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Park Slope School Says No to Homework

Park Slope School Says No to Homework

A Park Slope elementary school has put an end to traditional homework and replaced it with play-based learning, according to DNAinfo.

Teachers and staff at P.S. 118 (the Maurice Sendak Community School) are using a new program called Exercise Your Brain, which replaces homework with after-school activities such as dancing, cooking and other play-based learning.

The program was created in response to concerns from both parents and educators over the amount of time and effort students spent on uninspiring worksheets. In addition, recent research has shown that elementary-aged children do not benefit from doing extra work at home

The teachers at P.S. 118 looked at schools such as Chelsea’s P.S. 11 and Kips Bay’s P.S. 116 for inspiration after both schools made the decision to ditch homework for young students.

“Learning should be self-initiated and not top down,” said Laura Willeford, a third grade teacher at P.S. 118, who worked on the program’s design with  husband-and-wife team Alexis Hernandez (a first grade teacher) and Matt Weeks (a third grade teacher). "And they start realizing that the things they create are important."

The program, launched last week, lets kids choose from a rotating menu of activities they can do while at home playing and spending time with their parents. For example, this month's offerings for third graders include “Dance, Dance Revolution” (making up your own dance and incorporating something from class into it), “Chopped” (helping a parent measure ingredients for a recipe) or “Mad Scientist” (doing a science experiment and videotaping it to share with class).

The school's teachers are hopeful the activities will help parents — many of whom work full time — and children feel enjoy the few hours they have together after school. And the response from families at P.S. 118 has so far been overwhelmingly positive.

“I just love it,” said Carrie McLaren, mom to a third grader. “It acknowledges that what kids come up with on their own when they’re given free time is more beneficial than worksheets and canned lessons. [It] acknowledges what I think the goal of every teacher should be, which is making connections for kids between what goes on in the classroom and their daily life.”

And for anyone thinking the new program lets teachers off the hook, that’s simply not true, says Weeks. The self-directed activities will require the teachers to be more creative in how they respond to their students, in some ways.

“I don’t want parents to think the no homework policy is going to let us off the hook,” Weeks said. “This is going to end up being more work for us.”

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Author: Linda DiProperzio has written extensively on parenting issues for Parents, American Baby, Parenting, and Family Circle, among others. She lives in New York with her husband and two sons. See More

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