Considering these two important documents, one wonders why, in 2020, we still have to advocate for the child’s right to play, both in school and outside of school?
On December 17, 2010 I had a fascinating and illuminating conversation with four outstanding advocates for the rights of children – Dr. Peter Metz,Nakoley Renville, Anne Haas Dyson and Peter Rawitch. It is, I believe, a discussion to ponder carefully and, perhaps, to share and discuss with parents, teachers and anyone interested in the well-being of young children.
“One reason to stay calm is that calm parents are the ones whose children keep talking. ”
On December 15, 2020, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of parents, via zoom, so that we could discuss their experiences parenting during this unusual time in our history. The ages of their children varied from almost two years old to a just-starting- middle- school eleven year old.
Did any of their experiences overlap? How were their children adapting to the changes in their schedules and in the life-styles of their families? In addition to caring for their families, supervising school-age children with schoolwork, doing their own work from home, and generally worrying about when this would all end, how were these hard-working adults taking time to care for themselves?
In 2018 I had the very exciting experience of traveling to Hong Kong to work with the educational staff of the Hong Kong Dalton School. Larry Leaven, who was director of the school at that time, had introduced my book on Choice Time as a professional study text to his staff. I had my first experience doing a professional development session over Skype and then Larry proposed that I come to Hong Kong in August and spend a week working with his staff. What an exciting experience I was in for.
The teachers were all interested and so engaged in their work. I went into classrooms to work with them and we also had one full day dedicated to professional development. Teachers from other schools in the city were invited to join us. Nancy Du was the assistant director of the school at the time (She is now co-director with Shaun Porter) and she and Larry had the wonderful idea of translating my book into Mandarin. The Beijing Normal University Press was interested in the idea. They all believed that the teachers in China were eager for information on how to bring more inquiry and play into their classrooms.
Over the next few months, Nancy worked on the translation, occasionally asking me to clarify some points in the book. And so, at last, the Mandarin version of the book was published and went into the hands of many teachers in China!
One evening in New York, (morning in Hong Kong,) Larry, Nancy and I met via zoom to discuss their experience of bringing Choice Time, the book and the ideas in the book, to China. Here’s a bit of their personal backgrounds.
Larry Leaven, most recently the Founding Principal of the Dalton School Hong Kong, has worked in education for 32 years. He earned a degree in elementary education and in music education from Houghton College, Houghton, NY and received his master’s degree in education and a certificate of advanced study in educational administration from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. Before moving to Hong Kong in 2016, he served two years as the principal of the Beijing International Bilingual Academy in Beijing, China. Prior to that, Mr. Leaven served in various capacities in New York State, including: teacher, principal, adjunct lecturer, and assistant superintendent. In addition to his teaching and leadership roles, he has presented at international education conferences and has served on various non-profit boards.
Dr. Nancy, Lijuan, Du grew up in Beijing, and studied at the Beijing Normal University, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the University of Hong Kong. She has degrees in Pedagogy, Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language and Assessment. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Du has been working in different international school settings in Beijing and Hong Kong, and has been serving in many leadership roles. She is currently the Co-Principal of Dalton School Hong Kong. She is super passionate about education, and is a great advocate of Chinese culture, dual Language program and child-centered philosophy.
“Let children touch nature because that which is untouched is unloved.” (Emma Morris)
John Allgood, a very dedicated kindergarten teacher, observed that when he brought children into the natural environment, they quite naturally become engaged in collaboration. Although there were still disagreements, they were of a different nature than those that took place in the classroom and children more naturally learned to resolve them. He said that the hierarchy that often exists in the playground, where students with the greatest physical facility become dominant, was devalued when children are playing in parks and in the woods.
On Thursday, December 10, 2020, I met, via zoom, with John and three other early childhood teachers, Bill Fulbrecht, Amy Binin and Merril Miceli. All four of them have found ways to incorporate bringing children into the natural environment into the lives of their classrooms.
Here is our very informal and engaging discussion,followed with a link to Emma Morris’s TED talk, and also a link to an exciting early childhood program in China, Anjiplay.
Thank goodness we have educators like Kristin Eno and Richard Lewis. They both prioritize joy, wonder, poetry, art and music when they work with children and they don’t forget about how important parents are in this equation.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, December 9, 2020 I had the delightful opportunity of taking part in a conversation with Richard and Kristin. The discussion became so exciting that we decided on making plans for a part two. But that is still in the works. For today, here is part one of Living by Wonder: The Imaginative Life of Childhood. After listening to our talk, you can view one of Kristin’s studio lessons for the preschoolers that she works with at Beginnings Nursery School at the bottom of this post.
I met Lella Gandini in 1996 when my husband and I were visiting Rome and staying at the American Academy . At the time, her husband, Lester Little, was the director of the Academy. On the plane trip I was reading The Hundred Languages of Children and I was so surprised when we reached the main desk of the Academy to check in and I saw Lella’s photo on a bulletin board above the receptionist’s desk. We have remained correspondents since that visit.
Amazingly, I had a second surprise visit connected with Lella. This one included Cathy. When my daughter was having a concert in Worchester, Massachusetts, I was introduced to the publisher, Wyatt Wade. He invited me, along with my daughter and son-in-law, to visit his newly restored office. When we arrived, Lella and Cathy were there waiting for me! After a tour of the office, we all went to Wyatt’s home for dinner. It was a visit that I’ll always remember.
When I came up with the idea for this new series of conversations, I immediately thought of these two inspiring women. I crossed my fingers when I invited them to participate and to my utter delight, they immediately accepted the invitation.
Lella serves as Reggio Emilia Liason in the United States for Dissemination of the Reggio Emilia Approach. The Principles of the Reggio Emilia Approach include:
a deep respect for the ideas of children and teachers.
a belief that knowledge is constructed through social interchange.
the value of using materials and media to express and communicate feelings, thoughts and understandings.
the desire to document children’s and teacher’s processes to preserve memories and sustain in-depth work.
the joy and growth that comes from collaborating with other teachers and with children in the search for knowledge and understanding of relationships.
Cathy Topal and Lella Gandini took some time the morning of November 17, 2020 to talk about Beautiful Stuff and the Gift of Discovery.
Here is a very apropros and entertaining video of how the artist Hanoch Piven uses beautiful stuff in his art. You might want to share this with your children. They will love it! https://youtu.be/f7bZWbzuW_I