Tag Archives: Early childhood education

The CMK Series – Part 3

CMK_Wordle

To conclude my CMK Series, I wanted to reflect on some of the amazing people and ideas that were a part of the Institute.

There was no shortage of impressive and inspiring speakers at #CMK13. The list included people from a variety of fields, who brought unique perspectives to making and learning. For example, Eleanor Duckworth, an inspiration for all educators and particularly those of us passionate about early childhood education, paired up with Deborah Meier and together they shared their views on discovery learning, wonderful ideas, and democracy in education.

Jimmy Heath and Emmet Cohen

In stark contrast to their dialogue on education, we heard from jazz musicians Jimmy Heath and Emmet Cohen, who spoke of mentorship, improv, and creating something unique that connects with people and speaks to them. At the MIT Media Lab we heard innovative and even mind blowing ideas about what can be done when you invite an entire city to create something together using music and technology from Tod Machover and we were treated to thoughtful and amusing commentary by Dr. Marvin Minsky.

And yet, as diverse as all of the these and the other speakers were at #CMK13, I found that they were all united by three things: storytelling, passion, and courage.

Each person had engaging, personal stories to tell of working on their projects and what they learned from those experiences. Listening to these stories, you could hear the passion in their voices and understand, at least a little bit, why their project was so meaningful and important, even if you had never done anything similar before.

Duckworth spoke of making colored tubes and experimenting with science; Meier spoke of the courage they needed to persevere when Harvard didn’t want to give credit for their course; Heath shared tales of playing in Philadelphia, learning from talented peers and Cohen shared the power of just working together with a mentor like Heath. We were regaled with stories about Machover visiting Toronto and working with thousands of different people to create and capture sounds and in hearing these stories you could begin to understand how the power of their work spread.

As a listener, I wanted to jump right into those projects and I wanted to go out and start researching and learning more about them to see how I might be able to do something similar or recreate them in a completely new way. Their stories were inspirational and empowering and most important, they shared passion and passed on courage to all of us as listeners.

These same concepts – storytelling, passion, courage – united the CMK participants. If we didn’t already, we all now have our own stories to tell from #CMK13 and I think we were all drawn to the Institute by our passion – for making, tinkering, and learning. That passion is what will continue to inspire us to share our stories with friends and colleagues both virtually and in-person so that we might be able to encourage others to dive into this “maker movement” they’ve heard about and bring it to their students too.

Finally, like the speakers we heard, I think everyone at #CMK13 has a good dose of courage that they pull on when they hit funding or ideological roadblocks, when they’re stuck on a project or feeling isolated and even getting pushback against integrating making into the classroom or curriculum. This courage is what will help bring making into professional development and into our classrooms! Are you ready to start? Let’s get Making!

 

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How Bitty Baby Began my Focus on Early Childhood Learning

After reading Gears of My Childhood by Seymour Papert for the MIT Learning Creative Learning MOOC I’m participating in, I started think reflect on: What object from my childhood interested and influenced me?

"Duckie" - My favorite childhood stuffed animal

Me and “Duckie” – my favorite childhood stuffed animal

As I considered this question, my first thought was that I wished I had access to all of the pictures that were taken during my childhood so I could literally see them to recall my memories. I pulled out a few that I had and as I thought some more, I considered my favorite stuffed animal, which traveled with me everywhere and is in probably almost every photo of me as a child. Ultimately, I decided that while well-loved, my stuffed animal wasn’t really an object that pushed me to think differently. I continued to reflect on the question and I realized that one of the most influential objects from my childhood was probably my American Girl Bitty Baby doll.

That might sound like a pretty generic choice but thinking back, I think my interest in the doll was an indicator of my current passions and an interests in early childhood learning that continues to exist today. I don’t remember exactly when I first received the doll, or Caitlin, as I named her, but I think it was probably around my 6th birthday. For the next few years, I spent hours and hours playing with her, dressing her in different outfits, having her interact with her accessories and playing out different scenarios of early childhood play. As I grew older, I became frustrated that there weren’t more accessories and began designing my own furniture and toys (I even submitted my ideas to American Girl!). I’m not sure if they were ever received but I felt better knowing I was doing something that would hopefully contribute to other children’s play by letting the company know about things I felt were missing.

Caitlin in a crib I constructed for her, with her accesseries underneath

Caitlin in a crib I constructed for her, with her accessories underneath

Even as I grew older and other toys became more popular with my friends, I still held on to Bitty Baby as one of my favorite childhood objects. I was completely intrigued with the early childhood stage in a person’s life, a period where so much care taking is necessary but yet there is also so much play and exploration. I remember vividly reading to my doll the board books that came with each new set and testing out each of the related toys (the beach and garden sets were some of my favorites) and considering whether they were good and would engage my doll.

Although Bitty Baby has now been put away in a box to save for my own children one day, I am still essentially doing very similar work. I am constantly thinking about how young children learn and what toys (learning tools) would be best suited for different areas of classroom study or learning goals. Of course today, many of the tools I am examining involve technology (e.g., a Toca Boca app or a Voicethread presentation) which were certainly not part of the American Girl line when I was little. But like Papert, I think the same three factors: having a feeling of love towards my doll, not being told to learn about or play with her, and being young when I was first introduced to it, all affected my interest in early childhood learning. I’m intrigued to think more about the value of love and relationships with an object like a doll or gears. I want to consider how these relationships can affect a child’s learning or interest in a subject and how vital it is to expose children to a variety of objects at a young age (including ones that might seem beyond their understanding).