DEYs’ 2nd Annual Organizing Meeting – Friday 11/7 in Dallas, TX

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Calling all early childhood activists!!

Are you concerned about the current direction of early childhood education policy in our country?

Are you worried about the lasting negative effects that come from the loss of child-directed, hands-on play?

We are, too! Come learn about our Action Mini Grants, Mobilization Kit and more!

Join us for our 2nd Annual 

Organizing Meeting!

We are working to identify, connect and strengthen our coalition of early childhood activists.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7th, 6 -7:30 pm at the Aloft Hotel, 1033 Young Street, Dallas TX

Light refreshments will be served. 

Click here to register!

Guest Post and Action Mini Grant update – Play is the thing!

Thanks to play advocate Sarah Lahm for this guest post! Sarah joined other pay advocates in Minneapolis to advocate for playful learning and recess in school. Read their story here…

Play is the thing.

This little adaptation of the old Shakespeare quote from Hamlet—“…the play’s the thing/wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King”—has been popping up in my mind for months now, ever since my Minneapolis-based organization, ACT for Education, was lucky enough to receive a mini-grant from Defending the Early Years.

In Shakespeare’s famous play, Hamlet decides to use the structure of a play, through some carefully placed lines, to prove that his uncle, King Claudius, murdered his father. Can we, as co-defenders of the early years, steal Hamlet’s idea, and modify it a bit? Can we use play itself to “catch the conscience” of those who create and implement current education policy, and remind them that children, and especially young children, learn best through play?
playflyerThat was the hope of ACT for Education when, with the help of our DEY grant, we planned a community event around the idea that “early play=later academic success.” While I initiated the DEY grant application, I must say that my friend and fellow play advocate Kori Hennessey planned most of the actual event. She was instrumental in naming our event, so that it would clearly connect play to academic success, and in inviting an excellent panel of early childhood and primary teachers to share their wisdom and experience about the importance of play.

We held the event at a neighborhood community center and spread the word through a flyer, word of mouth, and Facebook. We had four teachers on our panel—three preschool and one early primary—and we also had a local parent and play expert, Seniz Yargici Lennes, who made the night interactive by offering games and play activities for all the grown-ups, while the children were in another room doing their own active play.

Many people who came seemed to really appreciate being able to play, through the games Play-based 2we did and the homemade playdough Kori made and set out on every table. Participants also enjoyed the way one of our panelists demonstrated the value of an inquiry and discovery-based science environment for young children by having lots of natural materials on a table. While she outlined early child standards, two of Kori’s children played with the rocks, pine cones, and other items, oblivious to the learning objectives they were meeting.

For many of us, this hands-on display showed that children naturally learn while they are playing. This lesson complimented the work of another panelist, who described the changes she was seeing in the early childhood classrooms she works in, where explicit learning targets are being tacked up on every wall and written in to every teacher’s daily objectives.

The overt insistence on meeting certain targets or goals was shown to be impeding what the teachers, and many parents in the room, felt was best: classrooms full of noisy, messy, discovery-based play that was developmentally appropriate.

We were able to attract about 20 people to our evening event, which was less than we had hoped, but something wonderful and unexpected happened that drew many more people to our cause. Just before our event, I created an ACT for Education online petition calling for Thirty Minutes of Recess for Every Child (pre-K-6) in the Minneapolis Public Schools, and it was as popular as recess itself! In just 24 hours, the petition had over 400 signatures; when we delivered it to the Minneapolis school board on October 14, it had almost 800 signatures. This is significant, because, while some students in the district have one hour, total, for lunch and recess, many have a half an hour for both.

recess petition 1With the momentum of the petition behind us, we have a diverse and organized group of parents and community members ready to help push for a recess-based policy change in Minneapolis. Also, because of the resources we pulled together for our “early play” event, we have been able to get people talking about what a developmentally appropriate early childhood education setting should look like.

Now, we are planning a larger play-based learning event for 2015. Hopefully, by then, we will have an assurance from the Minneapolis Public Schools that every child, in every school, will have a guaranteed minimum of thirty minutes of recess every day. Together, I think we can show our policymakers that play—guided but unstructured—is the thing our children need as they carve their own paths forward.

Reminder from DEY – our Action Mini Grants are still available – now is a great to to apply for events in the new year! Find more information and the application in our  Early Childhood Activist Tool Kit.

Countdown to NAEYC’s Annual Conference

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DEY will be presenting and exhibiting at NAEYC’s Annual Conference in Dallas, TX on November 5-8th!  If you are attending, here are some sessions we recommend:

1. Defending the Early Years’ toolkit:  Resources to help you advocate for appropriate practices for young children.  Thursday, 11/6, 10:00 – 11:30 am, Omni Dallas Hotel

2.  Diane Levin’s Beyond Remote-Controlled Teaching & Learning: Reclaiming Early Education from Misguided Academic Mandates, Friday, 11/7, 3:00-4:30 pm, Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center

3. Play, Policy and Practice Panel: The Play Imperative: Why Do All Children Need to Play for Learning and for Success in School?  Friday, 11/7, 8:00-9:30 am, Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, Room D166, with Jim Johnson, Susan Linn, Joan Almon and Diane Levin

4. DEY’s National Advisory Board Member Constance Kamii will also be presenting on Friday, 11/7, 3:00-4:30 pm at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center, Room D162/164

 

And our 2nd Annual Organizing Meeting for Early Childhood Activists! 

Please join us!

During the NAEYC Conference we will be hosting our 2nd annual organizing meeting for early childhood activists on Friday, 11/7, 6:00-7:30 pm at the Aloft Dallas Hotel, 1033 Young Street.  Join some of DEY’s  National Advisory Board in a conversation as we hear about successful Action Mini-Grants and plan next steps.  Light refreshments will be served.  See attached flyer for details.

