Monday, September 22, 2014

Who Drives Student Centered Learning?

Teachers who understand children’s needs are learning facilitators. These teachers recognize the need to foster a child’s curiosity through play. They engineer the environment to nurture, foster, protect and enrich the child’s learning opportunities. Play is the child’s natural learning process. The child is the driving force of their own learning. Teachers who acknowledge this fact allow the students to be in the driver’s seat of their educational journey. This is in contrast to traditional top down educational models where students are spoon fed a regimented standard curriculum. This one size fits all approach is counter to the natural curiosity of individual learners.

S.E.E.D.S. strives for parents and educators to be more aware of the need for a bottom-up curricular process that is rooted in the child’s curiosity. This approach invests in children. It creates a setting that consistently nurtures and fosters a child's curiosity and learning through personal interactions with the environment.  We call these interactions "play". By creating an environment supportive of play, the adults place the children in the driver’s seat. Now the children can have fun learning, which is what play is all about.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Learning: They Can't Take It From You

At S.E.E.D.S. we think learning and education are naturally occurring parts of life; they are not rights nor privileges.  They will occur with or without a teacher, peers or schools being present.  As socially responsible adults and basically good decent human beings, we believe each child should have the opportunity to learn to be a life long learner.  This is the basic tool to develop effective critical thinking.  It improves their ability to survive and use their resources to sustain themselves, their families, and humanity.  The natural ability to learn can be nurtured, fostered, protected and enriched by astute parents, early care givers and educators who promote and celebrate the child's innate curiosity and learning. With their curiosity intact, these children grow and progress through life with essential knowledge and skills to successfully guide them.   They will have learned how to learn, to become their own best teachers, and to be life long learners.  At this point, no one can take away their learning.

S.E.E.D.S The Big Picture

The Sustainable Early Education Development System (S.E.E.D.S.) is plain and simple - out of the box. The S.E.E.D.S. program utilizes the following tools: the Geographic Systems Model, the Community Based Education Model and STEAM to connect the “dots.” The essence of S.E.E.D.S. is to foster, nurture and enrich curiosity and playfulness starting at home and continuing at school. From infancy to around age three the brain develops 1,000 trillion synapses. This is double the amount of synapses found in an adult brain. These synapses are some of the strongest connections built in the brain, creating solid, long-term connections that support future learning, growth and development. By age 3, a child’s brain is 80% of the adult volume. Neural pathways are being created and reinforced.  Developing the brain is critical to the child’s survival.

For adults, the word play is defined as “an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.”  For a child, nothing could be farther from the truth.  When a child “plays”, the brain is undergoing physiological development.  From an ECE perspective, play is a serious and practical mechanism for learning. When you consider the brain development factor, this has profound impact on early learning.

 At S.E.E.D.S. we think it is vital to nurture, foster, protect and enrich curiosity and playfulness. A child needs to feel safe and secure in their environment, in order to be willing to learn and explore. Nurturing is the means of providing safety and security. Once safety and security is assured the child’s curiosity emerges. Through careful observation, the adult fosters the child’s curiosity. This is the start of opening a Pandora’s Box for adults. At this stage of language development the child may not possess words they need to express their curiosity. The fostering process facilitates language development and empowers children to ask the question why. Curiosity is expressed through the question why. Once the seed of curiosity is planted, it drives lifelong learning. 

If you understand this fundamental concept you can readily see the need to protect a child curiosity. This should be the top priority of all parents and teachers. Protecting a child’s curiosity encourages the child to learn to think outside the box, advances cognitive abilities and builds social skills. From this beginning adults can create learning opportunities to further enrich the child’s growth and development. Each of these components drive the making of the whole child. An unfortunate side effect of encouraging curiosity is often perceived as the bane of parenthood; the incessant asking of the “why” questions. 

The S.E.E.D.S. curriculum gives adults the tools needed to nurture, foster, protect and enrich the education of the whole child. This effectively keeps curiosity alive. The child’s playfulness and curiosity drives the learning process. These natural processes are fun and stimulating to the child. This is what children are doing when they play. They interact with the objects, environment, peers and adults simultaneously. It creates a simple system for the adult to support the child’s learning. In these play based situations it becomes much simpler to answer the “why” questions in the context of the real world. 

The interactions fostered by play, reinforce the synaptic growth and development in the child’s brain. This prepares the child for lifelong learning. The synaptic growth at this age, tends to remain a permanent part of the child’s neural makeup.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Education is the key to freedom.

