Twenty-seven St. Paul Public elementary schools are blurring the lines between school work and play with a homegrown curriculum called “Discovering Our World.” Kids get around 90 minutes each day to play — or “actively learn” — at any of several stations stocked with blocks, modeling clay and art, or pretend cooking supplies.
Stephanie Carlson, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, thinks St. Paul has the right idea.
“Children do need to have some basic neurocognitive skills and social skills in place before they can benefit from formal instruction,” she said.
Carlson said preschool and kindergarten classrooms are where students should be developing the executive function skills they need to learn — working memory, flexible thinking and self-control.
“Play is just a natural vehicle for kids to practice those skills.”