The Long Ridge School

The gift of unstructured, innovative play

By Kris Bria

By Marietta Morelli, Beginners Teacher
The Long Ridge School, Stamford, Connecticut

I never imagined when I left my house for school this morning that shortly after arriving I’d find myself boarding a train bound for thrilling destinations. Yet, this is exactly what happened as I journeyed to storybook castles, bustling NYC streets, and sunny, picnic knolls………without ever setting foot outside my classroom door!

My fellow passengers, enthusiastically garbed in rabbit ears and millinery, are students in The Long Ridge School’s Beginners pre-school classroom. The train—eight diminutive chairs, one behind the next,  trailed by a crate filled with plastic fruit—provided the locomotion and refreshments required to embark on this trip of the imagination. Tickets were punched and make-believe photos exchanged while crying babies drifted off to the chugging of an engine only we could hear.

The world is different. Today, teachers and parents must consciously strive to encourage dreams made of cardboard boxes and rock soup. But we are rewarded for our patience when we witness how children discover the world as their own and in their own extraordinary way. And it is in the time we take to create glorious pockets of unstructured, open-ended occasions that making these wheels turn becomes the one true objective. Invariably, authentic experience yields the kind of comprehension that surpasses pre-made educational opportunities. The raw joy and discovery that emerges from inventive play makes a compelling case for free, unscheduled time

Back inside, excitement prevailed as children embarked and disembarked at various stations and stops. Moving again, the petite travelers waved through windows and imagined endless possibilities before them.

In the end, riding the classroom rails was a charming reminder of the opportunity for enchantment when play depends on nothing more than a child’s good idea.

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