S.E.E.D.S. aims to develop as fully as possible the potential the young minds of children.  By nurturing, fostering, protecting and enriching their early education, we strive to free their minds from the limitations that may be imposed, consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, by others or by the children themselves.  Children’s minds are like sponges.  From the protective environment of the womb, they enter a world filled with diverse stimuli.  Their very survival depends on their interactions with the environment.  The first three years are the critical formative years that impact the rest of their lives.  An unfortunate fact of circumstances often occurs at birth.  Many children are born into poverty.  Their families struggle to make ends meet.  Preschool education is often deemed a luxury rather than a necessity.  What is the freedom referred to in George Washington Carver’s quote?  Freedom is an abstract term.  As such, people can read into it as they want.  The world is filled with challenges.  At S.E.E.D.S. we see education as a critical function to overcome many obstacles in a person’s life (e.g. conflict and prejudice, among others).  Education also holds the key to understanding and peace.  Basically, S.E.E.D.S. strives for the free intellectual development of all children as good, decent human beings.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Education Policy Fails

No Child Left Behind and Common Core curriculum are prime examples of top down education policies.  Be assured, these are NOT student centered.  In fact, many so-called student centered lessons are top down actions in “sheep’s clothing”.  Like so many other things in modern life, jingoisms and buzz words are catchy tags for the latest fads.  And like many TV ads, these phrases often fail to deliver.  On the surface, the students suffer.  No Child Left Behind also meant No Child Gets Ahead.  Everyone needed to be in lock step.  Common Core has revealed itself as many students got to experience the Common Bore up front and personal.  In the long run, the nation suffers.  You have to wonder who benefits by killing the curiosity of children who grow up to be adults lacking critical thinking skills.  Reflection and introspection seem to be lacking in most top down policies.  Perhaps policy makers curiosity died at an early age.  As adults, they can only create unimaginative education policies that fail to serve the students.  What we can’t quite figure out is where they got the creative spark to make policies that seem to line their pockets at the expense of the students, future generations and the nation?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Education to Change the World

We believe in the power of education.  That is why SEEDS focuses its efforts to empower parents and early childhood education teachers to help young children learn to become their own best teachers and life –long learners.  It is essential for the pattern of optimum learning to be established during these preschool years while a child’s brain is developing.  Please help us spread the word about SEEDS to all parents with preschool children and ECE teachers.  Share this posting with them.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Schools, Education, Arts, and Prisons

The following are excerpted from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s report on the significant disparities in art education.  (Bold emphasis is ours.)

“Over a decade of myopic education policies that began with No Child Left Behind and today’s Common Core mandate have doubled-down on standardized testing. Policy makers and school administrators are have readily wielded the axe on the arts budget to make room for more tutoring and testing. The arts are seen largely as a fringe subject in school with no real significance for youth. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“… at-risk youth are five times more likely to drop-out from high school if they do not have arts education.”

“More arts education means fewer high school drop-outs. Fewer high school drop-outs means higher rates of college enrollment. More college graduates means more sustainable human capital out of prisons, off of welfare, and joining the workforce. The fear-driven, insular mentality of testing and more testing has unfortunately led to the channeling our tax dollars to support more prisons and national ‘security’ that our own children in America.”

Victor Hugo (1802-1895) said as much over a century ago.  The line from the 1955 song “When will they ever learn?” from a Pete Seeger song comes to mind.  Hmm…makes you wonder if the policy makers are slow learners, in denial, out of touch with reality (they probably don’t live in those neighborhoods or their kids don’t go to school there).

Friday, September 5, 2014

Education as an Investment

For many, using terms such as "investment" monetizes education. Treating education like a commodity sells it far short of its full potential. It was once said that whatever happens to you in life can be colored any way you choose. A lot depends on your attitude---the way you think about life. Too many people sell themselves short because they are not a financial $ucce$$. Yet there are many people who make the world a better place by starting the day with a smile, a kind word, or a good deed.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Brain development and early childhood

If you think Day Care and Preschool are "just baby sitting"; think again! Good Preschool teachers are brain development specialists who prepare a child for fun filled enjoyable life-long learning. Most parents may not realize this. In the early years of a child's life, money is a major budget issue. But pennies pinched here, added to exorbitant college costs later results in sending poorly wired brains into a world of frustration and discontent. Good Preschool teachers are worth MORE than their weight in gold. (And i am not just saying this because I am a teacher. I don't teach preschool students. For 29 years I struggled to motivate many students who may have had poorly wired brains.)