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Chapter 2 – Historical Contexts
In this chapter, students will:
- Describe European and Early American influences on early care and education.
- List more recent Americans who have made significant contributions to the field.
- Discuss the historical events that have influenced directions in early education.
- Many historical figures have influenced early education.
John Amos Comenius
Jean Jacques Rousseau
Jean Piaget American influences:
Patty Smith Hill
Lucy Sprague Mitchell
Abigail Eliot Recent American contributors:
David P. Weikart
Joe L. Frost
- A number of historical events also have influenced early education.
Child Study Movement
The Great Depression
World War II
The Launching of Sputnik
The War on Poverty
Federal mandates (No Child Left Behind Act)
Each chapter in the text provides suggestions and links to specific video links that support the chapter’s essential content. Videos (available on Pearson’s eText which students will need to register for) along with digital “Check for
Understanding” self assessments are provided throughout each of the chapters.
Reflection and discussion questions are found at the end of each chapter. In addition, you might find the following teaching and assessment strategies helpful to support this chapter’s essential content:
3. Discussion starters
- In general, how have theorists influenced the field of early care and education?
Compare the theorists’ contributions with those of early practitioners.
- Rousseau believed in ‘negative education’- the absence of formal instruction until age twelve. Can you identify both strengths and limitations of this concept?
- Pestalozzi emphasized the importance of teacher-student relationships. Do you agree they are important? What do you see as the benefits of strong relationships with students? Can you identify any disadvantages or weaknesses?
- Froebel was the first to use circle time as an educational tool in teaching young children. Why is this grouping of children so effective as a management and teaching tool?
- Dewey felt that true education only occurs in social situations. Do you agree or disagree? Can you give some specific examples that either support or refute this concept?
- How is Louise Derman-Sparks’ Anti-Bias Curriculum: Tools for Empowering Young Children (1989), and its successor Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves (2010), influencing education in early settings today?
- What are the basic principles of the NCLB Act? Are these beneficial or detrimental for children? For teachers? For society? List pros and cons.
4. Small-group tasks
Martin Luther championed the idea of fostering all aspects of the child’s development. This concept is considered very important in early childhood classrooms today. In small groups, choose an age (birth-age 8), discuss and then list examples of adult interactions, materials, or activities that you have seen or read about that are designed to stimulate these different aspects of child development (intellectual, social, emotional, language, physical).
Comenius was one of the first to suggest that the first years of life are crucial to overall
human development. In small groups, you will be assigned an age range to focus on (infant/toddler, preschool, kindergarten, or primary). For the level assigned, assume you are being asked to present a rationale to parents for the importance of these years to overall development. Generate a list of examples that could be shared. Once these lists are generated, share your thoughts with another small group that was assigned a different age range.
Rousseau and Montessori both emphasized the importance of learning through sensory experiences. Spend some time individually thinking about a time from your past when a sensory experience led to quality learning. In small groups, share your memories. Discuss the importance of sensory learning for young children.
Froebel felt that singing was an important tool for learning in the early childhood classroom and in the home. Spend a few moments in a small group remembering songs or jingles from TV commercials that you remember from your childhood. Does this tell you anything about the power of singing as an instructional tool? How could you use singing as a learning strategy in the early care and learning environment?
5. For Discussion and Action
- Think back to your own early learning experiences. What do you remember? Can you make connections with the historical or more recent theorists discussed? Explain how your experiences might have been different without the cutting edge thinking of these theorists.
- Read a portion of a text by one of the historical figures mentioned in this chapter. What did you learn about this person from this task? Share your findings with others.
- Investigate one of the historical events discussed in this chapter in more detail. What did you learn? Do you feel this event had an impact on your early learning? Share your findings with others.
- In Head Start, compensatory education programs, and Project Follow Through, initial success in improving IQ scores “washed out” by 3rd Why do you think this was the case? Research P-3 Alignment online to learn more about reform strategies that address this concern.
- Using the historical perspective you have gained from this chapter, research early learning programs in your community. Discuss the influence that theorists and/or events may have had on the programs.
- Test bank
7. Additional assessment ideas
Project – Read some of Froebel’s original writing describing his kindergarten program. Compare and contrast his program with a kindergarten classroom in your area. Reflect on and write about the reasons for the differences you discovered.
Project – Read Hymes’ (1978) account of the Kaiser Shipyard Child Care program during World War II. Compare that description with a child care program in your area. If you are unfamiliar with current options, call or visit a program and discuss the Kaiser program with them. What are the similarities and differences?
Project – Assign each student in your class one of the historical figures discussed in the chapter. Students then create a “Fakebook” profile of the historical figure, researching significant facts that could be included if the figure indeed had a Facebook page. Assignments can be displayed and shared on poster boards.
Journal response – Pestalozzi felt that it was very important for teachers to recognize the potential in each child. While this is an admirable goal, it is often difficult to implement. Do you remember an adult who was able to recognize your potential during your childhood? What did this person do or say that indicated this recognition? If you can’t remember a specific person who recognized your potential, write about how you can begin this process of recognizing the potential in each of your future students.
Journal response – In Montessori’s day, children with special needs were often labeled as
‘defective’ or as ‘idiot’ children. Words like these create cruel images of the potential of children with special needs. While we don’t use these terms today, unthinking adults often cause children (with special needs and/or typically developing) stress through their words or actions. Describe a situation from your own schooling where a teacher used inappropriate language or actions in interacting with children and the impact it had. If you don’t remember a specific situation, write about language or actions that you plan to avoid in your work with children.
Journal response – Describe your learning in terms of historical perspective, including educational theorists and historical events. Have your thoughts about early care and education changed? How? Will these changes impact the choices you make as a professional?
Eliot, A. (1978). America’s first nursery schools. In J. Hymes (Ed.), Living history interviews. (Book 1). Carmel, CA: Hacienda Press.
Heinig, C. (1978). The emergency nursery schools and the wartime child care centers: 1933-46. In J. Hymes (Ed.), Living history interviews. (Book 3). Carmel, CA: Hacienda Press.
Osborn, K. (1978). The early days of Head Start. In J. Hymes (Ed.), Living history interviews. (Book 3). Carmel, CA: Hacienda Press.
Taylor, K. (1978). Parent cooperative nursery schools. In J. Hymes (Ed.), Living history interviews. (Book 1). Carmel, CA: Hacienda Press.