The Joy of Boys


Boys bring a certain level of verve to any setting. Day or night, they are ready for action and movement. Boys have a natural curiosity that fuels their hunger for learning about their wonderful world. They instinctively want to experience their environments in a kinesthetic fashion and are never truly satisfied with a “because I said so” answer to their questions. In short, they are explorers and doers of the best kinds, relentless in their search for adventure and always ready for a good ole’ ruckus. I know this is true not because I was a boy, but because I am the mother of two young boys, 8 and 4 years old, and I work with young boys on a daily basis as an administrator in an Early Childhood Campus. Maurice Sendak was never more honest and true when he penned the sentences “Let the wild rumpus start” and “Inside all of is a Wild Thing”. Sendak had a way of channeling the motives of our boy explorers!

Knowing that these are the hallmarks of healthy, growing boys why is it so many schools struggle to educate boys in a fashion that engage their full selves and optimizes their many innate talents and characteristics?

Below are my take-aways and suggestions for answering this question based on a Studentcentricity podcast hosted by Rae Pica, Getting Boys to Love School, that I participated in with speical guests Ruth Morhard and Richard Hawley, both experts on educating boys and gifted authors.

When teaching boys please remember…

Play is Their Work

What may look like a simple act of play is a boy’s way of working out the intricacies of their ever expanding world. They need space to explore, make messes, pretend, be loud, crash things, interact with peers, and imagine. Their job is to wonder, our job as the adults in their lives is to nurture their wonder and help provide outlets for their wonderings to expand.


Build, Destroy, Rebuild, & Repeat

I recently learned a new word: Thinkering! This concept is based on the book by Michael Michalko Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work. Thinkering experiences are the kind of learning experiences boys crave at school.


Boys are often on a quest to know how things work. They figure this out by employing the tried-and-true Build, Destroy, Rebuild cycle. Their visual-spatially bent minds crave experiences where they can put together and take apart. In a school setting, this can look like providing open ended time for building with blocks, creating in a pretend and play station, putting together and taking apart puzzles, and construction and deconstruction opportunities with mixed materials.

Relationships are Essential

Show me you care and I’ll care about what you know! This is true for any person, be it a child or an adult, but it is essential for growing and developing boys in educational settings. Think of it this way, educators must build a relationship with a boy to open their avenues for learning. On a practical level, this looks like getting on their level (literally getting down, on the floor with them), engaging them in activities that are preferred for them, and really listening and responding to their ideas, questions, and needs. Nurture a respectful relationship with a boy and he will let you mold and teach him for a lifetime!


What tips, ideas, and strategies do you employ to capture the hearts and minds of the boys in your world?

Leading and learning, Heidi


What an important piece Heidi! We must work hard to provide our boys with the environment and experiences they need or we will continue to pay the price. The numbers show that the majority of discipline issues and suspesnions involve boys. It’s time we start taking this into account and figure out how to restructure our teaching and their learning experiences.

First timer visitor here and yes, I recognize this is a blog about boys, but all those things you wrote above – tinkering, build/rebuild, curiosity, wonder, relationships, getting down on the floor with them – they apply to girls too, right? Gendered stereotyping starts soooo early, from the color of their toys to no Ren or Black Widow action figures. Your advice is great. I hope we don’t accidentally use it only on boys.


Interesting podcast, thx. I still maintain that the practices that are supposed to help boys, like speaking clearly and not giving lists of directions, help everyone learn. And I fear is a teacher will take the advice too literally: they’ll create a “break-apart” station in their classroom, some girls will go there to tinker, and someone (either the teacher or the boys) will say, “Sorry, that’s for the boys.” Will that really ever happen? If a teacher has gone to the trouble and care to create that station, probably not. And, admittedly, my teaching experience is all post-secondary: that’s an entirely different population of students.


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