A Note From Noah

It’s a good time of year to address academics - having now passed Parent Night, with Parent-Teacher Conferences coming up shortly, and our oldest students in the midst of their independent school visits or public G&T registration. Academics – the discrete skills that your children learn along the way in our classrooms while they are playing, negotiating, and building community. While my Notes this year have focused mostly on our Reggio-inspired approach and the correlated notion of the child’s voice, make no mistake – our classrooms are deeply academic places.

Several years ago, our teaching staff wrote an internal document titled, “Developmental Framework for Young Children.” This document is our guiding light for your child’s academic growth in our play-based classrooms. It ensures that while we are busy building airports out of magnatiles (Room 5), determining if Guinea pigs have tongues (Room 7), or how to run a toy drive (Room 4), teachers are presenting appropriate academic modules to children, embedded within those play-based curricula. Students in Room 1 scribble on paper as they play trains, learning that marks on paper have symbolic meaning. Students in Room 2 compare story books to each other, learning to be literary critics. Students in Room 6 build a word wall around “habitats” as they research their class pet, Ella the bunny. These are all direct manifestations of the “Developmental Framework.”

If you are curious as to how academics play out in our Reggio-inspired classrooms, I am providing links below to previous Notes which have detailed different content areas in specifics ways:




Executive function

Intrinsic motivation

Lastly, I am compelled to make explicit – we believe we can do both. We can play, and learn; we can run a Reggio-inspired classroom, and give children strong academics. I outlined how this works in a March, 2017 Note:

At Teachers College, we have been speaking about the stellar research focusing on the positive impact that high quality early education makes over the course of a child’s life, and how despite the clear improvements this has made to public policy regarding early education and care, it has also left some of us (parents and educators alike) with a narrow-minded focus on using nursery years to “prep” children for later experiences. The discussion in class recently has turned towards re-inserting an emphasis on the here-and-now for our young learners – they are not in school only so they can be successful later (the destination), but because they deserve – they have the right – to slow down, enjoy themselves, along the way (the journey).

As educators, we are at times put on the defensive and asked to explain our choices – Why do you still use playdo in PreK? Why does my child play mommy/baby every day? Shouldn’t my son be doing something other than blocks all day long? Often, we answer these questions from a child-development-perspective: Playdo helps your child develop stronger graphomotor muscles, allowing them to obtain more fluent penmanship in elementary school; family play gives your child a safe space to establish social relationships, allowing them to feel confident during recess and in the cafeteria in the years to come; block play is setting your child up to have a strong foundation in STEM concepts such as gravity and symmetry, and STEM jobs will be exploding when your child graduates college!

All of those answer are true. And yet, they leave out what we deeply believe here – children’s lives should be full of whimsy, spontaneity, and – yes – moments of boredom that they must strive to fill with their own ideas. Our attention to your children while at school is not only on getting them to arrive at their destination, but on making sure they soak up every moment of the journey as it passes by. We play in water and sand tables because of the developmental benefits, of which there are many – but also importantly, because of how fun it is! Play time is the most important part of our daily schedule here not only because children learn through play, but because children deserve protected spaces to simply enjoy themselves.

I hope that this review of academics in our classrooms is helpful in understanding how it all takes place here. I encourage you to ask questions at your child’s Parent-Teacher Conference, to further push me on this topic, and to always be open to the possibilities present in a Reggio-inspired classroom.

Shabbat shalom,