“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
-George Bernard Shaw
How important is it for children to engage in play? Childhood play is under the microscope. Studies are being conducted at universities everywhere on the importance of adding more play time and recess into the school day. However, we need to stop and think about play as adults. I don’t know about you, but I have surrounded myself with educators that I love to work with and collaborate. I surround myself with those who are passionate about teaching. Earlier, I talked of taking a road trip to CISSL with one of my best friends and peers. For us, the journey we began when we explored GID was one of adult/teacher play. Nerds of the world unite. Everyday over lunch, we plan, and explore lessons and strategies in order to become better educators. When we do this, we are playing. We are having fun. It’s vital for teachers to enjoy the learning experience and maintain enthusiasm. Students know the teachers that are excited and love teaching.
When we came home from the CISSL that summer, we began to share and collaborate with other teachers. As I stated earlier, we became an inquiry cult. We realized we needed a place to play. We needed a place to grow and share our work. Thus, our “Teacher Clubhouse, Inquiry Projects in Progress” space was born. How did this happen? It began with a project. We have an innovative and creative young math teacher that uses the library. Yes, we often have math in the library. This teacher incorporates research and inquiry into her units and projects when possible. She wanted to have her geometry students design a new school using geometry concepts. Of course, my thoughts were to create an inquiry unit and redesign the library. Earlier, I had been asked by the administration what changes I could make to the library with a few thousand dollars. Teachers and students were pouring into the library everyday almost every period. Who better to design the library, than the students that use the facility?
Students began asking questions. What makes a good learning space, what colors should be used, what type of furniture is best and why, does the environment make a difference? Students began researching learning spaces. I felt a little selfish, but I asked if one group per class would take a look at the library teacher workroom and perhaps design a teacher clubhouse; a place for teachers to play; a place for teachers to design engaging lessons and support each other. Every class had a group excited to work on the teacher clubhouse. Students called vendors and put together proposals. They put their inquiry skills into overdrive and became creative. They could not fathom their ideas were going to happen! Each group put together a proposal. Again, some were for the student sections of the library and some for the teacher clubhouse.
By the time school began this year, most of the changes were complete. Also, the teacher clubhouse was a better space. Last week, a group of seniors completed a Shark Tank project for a panel of judges which included our Assistant Superintendent and Principal. One Shark Tank project was based on the need to paint and make the hallways throughout the school more appealing. I thought my heart would explode when I heard these students say that the library was the most appealing and fun place to be in the building. Students in the audience agreed!
We are adding more features and more updates this summer both to the library student space and the teacher clubhouse. Our collaboration and inquiry cult is growing. Almost every week, the library is filled and more and more teachers who are collaborating and sharing. Recently, I was asked to host a group of central Ohio librarians. The chairperson asked if our presentation would focus on building our teacher clubhouse and how Jonathan Alder has become a culture of inquiry based learning and collaboration or as we like to call it “teacher play!” I can’t help but think of the movie “A field of Dreams.” “If you build it, he will come.” Begin in a small space or corner. Create a space for teachers to collaborate, share, and play.