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Darell Hammond quotes

If there's one thing that 'No Child Left Behind' has proven, it's that more academics don't make for smarter children - or even higher test scores. And yet we somehow refuse to accept this reality.

Just as playgrounds didn't even make the priority list of most of those responding to Katrina, they all too often slip off the radar of those building our schools, designing our neighborhoods, and drafting government budgets.

Our education system is increasingly embracing a black-and-white way of thinking, in which 'learning' and 'play' are diametrically opposed. 'Learning' is the serious stuff that happens inside a classroom and can be measured via multiple choice questions and a No. 2 pencil. 'Play' is frivolous, fun, and worst of all, optional.

Play is the best natural resource in a creative economy. Kids need more of it. It is the work of childhood. We hope to intrinsically change the opinion that play is not just a luxury but an absolute necessity for kids' lives.

In an era of parental paranoia, lawsuit mania and testing frenzy, we are failing to inspire our children's curiosity, creativity, and imagination. We are denying them opportunities to tinker, discover, and explore - in short, to play.

Play exercises both your physical and creative muscles. It helps you move around, solve problems, challenge yourself, and think in new ways. Not to mention that it's just plain fun.

We are raising today's children in sterile, risk-averse and highly structured environments. In so doing, we are failing to cultivate artists, pioneers and entrepreneurs, and instead cultivating a generation of children who can follow the rules in organized sports games, sit for hours in front of screens and mark bubbles on standardized tests.

A cultural shift is needed to incorporate exercise into our children's daily lives.

In neighborhoods without a usable park or playground, the incidence of childhood obesity increases by 29 percent.

Our society spends a lot of money on prison bars. For the sake of our kids, let's invest in monkey bars.

Unstructured play gives kids the space they need to tinker and take risks - both vital for the budding entrepreneur.

We know when children have a place to play they live healthier, happier lives.

We must make sure that there is recess and P.E. class in every school, getting kids outside for 60 minutes, every day.

We're taking sports too far and starting kids too early.

Aaah, summer - that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It's a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.

As I see it, the debate between summer vacation vs. year-round school glosses over the most important questions. Namely, how can we bring play back to our nation's schools?

As parents, we need to send our kids back to 'old-fashioned' outdoor summer camps, which have been on the decline as the demand for sports and academics-based camps has risen. We need to fight budget cuts to public parks programs and resist closures of public swimming pools and playgrounds.

At KaBOOM! we are crowd-sourcing a nationwide Map of Play that uses GIS data and user rankings to identify where the engaging playgrounds are located, but more importantly, where they are not.

By providing our young children with opportunities for free, child-directed play, along with proper nutrition, we are setting them up for a lifetime of healthy habits, versus interventions needed later in life.

During National Playground Safety Week, I'll celebrate common-sense safety. I'll also celebrate skinned knees and bruised elbows. I'll celebrate so-called 'dangerous' playgrounds - playgrounds with see-saws, zip lines and towering slides.