Looking Back

It would take hundreds of pages to go into all of the details, of course, and this is still an evolving study. But, it is possible to identify a couple of general causes that are universal to our kids: the absence of free play and non-verbal cues in communication.

“Free play” according to author Peter Gray in Free to Learn is defined as “activity that is freely chosen and directed by the participants and undertaken for its own sake, not consciously pursued to achieve ends that are distinct from the activity itself.” Free play is an essential part of developing verbal skills, problem solving skills, appropriate risk taking, empathy, just to name a few of many benefits. I encourage you to read The Coddling of the American Mind or Free to Learn, for more insight on this. In summary, the absence of free play has hindered our kids’ social development, which has resulted in higher anxiety and depression due to the fact that they don’t have all the tools necessary to navigate their social demands.

Regarding communication, Meharabian determined in 1967 that only 7% of communication is verbal. Scientists have since determined that the 7% conclusion was too low, but it’s safe to say that the non-verbal, or “body language” portion of communication remains an essential part of successful human interaction. Learning to identify and interpret body language is a large part of our kids’ development, and the combination of distance learning and masking impeded growth in this area over the past 18 to 24 months. Going back to “normal” hasn’t been easy, and this has elevated stress levels and anxiety during an already tumultuous time of our kids’ lives. As an example, the recent removal of masking requirements has added a level of complexity to our communications, and not all of our kids were prepared for this. It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that one immediate result of this was a spike in behavioral referrals as a symptom of the increased anxiety.

The good news is that our kids are resilient, and they are adapting very quickly. They will “catch up” and be enriched by all of these experiences in the long run. In the short run, we all just need to show patience and grace, while continuing to hold our kids to high expectations. Our students have made amazing growth this year already, and I fully expect them to be ready for the next school year by the time this year winds down.

And this ties into our Digital Citizenship lessons that we’re beginning in Access today. For better or for worse, our kids aren’t going to escape the increasing influence technology has on their lives. Our plan over the next few weeks isn’t to lament the use of technology or to judge what our kids are doing online. Rather, it’s to help our students understand how the use of technology impacts their emotions, changes their brain neurology, and poses challenges to their decision making. Our goal is for our kids to be equipped with the knowledge they need to find balance in their digital lives and to make good decisions about when and how to use technology. I’m excited about getting started, and I hope that you can both follow along with your students over the next 6 weeks, and then join us for our showings of “Screenagers” and “Next Chapter” in April. Today’s lessons are as follows:

6th Grade: Finding Balance in a Digital World

7th Grade: My Media Use: A Personal Challenge

8th Grade: Digital Media and Your Brain

Have a wonderful week.


Steve Thygesen


We have begun using Lightspeed on a small scale for our students who need support staying focused on their academics during the day. Many of you requested Lightspeed during parent-teacher conferences last week, and I want to thank you for reaching out and to let you know that we are happy to implement Lightspeed for your student upon request. To begin using Lightspeed, please reach out to me  at [email protected] or our tech department at [email protected].