Students blossom with Let Grow program
Kindergarten student William Mistretta makes his bed as part of his Let Grow project.

Courtesy photo

Students blossom with Let Grow program

Story By: NICOLE FUENTES
9/6/2018


 

The Let Grow Project, implemented last year in all seven Patchogue-Medford elementary schools, was an initiative Dr. Michael Hynes put into action for homework assignments to help students become more independent. This year will mark the first year of implementation at all three middle schools.

According to Hynes, students today are more than ever demonstrating an increase in anxiety, which, inevitably, shows up in the classroom. Childhood, he said, has become more and more structured and supervised, often leaving children fragile and needy. The idea of the project is to allow students the time to acquire self-control and resilience and even negotiate risks on their own or with friends.

The program, according to Let Grow, has enormous positive side effects, freeing parents who are afraid to let go to finally do so because school is endorsing it, and allowing kids who have been under constant adult supervision to discover and develop. 

The project is free and applied with homework. Teachers tell the students to go home and ask their parents if they can do one thing they feel ready to do but haven’t done yet, such as walk the dog, make dinner, mail a letter, play outside or get themselves to school. Children can do the activity either alone or with another kid or kids.

Once completed, the students are then asked to fill out a small worksheet explaining what they did, how it went and if they enjoyed it. They are also encouraged to include photos or videos of their journey.

“A lot of these activities are things we remember from our own childhood,” said Erin Skahill, principal at Eagle Elementary School. “You can really see a newfound maturity in the students that participate.”

The program, she explained, can be done as frequently as teachers would like and has been rolled out at Eagle in all 28 pre-k through fifth-grade classes. Her teachers, she said, hand out a Let Grow worksheet and paper explaining the program in lieu of homework about once a week per marking period. Students and parents are allowed to decide what they are going to do and can either choose from the list or perform their own idea.

“All the kids I have spoken to have the same reaction — they love it and are so proud of themselves,” said Skahill. Last year, she said, students performed tasks by themselves such as vacuuming or making their own peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “The parents love it, too. And they are thrilled chores are getting done,” she continued. “I remember being outside exploring the woods with my brother or fixing our bikes. These are things we did and we just don’t see kids doing anymore.”

Lenore Skinozi, founder of the program, explained that it originated about nine years ago, when she wrote a column about allowing her son to ride the subway by himself. At that point, she began receiving a lot of criticism, which led to the creation of her blog, Free Range Kids. From there, a school in Manhattan started a similar Free Range project for sixth-graders, which eventually became Let Grow, a concentrated effort, about a year ago.

“I just don’t think kids are in constant danger,” she said explaining the reason behind her program. “Let Grow makes it easy and normal for kids to have some old-fashioned independence back.”

The program is currently implemented in about 13 schools, including at Pat-Med and several districts in Nassau County. Let Grow is a free program and all materials can be collected from the Let Grow website.

“Pat-Med is a fantastic school district with an amazing superintendent and principals,” she said. “We are so impressed by them, we consider them our flagship.” Skinozi plans to revisit the district at some point this year to speak with the middle school principals and parents. “There is such a great feeling at Pat-Med. They are brilliant,” she said, adding that Pat-Med gave her the idea of creating a construction paper Let Grow tree to stick children’s leaves on with projects they completed. “Ten years from now, when people look back at the program, they are going to look at Long Island and see that is where it took off.”

To follow the movement or to post online, use the #LetGrowMoment or tag @LetGrowOrg. For more information, visit letgrow.org or email projects@letgrow.org.