As I was walking the halls recently, I passed a classroom during a free period where about a dozen students were looking up at a crossword puzzle projected on the screen. I popped in – I love crosswords too much to just walk by – and quickly discovered that I was in a new world. The students were working on a cryptic crossword puzzle, where each of the clues is a puzzle to solve – puzzles within puzzles. The whole room erupted when somebody got an answer; I didn’t contribute much, but it was fun to try it with them. After school that same day, I came across four kids playing chess on two boards side by side, with another handful of students and a teacher watching from the periphery. They explained that they were playing something called Bughouse Chess, a two-on-two version of the game where pieces taken by your partner on one board can then be placed on their partner’s board, making the game less predictable and according to the students, even more exciting.
When I was young, people used to ask me, “What do you do for fun?” I remember feeling some pressure not to talk about the books I was reading, poetry I was writing, crossword puzzles I was designing, role playing games I was into, and instead stay on the safer ground of watching movies and playing sports. I love that this is a school where working together on mind-bending wordplay or multi-dimensional chess is just part of the fun. For so many of our students, the “work” they do in the classroom – the books they read, the math problems they work on – is part of the fun too. Let the games continue!