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.



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