As a teacher, I sometimes feel like I have the opportunity to be an observer of human nature. Like a tourist in an anthropological zoo, I have a front row seat into the natural habitat of the American teenager. It is certainly an interesting show.
One thing I’ve noticed is that people will make a game out of almost anything. Put an object in the midst of a group of students and in fairly short order they will develop some sort of competition to see how it can be manipulated and who can make it go furthest, fastest, or highest. Half-empty water bottles are instruments to be flipped, “capped,” and stacked. Mechanical pencils can be slid across a wall, and through static electricity the pencil adheres to the wall.
This tendency isn’t an example of “lazy kids these days”; far from it. It’s actually a manifestation of the image of God and their human nature. To play is to imitate, to discover, to create. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul exhorts believers to “imitate God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1). To live well is to play.
An education is an exercise in play. It is an inquiry of curiosity into how the world works and a child-like imitation of God’s handling of the things of the world. So, a good education should include elements of play. Everything from jingles and motion-filled sound-offs to quiz games, project-based learning, dramatic presentations are examples of cutting with the grain of human nature and a child’s development to cultivate wisdom in a student’s mind, heart, and hands.
This is the method behind the madness of our annual Knights’ Fest activities. For a week in February we see a crazy manifestation of play. Students relive the dress and styles of the ’50s, ’60’s, ’70s, and ’80s on Decade Day. On Character Day, students dress in imitation of their favorite characters: everyone from Aragorn to Pikachu comes to school. Each day, House competitions range from obstacle courses to dodge ball. This culminates in the annual Trebuchet Competition in which representatives from each grade build from scratch a life-size and functioning medieval catapult.
It’s a hoot and holler with lots of kicks and giggles, and in the midst of the kookiness there’s a subtle but good bit of learning going on.