December 2, 2013
As someone who has just begun learning the theory behind education – being in my first semester of my studies and having never taken a class in education before – I can truly say that WonderPlay was an eye-opening and inspiring convention. The day opened with the presentation of the Vivian Paley Award for Early Childhood Excellence; I was thrilled to see Ms. Paley in person after reading her books and admiring her work with children for many years. It was also an honor to see Maxine Greene be recognized for her work in educational philosophy. From Joan Almon’s lecture, I took away the message that the little gestures one does as a teacher can matter a lot in a student’s life, that it’s a matter of having the intuition to know what the child needs, particularly in a time of stress. Dr. Stuart Brown’s lecture presented a scientific perspective of the benefits of play and enforced my belief that long periods of play are essential in early childhood programs.
I attended two afternoon workshops as well. The first was Roberta Willenken’s workshop on helping children understand and express their feelings. This topic is important to me because I love to teach social studies meaningfully, and for four-year-olds like those in Roberta’s class, social studies is most meaningful when it is about themselves. I was inspired by many aspects of her feelings curriculum, and she even gave all of us a folder with materials we could use for our own feelings units in our classrooms. The second workshop I attended was Robyn Ulzheimer’s Restaurant Curriculum for Kindergarteners. This was also inspiring for me, as I got to see a project curriculum and how it is carried out. I was impressed by how much the kids could do when given the responsibility.