Advocacy

Academic Rigor: Earlier is not Better

A must see:  

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/12/report-debunks-earlier-is-better-academic-instruction-for-young-children/?postshare=1881429047283140

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Advocacy

Learning Through Play?

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Came across this amazing cartoon this morning while browsing through a group I am in on Facebook.  Yes, sometimes I am a social media junkie.  But, most of my social media junkie moments are still focused in the EC world.  Yes, I still need a life.

But, back to the important part – this cartoon!  What I love about this is that we can probably all relate to this.  Many parents are wondering just how is play learning?  And we are struggling on how to communicate it!  This cartoon breaks down just a few ways that learning and growth is happening during play.  Now the fiery passionate advocate in me could continue to be flustered over this or I could step back and realize that knowing play is learning is not something that comes naturally to everyone – and really not to us either.  If you are teaching through play, chances are that you have spent time studying play while obtaining a certificate or degree, reading books, attending conferences, and the many ways early childhood advocates refine their knowledge.  So, why do we get baffled when a parent wants evidence?  Many of us, I am sure, just want all of humanity to honor childhood for the joy and window of wonder it is.  The push down of American education has greatly taken its toll on childhood and the preservation of play.  The obsession with results has hindered the ability to nurture children with love and support as they grow into whole beings and not just brains filled with splinter skills.  So as educators how do we battle the inevitable.  The fact that society is pushing traditional skill driven education is not going to change over night.  What can we do today to sell PLAY?

I think the first step is to find tidbits like these cartoons to share with parents and community members.  Small steps sometimes take us on far journeys.  Each day as early childhood educators we fight for children and their right to play but sometimes we forget to create allies with small steps.

Take a small step… share this cartoon or simple supportive bits of evidence of how play is learning.  Maybe it is a photo with a caption, a brief article, a documentation sample… Take a moment to share the little pieces that sold you on PLAY, these little pieces might just be what changes the world for children, education, and you as an educator.

Advocacy

100 Languages of Children: The Beauty of Reggio

The Hundred Languages

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

Reggio by far has been one of my favorite progressive genres.  I love that it serves as a model for reflecting the children and community into its methods.  Respectful relationships, beautiful environments, and child centered practices are just a couple things that sell me on this genre of education.  The above poem sums up a lot of what is crucial for every child on a daily basis.  Children deserve to be heard and it is all to often that their needs and desires are neglected for an adult agenda.  When is the last time you let a child share one of their hundred languages?

For more Reggio resources check out:

http://www.reggiochildren.it/identita/reggio-emilia-approach/?lang=en

http://reggioalliance.org/

http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Studio-Learning-Childhood-Education/dp/080774591X/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1411279979&sr=8-10&keywords=reggio

http://www.branchesatelier.com/

Advocacy

Take a Moment to Speak for Voices that are often unheard, the children of today…

Child Rights and Advocacy

We go along our busy lives and it is not that we mean to not spend time advocating for children but we get caught up the moments of everyday and put the task aside.  Each day that passes becomes another day of silence because even those that know a child’s voice must be heard puts the task aside for later.  Take a moment today to just do one act of advocacy.  Become involved in change making.

The other day I had an email in my inbox that I kept pushing a day ahead.  I finally thought to myself – why am I ignoring this.  When I clicked it open I spent a quick ten minutes advocating for education funds.  I took the NAEYC form letter below and put my own tweaks and spins into it and then sent it off to the politicians (Obama and the Senators of CA).  Now I know that I am just one little voice that will get thrown on the top of the desk or inbox but I have to believe if everyone keeps trekking forward change is bound to happen someday soon.  The nation will hear the child’s voice and be called into action for the rights of children.  So take a moment to visit the page http://www.naeyc.org/policy and click on the Take Action tab.  Then follow the proper steps and clicks before pasting this letter in.  Make the tweaks you prefer and hit send.  It will blast a few politicians in a matter of minutes with a call out to fund education in the early years (Now if you are me you added words such as concrete experiences, PLAY, quality, and then also spent a few moments to tear up scripted and splinter skill curriculum.  But that is me).  Don’t stop here!  Keep scrolling down and read more before taking this step because there is another step too!

