The continued “push-down” of academics to PreK and Kindergarten is frustrating to any early childhood educator and damaging to early learners. Wendy Lecker, columnist for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and senior attorney for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity project at the Education Law Center, offers a succinct summary of why current policies are developmentally inappropriate and how they actually inhibit the development of creative and critical thinking as well as long-term learning in her article: The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten.
The gap between developmentally appropriate practices (curriculum activities that nurture the whole child for successful lifelong learning) and current educational policies (mandates issued by a state or federal education department) is outrageous and insulting. “In 2010, 500 child development experts warned the drafters (of the Common Core Standards) that the standards called for exactly the kind of damaging practices that inhibit learning: direct instruction, inappropriate academic content, and testing.” Why were these warnings not heeded? Clearly, “these so-called educational leaders have no idea how children learn.”
“Two major studies have confirmed the value of play vs. teaching reading skills to young children. Both compared children who learned to read at 5 with those who learned at 7 and spent their early years in play-based activities. Those who read at 5 had no advantage. Those who learned to read later had better comprehension by age 11, because their early play experiences improved their language development.”
Early childhood educators know that standardized tests for children under 8 are invalid and that lots of engaging, purposeful play is what young ones really need for not only physical health and coordination but also cognitive skills – language, early literacy, concepts, problem solving, perspective, representation, memory, and creativity. They also know that to teach reading, writing, subtraction and addition before children are ready means forcing them to memorize concepts they cannot understand or actually learn AND that this memorization will not help their achievement later on.” Yet, teachers nationwide are expected to teach to the test. It’s a terrible, heart-wrenching bind.
At Move with Me, the intention of our Movement & Mindfulness Curriculum is to help teachers bridge the gap between policy and practice. We understand first-hand the agony of living this gap in daily classroom life. On one hand, teachers are told to provide more physical activity and social-emotional learning, especially self-regulation skills, which they are not trained to teach, and on the other, they’re required to have children complete all kinds of rote academics. Our goal is to give educators ways to both serve the child and accommodate the standard mongers.
All the lessons and activities are aligned with and address the early learning domains and common core standards. Every cooperative game and movement story supports academics as well as the child’s well-being, creativity, and ease of learning. Every self-care exercise and mindfulness activity is designed to help both teachers and students diminish the stress of developmentally inappropriate policies and still experience the joy that learning can be. Just as we cannot separate our bodies from our minds, we cannot separate play from learning. As Dr. Pearce wrote so many years ago in his book , The Magical Child: Play is nature’s biological plan for learning.