The Future With Sneakers On

Psychology Today recently published an article that looked at Sudbury Valley School, where learning is play-based and student-directed for all ages. The philosophy of the school is that people are curious by nature and that, when given the freedom and opportunity to do so, children will explore their world and develop their unique talents. There are no classes at Sudbury Valley School, although students can request instruction on any subject they desire. At Sudbury Valley, kids learn by doing.

“Play—it’s by definition absorbing. The outcome is always uncertain. Play makes children nimble—neurobiologically, mentally, behaviorally—capable of adapting to a rapidly evolving world. That makes it just about the best preparation for life in the 21st century. Psychologists believe that play cajoles people toward their human potential because it preserves all the possibilities nervous systems tend to otherwise prune away. It’s no accident that all of the predicaments of play—the challenges, the dares, the races and chases—model the struggle for survival. Think of play as the future with sneakers on.”

While this same philosophy is shared by many developmental preschools across the country, it is not often found in elementay or upper schools, especially in this age of No Child Left Behind. Sudbury Valley seems to be a school for unschoolers and clearly isn’t a fit for all families. It opens up the door for some very interesting discussion, however. In a time when kindergartners have homework and third graders feel burnt out, the philosophy of Sudbury Valley is especially intriguing.


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