Alliance for Childhood: Resources for educators and child advocates


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PBEL - Play Based Experiential Learning

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Reflections - Play Based Experiential Learning

It is with great honor that I am given the chance to reflect on the value and importance of “Play” in my classroom. This is my 24th year of teaching within Oakland Unified School District. I have taught grades Kindergarten through 3rd Grade and for the last three years, I have taught Transitional Kindergarten. And I must say, the last three years of teaching, I have enjoyed the most. Just seeing the transformation of 4 year old students who enter my classroom in August, turn 5 years old shortly after, grow, develop, and become ready to move on to Kindergarten, is totally amazing. But believe me when I say, all year long, it is a constant work in progress.

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Reflections - Teacher-Led Activities

By using and reusing 15 simple rocks over the course of many months, and closely following and extending the ideas of the children, teacher-led play helped develop the small motor skills, symbolic thinking, and early math comprehension of 4 and 5 year olds…..

August 21st: The children find some rocks sitting in a basket with pots of paint and thick brushes nearby. “How can I hold it so I can paint the bottom of it?” Aiden wonders. “Where should I write my name?” says Rose.

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Reflections - Advocacy

Over the years, my experience in advocacy has included a variety of causes: the importance of play in children’s lives, the value of using the environment as a learning context, a broad range of environmental and education issues, women’s issues and more. And although part of my strategy includes being well-versed in the topic at hand, other key aspects of effective advocacy have served as common threads, regardless of the issue. Primarily, a vital principle is that listening and hearing are just as – if not more – important than the spiel you’ve prepared. While having a grasp on a variety of tried-and-true advocacy tactics is important, they will generally fall flat if you haven’t first paid attention to the needs, interests, concerns, objectives or fears of the individual you are approaching.

Consider that, if you desire a decision-maker to choose a path forward that is aligned with what you think is best, isn’t it logical that – in the long run – they make the decision because they see your proposal as best solution? Is it reasonable to think a person will decide in your favor if they don’t feel that you are addressing their concerns? What is the shared concern that you both have? If it is a change or solution to honor what is in the best interest of a child, start there. Before you launch into your proposed solution, or a description of the problem as you see it, try asking, “What are the issues you are most challenged with right now?” Then, “What are you most concerned about with regard to…[this particular issue]...?” Make an effort to really hear what the true concerns are. Once you have identified a shared concern, then developing a solution together, that your decision-maker will be committed to, becomes much easier.

Linda Rhoads
Alliance for Childhood

Reflections - Professional Development

Art as part of a play based learning environment is important. It seems to be a favorite activity of young children. Perhaps it is because it allows them to express themselves freely without any restrictions or rules. Play in art can include performing arts as well as many other art forms such as collages, painting, sculpting and molding using play dough.

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Reflections - Childrens Play

Last year, as a first year teacher, I often noticed that many of my students in the block area were most interested in building simple towers and then knocking them down with a big crash! Over the summer I read a great deal about how to foster more constructive math and science skills through block play and found that this year, children are exploring comparisons, symmetry, balance, patterns, stability, and measurement in their endeavors to build strong structures that they beg not to take down. Setting up an environment and classroom culture that supported this type of learning was the key to great changes in my students’ learning.

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Reflections - Learning Environments

Connecting children with nature has a myriad of benefits - children who spend time in nature are more creative, less stressed, better able to concentrate, physically more active … and the list goes on. Over years of designing and supporting Nature Explore Outdoor Classrooms, we have seen many sites with thriving outdoor classrooms. That prompted us to ask a number of questions: How do you keep people excited about utilizing and maintaining these nature-based learning spaces? How can these spaces be more sustainable? Can we identify characteristics that the thriving outdoor classrooms have in common? Results showed the positive impacts when the connections between the child, supportive adults, and the environment are woven together. Once the research was analyzed, six indicators emerged as key characteristics of thriving, growing, and sustainable outdoor classrooms.

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