UD professors' lectures on play reproduced for national audience
Myae Han shows children at the University of Delaware Laboratory Preschool how to make sushi as part of their ocean study unit.
Myae Han
Roberta Golinkoff


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8:36 a.m., Nov. 9, 2009----A new DVD-ROM produced by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), one of the largest professional organizations in the field of early childhood education, features lectures by Myae Han, assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, and Roberta Golinkoff, H. Rodney Sharp Professor in the School of Education at the University of Delaware.

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The DVD is a compilation of lectures presented at NAEYC's 2009 National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development. This was the first time that a DVD has been made available for the public, particularly for those who were unable to attend the conference. The DVD is available for purchase through NAEYC's online store.

Han's presentation, “Connecting Home Cultural Knowledge in Young Children's Play,” made in conjunction with Lynn E. Cohen of Long Island University and John A. Sutterby of the University of Texas at Brownsville, explores why it is important to recognize children's home cultures in the school setting.

The presentation includes her work with children at the University of Delaware Laboratory Preschool. Han dedicated her presentation to the Lab Preschool, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary of providing quality play and multicultural experiences to children.

“This topic is very critical, not just for research purposes, but also as guidance for early childhood educators,” Han said. “It is not just about exposing children to other cultures. It is about integrating their home culture in order to better learn academic concepts such as literacy and math through play.”

Han said that because play is such a complex process, researchers have identified characteristics of play rather than trying to formulate a one-sentence definition of play. Characteristics of play include the idea that the process of play is more important than the outcome or product, and that play should be intrinsically motivated and the result of free choice.

In her presentation, Han shows examples of how play and home culture can be brought together in the classroom. During a kindergarten study unit on the ocean, Han, as a Korean parent, visited the class to teach the children how to make sushi rolls out of seaweed, while their teacher created a sushi restaurant in the dramatic play center.

Meanwhile, in a classroom of four-year-olds, children experienced an in-depth study of Chinese culture, including traditions, food and customs. Parents came into the classroom to help with cooking dumplings and egg rolls, art projects, math puzzles, recreating the Great Wall of China with blocks and planning a Chinese New Year parade.

Han said that play is important in early education and that it is a vehicle for developing language, cognition and social competence. She said that play has been dramatically reduced in current early childhood classrooms, citing studies that show that the amount of time four- and five-year-olds spend playing in preschool and kindergarten declined from 41 percent in 1982 to only 9 percent in 2002.

“Play is hardly viewed as a way to teach children academic learning. Under this national climate, play is often being replaced by direct teaching targeting academic skills in preschool and kindergarten,” she said. “However, academic learning and playful learning are not mutually exclusive, and children do learn a lot of academics through play.”

Golinkoff's presentation featured on the DVD echoes many of the same themes. Entitled “Play Power: Preparing 21st Century Children for a Global World,” her talk focuses on the skills that children need to succeed in our rapidly changing world. Business leaders agree that in the knowledge-age, success will depend on children having a toolkit of skills called the “6 Cs” that include collaboration (teamwork, social competence), content (e.g., reading, math, science, history), critical thinking (the evaluation of the information available to us that is doubling every 2.5 years), communication (oral and written), creative innovation (what American economic prosperity trades on), and confidence (taking risks and learning from failure). Each of these “6 Cs” is nurtured in playful learning. Play is thus central for school readiness and school performance.

Founded in 1926, NAEYC is dedicated to improving the well being of young children, with particular focus on the quality of educational and developmental services for all children from birth through age eight.

Article by Jon Bleiweis