Growing up in Brooklyn, I would go to school early to play in the yard. We would learn games like the Farmer in the Dell, Red light-Green Light, Blue Bird, Freeze Tag, Skelzy (or Skully), and Jump rope just to name a few from watching the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. Nowadays, instead of fun and laughter you see young children hitting each other with basketballs, whipping each other with the jump ropes or smashing the hula hoops while the older ones sit around texting, tweeting or gaming online.
The art of play is gone because the culture has changed. Schools have given up on recess and sports to funnel more resources for test prep or re-education of staff and students to the new standards. Technology is an easy babysitter for many parents after a hard day’s work. What we have forgotten is that part of learning is play. It is how we learned to negotiate, establish rules, and let off a little steam.
The Playworks organization recruits actual students to teach other students in their school how to engage others in a game. These Junior Coaches (as they are called) are like the first person to walk on to an empty dance floor. Unless someone makes the move, no one dances.
It is both sad and wonderful that we need Playworks to help teach our children how to be young but if you think about it, we are willing to landmark buildings and build nature reserves to preserve them for the future. Why not rescue recess for the generations that are yet to come?