Play is essential for the development of the adolescent mind, yet we routinely restrict opportunities for tweens and teens to play when they may need it most.

In a groundbreaking session at this month’s National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) conference in Philadelphia, Meredith Hafer, Academic Dean at Grayson will demonstrate what happens when a vanguard team of architects and educational psychologists collaborate to research, design, and execute a new model to meet the deep social and imaginative needs of adolescents at play.

Along with Brian Housand, Ph.D., Grayson Research Advisory Board member, and Brandon Clifford, MIT, this team shares how The Grayson School is reinventing recess by engineering a megalithic playscape for gifted adolescents. Scot Osterweil, Creative Director of MIT’s Education Arcade, first articulated the “four freedoms of play” — opportunities which are not necessarily otherwise enjoyed outside of play — all incorporated into this environment. The play lab will provide a beta for us to understand and support our student’s need for play, while providing them with the freedom to experiment, to fail, to try on new identities, and a freedom of effort, all in a 10,000 sq. ft. space of their own.

We are serious about play. Our rigorous and challenging day allows regular breaks and the opportunity to de-stress — for all students — not exclusively for younger students as in most schools.  While our Lower School students immediately head to the swings, the playset, a mud pile and the gaga pit for many different types of physical, creative games, and storytelling activities, that’s not what we see with our Middle and Upper School students.  A slow walk to our outdoor space, laying around on the grass, a few tossing a frisbee, or crowded into the Lower School playset fort for a private conversation.  We want to give them a space.  Not something designed to appeal to them, and define what they do in the space, but to give them some inspiration and tools to explore their ideas, create their own space, and give them an outlet for play – at the scheduled time of day when it makes most sense:  recess!

Stay tuned as construction on their megalithic play lab begins in March.

EDITOR’S NOTE: With our transformation to remote learning in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are anxiously awaiting the opportunity for our students to bring their new lab to life in the fall! Please let us know how we can help answer any questions about our school, how our students are engaging both academically and socially, and arrange either a virtual tour or visit to see if we are a good fit for your family.

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