Unstructured time and executive function


Recently, in Primary, a group of children created an obstacle course in our outdoor classroom. They talked with one another about how it should be set up and how it should be run. They decided to form a queue and have one child help moderate when it was time for the next person to go. They agreed if someone fell down, they needed to stop the action until they knew that person was okay. When the course was completed, that child would join the end of the line, where they would receive a hug from the person in front of them. (There were also some complex rules about stepping out of the obstacle course in a series of turns to shell corn from the cob that the teachers still don’t quite understand!)

This activity was not conceived of or driven by the adult. The ideas came from the children and they negotiated the solutions. If someone was being unkind, we would step in to help resolve the conflict peacefully, but we don’t take sides. This helps them acquire many skills, one of which is executive function.

Executive function is the management of working memory, reasoning, task flexibility, problem solving, and planning and execution. In order for executive function to develop, children must have time where they create their own ideas and carry them out. While it might look like our children are simply “playing,” they are, in fact, building skills that are critical later in life. We consider this flexibility of time, and the ability to craft it, to be an essential piece of our curriculum.

This entry was posted in McGuffey, outside, Primary. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.