Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In the Service of Having Fun

Sadly, most of the reforms intended to improve schools remove the most important ingredient to success in life: the ability to play. Kindergarten used to be the sacred center of play in schools.  Reforms in kindergarten have steadily eroded this sacred refuge.  Too many kindergartens today resemble the worst first grades of yesteryear.

 These reforms (however well-intentioned) are stealing the imaginations and the joy of discovery from a whole generation of young children—all in the pursuit of higher standardized test scores.

It is my personal and professional mission to protect and promote the holy grail of a good kindergarten experience: exploring our world playfully, imaginatively, and attentively in a place where safety, happiness, and kindness prevail. This is an idea older than kindergarten itself, but sadly forgotten.

These thoughts came to mind as I was reading this month's Atlantic Monthly article, "The Touch Screen Generation" by Hanna Rosin. Here's a short excerpt from that article:

In late 2010 Ovemar and Jeffrey began working on a new digital project for Bonnier, and they came up with the idea of entering the app market for kids. Ovemar began by looking into the apps available at the time. Most of them were disappointingly instructive, he found—"drag the butterfly into the net, that sort of thing. They were missing creativity and imagination." Hunting for inspiration, he came upon Frank and Theresa Caplan's book The Power of Play, a quote which he later emailed to me:
"What is it that often puts the B student ahead of the A student in adult life, especially in business and creative professions? Certainly it is more than verbal skill. To create, one must have a sense of adventure and playfulness. One needs toughness to experiment and hazard the risk of failure. One has to be strong enough to start all over again if need be and alert enough to learn from whatever happens. One needs a strong ego to be propelled forward in one's drive toward an untried goal. Above all, one has to possess the ability to play!"
Overmar and Jeffrey hunted down toy catalogs from as early as the 1950s, before the age of exploding brand tie-ins. They made a list of blockbusters over the decades—the first Tonka trucks, the Frisbee, the Hula-Hoop, the Rubik's cube. Then they made a list of what these toys had in common: None really involved winning or losing against an opponent. None were part of an effort to create a separate child world that adults were excluded from, and probably hostile toward; they were designed more for family fun. Also, they were not really meant to teach you something specific—they existed mostly in the service of having fun.
Okay, enough speechifying!

Tonight's Homework Helper:

Idea for drawing a crocodile:

Yes, you can draw!


And, oh, if the homework isn't fun, don't do it.

On Friday, we will compile the homework pages into a classroom book.

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