For kindergarten students at Seaside Heights Elementary School, homework each week is profoundly simple: Playing a board game with their family.
Each kindergarten class has enough board games so they can be rotated among the students on a weekly basis as part of game bags, which also include procedure sheets, game instructions, and a reflection sheet where the students can provide feedback.
The practice, which was introduced this year, meshes with the school’s goal of approaching each child as “a person first, and a student second,” Principal Julie Wozniak told the district’s board of directors during a presentation at their meeting March 19.
To introduce board games as a learning tool and age-appropriate homework, the school held a family game night in January. About 80 people, or 23 families, attended.
“It was a rousing success,” kindergarten teacher Jocelyn Milliren told the board.
The program was initially sponsored by Northwest Parenting, and the school has since received other funding to ensure the kindergarten classes at the Heights have enough board games for each student to take home a different one each week. All the board games are age-appropriate and culturally responsive, with instructions in both Spanish and English so they’re accessible to the diverse families served by the school district.
The benefits for the kindergarteners, the teachers believe, are numerous: supporting social-emotional learning, teaching students to express and manage their emotions, encouraging them to engage in cooperative play, and introducing them to the concept of friendly competition. Board games also teach the students about following rules, taking care of materials, and maintaining focus on a task.
Additionally, the program encourages family engagement, and the students have responded positively.
“We’ve never had parents come to us and say, ‘We love your homework so much, we’re buying it for Christmas,’” kindergarten teacher Betsy Mahoney said.
The program was recently featured by The Tabletop Game Talk podcast as an example of how gaming transcends a simple hobby and can benefit classrooms and society as a whole.
In other news:
• The board approved to designate Gearhart Elementary School, Broadway Middle School and Seaside High School and their associated properties as “surplus” as of fall 2020, when they are no longer in use. Superintendent Sheila Roley said once district properties become surplus, staff is authorized to dispose of them — or in this case, work with a Realtor to sell them. Roley said they aren’t bound to a certain date, but the properties become surplus when “we cease to occupy them.”
• The elementary schools’ parent teacher organizations hosted a Bollywood dance night at Seaside High School on April 5 at Seaside High School. Prashant Kakad, founder of the Portland-based company, and dancers Brittany Newton — who hails from Seaside — and Elliot Miller spent hours teaching more than 1,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade a dance routine. The students then demonstrated their routines during a community Bollywood Dance Night, put on at Seaside High School the evening of April 5.