Kids Love Robot Poop!

Most kids think Robots are cool. All Kids think poop is hysterical. As a product promotion meme, Robot Poop is a total winner. The question is, what does Robot Poop look like. Ah, that is indeed the question. I’ve been working feverishly on my next big project and no I don’t have COVID-19. Its foundation […]

Play-Based Learning Cooperative


Photo Bonnie Diczhazy

These days making predictions is a fool’s errand. The best we can do is guess what is unlikely to happen and indicate the trends that will shape the future. So, what do we know?

What won’t happen is COVID-19 going away soon. Optimistic projections are that “herd immunity” and a vaccine will not happen for a year, and some predict two years or more.

Another thing that won’t happen is for early childhood education to continue being ignored and taken for granted. Keeping children in school turns out to be both extremely important and complex. Our society has begun to realize that unless parents have childcare, they can’t return to work. This means that more enlightened communities will now be motivated to fund both early childhood schools and teachers better.  Many supports for schools such as nutrition and health safety measures that have been taken for granted will henceforth be augmented and made permanent.

The Black Lives Matters movement has raised our consciousness to much more than racism and made it impossible to continue to ignore the inequities in modern society. It is easy to predict that the movement will result in efforts to address inequality and reduce violence. The changes are certain to be painful, profound, and lasting.

The environmental crisis is finally being acknowledged and addressing it can no longer just be dealt with through policies. The clear skies during the worldwide lock made the needed changes undeniable. Profit above planet business models will be the first targets for disruption.

Another trend that has a long history but is still not widely adopted is play-based learning. While there are many examples from Montessori to Reggio Emillia, from Forest Schools to Anji Play, schools with this form of pedagogy abound. Yet, for all of its appeal, play-based learning has not become mainstream. That is about to change, big time. The reason is simple; science shows that play-based learning works. The neuroscience and longitudinal studies over the past decade and more have established without question that play-based learning is more effective in the early years than academics. It has been demonstrated time and again that wrote learning and homework are counterproductive.

As we finally come out of the pandemic, it is easy to predict that preschool education will be largely transformed with a new play-based based curriculum and more resources. While this is good news, there is a slight problem. The new play-based curriculum requires that kids are free to move rather than sitting at desks. Most of the action now is outdoors. Since the program relies on curiosity, environments need to be rich in resources, complex, more bespoke, and as natural as possible. This means that while there may be more resources for early childhood education, they will not begin to implement and support the new curriculum fully.

While massive changes will be happening in early childhood education, they will also be happening across all sectors of the economy. This means that while early childhood education has a new prominence, it is only one of the needed changes such as housing, health care, and the environment. Thus, there will be too many hands dipping into the funding bucket for early childhood to get all the support it needs to make the changes it wants.

Though these predictable challenges seem insurmountable, this is not the first time there has been a major crisis, and it is instructive to look at those actions that proved effective to bring about recovery. For example, cooperatives played a huge role in the economic revival during the depression. They have been used in nearly every nation at one time or another, for example, by Spain at the end of World War Two and Israel during its founding.

Let’s dream a bit. What could a Play-Based Learning Cooperative look like?

Who could benefit from a Play-Based Learning Cooperative?

  • Schools

The combined buying power of early childhood education programs will mean lower prices and higher quality for the exact materials and programs they need.

  • Teachers

Above all, teachers need three things, better pay, materials, and working conditions. The Play-Based Learning Cooperative will be a strong advocate for these with a wide variety of programs, networks, and career options.

  • Makers

Too many designers who love kid and lay have great ideas that never see the light of day because of a lack of capital or opportunity. Many producers have a terrific product that can’t cut through the obstacles to the marketplace. Both designers and producers can collaborate and co-market both online and direct and thrive though the Play-Based Learning Cooperative.

  • Experts

There are hundreds of experts and advocates for play-based-leaning who have experience and knowledge that they want to share. While they have to maintain their regular jobs, they also write and give presentations. A Co-op Book Store and speaker’s bureau will make their lives easier and more sales.

