SIERRA VISTA HERALD REVIEW
By Diana Cole
September 6, 2002
Works brought more than book learning to her class at Town and Country
Elementary School. She taught the youngsters how to play, and in turn,
strategies were something I learned through Creative Spirit, a
Tucson-based company that teaches students how to interact, solve
conflicts, and play peacefully," Works said, describing the "Learning
to Play, Playing to Learn" philosophy.
Justin Levesque--Herald Review
|Spencer Gorin, left, with Creative
Spirit plays games with students in Mrs. Quinones first-grade class
at Town & Country Elementary School. The program teaches
conflict resolution and team building.
Built on a foundation of peace-building activities for kids, the concept is the brainchild of Charlie Steffens and Spencer
When Town and Country teachers saw the program's impact on Work's students, they were impressed.
long, Works was conducting mini-clinics for other teachers. And this
week, with the help of Proposition 301 money and funds from the
school's Parent Teacher Student Organization, the program came to Town
and Country School. For three days, Steffens and Gorin spent time with
students and teachers, presenting their peace-building philosophy
through the dynamics of play.
that play should be fun and conflict free, the program promotes team
spirit, minimizing the importance of scores and competition on the
playground. Steffens and Gorin base their philosophy on two essential
before Karen Growing's third-grade class Steffens asked, "Why do we
play?" Using students' answers, he created a class poster. Though every
child's response was placed on the poster, "We play to have fun" was
featured as the most important reason for playing. All other responses
- "we play to get healthy, to get strong, to make friends,"- also were
given as important reasons. Expanding the exercise, Steffens led
students into a fun-filled discussion about fair play and the
importance of following rules, using hands-on activities.
you can only play if you're having fun and you're not having fun if
you're not playing the right way," he warned his young audience.
created a second poster answering the question, "What is the most
important part of every game?" With "people" as the correct response,
Steffens guided students into a second discussion. "Without people,
there is no game. So remember - you're the most important part of the
game." Students discussed compassionate play and the need for offering
assistance to those who have been hurt or injured in a game.
and Gorin said they believe that by minimizing the emphasis placed on
competition and scores, play becomes more inclusive for all students -
not just an activity enjoyed by more popular or athletic children.
Classroom role-playing and discussions were followed with a "three ball
soccer" game on the playground, where the class was divided into two
teams. Teams were created without a team captain and without choosing
students - the class was simply divided into two teams.
way no feelings are hurt, no kids are left out or chosen last,"
Steffens explained. "So many children become discouraged because they
are often skipped over during team selection. Our goal is for every
child to feel included, and to interact with the whole class."
and cooperation during play are rewarded, creating a greater sense of
team building and sharing among students. Students who are bickering or
arguing are calmly pulled from the game and reminded of the rules
emphasized on the class posters. They are asked to step out of the game
and discuss their differences until they can reach a compromise.
result is amazing. With the rest of their class engaged in a game, the
students who have been pulled out quickly resolve their differences and
rejoin their classmates.
becomes their choice," Steffens said. "The teacher simply steps out of
the whole disciplinary process. Children soon realize the entire class
is having fun, and they're standing behind the sidelines arguing. They
learn to get along."
Though Creative Spirit is based in Tucson,
Steffens and Gorin travel all over the country presenting their
training program to educators, mental-health professionals and
child-care personnel. It is endorsed by teachers and administrators.
But kids love it too.
have a lot of friends, and I like to play," said 7 year-old Matthew
Dildine. "Charlie (Steffens) taught us a new soccer game and it was
fun." Matthew's favorite sports are T-ball and soccer, and he says he
plans to use some of the ideas he learned from "Charlie."
Mason and Priscilla Wood were two children who had a slight
disagreement when Cassidy thought Priscilla had pushed another student
during the three-ball soccer game. Steffens asked the two girls to
leave the game to work out the problem. After a brief heated
discussion, they reached an agreement, shook hands and returned to the
"Cassidy thought I
pushed someone, but it was an accident," Pricilla said solemnly. "I
didn't push anyone - I actually tripped."
At the game's conclusion,
the two girls sat next to each other - even offering each other a round
of applause when they were mentioned as particularly good sports by
some of their classmates.
learned some really important things from Charlie," Cassidy said.
Outlining what she learned in class, the 8 year-old offered the
following list: "The number one reason to play is to have fun. The most
important part of the game is the people. If anyone gets hurt, stay
with them and help them. If you're not playing by the rules, you're out
of the game."
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