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Brookline Kindergarten Teachers Fight For More Play-Based Learning

BROOKLINE (CBS) - School is back in session, yet a summer debate over the way kindergarten should be taught continues in Brookline. During a school committee meeting this past June, teachers voiced their concern about the amount of play-based learning they can offer students.

At the time teachers told former Brookline Superintendent Andrew Bott, many of their students have been struggling with anxiety over reading expectations. Teachers believe students need time to play and they say some days that has been eliminated entirely.

Many parents, like Angela Schmider believe schools need to address the needs of children beyond academic achievements.

"Having time to exercise and have emotional play and dress up play, creative play is important for socialization," Schmider said.

Brookline teachers
Brookline teachers at School Committee meeting (Image credit Ben Kelley)

Interim Superintendent Ben Lummis says there has been a focus on boosting the writing and reading curriculum in recent years, but the district is not against play-based learning.

In a statement, Lummis wrote:

In Brookline we want all of our kindergarten classes to be filled with the joy of learning and inspire children's curiosity and creativity. We aim to provide a balanced curriculum that includes play-based learning, intentional reading and writing instruction, and integrated units that include a variety of subject areas.

In June, kindergarten teachers raised important questions about the balance between play-based learning and developing foundational literacy skills in kindergarten. Since then, my predecessor and I have both met with groups of kindergarten teachers to listen and learn from them. This year we have four full days planned so kindergarten teachers can work with each other, with curriculum leaders, and me to understand their concerns and work together to address them. We have also made sure that all kindergarten classes have at least 60 minutes of play or choice time.

While the concerns are ongoing, I feel we have a path forward where we will work on them together. My goal is to work with our hardworking kindergarten teachers so they can make sure all of our students have a joyful kindergarten year filled with learning.

Early education expert Dr. Lisa Fiore of Lesley University says too much, too soon can potentially be harmful.

"When teachers dictate too much what children are doing then children just learn to be more passive and after a while it deadens their school experience," Dr. Fiore said.

And that has Schmider hoping for a solution sooner rather than later. "I put my support behind all the teachers and the community all the stakeholders involved because it has to be resolved," he said.

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