Former Director and current Director of Sarah Lawrence College’s Early Childhood Center trace their journeys in striving to uphold the Developmental Interactional philosophy while at the same time exploring new approaches and thinking in early childhood education.
The Creative Process: What is it and How Can We Nurture it in Children?
Psychologists often look to children as part of understanding the creative process in adults. In this topsy-turvy session, we will begin with what we know about the “grown-up” creative process. That framework will help us to think about the different ways we can nurture the process in pre-school and school age children and to share examples from the classroom.
Over the next several years, four pioneering progressive schools will celebrate their 100th anniversaries. Leaders of these schools will share with each other and session attendees some of their history and the challenging changes in educational climate they have weathered over the years, evolving in various ways and staying true to their founding principles in many respects. The discussion should offer inspiration and food for thought to those facing contemporary challenges to many of those same principles.
Infants at the Center of Their Own Experience
“The baby, assailed by eye, ear, nose, skin and entrails at once, feels it all as one great blooming, buzzing confusion.” - William James (1890). Parents of infants and toddlers know that they don’t in fact experience their world as a “blooming, buzzing confusion.” Instead, as a growing number of researchers have clearly articulated, they enter the world with biases, strategies and interests that help them actively engage in and shape the world around them. With our growing understanding of infant development has come, on one hand, earlier educational toys and tricks (Baby Mozart, Baby Flashcards) that emphasize cognitive development and independence and, on the other, the Attachment Parenting movement that focuses on nurturing socioemotional development and interdependence. Yet in this desire to promote healthy infant development based on the extant research, the infant herself is often lost in the process. How do infants really experience their world, if not as a “blooming, buzzing confusion?” And what role do parents and teachers play in supporting their early discoveries?
The Meanings of Play in the Progressive Education Tradition
Pretend play has had an important role in progressive pedagogy since the early days. It is play that provides exceptional opportunities for meaningful learning, the development of representational thinking and imagination, and in many cases, for social interaction in the context of cooperative activity. We will focus on the various meanings of pretend play, how it is fostered in progressive schools, and how it is seen as evolving into later forms of imaginative activities such as storytelling and original dramatic productions. Participants are encouraged to reflect on their own childhood play prior to this session.
In these difficult times in education when accountability based on high stakes testing and narrow curriculum mandates obscure the true nature of learning and teaching, how can schools continue to keep the focus on the centrality of knowing each child through strength and interests? This session will focus on how one pre-K to 8th grade school within the NYC public schools strives to do just that. We will look at children and their work in this school where space and time are provided for: children’s ideas and self-initiated work; review of longitudinal documentation of their school lives; and deep and respectful consideration of the issues and questions of educating when teachers are given the time to collaborate and support one another under the assumption that they hold the knowledge that informs teaching and learning.
Visit the four/fives/sixes classrooms of the Early Childhood Center in the Boulder Building. Lead Teachers Millie Harper and Sonna Schupak will show their classrooms, discuss curriculum development, and answer questions. A sampling of materials, completed projects, and games will be available to explore.
Come see and experience how a progressive 3's classroom is set up. From room arrangement to use of materials, we will examine how each child is given the opportunity to explore and learn in individual and unique ways. There will also be a question and answer period within the session.
This session offers an exploration of blocks as a central medium for young children’s play. Block play allows children explorations in math, science, social studies and language arts and involves problem solving, experimentation, negotiation and other abilities crucial in child development. Focusing on unit blocks, but also including other building materials, we will examine through both discussion and experience how blocks play into these areas and abilities.
Progressive Education and Culture: Dewey’s Legacy
Dewey meant by "development" something different from what most people think, and his view was integrally connected to children's social and cultural lives. In this session we will briefly investigate this view, to focus mainly on what its implications are for current progressive education in a multicultural context. How do we assure that progressive practices actually promote Dewey's vision of social justice and are relevant for all children?
Learning Outdoors: Early Foundations of Environmental Education
Nature plays a critical role in children’s development and well-being. The ways in which environmental education fosters children’s learning is inherently progressive. This workshop will provide an overview of environmental education in a 4/5's classroom and discuss ways to provide children with opportunities to meaningfully interact with their environment inside and outside the classroom.
