Advocacy

Be the Change You Wish to See…

This morning I wish to use my platform of blogging… the place I spread my voice… to speak for change. I have been very quiet as an educator on this blog as of late and I could blame it on time, on lack of ideas, of putting my advocacy eggs in other baskets, and on feeling as if I am in a learning curve with little to share for others on what to do but rather on what I should be doing. But that is neither here nor there. I will find my way and I already have new ideas on how to be more active in all lines of my life. But, this morning I have to do this… I have to ask you to be a part of the change. As I see our nation heading in a direction that is unpredictable and possibly very scary for women, educators, and diverse members of our nation I ask of you to offer support – to be the change you wish to see- to not be silent but courageous. This morning I find myself at a keyboard when I should be at a march. But, I will not live in regret of that. Each person knows their limits and today mine could not bring me to the ground of the fight but it does not remove me from it. So if you are like me and could not be in the mix of the marchers – for whatever reason – you can still support the movement.

I post the following link because of my locality but google could likely point you in the direction of yours – if you prefer to support closer to home. I also am sure there is a link for the DC march which would umbrella the many masses – being the center of it all. Find whichever speaks to you or use the one I share.

https://womensmarchla.org/

 

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If you are like me and can’t thrive in the trenches of the crowd … you can still support the movement!!!! Follow this link to donate! I did and it is one thing I can be proud of this morning. Support the Women and People that are fighting for our rights. There is beauty in unity … be with them in spirit if not on the ground. This morning as I feel a little tender about not being there I set my goal to be brave enough to do this some day … to be a model for the children I will one day have so they too can be strong to stand up, no matter the crowds or anxiety that comes with it. This is a movement that deserves support and every little bit counts … so click and give in whichever way you can. I know many that gave their day and heart to be in the mix and march this amazing path and I send my love and support with them – you are the heros – you are the nation. Mark Twain said, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it”.

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Advocacy

Sharing The Joy of Risk Taking

As a progressive and play based educator, I spend much of my time (that is not with the children) documenting. This is important to me for many reasons. One is that it serves as communication with families, two is that it is an authentic and meaningful way of assessing children, and three is that it does something very important – it serves as a tool of advocacy.  As an early childhood teacher and advocate, I know that it might take me more time to explain what I already know in my head, what I know is right for children, what is developmentally appropriate, how children learn through play, etc. I also know that my heart will scream – just honor childhood!  Let them be children for the sake of childhood! And though I sometimes wish that all I would have to say is ‘let childhood happen’, I also know that many people won’t do this unless they understand why. I am not sure I would if I didn’t spend years learning why I do what I do. So if I expect families and the world (the systems, the government, the fund providers) to support play and the joys of childhood, then I have to spend time doing my due diligence advocating for it.  Screaming from the roof tops! Defending play and all that comes with it. It is my responsibility. It may mean more work, more time, more everything. But, I signed up for this. Some weeks I might not have the minutes but I try my best to find them when I can. This weekend while documenting (on an amazing new documentation platform we use called storypark, check it out!!!!) I found myself writing about risk taking. We have many brave risk warriors in our group this year! The things they are learning! The things I am learning! Oh!  I could gush on and on. After publishing it I realized it was worth sharing.  So with out further rambling…

The Joy of Risk Taking: The Beams

The children never cease to amaze me! The multitude of things they learn during their play are invaluable life lessons. The Meadow children are brave and filled with curiosity – often taking risks that make our hearts flutter. Even though our “Mommy (or Daddy) Radars” go off, we know as educators that risk taking is critical to healthy child development. It is important that our environments reflect adventures and materials that provide opportunities that are “not as safe as possible, but safe as necessary”, in the words of Bev Bos. By doing this we make sure that children develop a sense of empowerment, independence, and exercise their gross motor skills adequately. It also provides invitations that children see as approachable, rather than them waiting for watchful eyes to turn the other way and seeking out risks that may be unmanageable. We stay close and observe, providing support or caution when needed. Providing real manageable risks for young children allows them to accomplish great challenges. We have to evaluate the challenge with a risk assessment – If a child does this (e.g. climbs here) with me close by, what could happen? A scrape, a twist, a tumble? All things we can overcome together. All things that happen in childhood. All things that are rare and outweighed by the benefits. Our hearts still flutter BUT when they accomplish the risky challenges the celebration in our hearts and theirs is immeasurable. I wish I could capture the smiles in photo for you (but my hands are often hovering for support and not on the camera icon)! Photo or no photo, the pride that beams from the children sends off a powerful energy – that no words could capture.

