Play Based Learning In Early Childhood: My Roots



I thought about this topic a lot this week. Not my roots growing up, not my beginnings, but my roots as an educator. I might have mentioned in another post that I knew I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was an eleven year old, entertaining a group of hearing impaired students in a special class in my school. (I grew up in Montreal and I don’t think at that time these were officially called special education classes.) But what is relevant here, is the draw, the pull to be in a classroom, truly the “Sage On the Stage” at that point. My journey would soon lead me off that stage to a world that taught me about listening, learning and sharing. As a young mother, I was blessed with an intuitive sense of parenting (of  course the do overs that aren’t to be, could make me cringe) and I soon found my way to an early childhood program that encompassed who I would become: my roots. I spent a summer in the toddler program at the school that would eventually be my anchor (teaching there for 39 years). I watched, listened, engaged and interacted with faculty, toddlers and their parents. We were the facilitators of creating a safe adventurous environment and the toddlers, well they followed their interests. Their wasn’t a pencil or device in sight (this was 1976). Crayons, paints, water, sand, play dough (all sorts of mush), house area, blocks and building toys. We sang and danced and learned somethings were for sharing and some stuff, well some stuff, was a MINE! These roots were not ones to “mess” with. Classes at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena (1977) reinforced my commitment to a play based environment with the teacher understanding the needs of the students and giving them the opportunity to find their way. From toddlers I taught three year olds and four year olds, going back and forth in the early childhood program, wherever I was needed. And those roots grew stronger. It was a busy time and the children flourished. And then I came into kindergarten, with my roots, bridging the nursery and elementary school. Here my early childhood background was a cornerstone to a program that the kinders and I thrived in. But change is inevitable, for us and for schools. So I learned to hold steadfast to my beliefs, my roots in the power of play, as I accommodated to a more academic program. And for the most part it has worked! The kinders start the day with indoor play (from the art table to manipulatives to reading books and building), social-emotional development in the forefront. The day progresses to the reading and writing program, math and more time to play. With recess and P.E. the kinders have many opportunities in the day to move! And then these roots in the power of play and learning through hands on exploration and intrinsic motivation came to #geniushour .  My roots found a different but stronger ground and I stayed true to them.

If we have a conversation about holding on to your “roots” what you have done or are doing with your students? How do you balance your beliefs in the everyday life of your classrooms?


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