Guided Play in Early Years Key to Nurturing Curiosity and Confidence in Children

When observing a group of children in their early years interacting with each other, their ‘play’ is filled with creativity, curiosity, role-play and discovery.

Over the years what we as educators have observed is that children’s play allows them to explore, identify, negotiate, take risks and create meaning. It helps them to scope out situations they might find themselves in and discover how to respond to them. As children have a natural ability to jump back and forth from ‘fantasy’ and ‘reality’, it allows them to grow their self-confidence and emotional intelligence in response to real-life situations with a lack of self-consciousness that we, adults, admire, because we have lost that ability ourselves.

Traditional educational environments still place clear labels on what is ‘play’ and what is ‘work’ with distinct differentiators between the two. This has placed limits on the amount of time children spend at play vs ‘working’. In this context, ‘work’ is defined as controlled time spent on a chair at a table carrying out a systematic task, while ‘play’ is break time in between work time – a time where learning does not take place.

Progressive educational environments, by contrast, view ‘ guided play’ as an integral part of ‘work’ based on decades of research showing that the action of learning through play, interaction, collaboration and problem solving has been documented to maximize intellectual and cognitive growth.
In fact, children who engage in quality play experiences are more likely to have well-developed memory skills and language development, and are able to regulate their behavior, leading to enhanced school adjustment and academic learning.

In recent years research has also proven that guided play has a critical role in the development of critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence that increase the capacity for decision making. Play-based learning allows children to figure things out on their own, to solve problems, to face challenges, to understand their feelings and to gain the confidence to work through difficulties with their peers.

Educational curriculums based on a more contemporary and progressive US education model, which has been championed by both New York-based Bank Street School of Education and Clarion School Dubai, enables us to direct learning to allow young students to gain the maximum benefits out of education. Therefore, as adults and teachers understanding the benefits of guided play and the impact of play on learning

To do that effectively, we need to develop a personalized teaching approach, helping each child gain educational knowledge and skills through and develop their learning from each experience, guided by a rigorous educational curriculum.

As educators, we have a responsibility to understand and apply this process in the classroom to provide children with meaningful experiences through play, encouraging them to express their creativity to master the reality around them. It is encouraging that some schools in Dubai, such as Clarion school, have started applying this methodology.

Ultimately, I believe it’s an approach that would serve us well, as parents as well, in our interactions with our children. After all, we are all educators, each in our own way, aren’t we?

Kimberly Taylor, Educator Bank Street College of Education

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Critical Thinking Skills Essential to 21st Century Success

Today, critical thinking is considered as one of the most important skills for career success and an essential component of life in the information age.

Academia, business and policy makers all concur on its importance. The USA-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) organization and the American Management Association list it as a key 21st century skill “expected to become even more important in the future.”

In the context of the UAE and the national agenda, it gains even more importance as ensuring students are equipped with critical thinking skills is primordial to achieving a competitive knowledge based economy.

Critical thinking has been identified as a key skill to foster innovation. Research shows that critical thinking and creativity are correlated. Critical thinking training is becoming common practice in the workplace to help develop employees’ innovation skills.

It is a required building block for a STEM education. Subjects in the STEM curriculum teach students how to think critically and how to solve problems — skills that can be used throughout life to help them get through tough times and take advantage of opportunities whenever they appear.

On both accounts, critical thinking is key to the fulfillment of the UAE’s aspiration outlined in the Vision 2021 that “science, technology and innovation become the real drivers for sustainable socio-economic development” and tangible goals outlined in the recently launched Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy. In fact, it permeates many of the strategic sectors and focus areas outlined in the policy.

In this context, critical thinking becomes more than a skill; it’s a mindset, often requiring a culture shift. For us educators, we recognize that is easier to create a culture rather than shift it. Therefore, we believe that nurturing critical thinking from a young age at school is essential for it to become a constructive, life-long habit.

One educational system that has adopted critical thinking as an essential part of its curriculum and teaching method is progressive education.

It is a system that relies on active learning methods for children, starting from a very young age. It provides a framework for the learning and teaching methods that can encourage critical and independent thinking in children and facilitates the process of learning in students. Leading educators agree that a curriculum aimed at building thinking skills would benefit not only the individual learner but also the community, and society at large.

