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Archive for the ‘Play’ Category

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“My name is Gillian Budine. I have been a Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) grant program coordinator for many years, including during the Community Partnership and Family Network days. Locally we call our CFCE program the Community Network for Children (CNC) Program and our priority communities are Erving, Leverett, New Salem, Shutesbury and Wendell, but our programs reach families beyond those five towns to neighboring towns with our CFCE programming.”

“CFCE programs have been a crucial hub of support and resources for families. Especially in our small rural communities.”

Testimony submitted to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care, p. 6, November 8, 2022

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What parents said:

“Working with CNC has been incredible throughout the time we have been involved, from last trimester of pregnancy to current days of our daughter being 1. Our daughter has learned so much and is quite advanced as a result of this program and what it offers.”

“My son and I have been attending CNC programs since he was a few months old. He now has such a fondness for music and stories. During the pandemic, we have been so grateful to have a safe, welcoming environment to attend, learn, and grow. Without the CNC programs, my son would not have had the opportunity at his young age to listen to live guitar, [engage in] singing as a group, read alouds, and exploration. Thank you for this incredible opportunity!”

“Our playgroups in Shutesbury and Erving have been of utmost importance in maintaining social connections and parental support throughout the pandemic, especially during the winter months. We have appreciated the efforts of all staff involved in planning, coordinating, and implementing these groups. My daughter lights up with excitement to see Ms. Katie play guitar and sing songs. She practices social skills of waving and taking turns when with her peers. She’s developed a sense of pride and independence when giving supplies back to Ms. Gillian to help clean up. To see other parents has also helped give me support and comfort during these times of being in isolation throughout the cold months.”

Testimony submitted to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care, p. 7, November 8, 2022

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Playing outside is a source of joy for children — and an opportunity for early educators to teach amazing lessons.

But many early childhood programs don’t have the information and resources they need to build engaging outdoor play spaces.

A policy brief from New America — Rethinking Outdoor Space for High-Quality Early Learning –addresses this by sharing the many options for creating an engaging “outdoor learning environment” or OLE.

The brief starts with a story about butterflies:

“Tiny monarch caterpillars arrived at the school, not floating through the air, but with the thud of a package on concrete.

“Our postal carrier had no idea how many lessons were going to emerge from that box for the prekindergartners at our public school in Washington, DC. First, we created a mesh net habitat and placed it in the tiny side yard of our concrete school building, which is just a few feet from a busy street known for nightlife, not nature. Within a day, the caterpillars doubled in size and the students watched, fascinated, commenting on the bite marks in the plants and listening closely for crunching.

“Over the next four weeks, children took turns watering the plants in the garden beds and tore off leaves to place in the mesh cage for the very hungry caterpillars.”

(more…)

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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:

(more…)

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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. 

(more…)

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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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