Game Night lets Upper School students play like kids again

Feb 03 2022

Game Night lets Upper School students play like kids again

“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
– Ovid

Backgammon board

Last Friday night, approximately one hundred Upper School students chased each other in “capture the flag,” competed in spikeball, and shot basketballs in games of knockout and horse as part of Keystone’s Annual Game night. This evening event allows students and teacher chaperones to play board games, watch a movie, and have what one might call “old fashioned fun.” These intellectually engaged and hard-working young people took a break from classes, papers, tests, and various other assignments. When asked on Monday morning about Game Night, an Upper School student told me, “It was a really good stress reliever.” Other students said, “it was so much fun!”

Perhaps in a sign of the times, all of the students opted to skip the movie and congregate in the cafeteria for board games or on the lower school playground to run around and visit with each other on a rather frigid January evening. For the past two years, we’ve spent far too much time cooped up inside and on screens. The opportunity to play outside with friends provided an exhilarating tonic to these anxious times. Other adults and I smiled as many of the students shrieked and enjoyed the swings; we had to explain sadly that while one is never too old to swing, our lower school equipment was not really designed for older teenagers.

One of the lessons we’ve learned repeatedly since March 2020 is that at the end of the day, we are still social animals. Although we probably all need some alone time, humans still like to engage with other people and seem to prefer doing it face to face. This kind of interaction feeds and nourishes us and while zoom may be necessary and beneficial, it cannot replace in-person contact.

We’ve also been reminded of the necessity for balance. Many years ago, Keystone’s strategic plan identified wellness as a critical component of a healthy school community. Since then, administrators, teachers, and students have devised programs and activities designed to help students combine a heavy academic workload with healthy life habits. As Upper School Head Bill Spedding repeatedly reminds us, we want students “to do well by being well.”

Programmatic changes range from Effective Parenting Classes in Little and Lower School to scheduling outdoor fun breaks between classes in middle school to numerous initiatives instituted by the Upper School Wellness Council that includes students and administrators. While Little School students head to the playground, Lower School students go to daily recess, and middle schoolers enjoy a friendly game of ping pong between English and Math class. Upper School students tell us how much they appreciate the new midterm and final exam schedule featuring one exam a day for five days rather than multiple exams over two and a half days. A great deal of time and energy has been devoted to improving the entire school experience so students can be happy and healthy.

Just like their predecessors, Keystone Cobras work long and hard. An accelerated curriculum requires students to engage in high-level thinking, grapple with challenging concepts, study into the night, and sometimes become frustrated as they experience roadblocks and intellectual deadends.

At times in their development as academicians, artists, players, and as people, students feel strain. It’s also a necessary component of their maturation. At Keystone, we challenge young people to be their best selves in and out of the classroom.

We also support them so they can move to a higher level in thought and action. Along the way, children and young adults learn how to rest and recharge, handle down time, and get along with others. In addition, for introverted students, the hustle and bustle of school can be enervating; some unscheduled moments enable children to decompress and refocus for a long day that at times can feel exhausting.

Game Night reaffirms what we know intuitively but we can sometimes forget: No matter how well they articulate an argument, perform a lab, translate a passage, or solve a problem, at the end of the day, our Cobras are still children and adolescents. Like all of us, they periodically need to hit the pause button, they enjoy playing and just hanging out, and even our seniors in their final semester of high school still love to swing as high as they can with their legs stretched in front and their hair flying behind.

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