Sample message: 
 
I am your constituent, and I want you to make significant increased federal investments in early childhood education.  Research shows the importance of quality early development and learning experiences for young children. Noted economists agree that these investments benefit all taxpayers by reducing more costly special education and remedial education, juvenile crime, and school dropout.
A new poll confirms several polls conducted last year that a majority of voters support a greater investment by Congress in early childhood education, starting with birth and through the preschool years.  The poll shows strong bipartisan support: 60% of Republicans, 68% of Independents, and 84% of Democrats think federal investment in high-quality early childhood programs is a good idea.
Children deserve your action now.  When you invest in high-quality, affordable early childhood education, you help families work and children thrive and be successful in school and life – and everyone benefits.
What is the next step?  
Now that you know how to use this handy dandy little TAKE ACTION link put it to good use.  Use it to send more letters about advocacy for children.  Since I was already on a roll I decided to remind local and national officials of the importance of ratifying the document The Rights of the Child.  Don’t know what it is?  Look at the letter below for the link.  Unsure why other nations adopted it in the 20s and we have yet to still do so?  Me too.  Like what you see and want to advocate for it?  Go ahead copy my letter and send it in.
Sample Message
Each day people spend time advocating for a cause – often one that
directly impacts them; whether the cause is related to finances,
education, health, or other relevant human experiences.  However, many
people forget to take time to advocate for those whom have no voice in the
political world – children.  To this day child rights are not addressed
with the same crucial importance as other issues.  I am taking a moment to
honor this and speak for the rights of children by asking why do we not
put the rights of children on the list of top priorities?  Why do other
countries take the time to protect, honor, and nurture children while the
United States will not even ratify the Declaration of the Rights of a
Child?  It is heart breaking to see us ignore this critical issue while
other nations take a step forward.  The original document has existed
since 1923 and we still refuse to be a part of this beautiful mission in
the best interest of the children.  It is reflective of how we are behind
in providing quality education, quality health care, quality mental health
support, and quality domestic protective services for today’s American
children.  My plea is to reconsider our current state of inaction and take
a moment to move in the right direction to serve children with the
ratification of this Declaration.  The UNICEF site provides an outline of
the declaration for reference:
http://www.unicef.org/malaysia/1959-Declaration-of-the-Rights-of-the-Child.pdf
Please take a moment to review and advocate for the children of today and
tomorrow.
One, Two, Three
Go!  Go now!  Go fast!  Start helping your state, the nation, the world!  – hear the voice of the child just as you do.
“Be the change you wish to see” – Gandhi 

 

Advocacy, Childhood Joy and Preservation

Getting My Mind Into Studio (Disney Stole My Studio) Part II of Studying Implementing Studio in Preschool

The benefit of studio time for children is that it provides an intimate and open environment for the children to explore and create their own thoughts and ideas. Don’t get me wrong – there have been times where the children floor me with what they discuss and create in studio. But last week- Disney stole my studio! Or more rightly so it stole the children’s studio.

disney stole

My studio scribbles while I sat back and let Disney take over.

We are a C-free environment (commercial free). And of course no matter how much we try to keep it at bay it sneaks into the school. A Disney princess shirt, a Star Wars trooper, a Hello kitty blanket. But for the most part our families do fairly well with it. But this month I have seen Disney take over the classroom – anyone else notice all the children role playing Frozen in their classroom? While sometimes I see how some of these influences benefit the children – empowering them to belt out songs at the top of their lungs when they may have never before- I also see the double edge of the sword. It stabs right through the children’s independent identity and creativity. Let me tell you how…
The children have loved the concept of a Giant for over a year now. Last Spring they even threw our so called imaginary “Giant” a birthday party. Well, the past few weeks they were asking for him back. So I staged an area with a provocation and later that week brought a group of interested children into the studio to finish designing and creating a “giant”.

disney stole 2

But the collaboration kept hitting a wall- “that is not how the giant story goes!” some of the children were saying.

What did they mean by this?  Who’s story was telling them how to design their giant?  Why could it not be their own?
“Mickey is scared of him and I don’t want to make a scary Giant.” was one debate
and after 30 minutes of planning we finally started creating a hump for the giant’s back that was the children’s own original idea and not Disney’s.

