‘Pax’ game helps students focus in local schools

Ashland, Ore. — Schools in the Rogue Valley are taking part in a program designed to help the students, as well as the community, thrive. The Pax game aims to promote peace, productivity, health, and happiness.

“It lived for more than 20 years as one of the most cited scientific articles in child psychiatry and child psychology, but no one really did anything with it,” Dr. Dennis Embry said.

The game was first played in Kansas in 1967.  That research fueled Dr. Dennis Embry’s project and started Paxis Institute.

“We took that basic framework, and then turned it into something that could be spread all over the world,” Dr. Embry said.

Pax is active in 38 states, including here in Oregon.

“The children make a vision of what would be the most wonderful classroom in the entire world, what they would see, hear, feel, and do more of, and what they would see, hear feel, and do less of,” Dr. Embry said.

The vision is different in each classroom, but the expectations and behaviors remain the same.

“The good is called pax, and that means, peace productivity, health and happiness,” Dr. Embry said. “And the things they want less of are spleems, those are unwanted behaviors.”

The game is played three to five times per day, during instructional periods. Kids are put into groups, teachers watch for pax and spleems, and reward the groups that have three spleems or less.

“They grab the bottom of the chair, and kind of jump up and down, or they might play wiggle worm, they do very simple physical things,” Dr. Embry said.

Dr. Embry noted those simple rewards produce major results.

“Reading test scores go up, math scores go up, referrals to the principals office go way down,” Dr. Embry said.

Tthe benefits don’t stop when the school day is over, either.

“Less likely to have addictions, less likely to have any form of mental illness,” Dr. Embry said.

Suicide rates have also gone down. Dr. Embry said the results are huge, with a lasting impact, on both the students and the community.

“We’re giving those kids a future, that might not have been there, and they’re having fun, they think it’s a game, and it is… but it’s not when it comes to saving their lives,” Dr. Embry said.

The Phoenix-Talent School District was the first to implement the game in 2015. Now, almost every district in Southern Oregon is using Pax.

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