When I first heard about the democratic school model, I didn't give it more than a passing thought. It wasn't until I met Barbara Dewey's granddaughter, at a homeschool teacher training seminar (her organization, Waldorf Without Walls, is wonderful!), and realized the KIND of people who come out of a school environment like that, that I took it more seriously. This articulate, compassionate, bright young woman was simply a phenomenal individual!
So I began to research the model and was particularly interested in it for the middle school years. My school subscribes to the American Journal of Play, which is a wonderful peer-reviewed journal, and is available in print or free online. They'll also allow you to sign up for email alerts when a new issue is published and available online. This was where I discovered Peter Gray.
Dr. Peter Gray does his research on the value of play in education, and uses Sudbury schools as the venue for his research. They are valuable schools for this type of research because the self-directed model allows for time in the day for play, and the mixed age framework (ages 5-18 at our nearby school) allows for interesting research in the quality of play among mixed ages. The first article of his that I read was Play as a Foundation for Hunter-Gatherer Social Existence. Intrigued, I read more of his work. I liked The Special Value of Child's Mixed-Age Play, but Playing in the Zone of Proximal Development: Qualities of Self- Directed Age Mixing between Adolescents and Young Children at a Democratic School which he published with Jay Feldman in Psychology Today really blew me away. It is a must read! It was what caused me to choose Fairhaven School for my daughter, and I couldn't be happier!
Now I will actually get to meet Peter Gray! He's coming to Fairhaven on Saturday, October 5th to share his latest book: Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life
The reading and discussion will begin at 1 pm. I cannot wait, and I encourage everyone who is interested in and passionate about the value of play in education to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.