Kick Off Session for the Early Learning Educators

Let’s play!

Play for youngest students makes them better learners

During a recent Kick Off Session for the Early Learning Educators Network hosted by the Center for Professional Development at Southern Westchester BOCES, participants used magic markers and their drawing skills and had some fun. They were studying how play is an essential element of the early childhood classroom, and if play and creative work benefits the youngest learners, why can’t it be just as meaningful for older ones too?

Working in small groups, the educators and administrators who were in attendance drew a physical representation of different communities. Some groups opted to draw places to eat while others worked on places to find help or places to shop. Groups collaborated with one another and no doubt recalled their own experiences as students when they played. The exercise helped to illustrate ways educators can engage students play.

The Early Learning Educators Network Kick Off Session held on January 23, began the conversation on the benefits of play for pre-kindergarten through third-grade students and will continue to support educators with professional learning around high-leverage topics.

“We know that play is an effective strategy to support our youngest learners. It’s how they learn,” keynote speaker Jane E. Fronheiser, MSED Associate in Instructional Services, said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has found the lack of play has created lasting impacts on rates of anxiety, problems with depression and self-control, Ms. Fronheiser said.

“Research tells us children from birth to 8 learn best when engaged in active play-based learning activities,” she continued. “It allows them to make connections between the physical world and abstract concepts, and adults must support children in their play.”

Ms. Fronheiser, who currently works at the New York State Education Department, shared how the state has developed new standards for pre-kindergarten to third-grade students that emphasize the benefits of play.

“The standards are meant for all children. They seek to protect developmentally-appropriate practices and support educators as they make choices about curriculum and how they implement the standards,” she said.

Without regular play time, young students do not learn how to manage their emotions, talk to one another, or problem solve.

“They do not know how to think,” Ms. Fonheiser said.

During the afternoon, staff from the Center for Professional Development presented three different sessions, again focusing on early childhood education and development.

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Wilson, Senior Director of Professional Development and Instructional Technology, presented an interactive session on “Model Making—Making Things Visible,” with a focus on science curriculum.

“Data for Doing—Collecting, Analyzing, and Using Data to Inform Literacy Instruction,” was presented by Tracy Tyler, Supervisor of Literacy and Learning.

A team consisting of Mary Lynn Collins, Instructional Technology Leader, and Professional Development Coaches Sean Rowan and Caroline Calabrese, discussed “Our Children’s Relationship with Technology.”