Dear Parents,

Learning for life is a broad term that encompasses many facets and is the motto of Powhatan School. In this year’s series of letters to the Powhatan community, Head of School Sue Scarborough highlights how this mission is more than words. It is alive and well each day in the classrooms, playing fields, hallways and courts at Powhatan School.

At Powhatan School We Work Hard and We Play Hard

Play /plā/, n., v., played, play·ing – activity engaged in for recreation and fun.

The voices of children playing can be heard on Powhatan’s playground, wooded areas, and fields just about every hour of the school day. Whether it is sliding down a slide, hitting a ball in the ga-ga pit, building a stick lean-to by a tree, or running laps on the fields – play is a part of every students’ experience at Powhatan!

Evidence from a recent paper in the journal Pediatrics shows us that “play is not frivolous – it is brain building.” The paper goes on to identify five benefits of play which are:

  • Play is essential for healthy brain development.
  • Play reduces obesity and associated diseases.
  • Play helps children manage stress and even recover from trauma.
  • Play helps families bond.
  • Play contributes to academic skills.

Powhatan’s sixty-seven-acre campus is brimming with play spaces – both indoor and out. With multiple buildings and outdoor areas for exploration, students have easy access to our Makerspace, the Crocker Conservatory, outdoor learning labs and many other inspiring play spots. Outdoor time is provided in the schedule each day. Sports occurs each day in the upper school and three times per week in the lower school. This schedule, along with a vibrant arts program, encourages many ways for creative expression, movement and open-ended activities.

Powhatan’s Early Childhood Teaching Staff knows that play is a student’s work at the youngest ages. Our newly renovated kindergarten and first grade classrooms have bright open spaces which can be used for noisy or quiet play and exploration. Various materials, such as blocks, sensory tables, dramatic play items and art materials are readily accessible. Pre-kindergarten students have play lab each morning where cross-disciplinary centers provide varied hands-on activities.

Powhatan’s community was honored to hear Dr. Dorothy Sluss, Professor Emerita from James Madison University, speak about her lifetime passion of studying children’s play. Click on the podcast at the top of the page to hear my follow-up conversation with Dorothy about the benefits of play.

Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity are all skills which are enhanced through play. At Powhatan, time to play and build these skills starts in the youngest grades, laying the foundation for a balanced, healthy life in the middle school and beyond.


Sue Scarborough
Head of School

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