There are hundreds of experts and advocates for play-based-leaning who have experience and knowledge that they want to share. While they have to maintain their regular jobs, they also write and give presentations. A Co-op Book Store and speaker’s bureau will make their lives easier and more sales.

  • Parents

There is a big swing towards homeschooling, and these parents often use a play-based learning strategy. These pioneers, as well as any parent, will appreciate the information and discounts the Play-Based Learning Cooperative provides.

While at this stage, the Play-Based Learning Cooperative is just a dream. It can happen, and I’d like to know what you think about the concept.



How Children Learn Biases

ABC Video

Viral video – Michael D. Cisneros

Please forgive my deception in the title, but I’ve done it to make a point as we begin this discussion. I will wager that as you read that title, you already have several ideas about the subject. I will also assert that you speculated about parenting, schooling, and policing. Finally, most of these thoughts are probably accompanied by strong feelings. My point is that all of those thoughts and feelings are biases. You have prejudged what I am about to share with you. That prejudice makes it harder for you to analyze the topic rationally.

To better understand my thesis, it is helpful to have a bit of background on how the brain works. In the footnotes are some sources for the science if you want to go deeper into the subject. But for now, I will give you a high-level summary.

One of the main functions of any animal with a complex brain is to predict what is going to happen next. If you watch a cat stalk its prey, you can see that they have to make assumptions about how the prey will react. Prey animals, on the other hand, must be able to predict instantly if a sound or movement in the environment signals danger.

The point here is that your previous assumptions about this subject are part of your brain’s hardwired predictive machine on which your survival depends. To layer into the discussion of biases, guilt, or shame misses the point. This is what brains simply do. How does this help us deal with biases that have a negative impact on our lives? To move this conversation into an example without any emotional baggage, I will share an example from my experience that may be illuminating.

I think I was in the second grade when the subject of astronomy was introduced as part of the curriculum. The lessons included the sizes of the planets and their distances from the sun. As an aside, the typical graphic of those depictions are grossly misleading and is an example of how education imparts incorrect information. But I digress.

The lessons also illustrated how the moon rotates around the earth. It was pointed out that the moon is tidally locked, that one side always points towards us, and the other is the “dark” side. A few poor-quality images were taken by the Soviets in 1959 and escaped my attention at the time. It wasn’t until 2009 that an orbiter did a systematic survey of its surface. It did not, at that time, caused me to wonder how they could take pictures of the supposed “dark” side.

It was only a few months ago when, as I lay not sleeping, that this anomaly struck my curiosity and I spent a while modeling the obit not just of the earth and moon, but also of both around the sun and it became clear how they got those pictures. I will leave it to you to repeat this thought problem.

Today, those in the subject of space sciences now use the term “far side” to talk about the moon, so this sort of misapprehension doesn’t arise. The whole point of my convoluted tale is that words matter. Calling the moon’s far side, the “dark” side set up in my mind an image that was false that I have carried for a lifetime. This insight has helped me see that such use of inaccurate words is pervasive in insidious. It can also be weaponized. This is the situation in which we find ourselves today.

fist copyTo bring this topic around to the contemporary issue of racism, I have, in my naivety, heard the slogan “Black Lives Matter,” as an assertion of civil rights with which I agree. It has only been as a result of the discussions surrounding George Floyd’s murder that I have come to understand a deeper meaning. Black lives matter not use to the black community, but they also matter very much to me. This conceptual and emotional reframing has led me to feel more deeply into why blacks in our society have been so demonized. I understand now the way my brain works allowed me to be misguided in my youth about the dark side of the moon, many of us are prejudiced by the way our society talks about and treats the “dark side” of our community.

It is more than time that we shine light on this subject. We have to realize that our brains are hardwired to predict and assume threats. And unless we do the work of investigating those, we will forever carry these mistaken “facts” forward to literally color our behavior.

Furthermore, this discussion should make it clear that what we say and do as parents, as teachers, and as a society has to be scrubbed of these prejudicial words and behaviors least we contaminate our children and perpetuate false biases for yet more generations.

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