The effects of exposure to a disadvantaged, chaotic, or violent neighborhood creates a lasting impact on children’s developmental, academic, and economic outcome in this life. The fact that only 30% of the 3rd graders in our neighborhood schools are passing the IRead 3 test and are held back from entering 4th grade brings us to the point where we have to do something. Educationally focused after-school programs on the near Eastside strive to help kids progress in their academic achievement, but the question we have to ask is…are these educationally focused programs helping our kids? Is this the right approach to fix the brokenness of our neighborhood?
Research shows that we were all born with an intrinsic drive to play. Dr. Stuart Brown of the National Institute for Play says “play is a biological drive and when it is suppressed we suffer socially. Just as sleep deprivation leads to sleepiness and fatigue, play deprivation is harder to identify but has its negative consequences also.” Dr. Brown shares that a play deficiency, both in children and adults, include a lack of interest in the environment, irritability and poor response to inter-personal stress. The place we see these deficiencies being played out are in the schools of our neighborhood. Kids have a lack of interest in learning from their teachers, there are constant relational issues with other kids in their class, and emotions like anger and frustration are seen with the slightest provoking. Instead of art, music, or sports clubs, resource teachers are hired to manage the chaos and to provide one-on-one mentoring in key educational areas, but still the majority of our kids are not passing the IRead 3 test. We believe there has to be a different approach to alleviate the play deficiencies we see in the kids of our neighborhood.
Play, in it self, has the potential to transform a child’s life and significantly change the way young people think about themselves and the world. Structured play enables youth to develop positive relationships with adults and peers, experience a sense of belonging and connectedness, and learn valuable life skills. We believe through play, we will see God begin the needed transformation for our children to learn and grow socially, spiritually, emotionally, physically, and academically. If you are interested in learning more, please check out Brookside Community Play.