The Essential Role of Trips in the Education of Children and Teachers
The presentation will show how simple trips into the school’s immediate neighborhood can spark children’s—and teachers’—imaginations; engender questions and the desire to find out, explore, and discover; link children to each other, their teachers, and to the social and physical world in which they live. It will illustrate how back in the classroom, children’s experience of the trip can become a stimulus for rich dramatic play, discussion, block building, artwork, and reading and writing. In essence, the presentation will show how purposeful and well-planned simple trips can vitalize and deepen a child’s experience of the curriculum and how what teachers offer children is fueled by their own engagement with the world.
In this session we will actively engage in experiences that demonstrate progressive education in the teaching and learning of science and math. We will discuss progressive education as an integral component of how math and science are learned. Participants will also explore how these ideas and philosophies are applied in urban public schools and found in the Common Core Learning Standards.
Children enter the world of reading and writing through various paths. This session will explore some of the ways children embark on the journey to literacy including drawing, painting, and storytelling. It will also consider the role parents and teachers can play in supporting children’s awareness and exploration of reading and writing. In the process of drawing pictures to represent words, children are learning and understanding that their drawings are symbols in the same way that letters and words are symbols. We will view and discuss the film “From Pictures to Words”, made for The Learning Child Series, a collaboration of Sarah Lawrence College’s Child Development Institute and Jonathan Diamond Associates.
The role of public school leader has become more complex in recent years and there is no sign of this trend slowing any time soon. In progressive public schools, this role is even more demanding, given the current local and national educational environment. As the de facto educational/philosophical guides in their school communities, today these leaders must also increasingly serve as translators, gate-keepers and measurers of benefits versus risks, in order to maintain a safe space in which educators and young people can focus on their work together. In this session we hope to explore some of the challenges this work presents, some of the creative solutions forged in the trenches, some of the insights gained by doing it, and some of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that also require the attention of those outside but sympathetic to these unique and precious school communities.
Leaders of three thriving progressive schools will participate in a roundtable discussion of how they make the case to parents and colleagues for the educational principles their schools live by in the current educational environment that emphasizes standardization, testing, and many pedagogical practices and ways of operating schools that conflict with the values and practices of progressive education traditions. In conversation with each other and those attending the session, they will explore holding fast to the values and methods of those traditions and explaining why and how they matter, and work for children.
What can children and teachers experience and learn in using unit blocks? Almost a century ago, Caroline Pratt created the unit blocks. What were her educational aims? Turning to the present, we will look at the journey of one teacher's experiment with blocks with five- and six-year-olds in a public school.
Several Sarah Lawrence College faculty members will reflect in conversation together about how they engage with progressive education practices in their disciplines and what the difficulties and challenges are in their own teaching.
Teaching is a complex work, layered and nuanced - an art form that is never fully achieved but always “in the making.” What then, in the preparation of teachers as well as for the on-going work of a teaching life, enables continued deepening of the art of teaching? What is needed for new and veteran teachers to support children to be “poets of their lives”? In this session, we will consider the importance in teaching of getting to know each child through careful observation and documentation of the children and their work in classrooms.
How do progressive educators assess and evaluate students and colleagues? Nancy Sizer and Deborah Meier will discuss and respond to questions about evaluation and assessment as they share their experiences and accounts of the wonderful work they have seen in the area of authentic assessment. Ayla Gavins will facilitate the session.
After a short presentation about the development of the arts at Central Park East Elementary in East Harlem, Todd Rolle and Tim Lively will speak to the current role of the arts in the school, and lead participatory workshops in their respective disciplines. Kathleen Ruen will facilitate.
The New York State Education Department mandates that teacher education programs work with Liberal Arts college faculty to enrich the academic experiences of their students. Art of Teaching Director Sara Wilford and Professor of History Lyde Sizer describe their collaboration at Sarah Lawrence College, and the evolution of a series of classes focused on the teaching of history through literature.