How games and creativity enrich the Keystone experience

Mar 05 2020

How games and creativity enrich the Keystone experience

“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.”
–Louisa May Alcott

What a wonderful scene a couple of Friday nights ago! The hallways and classrooms in the Shadfan Science and Creativity Center were filled with upper school students playing board games, including Risk, Sorry, and Monopoly, card games like UNO, or watching a fun family movie like “The Princess Bride.” It was good, old-fashioned, clean fun, and the students were enjoying themselves thoroughly.

Gunner playing “Stairway to Heaven”

Eleventh grade student Andy described it this way. “Game Night at Keystone provides a unique perspective of the classrooms which usually foster the academic atmosphere of the school. Labs used to conduct experiments for science fair are converted into small theaters, history classrooms that spark debate over many decades of information become hubs for board games. This new tradition is quickly becoming a favorite among students. Game Night unveils a different side of the Keystone student body, a group of motivated students that also has the ability to unwind in a light-hearted environment.”

Perhaps one of the most raucous moments came when senior Kiri defeated Dr. David Caraway in a game of Connect Four and her fellow students cheered loudly. Ever the good sport Dr. Caraway said, “Game Night is one of my favorite evenings at Keystone because it’s slow and doesn’t involve computer or phone screens. We focus on our games, our conversation, and each other.”

While Game Night provided plenty of innocent fun, last Friday night’s Stone Soul offered beautiful music, moving poetry, and some silliness in the form of games. In its 13th year, Stone Soul, sponsored by the Keystone Literary Magazine, allows students to share their artistic talents in a coffeehouse atmosphere. As one of the “LitMag” sponsors Dr. Brian Lawrence says, “Stone Soul is 100% about students. They plan, advertise, decorate, emcee, and perform, and each event is a unique expression of their ideas, personalities, and talents. Stone Soul is equal parts talent showcase and community-building celebration, and students regularly have opportunities to collectively laugh out loud and experience moments of heartfelt emotion.”

When asked to describe Stone Soul, Co-Director Reese explained it this way. “I love Stone Soul—I love the passion and the strong energy that comes from the entirely student-driven event, the comradery, and the innovation that it takes to make it happen. With every Stone Soul that I am a part of, whether it’s been in the audience or leading the instructing of its development, I increasingly witness understated creativity, artistry, and spirit that thrives within the Keystone community. There is an importance of Stone Soul because for those who perform it presents an opportunity to put oneself out there to share the things they love, but it is equally valuable for those in the audience, as it gives time to connect with classmates and peers in a non-academic environment. Personally, what makes me so passionate about Stone Soul is being able to foster the things I truly love, namely my love for music, and to be able share it with my friends. Because there is such a small high school body, there is a concentrated recognition of the arts’ importance at our school. Even if it can’t be seen every day, even though it can usually be seen in small doses someway throughout campus, it’s enriching to be a part of such a warm and welcoming environment and to have a dedicated time to come together to partake in and appreciate the things we love.”

Beyond offering our Cobras a chance to play games or instruments, why are events like Game Night and Stone Soul so important? One easily recognizable benefit comes from the way these nights allow our students to relax, de-stress, and be with each other in a non-academic setting. Keystone students work hard; they deserve the opportunity to let their hair down, laugh with each other, and discover the hidden talents of their schoolmates. Perhaps one of the most moving elements of Stone Soul is the way that students support one another with cheers and words of encouragement.

On a deeper level, though, play allows children to grow and develop.  In an October 8, 2018 article, “The Benefits of Play” psychologist Marie Hartwell Walker says that play helps children in a variety of ways. For example,  “childhood play stimulates the brain to make connections between cells;” in the teen years, play “helps the brain develop even more connectivity, especially in the frontal lobe which is the center for planning and making good decisions.”  In addition to stimulating imagination and creativity, play helps children improve their executive functioning skills, and increase their empathy.  Playing at school also enables children to understand rules and consequences in a non-threatening and low-risk setting and spend time with peers in an atmosphere without drugs and/or alcohol.

An article from healthychildren.org called “The Power of Play-How Fun and Games Help Children Thrive” points out that play helps children learn how “to plan, organize, get along with others, regulate emotions.” Play that is not controlled by adults enables children to work out potential conflicts on their own and as a result, supports healthy peer relationships.

For a number of reasons, events like game-night and Stone Soul engender a vibrant and healthy community. Children can be with their peers in a physically and emotionally safe environment, they can allow themselves to be vulnerable with their schoolmates and share their hidden skills, and they can appreciate others at a deeper level than before. Whether they’re playing the board game Life or the guitar solo from “Stairway to Heaven,” they’re strengthening their relationships with their peers, the bonds of their community, and their own sense of self. What a great way to spend a Friday night!

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