| December 2, 2013

92Y’s Wonderplay Conference Reflection by Lauren Taylor

I really enjoyed attending the 92Y’s seventh annual early childhood conference. I had the opportunity to hear many great speakers talk about different aspects of early childhood education. One of the speakers said that play is the work of children. It is when their imagination comes alive. Children need more time to play and as a teacher I continue to think of ways to encourage imaginative thinking even with a heavy academic push down. Joan Almon talked about giving children the tools they need to survive in this century. I think the tools she mentioned which were creativity, resilience, courage, compassion and an ethical framework are absolutely necessary and I am taking them back to my classroom and making sure each and everyone of them is present.

I attended the Babies Curriculum for 4’s and 5’s workshop with Sara Leibowits de Luna. The workshop showed teachers one way of doing a babies curriculum in the classroom. Since young children are very egocentric, they love learning about themselves. Learning about themselves as babies is their first sense of history. Life starts the way for everyone but can take different paths after the starting point.

The babies unit is started with the teacher asking the children what they know about babies and what they know about how a baby is born. The teacher completes a circle map with the children. A circle map has a topic in the center in a circle and a much larger circle around that. The children’s answers are written in the middle and their source for the information is written outside the circle in the corners or wherever there is space. After the children have brainstormed and learned a little about babies, the teacher brings in speakers. The speakers are pregnant mothers or mothers and fathers with babies to share with the class. The children observe the babies and the mother and father interaction with the babies. The children see all types of behaviors, which may include breastfeeding, feeding, walking, crawling, walking, diaper change, etc. The children ask meaningful questions that further their understanding. After all of the visits by the babies, the class makes a bubble map. A bubble map is similar to a semantic map. It has a picture in the center of the baby and the teacher writes all the things the children noticed and learned. As a culminating activity, the students make a book about when they were babies. They bring in pictures from home and make a book with the teacher. This babies unit typically lasts about seven weeks. It starts in January and goes until spring break.

I really enjoyed learning about one way a teacher can structure a babies curriculum. Since babies fascinate most children and adults, this is definitely a great unit to keep the children engaged and interested in learning. It is very hands on and allows the children to get real life exposure, especially for the children who do not have siblings. The children use this time to get to know each other and talk about things they might not have known about each other. This not only helps the children get to know each other but it helps the teacher get to know the children and share a connection with all the children. The teacher learns about the families and it helps her prepare for the following unit of neighborhoods in which the students visit each other’s homes. I really hope to one day be able to implement a babies curriculum with children, as it is such a useful topic for children at this age.

My biggest takeaway from this conference was to really encourage children to play creatively and use their imaginations even though there is a strong push for academics. Play plays a major role in a child’s life and as a teacher it is important to make time for it. As Stuart Brown said, play is embedded in nature and lasts a lifetime from the time we are children to adulthood.