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Archive for the ‘Play’ Category

Play is important for children.

However, what’s missing from this important idea, a new report says, is a clear understanding of how play can be an effective learning strategy in early childhood settings – and how best to share this concept with the public.

The report – “The Role of Play in Designing Effective Early Learning Environments and Systems” – explores “questions and debates” about play by drawing on interviews with experts and stakeholders. 

The report is the capstone project of Yael Schick, a Saul Zaentz Fellow and recent graduate of the Ed. M in Education Leadership, Organizations, and Entrepreneurship program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Strategies for Children served as the host site for Yael and offered project guidance.

Guiding questions for this project include:

• What is play, and what makes an early childhood program “play-based?”

• Why does play remain a divisive issue? What are the misunderstandings and misconceptions about play-based pedagogy?

• How do we ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn through play? And,

• How must we communicate with policymakers, practitioners, and parents about the effects of play in young children’s learning and development?

While there are no set definitions of play or play-based learning, there is a great deal of useful research on these topics. Among the findings:

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Felicia Billy head shot

We’re continuing to highlight our Advocacy Network participants, and we’re excited about all the work they’re doing in the field and across the state. For past blogs click here, here, here, and here.

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Felicia Billy was working at a privately owned child care center — and applying for early education jobs at the YMCA of Greater Boston.

What made the Y attractive? 

“The benefits,” Billy says.

This sounds like a personal issue, but Billy is also putting her finger on the fact that so many early educators don’t have the kind of benefits – such as retirement savings plans — that K-12 educators and many other professionals can take for granted.

The Y also offered another perk that other early childhood programs don’t: a career ladder. Billy started as a teacher, became a curriculum coordinator, next she was the assistant early education director, and then she moved into her current position as the early education director.

The Y also allows for Billy’s creativity. 

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“What if I was to tell you that game of peekaboo could change the world? sounds impossible. Right? Well, I’m here today to prove it’s not. Hi, I’m Molly, and I’m seven.”

“Our brains grow faster in our early years than any other time in our lives. It can create up to 1 million neural connections every second, but we need your help. Our healthy development depends on these top five things, one, connecting; two, talking; three playing; four, a healthy home, five community. All of this helps our brains and us reach our full potential.

“So what’s something you can do that could really make a difference? Scientists call it serve and return. That’s just the grown up way of saying connect talk and play with us.”

“Molly Wright: How every child can thrive by five” TED Talk, August 9, 2021

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In a recent exhibition, the teachers at Charlestown Nursery School (CNS) shared the important lessons they’ve learned from leaving their building and running their preschool program outdoors in their Boston neighborhood.

The move to the great urban outdoors occurred last fall in the middle of the pandemic. Every morning staff packed supplies into red wagons and pulled the wagons to a local park that served as a classroom. Children arrived in masks and weather appropriate clothing. Being outside helped mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

How did it go?

The teachers say it was the best year ever.
 
Outdoor Exhibition
To heighten their point, they put together the exhibition — “The Qualities of High Quality: Why Reimagining School Matters Now More than Ever” – to engage policymakers in a discussion about access, quality, and how to optimize young children’s learning experiences. (more…)

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Photo: Courtesy of Charlestown Nursery School

“In 1918 in New York City, they took all the children outside,” Kelly Pellagrini, the co-founder and co-director of Charlestown Nursery School, tells NBC’s local news station, describing how people coped during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Just over a century later, Pellagrini and her staff are doing the same thing, moving the 85 children in their program to a local park.

“Every morning… we pack up everything that we have inside the classroom, and we bring it outside,” Pellagrini says.

The nursery school moves its materials in wagons.

Photo: Courtesy of Charlestown Nursery School

NBC news adds: (more…)

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“The most important part is to have the students become more aware of the profession that they’ve chosen,” Tracey Williams says of teaching Introduction to Early Childhood Education at Cambridge College. Williams, a Boston Public School special education teacher, is one of Cambridge College’s senior professors.

“A lot of my students have early childcare positions and jobs where they get a lot of practice, but they don’t know the theory behind what they’re doing.”

So Williams, who has had a long career in early education and K-12 special education, teaches her students about Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist, and Lev Vygotsky, the Russian psychologist, both of whom studied child development as well as about Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator.

“We talk about the importance of play. We talk about the history of Head Start, NAEYC and how state standards evolved. We talk about family engagement, inclusion, and working with kids who have disabilities. We talk about how early education started, and we look at the impact of the industrial revolution and John Dewey,” an education reformer. 

“Because we talk so much about the early history of child care, I wanted to bring students forward into the present, so I asked them to research early educators of color.

“At Cambridge College our students are very diverse, and I want them to understand that theory doesn’t just stop. Theories evolve and education evolves, and both spread into new areas of education. Also, we had discussed a lot of people who were not of color, and I wanted them to learn about people who were.” (more…)

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“When we play, we are at our happiest, and we can withstand incredible hardships. When we play, we are engaging in complex interactions with each other, and we are building our brains. And when we play, those social interactions become relationships. And we need play to connect all three of those together.”

— Laura Huerta Migus, executive director, Association of Children’s Museums, in the video, “Play in Early Childhood: The Role of Play in Any Setting,” Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, August 8, 2019

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

The third in a three-part series on summer learning.

Parents and educators have long been worried about summer learning loss. But as we’ve recently blogged, summer learning is efforts are benefitting from national attention and action in cities.

Today we’re sharing a round-up of summer learning resources for parents, educators, and advocates.

For Parents, Educators, and Librarians

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers parents five tips for promoting their children’s summer learning.

Among the suggestions: (more…)

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Last week — and part of this week — people across the nation celebrated the Week of the Young Child (WOYC).

This annual celebration was launched by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in 1971.

“The purpose of the Week of the Young Child is to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs,” NAEYC says on its website.

Here’s a roundup of some WOYC events.

 

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Photo: Somerville Public Schools Twitter feed

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“Children are natural players, right from the beginning. ‘It’s hard to imagine when an infant or a toddler isn’t playing,’ said Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, a professor of applied psychology at New York University who studies play and learning in babies and young children. She cited, for example, the joys of mushing food, pulling books off a shelf or making noises rattling a paper bag.

“‘I don’t like it when scientists think children are playing only when they sit down with some toys,’ she said. ‘Almost all the learning that goes on in the first years of life is in the context of exploration of the environment.’”

“But though play may be intrinsically present, and intrinsically playful, those who study its importance in children’s lives point out that it can also be threatened, either by too little attention and responsiveness from distracted adults or, in another sense, by too much attention and teaching, of the not-so-playful kind.”

“Taking Playtime Seriously,” Dr. Perri Klass, The New York Times, January 29, 2018

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