Against this new paradigm, the role of education, teachers and students inevitably must change. Today the role of the teacher in a progressive environment is very much different to that in a traditional classroom. Teachers need to move from primarily being the information keeper and information dispenser to being an enabler of learning where knowledge is co-constructed with the student.

Teachers will become facilitators, guides, mentors, sources and resources that support children in acquiring independent thinking and ‘learning for life’, stemming from the unique blend of traditional and experiential learning that progressive education offers.

At Clarion, the only school to date offering progressive education in the UAE, our teachers have the benefit of experience with and education from the world’s leader in progressive education, the NY-based Bank Street. In recognition of the increasing importance of progressive education, Bank Street has been tasked by the US Department of Education to guide the development of the curricula of schools around the United States to equip the students with the optimal education to prepare them for STEM-based and other priority 21st century careers.

Empowered with the right education and values, children who grow up in the UAE have an opportunity to become truly global citizens and role models to children all over the world.

As educators, it is our responsibility to ignite in them a natural curiosity for the world around them, the confidence to develop their independence of thinking and harness their joy for learning. It’s a gift they will carry with them throughout their entire lives and one that will serve them well as they grow into the leaders, innovators, scientists and shapers of tomorrow.

About Dr. Williams

Dr. Kandace Williams has a rich history of experience in education both nationally and internationally. She earned her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in the College of Education.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, her middle school won national recognition for academic achievement and social inclusiveness. She has been a principal of the Kennedy School, a bilingual, bicultural school in Berlin, Germany. In Saudi Arabia, she was part of a small team that started a school on the campus of the first co-gender graduate university in the Kingdom, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. She then served as the founding principal for students from 75 countries. In the second year of operation, the school was named as an International Baccalaureate World school.

Dr. Williams’ most recent assignment was the Chief Instructional Services Officer for the Reading School District where she was passionate about the challenge of supporting 19 schools. She is the proud mother of four grown children who have all graduated from university.

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Learn how our Master Educators create Transformational Learning.

 Academia, business and policy makers all concur on its importance. The USA-based Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) organization and the American Management Association list it as a key 21st century skill “expected to become even more important in the future.”

 

In the context of the UAE and the national agenda, it gains even more importance as ensuring students are equipped with critical thinking skills is primordial to achieving a competitive knowledge based economy.

 

Critical thinking has been identified as a key skill to foster innovation. Research shows that critical thinking and creativity are correlated. Critical thinking training is becoming common practice in the workplace to help develop employees’ innovation skills.

 

It is a required building block for a STEM education. Subjects in the STEM curriculum teach students how to think critically and how to solve problems — skills that can be used throughout life to help them get through tough times and take advantage of opportunities whenever they appear.

 

On both accounts, critical thinking is key to the fulfillment of the UAE’s aspiration outlined in the Vision 2021 that “science, technology and innovation become the real drivers for sustainable socio-economic development” and tangible goals outlined in the recently launched Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy. In fact, it permeates many of the strategic sectors and focus areas outlined in the policy.

 

In this context, critical thinking becomes more than a skill; it’s a mindset, often requiring a culture shift. For us educators, we recognize that is easier to create a culture rather than shift it. Therefore, we believe that nurturing critical thinking from a young age at school is essential for it to become a constructive, life-long habit.

 

One educational system that has adopted critical thinking as an essential part of its curriculum and teaching method is progressive education.

 

It is a system that relies on active learning methods for children, starting from a very young age. It provides a framework for the learning and teaching methods that can encourage critical and independent thinking in children and facilitates the process of learning in students. Leading educators agree that a curriculum aimed at building thinking skills would benefit not only the individual learner but also the community, and society at large.

 

Against this new paradigm, the role of education, teachers and students inevitably must change. Today the role of the teacher in a progressive environment is very much different to that in a traditional classroom. Teachers need to move from primarily being the information keeper and information dispenser to being an enabler of learning where knowledge is co-constructed with the student.

 

Teachers will become facilitators, guides, mentors, sources and resources that support children in acquiring independent thinking and ‘learning for life’, stemming from the unique blend of traditional and experiential learning that progressive education offers.

 

At Clarion, the only school to date offering progressive education in the UAE, our teachers have the benefit of experience with and education from the world’s leader in progressive education, the NY-based Bank Street. In recognition of the increasing importance of progressive education, Bank Street has been tasked by the US Department of Education to guide the development of the curricula of schools around the United States to equip the students with the optimal education to prepare them for STEM-based and other priority 21st century careers.

