Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting: Learning landscapes close the gap

Before children begin their first day of school, studies show that many from under-resourced schools are behind in critical skills. Now there is an exciting new global project working to help close this learning gap.

Academic research suggests that children from lower income families hear fewer words than their more-advantaged peers by the time they head to kindergarten. This can put these kids behind in the critical preschool skills of pre-literacy, spatial understanding and math.

Now, a cutting-edge project called learning landscapes aims to close this gap by transforming urban spaces into playful learning opportunities. 

Imagine a safe area to play and learn that was once empty, urban space. Enter playful learning landscapes, a global project revolutionizing public spaces by turning them into playful learning hubs. 

“What if I made a wall behind a bench and that wall had puzzles on it? Could we put cognitive learning science into the architecture?” said Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University.  

Martin Luther King Jr. once gave a speech for the Freedom Now rally in 1965 on this once empty lot. Now, it's an experiential play zone shown by researchers to stimulate learning. 

“We know that young kids who have good executive function skills - attention, memory, flexibility, impulse control - they do better in school,” said Hirsh-Pasek. 

Some of these play spaces involve kinesthetic learning, meaning the kids and movement become part of the learning landscape. This game called Parkopolis movement became part of the learning landscape. It is a whole-body experience. Even the dice are changed to show fractions instead of whole numbers. That encourages children and their parents to talk about numbers, a key element in early math success.

“It’s the idea that when you have your whole body involved in this learning experience, that you’re more likely to retain what you’re learning,” said post-doctoral research fellow Andres Bustamante. 

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