And…In the exhibit hall – find us at #333 in the booth we share with our friend Hugh Hanley and his Circle of Song. We will be sharing DEY resources for you to take home.

Looking forward to seeing many of you!

Peter Gray: The Decline of Play and the Rise of Mental Disorders

GrayScreenshotWe encourage you to take 15 minutes to view this powerful Tedx talk from Dr. Peter Gray. “Dr. Peter Gray compellingly brings attention to the reality that over the past 60 years in the United States there has been a gradual but, overall dramatic decline in children’s freedom to play with other children, without adult direction. Over this same period, there has been a gradual but overall dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, suicide, and narcissism in children and adolescents. Based on his own and others’ research, Dr. Gray documents why free play is essential for children’s healthy social and emotional development and outlines steps through which we can bring free play back to children’s lives.” Be sure to stick through to the end where he offers excellent advice on how to counteract the current trend, including: “We need to be brave enough to stand up against the continuous clamor for more schooling.”

DEY’s Nancy Carlsson-Paige interviewed: Common Core is it ‘Developmentally Inappropriate’?

Yesterday, North Carolina’s public radio station WUNC aired a story by reporter Reema Khrais. In the story Common Core is it ‘Developmentally Inappropriate’? Khrais takes time to dig a little deeper into this current debate.  Khrais interviewed DEY’s Nancy Carlsson-Paige, along with child development expert Sam Meisels and Jere Confrey, a math education professor at NC State who worked on the math Common Core State Standards. Here is a snippet:

“You wouldn’t want to require children to count to 100, which is what one of the standards does, it’s actually ridiculous,” says Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an early education expert at Lesley University.

Carlsson-Paige is referring to a kindergarten math standard requiring children to count to 100 by ones and tens. She says it’s a good example of how the standards for young children are developmentally inappropriate. 

“Counting is something you could memorize. You could just say names, right? But it doesn’t mean you understand numbers,” she says.

Carlsson-Paige argues that some of the standards in the early grades are just too rigid.

“You could say almost silly in the sense that they’re de-contextualized from children and even from understanding child development.”

Without that understanding, she says kids are expected to know things they simply aren’t ready for, which can make them feel “confused, scared or stupid.”

You can hear the whole story on WUNC’s website.  We are thankful to Khrais for digging deeper than other reporters have about the ideas behind the stance that the Common Core State Standards are inappropriate for young children. However there is much more to the debate than can be captured in five minutes. Here are some links to further resources on the subject from DEY’s blog:

Common Core Pushes Abstract Topics Too Early

Common Core and Kindergarten Boys

6 Reasons to Reject the Common Core State Standards for K- Grade 3

And on a related note:

A tough critique of Common Core

Early Learning: This is Not a Test – printed in today’s NY Times!

 

 

 

Advocating for Play at School and at Home

YC0514_CoverIn the current edition of Young Child, published by NAEYC, DEY’s Diane E. Levin offers the following advice to parents:

Memo to: All Families of Young Children

From: Diane E. Levin

Date: May 2014

Subject: Advocating for Play at School and at Home

Play is essential for children’s optimal development and learning.  Through play, children use what they already know to help them figure out new things, see how they work, and master skills.  As they do this, children add new social, emotional, and intellectual knowledge and skills to what they already know.  They experience the satisfaction that comes from working things out and solving problems on their own.  They think and sometimes say out loud, “I can do it!”  This is the kind of learning through play that prepares children to feel confident in themselves as learners who see new information and ideas as interesting problems to be solved.

However, all play is not the same and today several forces can endanger quality play.  First, many of today’s toys are linked to what children see in movies and on television.  These media experiences channel children into imitating what they see on screens instead of creating their own play.  Second, the use of electronic media takes young children away from play and can make their child-created play seem boring.  Finally, growing pressure to teach academic skills at younger and younger ages takes time and resources away from the quality, teacher-facilitated play that young children need in preschool and kindergarten.

I encourage you to learn about the ways child-created active play supports learning and to advocate for play and encourage it at home.  Play will give your children a foundation for positive social and emotional health as well as later academic success in school.

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Common Core and Kindergarten Boys

The Gesell Institute of Child Development is known as the oldest voice in child development on our country and they are deeply concerned about the Common Core’s affect on young children. In fact, this week the Executive Director Marcy Guddemi wrote specifically about young boys:

“Kindergarten is such an important time in the academic career of the child.  In Kindergarten, children first learn what school is all about.  School requires new rules, new expectations, new routines, new materials, and much more independence.  The ratio of adults to children has changed.  The number of children in the classroom has also changed.  A mother told me just recently that her Kindergarten child was in a room with 31 children and one teacher.  Kindergarten, however, teaches the skills which are the foundation for future academic learning.  Kindergarten also shapes the attitude that a child has about school and about him/herself as a learner.

So, with mounting new evidence that girls differ from boys both developmentally and academically at Kindergarten entrance, the fact that the chronological age range of children entering Kindergarten can be anywhere from 4 ½ years to 6, and with what we know about how children learn and development, the Kindergarten Common Core State Standards need to be reexamined—not only or especially for boys but for all children.  Achievable standards empower students and teachers, but developmentally inappropriate ones discriminate against and destroy the social and emotional development of Kindergarten students.”

Read the full post here.

photo 2For parents who are trying to understand what is happening with the Common Core State Standards in early childhood classrooms across the country, we have created What Parents Need to Know (a version of the longer document, Common 6 Reasons to Reject the Common Core for K – Grade 3 and 6 Principles to Guide Policy). We have updated our new DEY Mobilizing Kit to include What Parents Need to Know. Please read and share!