 

Empowered with the right education and values, children who grow up in the UAE have an opportunity to become truly global citizens and role models to children all over the world.

 

As educators, it is our responsibility to ignite in them a natural curiosity for the world around them, the confidence to develop their independence of thinking and harness their joy for learning. It’s a gift they will carry with them throughout their entire lives and one that will serve them well as they grow into the leaders, innovators, scientists and shapers of tomorrow.

 

About Dr. Williams

 

Dr. Kandace Williams has a rich history of experience in education both nationally and internationally. She earned her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in the College of Education.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, her middle school won national recognition for academic achievement and social inclusiveness. She has been a principal of the Kennedy School, a bilingual, bicultural school in Berlin, Germany. In Saudi Arabia, she was part of a small team that started a school on the campus of the first co-gender graduate university in the Kingdom, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. She then served as the founding principal for students from 75 countries. In the second year of operation, the school was named as an International Baccalaureate World school.

Dr. Williams’ most recent assignment was the Chief Instructional Services Officer for the Reading School District where she was passionate about the challenge of supporting 19 schools. She is the proud mother of four grown children who have all graduated from university.

Better Homes School Guide

Dr. Kandace Williams, Clarion School Superintendent is a highly respected educator with a rich tapestry of experience in the US and internationally in Europe and the Middle East.

In her first leadership position, as principal of a Charlotte, North Carolina (US) middle school, her school won national recognition for academic achievement and social inclusiveness. Later, as principal of the Kennedy School in Berlin, Germany she lead the bilingual, bicultural K-12 International Baccalaureate school to full enrolment and academic successes. In Saudi Arabia, she lead the founding team in opening first co-gender school on the campus of the first co-gender graduate university in SA, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. She then served as the founding principal there for 700 students from 75 countries. In the second year of operation, the school was accredited as an International Baccalaureate World school.

Dr. Williams’ most recent position was the Chief Instructional Services Officer for the Reading School District, in the US, where she was passionate about the challenge of supporting the 19 schools comprising her organization. She is the proud mother of four grown children who have all graduated from university.

She earned her Doctorate of Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she taught both undergraduate and graduate courses in the College of Education.

1. What sets your educational institution apart from others in the city?

The Clarion School is set apart by its unique approach to teaching and learning – the progressive education model. In a rigorous academic environment each child is known and respected as his individual talents emerge.

A progressive education model relies on the observation of the child during the lessons to guide him or her to explore a concept, find real examples, analyze, and draw their own conclusions under guided inquiry by trained teachers. This method has been proven to embed knowledge through experience, rather than purely through rote memorization.

The progressive approach to teaching and learning allows for a highly dynamic responsible approach to teaching, with cultural and linguistic responsiveness, and an emergent element that allows teachers to finely articulate the curriculum throughout the year, matching in response to the prior learning and background of our students, while reflecting their interests, needs and strengths.

Setting our school apart is the requirement that all classroom teachers hold a Masters Degree in education in addition to a four-year university degree. This standard matches the US standard for teachers. To ensure the delivery of the curriculum to the rigorous progressive standard, educator hiring will take place in the US and will be extremely selective.

2. Which grade does it go up until?

When all grades are added, Clarion will go from Pre-K to Grade 12. We will maintain a community school by opening the school with only Pre-K to Grade 2. Each year group will be limited to 4 year group sections. The community of parents joining the school in September will be the founding families of the school. We are purposefully limiting the opening enrollment in order to form a strong community of family whose values and ethos match those of the school and progressive education.

3. Why should a parent enroll their child at your school?

Our values rest on two pillars through which we will deliver a new gold standard in education in the UAE:

  • Quality of our pedagogical approach. We nurture intellectual curiosity, reflection and higher order thinking through experiential and meaningful learning and innovative applications of understanding and skills.
  • Quality of our educators: All our class teachers are professional educators with Masters Degree in Education so as to be able to deliver on our approach that is nuanced and reflective to meet the needs of every child.
    These pillars are a foundational base, which opens minds and doors to a better choice for higher education, rewarding careers and above all personal fulfillment.
4. Apart from academics, what else does the school focus heavily on?