Prior to creation we sat there discussing Disney characters and stories for the majority of the studio – Mickey, Turbo, Giants, Frozen.  It all came out and the children felt like Disney owned those ideas so they could not create their own.  The Giant had to fit the story they knew from Disney.  I knew what story they were referring to – I had it myself as a little girl. The title does not come to mind but the details of Mickey meeting a giant and tricking him by squeezing water from a stone/slab of cheese are fresh in my mind. Pretty impressionable! It is not that they can connect or recall this story that upsets me. That is a great literacy skill – we love when children do it with books. It upsets me that the children are so enamored by Disney that Disney gets the upper hand. It dominates over their own ideas! They can’t possibly use their own idea because it is not right because it is not how Disney portrayed it! It was stripping the children of their own power during creative activities. That is the heartbreaker!  So even though the children were saying “I don’t want to make that Giant” and I continued to say “you don’t have to” – “your own Giant” – “this is your Giant” – they were trapped in Disney’s box.

When we finally got out of Disney’s box and started creating the children’s ideas Disney still kept sneaking in.  One little boy was drawing a map for where the Giant would travel to after we built him.  “I want him to go fast like a snail” he said.  “Fast like a snail?” I asked, “I thought snails were slow”.  Another little one chimed in “Yeah, they are slow and slimy”.  “No, fast like Turbo” he defended.  So now Disney not only dominates how the children create but how they view and make meaning of the world around them – and apparently thanks to Disney snails are on speed.

Ok, I get it!  This is a little extreme.  I am ranting!  It is a little overboard.  I remember enjoying Disney myself as a child.  I probably will let my future children be semi-exposed to it as well.  But, there is a reason as a preschool we are a commercial free environment and that children should be protected from the mudslide of commercialism and media.  Yet, commercialism still comes into our realm.  The smallest details influence them and it changes them.  They use this information from films, toys, characters, etc., to dictate and script their play, to inform their ideas, to decide how to engage socially, to build their ideas of what image is.  And frankly some of what our children are taught to value is less than supportive and affirmative.

Diane Levin, child advocate/educator and Wheelock College Professor is the founder of The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/).  This advocacy group has inspired a  movement that has helped fight against the negative effects of commercialism on children and educate the population on how commercialism impacts children.  The website provides great resources for exploring how Disney and other commercialized big dogs impact childhood (stifling creativity, gender stereotypes, character development, etc.).  One particular article that connects well with my studio dilemma is “The Commercialization of Toys and Play”  (http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/sites/default/files/toysandplay.pdf).

I am not asking you to quit Disney.  I am asking you to think about it and to quit Disney in the classroom.  I am begging you to reconsider how Disney and any other commercialized toy enters your children’s lives.  Will you limit it?  Will you discuss the challenges and problems it presents with your child?  Will you be commercial-free or commercial aware?

Let’s teach children to value their own ideas!

Food for Thought (Additional Links):

Advocacy

The argument I am so tired of and never finished with…

Often I am asked or hear:
But when do they learn?
What about academics?
At what point do you do Kindergarten readiness?

It makes me scream inside!  I want to explode.  But I smile and politely defend play.  They are learning!  We are getting them ready!  This is academic!

You see – I think there are three schools of thought on this:  There are the passion driven players, there are the people who don’t believe in the value of play but they fully support skill and academic development, and then there is this third group that has one foot in each glass.  Can you guess which glass I float in?  Yeah that is right – I fully drink the PLAY kool-aid.  And why?  Because PLAY is LEARNING!  You can not separate the learning from play when authentic play is happening!  Nope!  If it was a jar full of sand and you sifted through it – the grains would be the same.  You couldn’t sort it out and say “oh please don’t learn while you play”.  But the unfortunate part is you can divide play and academics.  You can sit a child down and train them to perform academically – sans play.  The ironic part is when we choose to do this we are robbing children of the opportunity of quality brain development, meaningful learning, and choice.

glass play

Brain Development –

If you don’t buy that PLAY has cognitive value then do your own research on how PLAY effects the brain.  Research shows that learning in a meaningful and hands-on path of exploration sticks with us.  When we are a part of internalizing learning through play we make connections in our brains and activate/forge synapses.  This is compared to learning information for performance.  Children learn to spit out the ABCs and are praised for their success.  It has no meaning to them besides “Mommy claps” for me or “Teacher says good job” and so I will keep doing it.  The meaning is not in truly knowing the letters and what they symbolize but instead in memorizing and performing.

