Play as a Model for the Middle Grades
Play in the lives of children of all ages is on the decline. This decline is even more dramatic in the middle grades, as in this context, play is almost non-existent and has been replaced with a rise in negative qualities such as anxiety, stress, and depression. This decline in play is surprising as researchers have continued to tell us of the many benefits of play for development and learning throughout the lifespan. In this paper, I examine the middle grades context and offer play as a model for meeting the needs of the middle grades learner. I then go on to give examples of how play has been incorporated in classrooms in the form of a continuum of play, showing how play might be applied on a classroom environment level, through games, in curriculum, and in the school system as a whole. By applying its characteristics to these areas, middle grades students might experience learning as joyful, happy, intrinsically motivating, and a way of experiencing flow.