We have a rich athletic program allowing children to explore a range of sports and focus on those of particular interest to them.

We also have a comprehensive extra-curricular program through which our children have more opportunities to interact with the community and engage with the rich culture of the UAE and develop their civic engagement.

5. Facilities – the main ones

Clarion’s campus is quite unique and aligned to the ethos of our progressive curriculum. It has been designed to enable learning to take place throughout the campus and is particularly reflected in our outdoor learning spaces. For example, we have an area that we call the ‘Street’, including a woodshop and learning ramp, an outdoor area where children tap into their creativity and curiosity.

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The Challenge of Delivering Quality Education

The need for a quality education has never been more critical than it is today. With a goal of building a knowledge-based economy in the UAE, there will be a need for greater participation by women in the workforce with more job opportunities open to women.

Achieving this goal starts with a high-quality education for girls. The parameters of what constitutes a good education are shifting. Today, pure academic knowledge is no longer sufficient. Critical thinking skills and experience-based learning are imperative for establishing the building blocks for successful careers for women.

Helping girls acquire the tools, knowledge and above all the confidence to push through glass ceilings, which block them from pursuing leadership roles is more important than ever. Our responsibility as educators is to ensure that girls receive an education that enables them to take their place in society at levels equal to their male peers.

This September I am proud to open a new progressive education school in Dubai, the Clarion School. This progressive education model is focused on educating students to be prepared for the future by acquiring those critical thinking skills and a deep base of knowledge. Ultimately, we gauge our success not by what we are teaching our children, but by what our children are learning.

Comments from Aparna Verma, CEO Clarion School

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Progressive American Education: From the Heart of New York City to the Heart of Dubai

The Bank Street College of Education model comes to Dubai at the Clarion School
Why Choose Progressive American Education?

Of all the wonderful schools and curriculums I have seen since my recent arrival in Dubai, I must say I am impressed. Parents have a plethora of choice as to both which school to attend and which curriculum to pick. Many parents will select a curriculum based on their home country but I have spoken to many expat parents who are looking for something better than the type of schools they attended back in their day at home. For this reason I am thrilled to be part of the team bringing Progressive American Education to Dubai.

What is Progressive education?

By definition progressive education has a strong emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking, collaborative, cooperative work among students, inter-related, inter-disciplinary curriculum study units, opportunities for hands on learning and a learning in your community, social responsibility values. How does that work in the classroom? We are very fortunate at my school, Clarion School, to be affiliated with the Bank Street College of Education, where the process of teaching to children’s developmental stages was explored and studied to become the genesis of progressive education. Bank Street is the core of our curriculum at Clarion School and is localized for Dubai to allow our children an opportunity to a learn-in-place environment.

I see the current trend to “push down curriculum” into the Kindergarten years as troubling. Our school will open Pre-K to Grade 2 in September with upper grades to follow each year. I am mentioning this because skipping development stages for learning in the kinder years is detrimental to growth in social, emotional and thinking skills. These are crucial skills, which need to commence in those young years. They are the basis for both curiosity about learning and life and social behaviour needed in the future. Those are the attributes that make children happy to come to school instead of arriving reluctantly each day with a sad frown. Reading and numeracy skills in young children are teacher accomplishments but not necessarily student accomplishments. Developing thinking skills by these young students are true accomplishments that can be built upon as they grow and go forward at school.

Because progressive education is founded on the knowledge of child development stages we have the liberty and I think gift of allowing children to be children, in an environment where children are curious to learn. Progressive educators are deeply committed to providing children with opportunities to learn by doing, observing, and experimenting. At a progressive school, classrooms are filled with intentionality. This means the classroom is filled with intentional tools to evoke wonder and assist the child to explore – be that an ipad to research or practice, a book on topics related to subjects being studied, tools to interpret and re-imagine and extend the lesson, items to provoke questions or support knowledge as it is gained. This is a rich environment for emergent learning as the curriculum lesson takes place, allow for wonder in classrooms, guided by teachers trained to progressive education teaching methods. Progressive educators are deeply committed to providing children with opportunities to learn by doing, observing, and experimenting.

We hope to imbue students with an experimental, critical, ardent approach to their work. If we can do this, we are ready to leave the future to them.

Lucy Sprague Mitchell

Bank Street College of Education

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