The Professorship of Play
Vol. 13 No. 9
In a time when public schools are cutting recess and other "down time" periods in favor of increased academic instruction, one school has decided to prioritize the role of play. In fact, with the generous help of Lego, it's going so far as to establish a "Professorship of Play" to study how and why playing helps children grow and learn.
During a recent meeting, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge announced that he "accepted with gratitude" a sum of 1.5 million pounds to support a "Research Centre on Play in Education, Development, and Learning," or PEDaL, to be run by Cambridge's Faculty of Education. A further 2.5 million pounds was offered to fund a "LEGO Professorship of Play," the recipient of which would oversee the PEDaL Research Centre. If approved, the Professor of Play would begin his or her studies this fall as part of the Faculty of Education.
Such a generous contribution from a foundation created by a toy company isn't particularly surprising, especially considering the Lego Foundation's mission to "build a future where learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, life-long learners."
The research to support play as an important tool for schools has increased over the past decade. Recent studies have associated recess and similarly unstructured breaks with better eating habits, improved emotional and social development, and boosts to attention spans and learning skills. Our own Consultant, Simon Jeynes, has often spoken of the importance of recess and "down time" for students, citing students' need for unstructured physical and creative outlets to create better learning opportunities in the classroom.
The results from the PEDaL Research Centre won't be available for a few years, as the LEGO Foundation's gift will be paid over the next three years. Still, our growing understanding of the importance of play in students' lives will ensure we keep a eye out for the studies that are sure to come from this partnership.
Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for Division Heads Vol. 12 No. 3 Paying for Recess: Families Transfer to Private Schools for Recess
ISM Monthly Update for Division Heads Vol. 11 No. 5 Snow, Snow, Go Away: Winter-Recess Policies
ISM Monthly Update for Risk Managers Vol. 4 No. 6 Winter Playground Safety