The Death of Preschool
December 1, 2011
Don't go selling the hide as long as the bear remains in his hole.
This dramatic title appeared on an article in the latest issue of Scientific American Mind (November/December 2011). It was so provocative that I feared that the article itself would also be way over the top. However, I found that this was a well-reasoned, well-documented case for keeping play as the central focus of the preschool years. Here are some excerpts...
• "Early childhood educators are turning to a method known as direct instruction, which the National Institute for Direct Instruction, an advocacy group, defines as 'teaching that emphasizes well-developed and carefully planned lessons... and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks.'"
• "'Scientists are baffled,' says Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at University of California-Berkeley. 'The more serious science we do, the more it comes out that very young children are not designed to do focused, goal-directed behavior we think of [as appropriate] for older children, but are to a phenomenal degree very sophisticated about learning from things and people around them.'"
• "Running around in circles, playing with blocks and climbing on a jungle gym may seem like exercise or goofing off to an adult, but several studies have shown that children infer a basic sense of physics through these activities. The possession of fine-motor skills — learned through activities such as drawing and cutting, which coordinate finger movement with visual perception — is one of the strongest predictors of academic success, according to a study by David Grissmer... at the University of Virginia's Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning."