The Block Connection

Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Education reform, Featured | 0 comments

The Block Connection

Sharing the Legacy of Caroline Pratt

Part 1

Caroline Pratt, inventor of the unit block system, founded the progressive City and Country School in 1914. Ten years ago, the school developed the Block Connection initiative as a way to open communication between their teachers and teachers from Head Start, day care and public schools.

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Sharing the Legacy of Caroline Pratt – Part 2

Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Education reform, Featured | 0 comments

The Block Connection

Sharing the Legacy of Caroline Pratt

Part 2

City and Country School teachers share their impressions of the Block Connection project: Nicolás Dumit Estévez worked with Prekindergarten, Nina Farrell with Kindergarten, Erin Teesdale with First Grade, and Ruth Conroy with Second Grade. All four C&C teachers described how readily PS130 students took to working with blocks, and how open the public school teachers were to being mentored by City and Country teachers.

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Connecting with Blocks in the Age of IM

Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Education reform, Featured | 0 comments

Connecting with Blocks in the Age of IM

At a time when the digital screen claims hegemony as the platform for fostering social interactions, it is important to halt the next click of one’s fingertip on that iPhone (or whichever digital device you are drawn to) to pay attention to the role of unit blocks in bringing people together and hence, in kindling community. And yes, while one could argue for the effectiveness of burgeoning technologies capable of linking individuals residing at two opposite ends of our Earth versus the more local scope that unit blocks can activate in terms of drawing them together, there is a quality in the face-to-face interactions demanded by working with a physically tangible and open ended material that cannot be easily replicated otherwise. I propose that the centerpiece of the historic City and Country School’s (C&C) curriculum for its lower school, the good old wooden unit block, as envisioned and brought to fruition by radical educator Caroline Pratt more than one hundred years ago, continues to hold the power to push one to rethink social connections at a time when social media predominate.

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Common Core, Uncommon Opportunities

Posted by on Nov 23, 2013 in Featured | 0 comments

Common Core State Standards has become a target of attack for something it was never intended, testing.  The Common Core is a listing of standards, it is NOT a curriculum.  States and local districts have a lot of leeway in designing curriculum to meet those standards, as well as tests to measure whether or not the standards have been met.  This is an opportunity, for those who wish to take it, to explore what we now know about how children learn and weave it into a meaningful curriculum to help children achieve a deeper understanding of the world around them and acquire the skills needed to succeed in it.  There is an opportunity to close the achievement gap and teach children how to get along with each other in an ever growing diversity in our community and our country.  What a wonderful opportunity exists.

Others have taken this as an opportunity to promote other agendas, that of big business (never mind that the core itself is a “gift” from Bill Gates and his colleagues).  A couple of well-known publishers have developed assembly line curriculum followed by assembly line testing that is threatening the implementation of the common core before it ever begins.

To suggest that scores were poor due to the diversity of the student population is simply unacceptable.  We need to look more closely at how students learn and their individual needs.  One approach is to use differentiated instruction.  Many schools across the country have implemented differentiated instruction with amazing results.  It didn’t happen overnight and took a lot of hard work, but the results seem worth the effort, for the students and their teachers.

I would suggest the state and the nation give schools three to five years to implement curriculum and instruction to help students meet the CCSS.  During that time assessment measures can be developed to ensure the standards are being achieved.

Further work can be devoted to deciding how to assess how teachers are performing and what to do when students are not reaching desired standards. This would include changes in teacher preparation, professional development and supervision.

All these issues have been around for a long time. There is no one size fits all answer.  But we must begin to find answers that work and work for all.

 

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