As we wrap up the month looking at education for our youngest learners, there are many pieces of the equation to grapple with. Like most of you reading this, I cringe at the politicization of education issues that we often see online, on TV, or in other media formats. After all, there is no magic wand to wave for our systematic education woes. On the other hand, there is overwhelming research that shows early education and intervention work wonders on preventing bigger issues down the road.
Post written by Madeleine Rogin for Ashoka's Start Empathy Initiative, a whole child partner organization.
Leading education theorists, such as Howard Gardner and Tony Wagner, have written about the importance of cultivating our students' abilities to communicate across "networks"—skills that are crucial to success in our new global reality. And indeed, there's already been a popular acceptance that teaching around the topics of race, racism, and communicating across differences is an essential part of education in the 21st century. But in many classroom conversations, racism is framed as something of the past rather than a present reality. In addition, white children often think of slavery or the Jim Crow laws as something horrific that happened to "them," but do not see these events as something that is bad for "us" as a whole. To avoid this mistake, we can focus on empathy in the classroom as a way to prevent exclusionary behavior and "othering," which may move students to stand up against bias and prejudice.
Looking toward the future, the next step is to ask ourselves, as educators and parents, how do we go about these conversations in a way that promotes values such as inclusivity and empathy?
A whole child approach to education ensures that each child, in each school, and in each community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. With our interactive Whole Child Examples Map tool, you can find examples of schools and communities worldwide that are implementing a whole child approach to education, including these early childhood education programs. Each example highlights a program, focus, or achievement and includes links to more information.
Human beings are born to learn. During the last few decades, developmental science has exploded with discoveries of how, specifically, learning happens. This provides us with an unprecedented window into children's minds: how and when they begin to think, perceive, understand, and apply knowledge.
Education begins in preschool and kindergarten for a reason. These are important formative years where students build skills and develop behaviors to carry them through many years of learning. As a kindergarten teacher, I make it my goal for students to leave my classroom at the end of the year as capable, confident learners.
"The healthy development of young children in the early years of life literally does provide a foundation for just about all of the challenging social problems that our society and other societies face," says Jack P. Shonkoff, professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. This video from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University looks at the brain science behind early childhood development.
"When we talk about preparing children to succeed in school, we cannot separate cognitive development from social and emotional development. You can't have one without the other," says Shonkoff. He goes on to explain how a young child's brain is shaped by his experiences, and how interactions with adults, both positive and negative, affect the development of a child's brain. Learn more with ASCD Express.
Thomas Armstrong, education expert, author, and Whole Child Podcast guest, just can't say enough about the importance of play. The chapter "Early Childhood Education Programs: Play" is excerpted from Armstrong's ASCD book Best Schools, which looks at not just best schools, but also best practices for teaching and learning. In this chapter, Armstrong points to early education practices that actually hinder young learners rather than helping them to get ahead.
What does "education" mean for our youngest learners? The first years of school are as important for an educated population as any other period, perhaps more. Additionally, research shows that implementation of high-quality preschool programs can be beneficial for the lifelong development of children in low-income families and that an upfront commitment to early education provides returns to society that are many times more valuable than the original investment.
With the current focus on standards and academic achievement, is learning and testing coming too early? Curriculum and assessment should be based on the best knowledge of theory and research about how children develop and learn, with attention given to individual children's needs and interests within a group and in relation to program goals. In this episode, we discuss the importance of early childhood education and the specific social, cognitive, and emotional needs these learners have that are different from those of older learners. You'll hear from
Laura Bornfreund is a senior policy analyst for the New America Foundation's Early Education Initiative. Bornfreund examines early education (birth through grade 3) studies and policies and researches and writes original policy papers. She contributes to Early Ed Watch, the Early Education Initiative's blog, writing on a variety of education policy topics including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; federal education grant programs; teacher preparation, retention, and support; kindergarten; and early childhood assessment.
Walter McKenzie is a lifelong learner, teacher, leader, and connector. A director of Constituent Services for ASCD, McKenzie served 25 years in public education as a classroom teacher, instructional technology coordinator, director of technology, and assistant superintendent for information services. He is internationally known for his work on multiple intelligences and technology and has published various books and articles on the subject.
Jennifer Orr is a 1st-grade teacher at Annandale Terrace Elementary School in Fairfax County, Va. A National Board Certified Teacher in middle childhood, Orr has taught 4th, 5th, and 1st grades since 1998. In 2012 she received the International Society for Technology in Education's Kay L. Bitter Vision Award for being a K–2 educator bringing technology into the classroom effectively and with innovation. She is also an ASCD Emerging Leader and member of its 2013 class.
Wendy Ostroff is a cognitive psychology, child development, and metacognition expert and author of the 2012 ASCD book, Understanding How Young Children Learn: Bringing the Science of Child Development to the Classroom. Ostroff has been developing curricula on children’s learning for the past 15 years in the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies at Sonoma State University; in the Department of Education and Child Study at Smith College; and, most recently, as associate professor in the program for the Advancement of Learning at Curry College.
If early childhood is where we begin to build skills and behaviors such as persistence, empathy, collaboration, and problem solving, are we teaching in developmentally appropriate ways?
Post written by Janet Brown, Senior Early Childhood Program Specialist, and Kwesi Rollins, Director of Leadership Programs at the Institute for Educational Leadership
In Lifelines for Poor Children, economist and Nobel laureate James Heckman argues that quality early learning programs represent our best national education investment, due to evidence of societal benefits from longitudinal studies of Perry Preschool and Abecedarian early childhood programs.
The Perry Preschool Project and Abecedarian programs worked extensively with families in their home and community contexts. Successes from such early learning and family support efforts suggest that cross-sector community collaborations, such as those in community schools, are ideal contexts for scaling up early childhood programming for low-income children and families. Such schools share program approaches with Perry Preschool and Abecedarian, including home visits and follow-up supports for children and families in their communities.