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NPR and Daniel Tiger come to Shady Lane…

In August 2014, reporter Erika Beras from WESA-FM did a great report about our friends at the Fred Rogers Company and their process for creating their hit PBS children’s show, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. That report explored the important focus that the show’s creators place on our current understanding of child development as they craft each episode.
Earlier this week, Erika visited Shady Lane to watch an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood with five children from our Partners Classroom and Lexi Shaefers, Co-Lead Educator in Partners. Erika recorded interviews with the children and Lexi about their perpective on the show, and will be filing a report to be broadcast nationally on NPR’s Morning Edition. It was a fun morning, and we’re looking forward to hearing Erika’s report.
Follow us on Twitter (twitter.com/shadylaneschool) and on Facebook (facebook.com/shadylaneschool) for an alert when we know the air date of the report. After it airs, the report will appear (along with some photos from Erika’s visit) on the NPR website; we’ll post a link on our website and various social media outlets, including an updated version of this post.

OCTOBER UPDATE: Click here for the article on the NPR Education Blog written by Erika Beras following her visit to Shady Lane in September.


Important UNICEF Event happening right now…

World leaders in early childhood development are together as we speak discussing the continuously expanding neuroscience that supports arguments for developmentally-appropriate, informed and intentional early childhood programs. We hope some of you have been following along on Twitter; for now, a few highlights. We’ll post more later on this important gathering.

Among the speakers are Jack Shonkoff of The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University:


The event is also highlighting a great article just published in The Lancet by Anthony Lake and Margaret Chan titled “Putting science into practice for early child development”. (Mr. Lake is also at the UNICEF event this morning.)

The Twitter feed has featured some questions that focus the discussion on engaging debate with the scientific findings on early brain development as the foundation for policy and funding priorities.

To review the entire feed from this event, search #ECDChampions on Twitter.
Recommended by Patrick Webster, Shady Lane Executive Director.

For Kids: How Raven Stole the Sun

Review copyright 2014 Patrick Webster. Reprinted with permission.

The Beanstalk

How Raven Stole the SunThis lovely book, by Maria Williams with illustrations by Felix Vigil, is a retelling of an historical legend common to native tribes of the Northwest Coast. Raven, “both a compassionate creator and a mischief-maker,” lives in the time before daylight. Raven “steals” the sun from a greedy Chief, and brings light to all the people.

This has become a favorite of our daughter, Katie, who just turned 6 years old. While it is often hard to tell why a book resonates with a child, reading this together makes me ponder the possible connections.

Katie loves animals. She is a soul who connects with most every animal she meets on a basic level; when she sits with her pets, it has a fundamentally calming effect on both child and animal, and an unspoken connection is forged.

Like Raven, Katie herself could be described as a “compassionate creator and mischief-maker” and these attributes are…

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For Parents: Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect

This book, Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect (2nd Edition), is a helpful counterpart to the book Respecting Infants by Ruth Ann Hammond which we recommended for infant caregivers/educators in our May 23 post. This book, written by Magda Gerber, is based on her theories and practices (as is the Hammond book) but is more directed to parents. An expanded edition of a valuable parent resource.

Recommended by Polly Lipkind, Shady Lane Professional Development Director.

Digital Media in Early Education: Avoiding Extremes?

The old adage claims that politics makes strange bedfellows; if so, policy sometimes makes for unusual adversaries. The exploding market of digital devices and apps directed at (and marketed to) young children has generated a policy debate that finds friends with common interests on opposing sides.

With the publication of their January 2012 Joint Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at St. Vincent College, two of the country’s leading authorities on developmentally appropriate practice, weighed in with a middle-ground position. Rejecting the position of those who advocate complete screen-time bans as extending to any media (not just passive TV viewing or the like), the Position Statement is a carefully considered look at a wide range of “technology” and its potential repercussions–and benefits–at the full scope of ages from birth through age 8.

Instead, the Statement limits its recommendation for an outright embargo on screen time to children 2 and under. For older children, the Statement advocates for careful, limited use of a variety of media, focusing on how the technology is used, including: a familiar and sound emphasis on interactivity; support for an emergent approach to children’s own interests; and use of technology as an additional tool in the box for educators and parents, not a replacement for more traditional methods.

Last year, the perspectives of the educators in our Preschool 2 (then Young Threes) classroom were included in an article in Education Week magazine on the competing perspectives on this issue. We agree with some arguments of the advocates of strict limitations on new media use with young children, particularly with regard to manipulative commercialization aimed at children and the slippery slope that can come with screen time (away from interactivity and relationship-building, toward passive viewing and disengagement); see the comments to the online article for some well-argued concerns. However, we are cautiously optimistic about the promise of technology as a series of positive and unique tools that can bring much good if used in a constructive and intentional way.

For some other resources on the issue, please click here to visit the site of the Pittsburgh NAEYC chapter, PAEYC, with a brief summary of their work on Digital Media Literacy in early childhood. We are pleased to be a part of this work, with our Preschool 2 Lead Educators, Maren Herman and Rachel Anderson, creating developmentally-appropriate, emergent curriculum materials that are tied to the PA Early Learning Standards. Through PAEYC’s Digital Bridge Project, in collaboration with PAEYC and local nonprofit Computer Reach, Maren and Rachel are developing curriculum and delivering related professional development to several participating early childhood programs. Many thanks to PAEYC and the primary funder of the Digital Bridge Project, PNC Grow Up Great, for their support and collaboration on this work. Please see below for a link to the May 2013 Education Week article on the debate.

Proper Role of Ed-Tech in Pre-K a Rising Issue, Education Week online edition originally posted May 7, 2013. Available at: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2013/05/08/30early_ep.h32.html?tkn=VWTFZ8CVv60W%2F8ws9pSf476jFgwHxfrYFfCa&cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1 [Accessed 06-09-2014] (also published in May 8, 2013 print edition of Education Week under the title, “Ed-Tech’s Proper Role Poses Puzzles for Pre-K”).

Photograph by Jeff Swensen for Education Week;
© 2013 Editorial Projects in Education

Interactive Play’s Impact on Underdeveloped Children: From NPR

Here is an interesting report from National Public Radio regarding long-term impact of intentional, interactive play between parents and children in developing countries with underdeveloped brains due to undernourishment and disease. The study, published in the journal Science, suggests that more play time with parents can dramatically reverse this physical damage.

Listening to this report and its recorded snippets of the actual play between (in this case) a mother and child, it is apparent that the play is not predominantly instructional, but rather interactive and emotionally engaging. While the report doesn’t focus on this aspect of the play, it raises an interesting point of discussion (and makes one wonder about the impact of each researcher’s–and each reporter’s–perspective on the resulting news story).

You can listen to the report, “Playtime With Mom Helps Boost Toddlers’ Under-Developed Brains” by Nurith Aizenman, at the NPR website. (Note: We may well revisit the headline of this story another time, as it raises a different question entirely…)

For those who like reading research studies for the detail, it’s all here:

Labor Market Returns to Early Childhood Stimulation: a 20-year Followup to an Experimental Intervention in Jamaica
Gertler, P., Heckman, J. et al.
NBER Working Paper No. 19185
June 2013
Available at http://www.nber.org/papers/w19185.pdf, accessed 6-6-2014
© 2013 by Paul Gertler, James Heckman, Rodrigo Pinto, Arianna Zanolini, Christel Vermeersch, Susan Walker, Susan M. Chang, and Sally Grantham-McGregor

Recommended by Patrick Webster, Shady Lane Executive Director.