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Michele McDonald for Strategies for Children

“How are we going to make engineering work in an infant space?” asked Monica Dolan, an early educator who works with infants at The Children’s Center, Caltech’s child-care center.

Featured in a news story from Marketplace called “Caltech’s Little Engineers that Could,” Dolan is an early educator who was meeting with “a group of educators gathered to plan their big teaching initiative for the year ahead.”

“The center has always focused on teaching through science and math principles – after all, it is attached to Caltech – but diving into engineering curriculum for little ones was new,” the story says.

At the center, infants build with big, soft blocks.

Toddlers construct a train: “They scour the yard for materials to make carriages and find empty crates… Then a classic engineering problem strikes: resource scarcity. The crates run out and there are still 2-year-olds without a seat on the train. The toddlers solve it by finding chairs to create the needed train carriages.”

Later these students go inside and listen to a story called “Iggy Peck, Architect,” by Andrea Beaty. Iggy is a fictional architect who, at age 2, built a tower in under an hour using diapers that weren’t entirely clean.  (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Principals can strengthen the pre-K-to-third-Grade pipeline.

Rhian Evans Allvin was reminded of this a number of years ago at a conference. Allvin — executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) — recalls hearing a principal at the conference who “spoke of how he sent out letters to parents of newborns in his district, welcoming them into the learning community and offering a list of available early childhood resources and opportunities.”

Allvin’s experience is part of an article, “Strategies for Aligning Pre-K -3,” in the January/February 2015 edition of Principal Magazine.

The article highlights the release of “Leading Pre-K-3 Learning Communities: Competencies for Effective Principal Practice.”

The guide helps principals “create and support connections between the worlds of birth-to-five and K-12 and… implement developmentally-appropriate teaching and learning practices to ensure successful Pre-K-3 continuums in their schools,” the executive summary explains.

Published by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), the full guide can be ordered on the NAESP website(more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Governors have an important job to do: They can promote early math skills among young children. A new policy brief from the National Governors Association (NGA) called, “Unlocking Young Children’s Potential: Governors’ Role in Strengthening Early Mathematics Learning,” explains why.

“Studies find that the mathematics knowledge acquired in early childhood and early elementary grades is a critical foundation for long-term student success. A child’s math ability when he or she enters school has proved a better predictor of academic achievement, high school graduation, and college attendance than any other early childhood skill.”

In fact, the brief adds: “Early mathematics competency even predicts later reading achievement better than early literacy skills.”

Here in Massachusetts, JD Chesloff, a champion of early math, adds context to the report, explaining, “This is not to say that math should replace reading as a priority, but it is to say that there should be a focus on both literacy and numeracy.” (more…)

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

Parents, mayors, governors, and President Obama are all talking about the importance of high-quality preschool programs and about how they can help children become proficient third grade readers.

But with all this energy and action, it can be easy to lose sight of how, specifically, policymakers can have a positive impact in these areas.

That’s why the Education Commission of the States has put together a guide for policymaker’s, an A to Z primer on early education called “Initiatives from Preschool to Third Grade.”

It’s a “reference guide for policymakers and their staffs on the most commonly requested topics from preschool to third grade,” according to the guide’s executive summary.

The guide says, “the primary programs and strategies policymakers have inquired about include: (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Reading, writing, arithmetic – and computer coding?

Coding is a crucial part of being literate, according to educators and employers who say that America’s students should learn how to code so they can participate in the high-tech economy.

When should children start? They’re already getting started in kindergarten. So we decided to take a look at news stories about how this trend is playing out in classrooms.

When adults code, they use a coding language such as Java or Python to write instructions for computers. Now researchers have come up with an easier way for children to code using images.

In the eSchool News article, “Coding with the Kindergarten Crowd,” Laura Devaney writes, “Introducing coding to kindergarten students helps them reflect on their own learning as they develop 21st-century skills such as problem solving and creativity, experts say.”

(more…)

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The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) has an engaging video series on its website called “8 x 8” that gives viewers access to the latest thinking on education policy.

“As part of the Bold Ideas & Critical Conversations event on September 19, eight HGSE faculty members were each given eight minutes to discuss research-based ideas that will have a big impact on the field,” the website explains.

It’s like a mini collection of TED talks on education.

The eight faculty members who speak are:

- Karen Brennan, whose research looks at how learning communities can support young people as designers of interactive media

- Howard Gardner – senior director of Harvard’s Project Zero

- Tom Kane – faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research

- Nonie Lesaux, author of “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” a report commissioned by Strategies for Children

(more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

We’re happy to welcome a new early education blog to town: The Birth Through Third Grade Learning Hub.

Learning Hub blogger David Jacobson travels around Massachusetts visiting the homes, centers, and classrooms where young children learn.

The impetus for the blog? For several years, it has been clear to Jacobson that communities were implementing new programs and practices without knowing what their neighbors were doing. The blog is a way to share these experiences among cities and towns.

Specifically, the blog “tracks, profiles, and analyzes Birth-Third initiatives with the aim of promoting learning, exchange, and knowledge-building across communities.”

Jacobson works at Cambridge Education, an educational consulting company, in two roles, as Professional Excellence Director and Early Years Lead.

His blog entries offer compelling, first-hand accounts, including this one from “The Boston K1DS Project: Implementing a New Curriculum in Community-Based Preschools” (more…)

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