What do building blanket forts, playing Twister, and creating elaborate domino chain reactions have in common? They all support childhood development and social skills, but are disguised in play. University School of Milwaukee’s students in all divisions participated in Global School Play Day on Wednesday, Feb. 1. In Preschool and Lower School, the entire day was devoted to open-ended, student-directed play.
USM joined more than 3,700 schools worldwide—and only a handful in southeastern Wisconsin—to participate in the event, in which children worked together in unstructured, child-directed play. They were encouraged to use anything they liked, as long as it did not require batteries or electricity. “Building a fort out of blankets requires a whole host of tools, like spatial awareness, large motor skills, communication, geometry, team work, and negotiating,” said Michael Tauscher, head of Preschool and Lower School. “Teachers were able to observe their students as they played and really assess their learning. How well can they construct, discuss with their peers, take the lead, or follow direction? It’s a day when kids can use their mind in a different way while having fun with each other and their teachers.”
As an independent school, USM was able to participate in the event for the full school day. “I think the magic here at University School is that we’re able to adjust our schedule to devote the whole day to play,” said Tauscher. “School administration, teachers, and parents support it and know the value of it.”