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Archive for the ‘TBT’ Category

Jeri Robinson (Photo: Lok Wah Li, Boston Children’s Museum)

This blog about the Boston Children’s Museum was originally published on March 19, 2012. Next week is school vacation week, a great time to visit the museum. Go on Tuesday to meet NAO the robot — and learn about robotics. 

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The Boston Children’s Museum on Fort Point Channel is teeming with children and parents during school vacation week. So it’s a good time for Jeri Robinson, vice president for education and family learning, to lead me on a guided tour of some of the museum’s early learning spaces. On the way, we pass children scrambling up and down the multi-story climbing maze. We pass children and parents sitting on colorful “musical” chairs that each emit a different sound and together can create a symphony. We pass children checking out the blocks and Bobcat in the Construction Zone, all in what is essentially a giant indoor playground for children of all ages. Prompts on the walls and parent tip sheets provide ideas for adults to engage children.

“Our critical message is there’s a lot of learning in play,” Robinson says. “In everything we do, we have a hidden or overt learning activity. Play has gotten a bad rap that it’s a waste of time. It’s not.”

In fact, research tells us that play is how young children learn. Science tells us that the kind of language-rich, playful adult-child interactions that the museum encourages enhance the actual wiring of the young brain. (more…)

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Photo: Mike McLaughlin for Strategies for Children

This blog was originally published on March 31, 2011. House Speaker DeLeo left the State House and visited a pre-K class, crossing the bridge from the world of law- and policy-making to the land of learning to read beloved books. 

REVERE – Massachusetts Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo took a seat the other day in a pre-kindergarten classroom at the Garfield Community Magnet School here, facing some 40 children, ages 3 to 5, sitting on a colorful carpet with their legs crossed like pretzels. He opened the book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” — and before he started reading he asked the children about the bars of color on the inside cover. “Brown, red, yellow, blue, green, purple,…” the children replied.

Here was the speaker engaging in dialogic reading, combining reading aloud with conversation to build the language skills that are the foundation of literacy.

“I don’t know how to read,” one child called out.

“But you’re getting there,” Speaker DeLeo said. (He reveals his favorite children’s book at the end of this blog post.) (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

This blog below was originally published on December 19, 2011. To read more blog posts about the Early Learning Challenge grant click here. 

Massachusetts, one of nine states awarded grants from the competitive federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge, will receive the full $50 million over four years for which it was eligible. The commonwealth, with 267 points of a possible 300 points, had the second highest score of the 35 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) that applied for the $500 million program. North Carolina, with 269.6 points, was top scorer.

Each application was scored by five reviewers (reviewers’ comments and scores (PDF). Here is a summary of the scoring for Massachusetts (score sheet (PDF):

(more…)

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This blog was originally published on May 7, 2012

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

We often say that young children learn through play. We say that play is children’s work. What does research tell us young children gain through play? A recent article in Psychology Today and results of a 15-year longitudinal study, published in Family Science, provide some answers.

As the Psychology Today article notes, there is more to play than swings, jungle gyms and games of tag on the recess playground. Imaginative play – make-believe and pretend – is important for young children’s healthy development.

“Over the last 75 years a number of theorists and researchers have identified the values of such imaginative play as a vital component to the normal development of a child,” Psychology Today reports. “Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about 2½ through ages 6 or 7.Actual studies have demonstrated cognitive benefits such as increases in language usage including subjunctives, future tenses, and adjectives. The important concept of ‘theory of mind,’ an awareness that one’s thoughts may differ from those of other persons and that there are a variety of perspectives of which each of us is capable, is closely related to imaginative play…. Pretend play allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings, and the modulation of affect, the ability to integrate emotion with cognition.”

(more…)

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This blog was originally published on December 11, 2012

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

An old adage warns that there are two things one should never witness being made: sausage and legislation. In a recent radio story on This American Life, producer Alex Blumberg ignores this advice and provides a fascinating look at how Oklahoma in 1998 became the nation’s first state to have universal, publicly funded pre-kindergarten. The state legislature changed its school funding formula to include pre-kindergarten. Today, Blumberg reports, 75% of Oklahoma’s 4-year-olds attend publicly funded pre-kindergarten.

Did proponents of high-quality early education march out the evidence, launch a large grass-roots campaign, line up business leaders for the bully pulpit, and persuade a forward-thinking legislature to spend millions of dollars to adopt a proven strategy that would more than pay back the initial investment?

No. The change was hidden in an amendment to a bill on a related issue. A loophole in Oklahoma law had allowed school districts to pad their kindergartens with 4-year-olds as a way to collect large amounts of extra funding. A bill to close the loophole contained an amendment expanding the school funding formula to include pre-kindergarten. The bill’s sponsor talked up fixing the loophole, but remained silent on the seemingly obscure amendment. Thus, the loophole was erased, and preschool became part of the school funding formula. Listen to This American Life: PK-O for more on this stealth operation.

As Blumberg reports, schools immediately noticed an improvement in children’s school readiness, and research from Oklahoma joins other evidence of the benefits of high-quality early education.

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