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A Teacher’s Journey to Understanding War Play

Every year, the children in my preschool classes have engaged in some kind of ‘war play.’ They act out the same scripts and dialogue: bad guys and good guys, a chase, and then it always ended with the good guys ‘killing’ the bad guys with guns, lasers, etc.’weapons they had made from the materials in our classroom.

This year, it became increasingly difficult to engage them in a different, more creative kind of play. After trying many approaches to banning or policing the play, I finally came upon the solution: to facilitate their play. I was amazed at the results.

I thought that not allowing the play in my classroom would solve my problems, but what I was doing was just avoiding the issue. Banning war play did not stop the children from engaging in it, they just did it in secret. I ended up policing, which was ineffective and did not help to move the children’s play beyond these same scripts day after day.

I finally gave in to their role-play, hoping that after a while, they would meet their needs and move on. But I noticed that they never changed their scripts. There was nothing creative about the children’s play, no problem solving or scaffolding, especially when they brought in toys from the shows they were watching on TV. These toys promoted play that was scripted.

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Make Summertime a Learning Time

Educators often bemoan the loss of learning in their students over the two-month summer break in the school year. Indeed, children do forget some facts and learning strategies and may take a few weeks in the fall to bounce back into classroom routines. One way to keep kids in a learning mode during the summer break is to give play center stage, something that should be an intimate part of school life in the early years.

For parents planning for summer, I suggest structured activities such as art workshops and camps. These provide for adventurous learning with more opportunities for self-expression and recreational skill development than the school year usually can offer. But unstructured time’allowing for the natural flow from boredom to activities invented by children themselves or suggested by parents’provide special learning opportunities. Keeping materials, such as safe scissors, glue, washable paints and markers and paper, accessible allows for these sorts of spontaneous projects.

One colleague, a child psychologist, suggests providing children with a section of the family garden or a few pots on a patio or windowsill. If space permits, raising cherry tomatoes, which ripen fast and are small enough to be plucked and served by the child, is a particularly apt choice. Talk with them about the process of growing things and read them books with garden themes. These activities can enrich a child’s sensitivity to the pleasure of the outdoors as they learn.

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Graduates Celebrate a Rite of Passage

While it may be fashionable to see today’s younger generation as self-centered and money-minded, many of this year’s college graduates prove the stereotype wrong. These young people are testaments to perseverance and have managed to retain a healthy dose of idealism.

‘I have always been extremely interested in how the world works,’ says Queens College graduate, Rivka Eisik. ‘That’s why I majored in biology. But in graduate school ‘I’m starting in September’ I’m going to major in biology and education. I would love to take the knowledge I’ve acquired about life and transfer it to kids.’

Eisik attended a Jewish parochial high school and started to learn about life in college. ‘More than anything else, I appreciated Queens College’s amazing diversity,’ she says. ‘It was like getting in touch with a whole new world.’

In turn, Eisik and her friend Yael Katz opened a whole new world to hundreds of younger children by starting a day camp, Camp H2O, in Spring Valley, NY, three years ago. ‘Our motto was ‘We guarantee to teach every kid how to swim,” she says. ‘And we did, too. We had close to 100 percent success rate. We figured it was an invaluable service, good business, and something that will help children learn something that’s really necessary at the same time.’

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States strain to keep up with ‘No Child Left Behind’

It’s been a few years now that President Bush signed the sweeping “No Child Left Behind” education bill into law, and most states have rolled out ambitious testing programs, improving teacher quality, developing excruciatingly detailed report cards — and struggling to make it all work.

Only 22 states are currently on track to comply with even half of the major federal requirements, according to a report scheduled for release today by the independent Education Commission of the States. Though states have a few years to meet some of the requirements, many were already due.

In the first detailed look at how all 50 states and the District of Columbia are grappling with the complex law, ECS found that many have a long way to go. The core of the law is a 12-year plan to improve the basic skills of the nation’s 52 million public school students. States faced an important deadline last Friday when they had to tell the federal government how they’ll integrate No Child Left Behind into their testing systems. Those that fail to comply with the law ultimately risk losing federal money for their schools.

U.S. Education Department spokesman Dan Langan says states “are indeed making progress” and are probably further along than the ECS findings suggest. “What you see today may not be the same tomorrow, because of a change in a state policy or program.”

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Advice to a Young Person Starting College

Oh, mercy! Have the years brought wisdom with the wrinkles for me to dare offer advice to the young?

Could relating my first day at The University of Chicago weeping with my weeping parents—who lived less than an hour away by car for gosh sakes!—touch an emotion that would resonate with anyone else?

Could my sophomore epiphany that I was undergoing some Mobius strip kind of turning inward and then outward help anyone else who might be aware that they, too, were undergoing some kind of metamorphosis?

Could my joy in my third year that I could concentrate on my major and not have to struggle any longer with Aristotle or readings in The People Shall Judge help those who are equally eager to get on with the business of becoming USEFUL?

As a transfer student, I had been mitigated from The History of Western Civilization.
What a crime.

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Students Get Heard! Your Guide to the CNN – YouTube Debates

For many years, one of the biggest challenges of presidential candidates has been trying to penetrate the youngest audience of the voting demographic. And where do you find the majority of these individuals? In college, of course! Being able to vote comes right around the time many teenagers graduate from high school.

It’s also right around the time they start buying cigarettes and partying out of control as the revelation that they are adults who have to fend for themselves looms before them. Because of the freedoms that are rewarded to the 18-year-old, they often put politics way on the backburner; we’re talking a commercial kitchen that works 500 person banquets here, and “who’s running for president” is in dry storage.

Now, because of the easily manipulated youth market, presidential hopefuls have always reached out to the younger generation but mostly failed to convert as many troops to the war that they hoped to. Recent commercial involvement has included events like MTV’s “Rock The Vote” tours to entice the kids to vote. The success of these attempts to make politics “cool” can be argued, but the fact of the matter is they’ve never taken the newly anointed voters seriously enough to warrant them a vote in return.

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