Bona Verba from the Headmaster
By now, our rising first and second graders (among many others) at CLASSICAL are deeply familiar with A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie the Pooh stories. One motif that is prevalent throughout the stories is the importance of valuing simple pleasures, such as spending time with friends, taking a stroll in nature, and enjoying a good meal. By emphasizing the value of these simple pleasures, the Pooh stories teach children to appreciate the little things in life and find joy in the everyday.
Pooh and his friends frequently embark on adventures, whether it’s searching for honey, going on expeditions, or engaging in imaginative play. These adventures embody the spirit of exploration and the joy of discovery. Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, and Rabbit also engage in playful activities, often even inventing their own games, highlighting the value of playfulness and the power of imagination in fostering creativity and enjoyment. And of course, the Hundred Acre Wood, where the Pooh stories are set, represents a natural and idyllic environment. The characters’ interactions with nature, whether observing the changing seasons or enjoying picnics, highlight the beauty and serenity of the outdoors.
Now that our inaugural year has successfully concluded and our first summer break is upon us, my hope is that the sentiments expressed in Milne’s classic stories might translate into a fulfilling summer vacation for our students and their families. Summer is a time for children to relax, have fun, spend time with family and friends, and to experience the simple pleasures of everyday life. However, with the prevalence of screens, video games, and social media, it can be challenging to get children to step away from technology and engage in the more enriching experiences of reality.
On May 12, our school nurse (Mrs. Di Nino) and I sent a letter home to CLASSICAL parents (you can read it here), emphasizing how important it is for children to get plenty of outdoor exercise, especially during the summer. With this in mind, we also introduced CLASSICAL students to the 400-Hour Outside Challenge for the 93 days of summer vacation. Just as the name suggests, we are challenging all of our students to spend 400 hours outside without screens of any kind during the summer months – that’s four hours and twenty minutes a day on average.
Taking cues from Winnie the Pooh, here are some suggested screen alternatives we’re offering parents, grandparents, and guardians to encourage outdoor exercising, having fun, and experiencing the simple pleasures of everyday life:
Go on Outdoor Adventures: Spend time outdoors this summer by going on nature walks, picnics, and hikes. Help children discover the wonders of nature, such as watching birds, identifying different types of plants, and learning about insects (as we did in our CLASSICAL Gardening Club this year). Going on outdoor adventures also helps children develop a simple appreciation for nature.
Create Opportunities for Outdoor Creativity: Summer is the perfect time for children to explore their creativity outside in your own backyard. Set up a sidewalk chalk station or a painting area. Encourage your child to make sculptures out of natural materials like rocks, sticks, and leaves. These activities allow children to tap into their imagination, experiment with different materials, and develop their artistic skills. Encourage them to try different media, such as painting, drawing, sculpting, making jewelry, and building Japanese lanterns, cardboard palaces, or wooden birdhouses.
Start a Garden: Gardening provides a hands-on opportunity to learn about plant life, the water cycle, and the impact that human activity can have on beautifying the natural environment (creating the “Garden of Eden” out of the wilderness!). It’s also a great way to get outside, exercise, and enjoy the fresh air. Whether it’s a small herb garden or a full vegetable garden, children can enjoy the fruits of their labor by harvesting their own produce and creating delicious meals.
Go Camping: Camping is a great way for children to unplug from technology and get in touch with nature. Whether it’s a family camping trip or a sleepaway camp, children can enjoy activities such as hiking, fishing, swimming, and storytelling around the campfire. Camping also provides the opportunity for children to learn valuable skills such as setting up tents, building fires, and cooking over an open flame.
Read and Write: It might go without saying, but reading and writing are essential skills that can help children develop their imagination and creativity. And one can read almost anywhere, including outdoors! We’ve provided all CLASSICAL students with a recommended reading list (you can view that here) as well as a more extensive list of book recommendations through John Senior’s “Thousand Good Books” list (check it out here). Consider starting a summer reading challenge, whereby your children can earn rewards for reading a certain number of books. Additionally, encourage children to write stories, poems, or journal entries about their experiences this summer.
Play Games: Participating in sports and games is an excellent way for children to stay active and socialize with their peers. Additionally, board games and card games provide a fun way for families to spend time together while also improving cognitive skills. Encourage your children to play games that don’t involve screens – games such as checkers, chess, other classic board games, card games, or outdoor games like tag or hide-and-seek. This helps improve social skills and promotes physical activity.
Obviously, this is hardly an exhaustive list of summer outdoor activities. Overall, try new activities that promote creativity, imagination, and socialization; anything fun or educative (or both) that encourages children to step away from screens, video games, and social media is well worth exploring! By doing so, children can have memorable and fulfilling summers that will leave a positive impact on their lives. And they will quickly learn that there are better ways to spend their free time (in their own version of the Hundred Acre Wood) than on screens.
Mr. Michael Rose
Meet the Headmaster
Mr. Rose has taught various courses at Brown University, Cincinnati Moeller, and The Summit Country Day School. As a part of his degree work in education, Mr. Rose’s research interests included the Great Books curriculum, the Paideia teaching method, and the “effects of emerging digital technology on student reading, writing, and researching.” Read More