Play Incorporated into School Days Aids Productivity

Ms. Mitchell’s Kindergarten students build and decorate boxes during “purposeful play” time. Photo by Jessica Steeley
Ms. Mitchell’s Kindergarten students build and decorate boxes during “purposeful play” time. Photo by Jessica Steeley

BY JESSICA STEELEY
Clarkston News Staff Writer

This year Clarkston elementary schools are choosing to shift their focus and take a different approach by infusing play into the children’s school day, Principal Glenn Gualtieri said.

Gualtieri, principal of Bailey Lake Elementary, describes it as a “conscious effort” to have students take time out of their day to focus on a non-academic activity, such as a board game or physical activity.

“If students do take these brain breaks not only will they benefit from some social opportunities and some physical
opportunities, they’ll be more productive throughout the day when we are having some academic rigor,” Gualtieri said.

Rather than a focus on standardized testing, Gualtieri says he wants the students at Bailey Lake to be prepared and well rounded.

“What we want to do is have students have the dispositions and skills and strategies to problem solve any situation or
assessment or test that they’re given,” he said. “We look at the child more holistically, what are those skills and dispositions we can have them obtain through the opportunities that we provide so they can succeed.”

Gualtieri himself views Bailey Lake as a school where the staff makes connections with each child. They put in effort to have a relationship with their students by getting to know them and their family. He thinks such relationships make students want to be at school and helps foster a higher level of learning and involvement.

Along with the staff, Gualtieri also tries to make those connections with kids. He said connections help to avoid disciplinary action and, when a problem does arise, having a physical presence around the school makes
students care about what he has to say.

“I don’t like sitting in that chair over there,” he said, pointing to the chair behind his desk. “It’s not who I am or what I do, I want to be ingrained in what’s going on in our classrooms. I want to be in our hallways, I want to be in our rooms, I want to be out on the playgrounds.”

“I want them [the students] to see me as a learner as well. I learn something here everyday, it’s an amazing place,” the principal said.

There are 560 students at Bailey Lake and Gualtieri tries to know them all by name. While taking a tour of the school, Gualtieri greeted several students by name and talked to a few. Many students were excited to see
and speak to him.

“When they’re walking down the hallway I can greet them by name, which I think is something important, because everybody is an individual and an important person,” he said. “That might be something different, but it’s important to me that they know that I know who they are.”

Gualtieri said he’s proud of the students because of how they conduct themselves. Despite only being in elementary school they’re able to be respectful towards their peers and learn from others opinions.

“It’s a fun place, I think students like to be here,” he said, “I think they enjoy and have fun during their learning afforded opportunities that extend outside of their classroom walls and I think they feel a big part of their learning and they have ownership in what they do.”