http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/play-work-of-children

http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/brain-development/faqs-on-the-brain.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2807801/#!po=21.1538

Meaningful Learning –

Children are pressured to learn their ABCs and count to 100 for Kindergarten.  We sit children down for a screening for K and we test to see if they can count or identify numbers 1 -100.  But many of the children that can do this have no meaning to the skill.  The value is lacking.  While a child may count to 100 he really may not have mastered the concept or the meaning for how many 55 or 92 actually is; I work with children that gain a deep meaning of numeracy through play.  One little boy loves trucks!  He plays in the sand with them, rolls them down the slide, brings books to my lap for reading about them, and creates them with art materials.  Every time, without skipping a beat he knows that he needs 4 wheels for his big “Monster” truck.  He will count them out and has a deep connection with the concept of 4 wheels – pink wheels, circle wheels, big wheels, etc.  But he always truly knows how to count out 4 wheels for his projects.  While at the grocery store he knows that Mama told him there are 6 muffins in the container – enough for him, Daddy, and Mama – with extras to spare.  He understands this concept.  While he may not count with rote memory to 100 he has a much more meaningful connection to numbers and numeracy.  All of this gained through play and social engagements!  He owns these concepts!  He has made meaning of his world around him and is not wrapped up in just another skill of the day.  When skills are gained during real experiences explored through play the learning becomes meaningful and rich vs. just another “splinter skill”.

But somewhere we have learned that a worksheet and skills driven tasks provide meaning and evidence for skills.  We have learned as a society to value that rote memory and recall is more important than deep and connected understanding.  Even educated practitioners in the Early Childhood field feel as if they need to provide play for children but then supplement academic readiness with structured lessons- these are the people with one foot in each glass, PLAY as an addictive :(!  The truth is 20 minutes of play is not enough and learning is stifled when we shorten play time to tutor children in small groups or individualized academic skill lessons.  So why do educators bend to the pressures?  Do they not know what glass of kool-aid they drink or do they have one foot in each glass?  I am excited for young children when they are given the opportunity to become a part of a school community.  I am heart broken when they are made to attend programs that don’t understand that play is learning and that these two are not separate occurrences in preschool.  I don’t want to hear:  They get a 20 minute PLAY time and 20 minutes on learning activities or I will let them play now but next year I need to send them somewhere that they can gain their foundation in academics.  I want the world to see that PLAY is the fiber to our being and the key to learning.

http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=537

http://www.ted.co/talk/stuart_brown_says_play_is_more_than_fun_it_s_vital.html

Choice –

When my Dad wants to learn how to assemble something he does not refer to written directions.  He uses diagrams and pictorials to study the composition, tests it out with his hands, and listens to a fellow expert explain the steps of the process.  He selects the avenue that best suits him as a learner and for his own personal success.  We all do this as learners.  We decide if we want to lean on National Geographic, Popular Mechanics, Time Magazine, YouTube, Google, Mentor-ship with fellow professionals, etc.  for information.  As adults we are a part of that choice.  So why do we not wish the same for our children?  Why wouldn’t we give them ownership over their learning!

http://families.naeyc.org/learning-and-development/child-development/five-essentials-meaningful-play

http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/cfc.htm

Why play?

Play is for everyone!  Everywhere!  Why do we need play and the importance of PLAY for children and adults?  Find out more:

http://new.ted.com/talks/steve_keil_a_manifesto_for_play_for_bulgaria_and_beyond

So i beg you!  Do your research!  Compare PLAY to academic based lessons.  See how rich learning is during PLAY!  You may find yourself drinking from a new glass!

 

This blog was inspired by a great blog- that is a must read:
http://notjustcute.com/2013/11/04/what-about-looking-for-exceptions-to-dap/

Advocacy

Ode to the Super Mom

 So here is me on most days … Ready to conquer the world and play!

photo 1

Yep.  Play!  Because that is crucial to human development and early childhood.  So when I look at my $60000+ in student loans some days I am like “yikes!” But most days I am like “yeah!  I got this!”.  So you can imagine I feel quite invested in my work with the children – and not just because of the dollar signs but because I love what I do, I feel it is important, and I see how children benefit from it everyday!

