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School is Fun. School is Academically Rigorous. School is Fun and Academically Rigorous.

We're going to talk about fun.

We don’t often spend time talking about fun in schools. And that might be because there can be a feeling that fun and academic rigor are somehow separate entities and fun implies lack of “real” learning.

At school we talk a lot about both/and thinking. Both/and thinking means holding two ideas that may seemingly be opposed, and recognizing that they can both be true.

School is fun. School is academically rigorous. School is fun and academically rigorous. They are both true.

At Marin Horizon, the fun isn’t just ancillary. We don’t think “let’s make it fun so they’ll have a smile on their face at the end of the day when they greet their parents.” That’s nice, of course. But at school we really want the students to learn, and so the fun is purposeful. It lays the groundwork for academic rigor and engagement.

Research says humor, fun, and good vibes advance learning

A study at Tel Aviv University found that students scored higher on their final assessments when instructors used humor in their teaching.

The neurologist Judy Wills explained in her book Ignite Student Learning that experiences described as “fun” increase levels of dopamine, endorphins, and oxygen, which all aid successful learning.

A number of influential researchers have conducted experiments that show that students learn better when they are experiencing strong positive emotions.

Our kids are having fun! And that is by design.

So when our students make Rube Goldberg machines and Rumble towers in Science they are having fun, and they are learning a lot about physics and engineering.

When our students design cafes in Math they are having fun, and they are learning a lot about estimation, decimal operations, equalities and inequalities, and multi-step equations.

And in Language Arts, when groups of students were tasked with writing super bowl commercials, they were having fun, while learning about writing, collaboration, and connecting to something very current in their lives.

So when your child comes home from school and they are focusing on how fun something they are learning is, encourage that focus, talk about the fun, get in the weeds about the fun – and know that is by design and that the fun is creating a foundation for real depth of understanding and meaning making.


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