"IT BEATS MATH"
by Therese Fritzmann
A self-selected leisure activity tends to be learned with much more enjoyment and enthusiasm than traditional educational subjects. The Urbana School District has practiced this principle at two of its schools in a program which offers children the opportunity to pursue leisure interests during the regular school day.
Self-selection is an experimental program which offers elementary school children a variety of leisure-time activities. The children are motivated by their own interests to select one particular activity to learn and enjoy. The program provides an opportunity for children to learn of the leisure-time activities available to them and it assures children that the pursuit of a leisure-time interest is healthy.
The key factor in the success of the Self-Selection program at Urbana's Flossie Wiley School was the dedicated efforts of the children's parents. Although the program was facilitated by the school personnel, it was initiated, arranged and executed by parents under the guidance of a six-person steering committee.
Spring of 1974. The program had originated in Urbana's Yankee Ridge School and Wiley's steering committee adapted many ideas from the Yankee Ridge program for their own. Throughout the summer, the committee worked to enlist the assistance of 70 parents to execute the program in the Fall.
Parents and other interested community citizens served as instructors, aides and donators of supplies and materials for the 20 activities ranging from cooking and candlemaking to rocket propulsion and small engines. Approximately 350 children in grades one through six selected an activity and participated in the six-week program. The Self-Selection program was offered one day per week during one hour of the regular school day.
On the whole, reactions to the program were very positive. The written evaluations of the children reflected their enjoyment of the new experiences. Comments ranged from "I could give something I made to my Mom" to "It beats math!"
The parents, especially those who actively participated, were pleased with the program and with the children's reactions to it. Most of the teachers also felt that the program was good and the skills taught were beneficial.
Since this pilot program in the Fall of 1974, Self-Selection hasn't yet been offered again. Although the evaluations proved that the program generally was beneficial and well-accepted, there are two deterrent factors:
1) the problems of shortened school hours and budget cutbacks especially the elimination of the New Programs budget from which came the initial money for the program are still very real problems; 2) the parents haven't requested the program again and haven't attempted to organize enough volunteer assistance for it.
For the program to be offered again requires that the parents request, organize and most likely pay for it. In order for this to occur, the parents must first realize the need for leisure education. The importance of educating the child for the opportunities available to him in his leisure time must be understood as must the value of the decision-making process involved in selecting leisure-time activities and interests.
The schools must accept prime
Illinois Parks and Recreation 20 May/June, 1976
responsibility for educating the parents to the need for leisure education. Then it is the duty of the parents to organize both the human and monetary support for programs like Self-Selection. Only with dedicated and determined efforts by the parents can the Self-Selection program function as a valuable tool in the learning process.
(Editors note: Terry Fritzmann wrote this while doing fieldwork for the Office of Recreation and Park Resources. Photos were courtesy of the children in the photography class.)
Illinois Parks and Recreation 21 May/June, 1976