People ask me “why don’t you just teach public school and get all the benefits and security and money…. Waa. Wa wa wa wa”.  photo 2photo 3

They are shocked and appalled that I would invest so much of my time, money, and self in “baby sitting” and silly affairs such as “Play”.  Well I do not sit on babies and PLAY is serious stuff (but that is another topic in need of a  blog posting).

AND… “Been there done that, and it is not for me” is the short story…

 When you are an advocate for play and early childhood and you are put in the PS (public school) box.  PS becomes a bunch of BS (excuse my blunt language)… I just can’t do it.  When I am in that arena I have one million things going through my head about what the children are missing (play, recess, social development, autonomy, identity, time, joy, etc.) that I can’t seem to open that scripted book and shove all that material and testing in their little heads.   It just goes against everything I have worked towards for children.  Don’t get me wrong there are some great crusaders out there that can do it in a fairly appropriate way and they will change the world for some young children  – but my battle is not fought inside out from the PS but outside in.

photo 4

Sure I want everyone to hear Vivian Paley’s message of “who will save the kindergarten?”  (http://www.naeyc.org/content/who-will-save-kindergarten) because it is important.  (It was a great keynote to see).  Someone has to do it (save the kindergarten) and I want to help too but just not from the PS platform.

 So I am here in sunny CA  living the dream of an advocate and early childhood educator as I PLAY and promote PLAY and protect PLAY each day in a progressive nature preschool.  And I love it!  The children love it!  And I get to see them learn and grow each day in amazing ways.

photo 5

So now you are wondering what does this have to do with becoming a Super Mom…

photo 1 (2)

Well here it is… Truth is I am not a Mom yet and even though I want to be someday soon – I am not!  And it puts me at a super disadvantage.  Because some days I am stuck in my young naive and triumphant ways – busy trying to conquer the EC world. That I forget just how hard it is to be a Mom… So I will be teaching, blogging, book club-ing, volunteering, reading an EC book,  going to trainings, working on school projects, and when it comes to others being a part of those things or taking on similar projects – I think wouldn’t it be great if everyone put in their all and dedicated their whole self to this cause!  It would change the world for sure!

AND… out of my ignorant mouth or head pops up “I don’t understand why people just can’t … Blah blah blah”.   And later I realize … “Oh yeah… They are a Mom”.  One of the most important jobs in the world!

They are the people who brought the little people into this world… First people to love them, to teach them, and first people to make children their priority.  Super important work!

So while I am busy in the EC world wondering what everyone else is doing – 80% of the time I could really step back and see all the amazing people doing what they can and trying to be a Super Mom at the same time.  And if we really think about it all those small things and big things mixed together add up – they count!  So I want to say Thank You to all those Moms!

photo 2 (2)

Because truth is I have no idea how I am going to do it!  How am I going to be this loving, nurturing, holistic, present Mom and still change the EC world?  Because while most days I look like this.

photo 1

Some days I look like this.

photo 3 (2)

So if I already have those days how will I ever be on top of my game on both being a teacher and a Mom?

I don’t have the answers yet.

But what really came out of all this wondering is that I know a lot of SUPER MOMS!  And not because they have perfected the process but because they do their little parts in the world around them – whether it is career, community, or what have you and they have also been loving, caring, compassionate, and, loving Moms – all at the same time.  They haven’t perfected balancing the world and Mommy-hood but they have done a darn good job at managing everything while still loving, nurturing, and providing for their little one.  I see them make consciousnesses choices everyday about the well being and happiness for their children.  And most likely if I know them then that means they are letting their child PLAY – which is one giant step towards making the right decisions for your little person (in my biased but educated opinion).

So here is to the Moms!

photo 4 (2)

 Ignore all the young overachieving judging comments from people – because chances are they never sat down to think about just how hard it might be.  That saying – ” ignorance is bliss”…. might be true but “understanding is the first step to acceptance”.  Truth be told the world could use a whole lot more understanding and acceptance.  We could use more praise for Moms and less judgment – isn’t that what we want to teach our children anyways?
So I know today I won’t figure out how to balance it all yet – because I am not in that world yet.  But I can extend my apologies and gratitude to all those Super Moms in the world and challenge others to do the same.

photo 2 (2)