How One Group Held a ‘Play-In’ to Promote Appropriate Early Childhood Education

By Michelle Gunderson | Published by The Network for Public Education

Michelle Gunderson, Early Childhood Committee Chairperson of the Chicago Teachers Union explains how a group of parents, children, and educators held a ‘Play-In’ in the front hallway of the Board of Education of the Chicago Public Schools as a way of promoting appropriate curricula in the early grades. You can also read Michelle’s letter to Arne Duncan regarding the Play-In.

On April 17th parents, children, and educators gathered in the front hallway of the Board of Education of the Chicago Public Schools for a Play-In. Participants brought blankets to create play centers on the floor with legos, play dough, art projects, puzzles, games, music – and much laughter and a sense of joy. This painted the picture for our community of what an early childhood classroom should look like.

Our youngest children’s classrooms in Chicago have become increasingly focused on testing and developmentally inappropriate academic practice. Children need play. It is how they learn. It is how they thrive.

Our Play-In had a strong message – less tests, more play.

When taking action on any issue we need to analyze whether the action unites us, makes us stronger, and gives us power. We also need to design actions on a continuum so that people can find a comfort level in which they can enter a movement. Not everyone is willing to protest in the streets or get arrested the first time they enter a cause. Our Play-In helped build unity in which approximately 100 people participated, and was an action that everyone was comfortable entering. It is hard to make an informed argument against play. Our cause was just.

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