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.

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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”.

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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):

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Advocacy

Ode to the Super Mom

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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Some days I look like this.

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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!

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 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.

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Advocacy, Jot a Little Note..., There is No Pro in Progressive, Welcome

Missing in Action

I know, I know!  All of a sudden this blog was on fire and then it seemed to just freeze!  It is called the end of the year race.

human race

First it was the slam of the end of the year and then it was recovery mode.  We do summer programming at my school so one door closed and another opened – suddenly I found myself with no time or energy to post.  Like a mini-episode of teacher burn out!  But there is nothing better to cure teacher burn out then the children doing amazing things – just revives the soul!  So!!!!  I am finally back in the swing of things – always busy but now ready to get back into posting.  Sorry for the hiatus – but back into full swing we go!

For starters catch a few sensory-sational newbies on the sensory-sational tab!  How do you salt?  Yep – check under S for salt and then scroll down to T for Tempera Ice Cubes (not your average adventure because this simple cube is being added to a EC favorite – shaving cream!).  That should keep you recharged for your tables and messy play for a day or two.

Let’s talk about politics!  I know, yes it is not what I want to really talk about but the reality is that as advocates we have to be on the up and up with this.  I am not going to say that I am great on this front but I try to stay a bit in the loop.  Here are a few things to check up on:

Support the Rally for Babies – advocate for early learning initiatives:

http://rally4babies.org/sign-petition/

Follow the public policy world for EC by becoming a children’s champion.  Join the email list to get updates on what is happening with policy, funding, and impacts on the EC community.  Help be a decision maker! – http://www.naeyc.org/policy

Explore Children’s Rights and how to get involved (The links below are related to big picture advocacy efforts but there are many local ways to advocate for children as well – PTA, Board of Ed, Public Policy groups through NAEYC affiliates, and list goes on…)  Check these out and then find your niche:

http://www.coe.int/t/dg3/children/participation/CRC-C-GC-12.pdf

http://www.unicefusa.org/campaigns/public-policy-advocacy/the-convention-on-the-rights.html

Have you heard of TED talks?  I am in love with a few progressive education ones and had to share them:

(Click above!  This guy is spot on and funny!  Plus you have to fall in love with the accent.)

 

Alright, did I give you enough to keep you busy?  Be sure to link up to the Facebook page for mini updates on the blog.  Every once and awhile I post something up there that I do not blog about.  https://www.facebook.com/NoProProgressiveEducation

Until Next Time,

~ Jeanne