by Signe Daly, BCL Faculty
‘People who play together, stay together’ has been one of the mottos for BCL since its inception. In the design phase for BCL, when Andy, Dov, Peter and I sat down to articulate values for the program, we wrote words on sticky notes and did some affinity mapping on the wall. One cluster of notes were about fun – happiness, fun, joy, love, laughter. Out of that exercise, we came up with the idea of scheduling time in the BCL calendar for “Fun Block” every other week. And the fun began.
Our first cohort of students in BCL 1 discussed the purpose and potential of Fun Block with us. They made it clear that Fun Block should be inclusive. They wanted to plan activities that everyone could participate in and have access to. They also told us that sharing food was an important way they would enjoy being together. That first semester, students organized a game of Spud at Calahan Park; we made smoothies and brownies in the ONE Center kitchen; and we had a Lip Sync contest, among other things. Every BCL cohort since has put its own spin on Fun Block: sledding, Knockout basketball, pumpkin carving, and even a music jam session.
Beach volleyball at The Surf Club–competitive and inclusive!
We also schedule fun into BCL during our daily Morning Meetings. This idea, too, came from BCL students. While Morning Meeting was originally designed as a place for business (including a log review of the previous day, news of the day, plans for the day and announcements), the heart of the meeting has evolved so that it emphasizes relationships and fun. Essentially, the Morning Meeting leader has 10 minutes to lead an activity that allows us to play together. A memorable recent example was a Nerf sword fighting tournament. We’ve also seen paper airplane contests, ‘Name that Tune’ games, and 10-minute sketching sessions.
It may seem weird to ‘schedule fun’ in these ways, but committing to fun as a regular practice has helped make it a part of our BCL culture. And a culture of fun is incredibly valuable connective tissue for a group that spends 6 hours together every other day.
There are many other moments when fun makes its way into BCL, too. There’s good research supporting the idea that people of all ages are more receptive to learning when they are having fun. And fun can increase our motivation for learning, our retention of detail and our ability to make connections between ideas. So, we’re always looking for ways to bring together fun and deeper learning, with each other and with other people in the community.
This isn’t the first time our blog has highlighted the ways we integrate fun into BCL. (See, for example, “The Highest Form of Research” blog post from March 2019.) Although the pandemic has put a damper on sharing food, we have continued to play and connect in other ways. Below are some pictures and student voices that help illustrate how we’re having fun in BCL 7 – in Fun Block and elsewhere.
Playing basketball at Roosevelt Park, one of 38 parks in Burlington.
Spike Ball at the Surf Club.
Painting plant identification signs at 311 North Avenue with Burlington Parks staff.
Paddle boarding at the Surf Club.
Playing Sharks and Minnows to warm up for the day. (Much needed — It was 45 degrees!)
Pumpkin carving with residents from Cambrian Rise helped us all celebrate community.
Non-stop BCL FUN.
Student voices about Fun Block:
It’s great shifting things to doing more activities, things we wouldn’t get to do in a normal class. It’s a break, but it’s also a refresh.
Fun Block gives your mind a break. The next day, you’re able to return and focus once again. Even though it only happens every two weeks, it’s that break that you need to make school itself more desirable.
It connects us more as a group, and helps us all feel more comfortable with each other.
It’s an important thing to do. It’s good for building community in the classroom. I think we’ve gotten closer as a class after we’ve had big games that include everyone.
It’s a nice hour or more when we can have fun, but also really just be ourselves.
Fun Block actually helps me with motivation. I can try hard knowing that a Fun Block is coming. When Fun Block comes, I deserve it.