In many preschool programs and kindergartens, young children are engaged in filling out worksheets, reading from flash cards, or reciting numbers in rote fashion. But just because young children can do those things, in a normative sense, is not sufficient justification for requiring them to do so.
-Lilian G. Katz
Steven Webb, writing in Education Week
("Educating Children in the New Millennium: Child's Play;" October 10, 2007; www.edweek.org
) adds his voice to the ever-growing movement in support of play as a cornerstone of education:
"Jean Piaget...theorized that a child's mental models, or cognitive structures, are based on the child's activities; engagement makes meaning. Free, unstructured play is healthy and, in fact, essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones. Piaget's theory is based on the idea that the developing child builds cognitive structures known as mental maps or schemes for understanding and responding to physical experiences.
"What is known as constructivism postulates that by reflecting on our experiences, we develop our own understanding of the world. Each of us generates our own mental models to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences. Constructivist teaching focuses on creating experiential and engaging activities for students.... This kind of learning also involves an element of play.
"....Many children today are not benefiting from a balance of intellect and imagination. As an American Academy of Pediatrics report published last January notes, changes in the family structure, the highly competitive college admissions process, and federal education policies have led to reduced time for recess and physical education in many school systems, a fact that has reduced free play and unscheduled time for children.
"Even worse, some school systems have reduced or eliminated curricular art programs that look like play to some people. Increasingly research in neuroscience suggests that the arts (and play) have a significant impact on students' cognitive, social, and emotional development. From a Piagetian perspective we know this is true in theory. But recent developments in neuroimaging (brain-based research) have added another important dimension to our knowledge, by allowing scientists to observe how various processing systems in the brain collaborate. Not only do play, the arts, and physical education have inherent value �" new technology demonstrates a significant link between artistic and cognitive development."
's series of curriculum books, Beginnings Books
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