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Community Playthings shares, in one of their article excepts, why risk is important :

Real play means taking risks—physical, social, and even cognitive. Children are constantly trying out new things and learning a great deal in the process. They love to move from adventure to adventure. They face the risk of mistakes and even of injuries, but that does not deter children. They embrace life, play, and risk with gusto, and they are prepared for a certain amount of bumps and bruises while growing up.
Although no one wants to see a child injured, creating an environment that is overly safe creates a different kind of danger for them. Growing up in a risk-averse society, such as we currently have, means children are not able to practice risk-assessment which enables them to match their skills with the demands of the environment. As a result, many children have become very timid and are reluctant to take risks. At the opposite extreme, many have difficulty reading the situations they face and take foolhardy risks, repeatedly landing in trouble.
When children are given a chance to engage freely in adventurous play they quickly learn to assess their own skills and match them to the demands of the environment. Such children ask themselves—consciously or unconsciously—“how high can I climb”, or “is this log across the creek strong enough to support me?” They become savvy about themselves and their environment. Children who are confident about taking chances rebound well when things don’t work out at first. They are resilient and will try again and again until they master a situation that challenges them—or wisely avoid it, if that seems best.

This week I saw this happen in true action. Some of the children dragged the balance beams off of the tires to the hay, looking for a more challenging risk of big body play and balance. While this proved challenging for many it sprouted many great things. Some children mastered it with ease. While others asked for a hand to hold or the beam to be lowered. Some even decided to not take on the challenge or to do so in new ways, such as, only on the wide beams, only while sitting and scooting up, or not on the “slippery” one (the stained one was more smooth than the raw wood). Some of the children asked for help from a teacher or playmate. Some tilted the basketball hoop down and made a “portal” or doorway onto the hay that was to be crawled through before taking on the challenge. The most amazing thing happened during this moment because after a child would crawl through they would stop and look down and assess if they wanted to climb down by beam or jump of the stairs of hay. Some would look and say things such as, “no way”, “This is so easy”, “come closer”, “I don’t need you here” (in which I would take a step further back), or “I think I like the stairs better”. Once I even saw a child put a pumpkin on the other side of the beam. When I inquired as to why, they said, “because it is heavy and it will keep it on there, then no one will fall” (what amazing risk calculating and consideration for community members!). All week I spent at least a few minutes at this location or smiling from a distance watching other teachers and children work there.

As I sit here, reflecting on this experience, I light up with joy and awe of the children. I can’t help but think of the quote: “A ship is safe in the harbor but, that is not what ships are made for”. The things children are made for, are greater than many people ever allow. It is such a blessing to see these young ones brave the many waves of life and play.

Advocacy

If There is One Thing You Will Do Tonight…

If there is one thing that you will do tonight, do this!  Vote! Click the link below and vote:

http://myla2050play2015.maker.good.is/projects/AdventurePlay4LA

I could write about the many reasons why you should support pop-up play and adventure play (risk taking, independence, self-worth, innovation, creativity, problem-solving, collaboration, etc.) but the truth is they (The Wonderful, Talented, and Fabulous Playworkers/Founders, Jeremiah and Erica Dockray) explain it best here:

So before you fall into your pile of pillows and shut your eyes for the evening click these links and vote.  It takes just about as long as it will take you to watch those buzzfeed videos your like, shorter than a TED talk, as long as it will take you to brush your teeth or scroll through Hulu or your Facebook newsfeed, Come on you can do it! Make a difference and click VOTE. There is one more day to get the votes to the top and I for one think it is well worth it.  I hope you do too. 🙂 Thank You, ahead of time, because I know if you took the time to read this – you will take the time to vote!

Childhood Joy and Preservation

“We Don’t Remember Days, We Remember Moments” – Cesar Pavese

There are moments when I get caught in the wave of paperwork, pedagogy, politics, and the many layers of things that come with working in education.  But, if any of you are true early childhood educators at heart I remind you to get caught in the moment as you begin this year.

Get caught in play, laughter, discovery, and miracles.  If my week was spent on rule making, bulletin boards, assessments, worksheets, and punching out Ellison machine shapes then I might as well give in and sink into the ocean, let the waves of all the other nonsense take me down to the deep bottom.  Because that just isn’t who I am at heart.  I don’t belong in classroom of straight lines in the hall and desks in the room.  And I don’t believe that children do either.

Instead I believe in celebrating and exploring life, soaking in the sun while perched in a branch of a tree, finding joy in the simple things in life, and playing until your heart, body, and mind are full.  These are the ways we create memories.  These are the ways we grow as whole people.  In today’s world we are focusing much on testing and excelling on the academic charts.  But, I ask you:  Do you want our children to score high today and be at the top of academic charts or do you want our children to learn and grow into loving, thoughtful, independent, creative, and innovative human beings for the rest of their days on this beautiful earth.  I know which I want.  And I know that they need many days of a protected playful childhood to get there.

Take the world in through the eyes of a child…

20150909_100211From the branch of a tree soak up the sun and marvel at the rays dancing through the leaves,

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take in the miracles of nature and simple joys of life while watching the story of a monarch unfold from egg to caterpillar, 

(yes!!! we watched the Monarch actually lay the egg!  What an amazing life moment!  Too much in awe to snap the shot!)

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become pals with four legged friends and care for them with gentle hands and open hearts, 

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feast on the gifts of gardens and local crops, discover (or let a friend teach you) the simple tricks of tasting new things (pressing your finger in the center of a clementine to peel it), commune with friends,

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and PLAY!!!!

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

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

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/