Drew Beeman on the Zen of Loose Parts

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While play advocates have touted the virtues of loose parts for decades, they are having a renaissance—finding their way into a comic strip by Dave Blazek, an illustrator, animator, and reformed standup comedian. “Because change comes from within, change comes from within, my children,” a sage proclaims in a speech bubble. In an age when unfettered activity is anathema, there’s something subversive—for many, terrifying—about leaving children to unstructured activities, away from the eyes of adults.

Drew Beeman, a self-described early childhood educator and specialist, has more than a decade of experience in child care . . . Read full article →

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We’re Not in Reggio Emilia Anymore: Kathy and Ro’s Translation Project

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Play, the primary engine of human development, is vanishing. Melvin Konner, an anthropologist and neuroscientist, regards it as the central paradox of evolutionary biology, combining great energy and risk for an activity that seems pointless.

But pointless it’s not. The positive emotions evoked by interactions, physical exercise, and mastery of skills in play spurs us toward novelty and more flexible learning—an exquisite means of developing our brains, social selves, and alleviating stress.

Sadly, recent education policies have squelched what all the smartest mammals do naturally. Literacy and numeracy, the prime foci of the Common Core, have . . . Read full article →

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Harriet Cuffaro's Building Blocks of Educational Equity

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I recently learned that Harriet Cuffaro had left us. Suddenly, I was back on the classroom floor at Bank Street College of Education, where she taught for three decades. Well past childhood, we were deep into block building, one of the most rigorous assignments I encountered in graduate school.

Cuffaro, a renowned progressive educator in the mode of John Dewey, championed open-ended play and experiential learning. In the introduction to Bank Street’s Occasional Paper Series No. 32, or “Festschrift—a volume reflecting the values, theories, and passions of a senior scholar in a field”—Miriam Raider-Roth, a former . . . Read full article →

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ExcelinEd's Pitch to Drive Student Progress: Not for Children

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Late last week, an email arrived from Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education. She was pitching a new online course. With spring testing over, and the opt-out folks quiet, I guess ExcelinEd thought this a propitious time for study.

Launched by Jeb Bush in 2008, the organization boasts that it is transforming education for the 21st century economy. Their guiding principles: all children can learn; all children should learn at least a year’s worth of knowledge in a year’s time; and all children will achieve when education is organized around the singular goal of . . . Read full article →

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