By JASMINE L. HENDERSON ’15
Naomi Black ’63, director of the Yellow School in Houston, Texas, returned to Arcadia on Oct. 10 as part of the School of Education’s Alumni Speaker Series. Her talk, What Is Buried In The Sandbox?, aimed to show students “that as the world has changed, children have changed and that has given us new challenges.”
Part of what motivated her talk was the flaws Black has noticed in the education system, which present difficulties for educators and pupils. By attempting to help all children, “we tend to fit them into the system rather than the other way around,” Black said. Moreover, Black believes public schools lack an appreciation for the role of play in the education of young children.
“We’re putting them in situations where someone is always telling them what to do, how to do it, and when to do it,” said Black. In the process, the development of self-regulation, language, and cooperative skills are hampered, as well as children’s ability to create.
In an effort to avoid the unwanted consequences of such processes, Black creates lesson plans with more active components than passive ones at the Yellow School, a private early childhood program. For instance, rather than asking children to complete worksheets about stories they have read in class, they are given the opportunity to act the stories out.
“We may just let them come up with their own words or suggest alternative endings.” Black said. “It changes their perspective a little bit.”
Black emphasized the need for a balanced approach that meets the needs of young children. In addition to providing opportunities for children to be creative, she considers the need for physical activity and free time, in which the children can put into practice the information they are learning, important ways to deepen their understanding of the subject matter.
Dr. Leif Gustavson, associate professor and interim dean of the School of Education, said Black “is a master teacher and school leader who values the intelligence and creativity of young children.” Students will benefit from Black—and other presenters in the Alumni Speaker Series—by providing a strong industry network while helping students “become the teachers and leaders they need and want to be.”
Photo by Christina Yee ’14