2018 Longfellow Lecture

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Children Without Hope: The Therapeutic Value of Play

Dr. Fraser Brown

Thursday, April 12, 2018
Registration will be available in February

Dr. Fraser BrownThis presentation summarises the findings from a small scale observational study of the impact of a therapeutic playwork project on a group of children in a Romanian paediatric hospital. The children were abandoned at birth, and subsequently spent most of their time tied in a cot, with little positive input into their lives.

Although a playworker started working with the children, nothing else changed for them. They still spent the rest of their day tied in the same cots, having little interaction with anyone else. They were not bathed, their nappies were left unchanged for long periods, and they were not fed properly.

During the first year of the project we used a combination of research methods to identify developmental changes in the children: i.e. diaries, systematic & participant observation, and our own play development assessment tool.

In some cases, the changes were dramatic, providing strong evidence of the power of play as a therapeutic and developmental agent. The evidence shows a speed of ‘recovery’ that was quite unexpected, and casts doubt on the ‘ages and stages’ view of play development, as seen in the work of Piaget, Parten, Sheridan, etc.

The presentation will be supported by ‘before and after’ video footage (which some people may find disturbing).

Dr. Fraser Brown is the first Professor of Playwork in the UK. He is the programme leader for the BA (Hons) Playwork degree at Leeds Beckett University, and the specialist link tutor for the postgraduate play therapy courses run by the Academy of Play and Child Psychotherapy. He has presented at conferences across the UK and around the world, and has produced several key texts in the field of play and playwork. He is the Chair and Co-Founder of the Aid for Romanian Children charitable trust, and a member of the Executive Board of the Association for the Study of Play (TASP).

He is well-known for his research into the therapeutic effects of playwork on a group of abandoned children in a Romanian paediatric hospital. His wide-ranging research interests include the impact of deprivation on children’s play behaviour, the assessment of play value in children’s play spaces, and the role of play in the Montessori system of education.

After studying Politics at the University of Leeds, he spent three years as a playworker on an adventure playground in Runcorn. He then managed a range of projects for the North West Play Association. For two years he was District Leisure Officer in Middlesbrough and subsequently held posts with the National Playing Fields Association and Playboard. Before joining Leeds Beckett University, he was Director of the playwork training agency Children First for ten years.

His publications include Aspects of Playwork (2017); Play and Playwork: 101 Stories of Children Playing (2014); Rethinking Children’s Play (2013); Foundations of Playwork (2008); The Venture: a Case Study of an Adventure Playground (2007); Children Without Play (2005); Playwork: Theory and Practice (2003); School Playgrounds (1990); and Working Together: a Playwork Training Pack (1989). He was also a contributor to Medical Play Therapy and Child Life (2017); Handbook of the Study of Play (2015); Complex Trauma and Its Effects (2012); Perspectives on Play (2009); and Childhood: Services and Provision for Children (2007).

Previous Longfellow Lectures

2017: Alison Gopnik, PhD

The Gardener and the Carpenter: What Science Tells Us About Caring for Children

In the past thirty years, the concept of parenting and the multibillion dollar industry surrounding it have transformed child care into obsessive, controlling, and goal-oriented labor intended to create a particular kind of child and therefore a particular kind of adult. It is not just based on bad science, it's bad for kids and parents, too. Through the study of human evolution and her own scientific research into how children learn, Alison Gopnik will show that children are designed to be messy and unpredictable, playful and imaginative, and to be very different both from their parents and from each other. The variability and flexibility of childhood lets them innovate, create, and survive in an unpredictable world. “Parenting" won't make children learn—but caring parents let children learn by creating a secure, loving environment.

Alison Gopnik is a professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley. She received her BA from McGill University and her PhD from Oxford University. She is a world leader in cognitive science, particularly the study of children’s learning and development. She is the author of over 100 journal articles and several books, including The Philosophical Baby; What children’s minds tell us about love, truth and the meaning of life (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2009) and The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the new science of child development tells us about the relationship between parents and children (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2016). She has written widely about cognitive science and psychology for The Wall Street Journal, Science, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Scientific American, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, New Scientist, and Slate, among others. She has frequently appeared on TV and radio, including The Charlie Rose Show and The Colbert Report. She has three sons and three grand-children and lives in Berkeley, California with her husband Alvy Ray Smith.

2016: Vicki Abeles, J.D.

