limiting children’s play is harmful to children in the long run because it “ignores the benefits of risk-taking.” He goes on to explain that children learn how to deal with risk only by facing risk. Schofield encourages other schools to embrace this same freedom of play and risk-taking. “It’s a no-brainer. As far as implementation, it’s a zero-cost game in most cases. All you are doing is abandoning rules.”

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