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Play Leads Teachers to Unlock New Ideas About Reform

Want to shake up schools? Let preschool teachers play until they find solutions.

You read that right, let them play.

Give them blocks, shaving cream, and Play Doh along with permission to unplug and they'll unlock creative solutions to the biggest problems that plague our institutions, argue Marcia L. Nell and Walter F. Drew, authors of a new book launched earlier this month entitled From Play to Practice: Connecting Teachers' Play to Children's Learning.

At the very least, educators at play will develop an understanding and appreciation for the natural problem-solving processes that children use every day—an important step in learning to educate them in a day and age in which the pressure to teach and test academics is ever-present, the professors argue.

"If programs and school systems continue to do the same things they've always done, they will continue to get the same results," the professors write. "Our idea for school reform ... includes the use of creativity in professional practice and in the quest to resolve the issues facing educators today."

Nell is an assistant professor at Millersville University in Millersville, Pa., who teaches early-childhood classes. Drew is a play facilitator with the National Association for the Education of Young Children Play, Policy and Practice Interest Forum as well as the creator of Dr. Drew's Discovery Blocks.

In their book, the pair suggest that research has long shown that play is the greatest teacher, affording children the opportunity to hone reasoning skills and forge friendships.

It should be realized that grown-ups can learn like that, too, but we're often too busy to try, or WE believe it is futile, the book states.

"Not only is this resource appropriate for early-childhood teachers, it is relevant for awakening the creative power and self-expression of anyone across the entire human life cycle," Nell said.

Key to adult play as professional development is both a respect for play and a built-in reflection time in which meaning can be parsed out. Nell and Drew also advocate teachers use a play coach to aid in their efforts.

To learn more about the book, check out NAEYC'S bookstore: http://www.naeyc.org/store/bestsellers

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