Beyond Measure: Rescuing An Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation

Vicki Abeles, J.D., is an ex-Wall Street lawyer turned filmmaker, author, and education advocate. Her first feature documentary, Race to Nowhere, was a vivid portrayal of the pressure-cooker culture dominating America’s schools. Her second film, Beyond Measure, highlights the groundbreaking leaders transforming schools for the better. She is the founder of a non-profit, grassroots organization that guides communities as they redefine student success and promote the health, learning, and wellness of the whole child. She lives in the San Francisco area with her family.

Vicki Abeles is the author of Beyond Measure, a 2015 book based on the extensive research done for the film of the same name.

2015: Pedro Noguera, PhD

Education & Civil Rights in the 21st Century

Dr. Pedro Noguera is the Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University. Dr. Noguera is a sociologist whose scholarship and research focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions and the factors that obstruct and promote student achievement. He holds tenured faculty appointments in the departments of Teaching and Learning and Humanities and Social Sciences at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Development at NYU. Dr. Noguera is also the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. In 2008, he was appointed by the Governor of New York to serve on the State University of New York Board of Trustees and in 2014 he was elected to the National Academy of Education.

Dr. Noguera has published numerous research articles, monographs and research reports on topics such as urban school reform, conditions that promote student achievement, youth violence, the role of education in community development in national and international contexts, and race and ethnic relations in American society. He is the author of several books, including: The Imperatives of Power: Political Change and the Social Basis of Regime Support in Grenada, City Schools and the American Dream, Unfinished Business: Closing the Achievement Gap in Our Nation's Schools, The Trouble with Black Boys...and Other Reflections on Race, Equity and the Future of Public Education, Creating the Opportunity to Learn with Dr. A. Wade Boykin, Invisible No More: Understanding and Responding to the Disenfranchisement of Latino Males with Aida Hurtado and Edward Fergus, and Schooling for Resilience with Edward Fergus and Margary Martin. Dr. Noguera appears as a regular commentator on educational issues and other topics on CNN, MSNBC, National Public Radio, and other national news outlets. Dr. Noguera has also been the recipient of multiple awards and honors.

2014: Lilian G. Katz, PhD

Building A Good Foundation

Nearly 300 students, faculty, staff, educators, parents, and members of the community filled Reisinger auditorium on April 9th to hear Dr. Lilian Katz, world-renowned Early Childhood educator, scholar and pioneer, give the Child Development Institute’s 2014 Longfellow Lecture, “Building a Good Foundation.”

Given what is known about the early years being a critical time for development and growth, how do we ensure that all children have a strong foundation? Dr. Katz encouraged parents, caregivers, and educators to learn, know, and understand as much as they can about the child, what is developmentally appropriate for the child and the environment and factors influencing the child.

"Children always learn," Dr. Katz said, "not necessarily what we want them to learn and some more quickly than others, some things more easily than others, but they are always learning.” As key figures in children’s development, Dr. Katz asked educators and caregivers to continually reflect on "what should children be learning in the early years, when should it be learned, how is it best learned?” Research tells us children learn best when their intellectual, social, emotional, and physical needs are met and they have diverse, hands-on experiences that promote critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving.

Dr. Katz emphasized the importance of children making sense of their own experiences and others. Children need to not only acquire verbal, physical, and social skills, but also the disposition to use them.  Building self-confidence and competence in children is another essential learning goal. Dr. Katz used examples of content-rich projects in early childhood classrooms to demonstrate how these projects of interest cultivate children’s confidence and competence and foster children’s intellectual and social development.

In a time when children in many early childhood classrooms are being asked to perform functions that are not aligned with their developmental capabilities and the emphasis is on their abilities in the short run, Dr. Katz reminded the audience "what children should learn and should do must be decided on the basis of what best serves their development in the long run".

Students, educators and child development professionals alike left with a renewed sense of energy and validation for their work with young children. Hillary Henne (SLC ’14, Art of Teaching, ’15), shared, she is a rock star in the world of education, insightful, humorous, and very generous with sharing her vast experiences in and outside of the classroom and a model for us all." An early childhood educator shared that Dr. Katz’s lecture was an “hour and a half of pure inspiration that will last a lifetime in our classrooms”.

Lilian G. Katz is Professor Emerita of Early Childhood Education at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) where she serves on the staff the of Clearinghouse on Early Education and Parenting. Dr. Katz is a past President of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the first President of the Illinois Association for the Education of Young Children. She is Editor of the first on-line peer reviewed trilingual early childhood journal, Early Childhood Research & Practice (English, Spanish & Chinese). Dr. Katz received her PhD at Stanford University in 1968 after being a nursery school teacher.

