Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kindergarten at St. Mary's

I went to kindergarten at St. Mary's Episcopal School in Memphis and then attended 1st grade at Snowden Elementary, a public school. My teacher at Snowden was a lovely young woman, but there was no way that public school could possibly compete for glory and fun with St. Mary's Kindergarten. At Snowden, I had to learn to sit still in a desk. At St. Mary's they had an indoor swing set and sand box and more play stuff than you could imagine. And so the question is raised, "Why is 1st grade so different from Kindergarten?" How can Kindergarten be so dedicated to learning through play while 1st grade takes so much of the fun out of it? Those were the same questions asked at the University of Chicago in the early 1920's. And so I'm reading the book, "Unified Kindergarten and First-Grade Teaching" by Parker and Temple, both of the University of Chicago. The photo above is scanned from the 1925 publication.

I know I may be one of the very few people in the world still interested in such things. After all, what could we possibly learn from the educators of the such distant past? I am reminded of the man who went to the Zen master for advice. The master poured his tea, and kept overfilling the cup. When the visitor protested he asked, "How can I give you any advice? Your cup is too full. It must be empty first." With humility we discover that we have a great deal to learn from those who preceded us in the classroom. The photo below is of the recommended outdoor play. Prescribed for each and every day of the year.

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