Free Play Boundaries and Behavior

We believe any boy who is admitted to Sparhawk is capable of making basic judgments about his behavior. We expect even a third grader to recognize certain inappropriate behaviors as unacceptable. For this reason we have few rules actually spelled out in the Student Handbook or in school policies. We believe there is something lost when many sometimes arbitrary and frustrating rules are in place. In spite of their good intentions, they can eliminate opportunities for boys to make judgments, learn about boundaries, and grow in knowledge about socially acceptable behavior in age appropriate ways.

Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence that unsupervised outdoor play is vital for a child’s development and connection with nature. Richard Louv has written extensively about this troubling “nature deficit disorder” in his best-selling book Last Child In The Woods.

Our experience with boys is that most of them crave action and adventure. They have lots of energy, and they constantly explore ways to release that energy in competitive situations. This energy needs to be guided and channeled in healthy, appropriate ways. We encourage the boys to organize their own activities at recess. We want our boys to take intelligent risks. It is no benefit to them to be excessively cautious as they make their way through life. Neither should they do reckless things, or take on excessive risk. By using reasonable precautions, Sparhawk creates an environment for boys to learn what is appropriate and inappropriate.


  • In general, Middle School boys (Grades 6-8) are free to go anywhere within the Sparhawk Academy property lines during recess periods and lunch. During these times Lower School boys (Grades 3-5)  are free to go anywhere within the Sparhawk Academy property lines, except on the other side of the bridge over the Sparhawk Brook (the Deep Woods), for which they need permission from a teacher.  
  • If a boy ventures out of sight from the school building, then he must go with at least one other student. Boys going to the Deep Woods must go in minimum groups of three.
  • Every boy is responsible for making it to class on time. If a boy goes somewhere on the property where he is out of ear-shot from the bell or whistle, then it is his responsibility to keep track of time and head back to the School House on time for his next class.
  • Boys are not permitted to play on or around the driveway without permission.


  • No boy may start a fire without the explicit permission of a teacher. The teacher must be present at all times while the fire is burning. All fires must be completely doused with water and the area in order before moving away from the fire. The teacher will decide when the fire is sufficiently doused. 


  • Boys may use approved sleds on Coop Hill at a teacher’s discretion. Boys must have their sled approved by a teacher before using. Once a sled is approved for use, it can be used on subsequent occasions without the need for re-approval.
  • Boys must follow teacher safety instructions on the hill. Unsafe behavior, including reckless sledding, throwing snowballs or making physical contact with descending sleds, not clearing the bottom of the hill, not returning to the top of the hill by the side path, will result in lost sledding privileges and potential further disciplinary action.
  • Sleds must be stored in the Stables when not in use.

Snowball Fights

  • Boys may organize snowball fights in designated areas apart from the driveway, school buildings, cars, and sledders.
  • It is never permitted to throw snowballs that contain ice or any other material besides snow.
  • The 10 foot rule applies.
  • No ambush of unsuspecting non-participants is allowed.

Tackle Football

  • Supervised tackle football games are permitted on grassy areas.
  • Using the head to tackle or collisions at high speed are never permitted.
  • Boys must attend a workshop on how to tackle safely (avoiding getting kneed in the head, not tackling around the head or neck area, not running with one’s knees pumping too high, stopping play when forward motion stops to avoid dangerous piling on, etc.) each year before engaging in tackling games.
  • No tackling of unsuspecting non-participants is allowed.

Tree Climbing

  • Boys may climb healthy trees on branches that can support their weight.
  • Someone on the ground must be able to see the tree-climber at all times.


  • Entering a brook or pond is not allowed without a teacher present and clear permission from that teacher to do so.
  • If a boy gets his clothes wet during recess, he should change into an extra set of dry clothes before his next class begins. He should also have a plan for storing wet clothes in a plastic bag or somewhere that does not create a mess in the classroom. Attending class in unreasonably wet or dirty clothing is not permitted.
  • Boys may never walk out on ice unless a teacher is present and has given them clear permission to do so. Boys may never walk out on the ice alone.
  • Water fights and throwing or spraying water are not permitted.


  • No weapons are allowed on school grounds.
  • Knives are permitted only when specifically required by a teacher for a class or extra-curricular activity. They must be turned in to the teacher at the beginning of school and can come out only during that specific activity.
  • Throwing anything, including rocks, fruit or any other food, or ice is not permitted. A teacher may permit skipping stones on a case by case basis. See above for snowball guidelines.

No Climbing On

  • Stone foundations of the Barn, the Barn ramp, or the wall between the Barn ramp and the new Chapel
  • The handicapped ramp railings
  • Upper and Lower Paddock fences

Off Limits

  • Unoccupied classrooms outside of school hours
  • The Barn loft
  • The Frog Pond Cabin
  • The Stables
  • The second floor of the School House
  • Underneath the Barn
  • School tools and equipment


  • Stay on the Sparhawk property
  • Obey teacher instructions. Teachers may waive a rule or impose a rule as necessary.
  • Report any injuries
  • Be on time for class
  • Individual parents may impose further restrictions on their son(s). Parents should both communicate to their boy(s) and inform the school in writing of those restrictions.