Dr. Katz has lectured in all US states and 55 other countries and has held visiting posts in Australia, Canada, England, Germany, India, Israel, the West Indies and many parts of the USA. She is the recipient of many honors, including two Fulbright Awards (India and New Zealand), an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Whittier College and an honorary PhD from the University of Goteborg, Sweden.

2013: Joseph Featherstone

Looking Out for Josie: Witnessing the Hopes and Problems of Progressive Education

Joseph Featherstone is a poet, writer, and educator. Education Week once cited him as one of the 100 most influential educators of the twentieth century. Featherstone has taught at Harvard and Brown universities. For many years, he wrote on literature, politics, and education as an editor of the New Republic. In 1968, he was a speech writer for the anti-war presidential candidate, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and has been active in progressive political and school reform movements since the 1960's. He served as the Principal of the Commonwealth School in Boston. For over a decade, he was the faculty leader at Michigan State University (MSU) of one team in a school-based teacher education program ranked number one in the nation by US News and World Report. Featherstone had special responsibility for creating the introductory course on child study, progressive teaching practice, and children’s literature to prospective teachers. For the last few years he has been part of a group launching a K-8 charter school with an arts orientation that has just finished its third year in Gloucester, MA.

He is the author of many books and articles on education, including Dear Josie: Witnessing the Hopes and Failures of Democratic Education, which had the honor of being chosen for translation as a distinguished contribution to education by the East China Normal University Press. He is one of several co-authors of Transforming Teacher Education, Reflections from the Field, a first-hand account of the ambitious reforms at MSU in teacher education;A poetry collection, Brace’s Cove was published by New Issues Poetry, 2000. A sampling of recent poetry is in Salt and Light, a 2010 Gloucester anthology edited by John Ronan. His many poems and literary and political writings have appeared in such varied publications as the Harvard Review, Ploughshares, The New Republic, Green Mountains Review, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Many Mountain Moving.

2012 & Prior

  • 2012: Early Childhood Development in the US: Looking Back and Moving Forward
    Joan Lombardi, PhD
  • 2011: Rethinking Common Assumptions about Children (and Parenting)
    Alfie Kohn
  • 2010: The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's
    Temple Grandin, PhD
  • 2009: Nature Deficit Disorder: The Movement to Connect Our Children, Ourselves, and Future Generations to the Natural World
    Richard Louv
  • 2008: The Impact of Abuse and Neglect on the Developing Child: Relationships, Resilience, and Vulnerability
    Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD
  • 2007: Cultural Aspects of Learning: Observation, Collaboration, and Multimodal Conversation
    Barbara Rogoff, PhD
  • 2006: Teaching as Political Work: Courageous and Caring Teachers
    Sonia Nieto, PhD
  • 2005: America's Move to Universal Preschool Education
    Edward Zigler, PhD
  • 2004: Violence and Education: The Twin Crises Facing America’s Children
    Geoffrey Canada, MEd
  • 2002: In Schools We Trust: What Kind of Schooling Nourishes Democracy?
    Deborah W. Meier, MA
  • 2001: Children on the Cultural Front Line
    Roger A. Hart, PhD
  • 2001: Eager To Learn: Educating our Youngest Children
    Barbara T. Bowman, MA, DHL
  • 1999: Standards and Assessment vs. The Magic of Childhood
    Herbert Kohl, MA
  • 1998: World View and Education Change in School
    Asa G. Hilliard, III, EdD
  • 1997: Leveling with Children in a Complex World: A View from a Feminist Scholar
    Peggy McIntosh, PhD
  • 1996: The Science and Politics of Child Poverty
    J. Lawrence Aber, PhD
  • 1995: Community and Kinship in the Classroom
    Vivian Paley, MA
  • 1994: The Strains on American Families
    Benjamin Spock, MD
  • 1992: The Unschooled Mind
    Howard Gardner, PhD
  • 1991: Educating for Humanity
    Kenneth B. Clark, PhD
  • 1990: Child Abuse and Truth Telling
    Albert J. Solnit, MD
  • 1989: The Changing Faces of Fatherhood
    Ross Parke, PhD
  • 1988: "Food & Vitamins": Providing Language Environments for Children
    Courtney Cazden, PhD
  • 1987: Fifty Years of Seeing Children Around the World
    Lois B. Murphy, PhD