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Global School Play Day is serious work

Thornapple Kellogg, Wyoming — Little ones had their imaginations in full gear while making their own fun for an entire school day during the recent Global School Play Day.

At McFall Elementary in Thornapple Kellogg Schools, imaginations on Feb. 5 inspired dramatic play in teacher Jill Bouwkamp’s classroom, and in Wyoming Public Schools at West Elementary, kindergartners rotated classrooms and settled in to play with puppets, mazes, blocks and fishing poles.

“The reason behind a day of play is directly related to how academic kindergarten has become,” said West Elementary kindergarten teacher Julie Merrill. “As educators, we know the importance of learning good social skills, cooperation, problem solving … We also know that children today play and use their imagination much less than before technology became so prevalent. 

“The skills learned through playing teach us how to be good humans who can get along and problem solve.”

All day long, students from other classrooms at McFall visited Bouwkamp’s moderately cognitively impaired classroom to play with a variety of toys. At a small table near the play kitchen, a group of first-grade girls served up a plethora of plastic bananas for their tea party. 

Everett Walker and Caiden Johnson played together with a Transformers action figure.

“We put it together, and now we have to un-transform it,” Everett explained. 

Throughout the day, kindergarten and first-grade teachers set aside time just for students to play in whatever ways they wanted. 

In Eliana Condotti’s classroom, first-graders Ryleigh Endres and Magnifique Kabela used playdough to give a doll colorful new teeth. 

“I’m the dentist, and we’re taking out her bad teeth,” Magnifique said before operating with plastic scissors.

McFall Principal Jon Washburn said having unstructured play time for students is more important than ever, in the age of technology. 

“Having unstructured play is a great learning experience, to learn sharing and getting along,” he said. “The main reason we do it is to promote the hands-on learning and life skills kids need.” 

 ‘The skills learned through playing teach us how to be good humans who can get along and problem solve.’

— Julie Merrill, West Elementary kindergarten teacher 

Merrill said she and her fellow kindergarten teachers at West have “purposeful play” every day, working hard to immerse students in creativity, cooperation and problem solving. For Global Play Day, teachers set up crafts, sensory and puzzle stations, among other opportunities.

“I think a favorite of mine was a dress-up station and Beanie Babies,” Merrill said.  “I do not believe I have seen so many smiles and heard so much laughter in a long time. It was truly a joyful day.” 

Read more: 
They have the potential to be whatever they want to be’
Motion, and magnets and maps, oh my!

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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