Learn to Play
By Eric Newman
Local teacher Lori Stanton uses technology to fund tradition
Duck, Duck, Goose. Red Rover. Ring around the Rosie. Tag.
Hide and Seek.
Imagine a childhood without these traditional playground
games. Teacher and Fireside Norterra resident Lori Stanton can’t. Good ol’
fashioned outside time during recess may be seeing itself replaced by
electronic devices as students get older, but for the kindergartners Stanton
teaches, there’s nothing better than a slide and some hopscotch. So she’s using
technology to raise funds for playground equipment.
After decades of teaching first grade, Stanton started the
“Play to Learn, Learn to Play” project on DonorsChoose.com. The goal of $671
aims to secure outdoor play equipment her kindergarten students can use to
learn outside, stay healthy and just play together in an active way.
Research shows it’s needed: Children ages 5 to 16 spend an
average of six and a half hours a day in front of a screen, compared to around
three hours in 1995, according to market research firm Childwise. National
think-tank Child Mind Institute has dubbed the lack of time kids spend outside
a “crisis” named “nature deficit disorder,” and touts the expert-espoused
benefits of children being outside, including increased confidence, creativity
and physical exercise, and decreased anxiety and fatigue.
Stanton and the other kindergarten teachers have made use of
their limited materials, such as chalk, which they use to create obstacle
courses. However, more equipment would mean more games and options, which would
increase the kids’ learning opportunities.
“We’re teaching them how to play. That basic play teaches
them a lot about social skills, and then they’re happy and more focused when
they actually get back into class to learn,” Stanton says.
Many kids, she says, come into her classroom not knowing
basic games many played as children. She said her favorite so far has been
teaching the kids “Duck, Duck, Goose.”
“When we got them in a circle and we taught them how to run
around and go back and then we said ‘You have to run now and go get that child’
in the first two rounds, they ran around the circle and did it. And then as we
walked away and observed from afar, they changed the game up all on their own,
which was hilarious. So, you can see how much good structured play can be for
them,” Stanton says.
Liberty Elementary principal Darlene Baumgartner has come to
expect this sort of effort from Stanton, who she says truly strives to give her
students what they need in their educational experiences.
“It shows that she really understands the need to support
the whole child. A lot of our funding goes directly into the classroom to
support academics and social and emotional curriculum,” Baumgartner says. “But
she understands that 5-year-olds and kindergarteners need that play time as
well, as it’s just as valuable for their growth in school.”
In her three years as principal, Baumgartner says she has
seen Stanton go above and beyond her duties as a teacher several times. Her
most recent favorite memory came during the school’s “Raise Craze” intended to
inspire donations and community projects by the students.
“Last year her class went above and beyond getting toys for
the children’s hospital, and it was just so awesome to see how she jumped right
in and got all the families of the kids on board and collected all of the
items. That’s one of my favorite things I think about when you mention her,” Baumgartner
The “Play to Learn, Learn to Play” project is the third
Stanton has gotten off the ground for this school year. She got a project
funded that provided her students with hands-on learning materials that they
use, rather than warm-up worksheets, to start each school day.
She also had another project funded completely by an
anonymous donor, who gave the money necessary to get hands-on reading and ABC
materials for basic literacy education.
“It’s been amazing for some of these, just that people who
I’ve never even met before, but live around me and the school, have been so
supportive,” Stanton says. “You can tell they want what’s best for the kids,
and they care about schools and everything, so I hope through social media and
word of mouth that we can spread this message and help the students.”
As thankful as Stanton is for the help of others, especially
the donations she got for prior projects from the Fireside Norterra community,
she says the students are just as appreciative, if not more. They often make
“Thank You” cards, constructed with the materials they received through
donations and want to send pictures of themselves working and creating projects
back to the donors.
“I explain, just like you’re donating to people who need
things, other people are donating to our classroom and giving you these things.
I’ll pull out something they are working on and say, ‘Look at this,’” Stanton
says. “‘The only reason you have this is because someone donated money so that
we could buy it for you,’ and you can tell they get it.”
As of late December, Stanton’s “Play to Learn, Learn to
Play” had not yet reached its goal of $671, but she hopes to reach that total
by the January 14 fundraiser deadline.
Whether Stanton raises the full total or not, Baumgartner
speaks highly of her and expects more great things to come from Stanton’s
“Her energy is definitely contagious. She’s new to
kindergarten, so it’s great to watch her work with new colleagues. Wherever
she’s at, it’s amazing how she affects everyone around her,” Baumgartner says.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see more great projects and action from her in the
For more information or to donate to “Play to Learn, Learn
to Play,” visit tinyurl.com/yb93nolw.