NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ785704
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 11
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1054-0040
Fort Play Children Recreate Recess
Powell, Mark
Montessori Life: A Publication of the American Montessori Society, v19 n3 p20-30 2007
Recess beckons well before it actually arrives. Its allure can be heard in children's lunchtime conversations as they discuss imaginary roles, plans, alliances and teams, with an obvious appetite for play and its unbounded possibility. For some children, recess provides the most important reasons to come to school. In team sports, games of chase and tag, clique-bound conversations, solitary wandering and exploration, pretend and war play, recess offers reliable access to a scarce resource of immense value in the lives of children: spontaneous self-direction. Although watched over by the protective though generally unobtrusive gaze of supervising teachers, children at recess interact with their natural environment and with each other as they choose--a freedom denied them at other times while at school, and increasingly in their homes and neighborhood. As a lower elementary teacher at Lexington Montessori School (LMS) in Lexington, MA, from 1994 through 2002, the author witnessed for eight years the development of an extraordinary child-centered and spontaneous world of recess play (Powell, 2007). As children entered the elementary program at LMS, their peers initiated them into a culture of fort building. The forts, built entirely from sticks, leaves, and found objects from the surrounding woods, were the sites of considerable experimentation with different forms and rules of social organization and various styles of construction. They were also the vehicles for much of the conflict that occurred at the school. Children negotiated and clashed over ownership of land and resources and argued about the rules and roles of fort play and whether the rights of those already identified with a structure outweighed the rights of outsiders to be included. In doing so, they developed and influenced each other's reasoning about such moral principles as benevolence, justice, and reciprocity. Fort play was unpredictable, immediate, exciting, and fun, a brief window of opportunity,among hours of mostly adult-inspired activities and expectations, in which these children were free to manage their own lives and interact with each other on their own terms. As in the case of other schools where fort play has flourished, the LMS forts were in no way a programmed activity but rather a spontaneous one that simply wasn't stopped.
American Montessori Society. 281 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010-6102. Tel: 212-358-1250; Fax: 212-358-1256; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A