May 6, 2015

Hang Up and Hang Out

We have a guest blogger this week: Associate Head of School Mandy Stepanovsky, sharing her thoughts about  our “Hang Up and Hang Out” week.

What would it be like to turn off the phones, step away from computers and put away those tablets for one week, one day, one afternoon?  Many Friends’ School families found out this week.  Inspired by Kristen Race’s engaging community presentation this fall and her book Mindful Parenting, Parent Council chair Mindy Mullins and preschool parent Jenny McGuire took on the task of organizing Friends’ School’s own version of “Hang Up and Hang Out.”   

As part of this community wide initiative, families received letters from their children asking them to “hang up and hang out” for the week of May 4.  Students and families committed to screen-free time throughout the week and celebrated with two engaging screen-free events.

On Wednesday May 6th, teachers and staff organized an afternoon of play including puzzles, blocks, legos, lawn games, art, maker mania, slacklining and even “running” a restaurant in the Kindergarten classroom.  Friends’ School restaurant, as it was so appropriately named, had its own chefs, hosts and servers.  

When I entered the room I was immediately drawn into the hustle and bustle of restaurant life.  I was promptly seated by a third grade hostess, served by a second grade server and saw my food
being prepared by a team of third and fourth graders.  The planning, cooperation and creativity exhibited by all students was indicative of the many benefits of play- development of creativity, abstract thinking, imagination, problem-solving, social cognition, empathy and perspective-taking.  

Out on the playground students took their cooperation one step further, trusting in each other as they made their way down the slackline.  Students could be seen deep in concentration as they were flanked by the smiling faces of their peers spotting them on the line.  

On Thursday, May 7th the Parent Council organized a similar event that included a community pot luck.  The result:  smiles, laughter, community connection, cross grade level interaction and a whole lot of fun!

According to an article published in the National Library of Medicine, “Most American children spend about 3 hours a day watching TV. Added together, all types of screen time can total 5 to 7 hours a day.”  Research shows that excessive screen time can lead to difficulty sleeping, increased anxiety, depression and difficulty attending, as well as decreased interest in healthy habits in diet and exercise.  While limited exposure to carefully planned, adult supported media can be beneficial, there is no evidence that introducing screen technologies at an early age leads to advantages with these tools in later grades.

The benefits of screen free time are bountiful.  Children with limited screen time tend to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, eat better and get more exercise.  Play away from screens lends itself to creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and the development of leadership skills.  Sustained play encourages executive functioning skills such as attention regulation, focus and grit; and students talking and working with each other develop stronger communication skills, learn to resolve conflict, increase their vocabulary and grow comfortable taking risks.

At Friends’ School we believe strongly in these benefits, not only during “Hang Up and Hang Out” week, but all year long.  Through classroom activities such as maker mania, integrated art, choice time and many open-ended projects, students experience the benefits of collaboration and screen free brain development.  On the playground they engage with children of all ages, and get to know one student of another age particularly well through our buddy program.  When technology is engaged, it is under the watchful eye of our experienced teachers and staff, used to enhance the curriculum.
We hope you enjoyed your week of hanging up and found no shortage of screen free fun for you and your family.  If you find yourself looking for more ideas, check out a book such as 150+ Screen Free Activities for Kids, or call a friend and hit the trails.   

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