While we’re setting up “thinking classrooms”, and supporting an “active mindset”, we have to keep right in the forefront the importance of joy, and of play. In The Neuroscience of Joyful Education by Judy Willis, we get all sorts of validation for this.
Think of all the schools and classes you know about that are cutting back on play, thinking less play will translate into more academic achievement. It may be that just the opposite is the case.
“Unfortunately, the current emphasis on standardized testing and rote learning encroaches upon many students' joy. In their zeal to raise test scores, too many policymakers wrongly assume that students who are laughing, interacting in groups, or being creative with art, music, or dance are not doing real academic work. The result is that some teachers feel pressure to preside over more sedate classrooms with students on the same page in the same book, sitting in straight rows, facing straight ahead.
Neuroimaging studies and measurement of brain chemical transmitters reveal that students' comfort level can influence information transmission and storage in the brain (Thanos et al., 1999). When students are engaged and motivated and feel minimal stress, information flows freely through the affective filter in the amygdala and they achieve higher levels of cognition, make connections, and experience “aha” moments. Such learning comes not from quiet classrooms and directed lectures, but from classrooms with an atmosphere of exuberant discovery (Kohn, 2004).
There are no neuroimaging or brain wave analysis data that demonstrate a negative effect of joy and exuberance in classrooms, yet some schools have unspoken mandates against these valuable components of the classroom experience. Now that hard science proves the negative effects of stress and anxiety, teachers can more confidently promote enthusiasm in their classrooms.” (http://www.ascd.org/
educational leadership, summer online, now archived, "The Neuroscience of Joyful Education by Judy Willis)