The joys of kindergarten – I remember them well. But we are in a new era – one that focuses on academic achievement. Sometimes this academic achievement focus and this new era teaching erases the great things established in “playful” kindergarten classrooms of the past, activities and materials that helped a child grow as a whole person.
“You’re just an old teacher! You don’t want to try new things! You are stuck in the past! You no longer know the needs of children in the 21st century!” Wow – this could not be further from the truth. As I see the needs for 21st century learning, I see how much more important it is to provide our kindergarten students with materials and activities that not only support learning and academic achievement but provide “playful” opportunities.
As I look at the situations of those children in poverty, those who have experienced trauma, and those engulfed in a world of technology… - I am even more convinced of the need for kindergartens that provide a “playful” environment. “But I want my child to learn!!” Of course you do, as do I. I want the achievement gaps erased. I want an equitable environment for all children – one that helps a child learn and achieve his/her full potential as a person and in his/her career.
No more little kitchen areas. I used to watch as little boys pretended to cook and make supper. What good husbands they will be one day as they help their wives prepare meals. I loved watching the little boys pretend to be daddies taking care of the babies. How tender these little boys were and loving; great practice for becoming a good father. These little boys helped clean up the “house” and shared “duties” with the girls.
No more block corners. I used to watch little girls create and build. I used to wonder – would they become an architect or builder one day? I watched as children worked together creating and building, solving problems, sharing ideas, excited about their “work”. This was real job practice. It involved decision making, teamwork, persistence…
No more art centers. I loved watching children create and the joy they found in painting and drawing. What better way to teach children the beauty of our world and the peace it can bring us. Looking at things through the eyes of an artist opens you up to a whole new world.
Where are the puzzles? I was often amazed at the spatial awareness of some students to solve complex puzzles -their sense of shapes and geometry as they successfully made pieces fit together to form a picture.
Are children allowed to freely work with things like clay and playdoh on a regular basis? There’s something about working with these items that relieves stress and brings a sense of calm.
I could go on and on with this list. It comes down to our purpose. Of course we want academic achievement and a narrowing of the achievement gap. But we also need compassionate and caring students, students who can solve problems and see the needs that others might have. We need creative students who are not afraid to innovate. We need students that understand that the arts enrich our lives. We need students who understand who they are, students who love others and strive to make our classrooms a better place for everyone. For one day when they go out into the world, they will demonstrate this same compassion and caring and strive to make our world a better place.
Kindergarten is more than just academics. Especially with full day kindergartens, we should be providing opportunities for play. But this might take “old world” teaching and learning. We want to be progressive! We cannot see that in order to be progressive we might have to rely on some “old” ways that are tried and true.
York Academy of Discovery believes in children. We believe in teaching the whole child. We believe in academic achievement and in closing the achievement gap. We believe in little kitchen areas, block corners, art centers… - we believe that play is learning. Play is learning that not only shapes the mind, but shapes the core of a child. York believes in student centered learning and meeting the needs of children.
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