Revitalizing the Children’s Garden

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There’s a crisis in the American kindergarten. It’s become the new first grade—if not beyond. In April, more than 200 teachers descended on Bank Street College of Education in New York City to reaffirm the unique and vital role of kindergarten in children’s lives.

“Play is the highest expression of the child’s development,” Friedrich Froebel wrote in the Education of Man. We have to forgive the beloved founder of kindergarten for his lapse from gender neutrality, Cecilia Traugh, Bank Street’s dean of the graduate school, reminded the audience as the celebration began. He lived in the 18th and . . . Read full article →

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Susan DuFresne Takes a Look at Her Lego Collection

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Legos have been beloved staples of early childhood for decades. The corporation that makes them recently closed a search for a professor of play at Cambridge, a position covered by a $5 million endowment to the university. Also included in the gift is a research center dedicated to this primary engine of human development.

Susan DuFresne is a kindergarten teacher in Washington State, where a former Microsoft executive is director of the Department of Early Learning. She has given a new face to early childhood activism, raising her impassioned voice for social justice and educational equity . . . Read full article →

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Renee Dinnerstein’s Revolution Grows in Brooklyn

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Last September, before school began, I made my way to the Brooklyn Historical Society for the launch of Renée Dinnerstein’s new book, Choice Time. At a time of standardized tests for five-year-olds, canned curriculum, didactic instruction, and the Common Core—in a city of deep inequality and segregation—this event was long overdue.

More than 200 teachers poured into the landmark Romanesque Revival building, now a center of urban history, civic dialogue, and community outreach. Many were left standing around the edges of the room, the air tense with expectancy. After a day of setting up their classrooms, they . . . Read full article →

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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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