Pioneers of Early Childhood Education: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide

By Barbara Ruth Peltzman | Go to book overview

Caroline Pratt (1867-1954)
The opening of the Play School in 1913 in Greenwich Village made Pratt's dream of a school in which young children were free to be creative and learn through play a reality.Pratt believed that the teacher was an artist and teaching was a creative act and that the child was a seeking, expressive individual. This led to her conviction that a child's play was the foundation for learning while firsthand experiences were the basis for the curriculum. She held a life-long commitment to social reform and a. strong belief in educational experimentation. She developed the Pratt blocks which were large wooden blocks that could be fastened together with wooden pegs to ensure that whatever was built would not fall apart. These blocks were used with wooden dolls with moveable joints and wagons for floor play and construction. Pratt advocated postponement of formal learning until age seven with the understanding that the child was an artist who recreated reality in his/her own way. She encouraged educators to use a job-related curriculum in which each age group had real work that taught subject matter based on a need to know. In 1916 Lucy Sprague Mitchell became a teacher at the Play School and Pratt became a member of the executive board of the Bureau of Educational Experiments of which Mitchell was the director. The Play School became the laboratory school of the Bureau of Educational Experiment and research in nutrition, language, record keeping and health care was conducted. In 1919 the Play School was renamed the City and Country School and Lucy Sprague Mitchell wrote the Here and Now stories for the children. The collaboration ended in 1930 when Pratt resigned from the Bureau of Educational Experiments and Mitchell moved her program to 69 Bank Street, also in Greenwich Village. Pratt shared her ideas through several books including I Learn from Children.Pratt's unique ideas remain relevant and continue to influence early childhood education.
PRIMARY SOURCES
385. and Jessie Stanton. Before Books. New York: Adelphi Company, 1926. Describes teaching practices that develop skills before book learning begins. The use of direct experience as the basis for learning across the curriculum is presented. Advocates play as the basis for early learning.
386. and Lula E. Wright. Experimental Practice in the City and Country School. New York: Dutton, 1942. Describes the teaching methods and use of materials at the City and Country School in New York City. The purpose of

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