|Accolades continue for Tools of the Mind program|
Jan 31, 2011
Make-believe play has an important role in building a child's future, according to Deborah Leong, co-founder of the Tools of the Mind early childhood program. The program has reached more than 30,000 children nationally since it was established in 1993. Leong’s co-founder was Elena Bodrova, who is currently a senior researcher at McREL.
Tools is a research-based program that builds strong foundations for school success in preschool and kindergarten children by promoting their intentional and self-regulated learning, often referred to as executive function. The program has been and continues to be studied from multiple perspectives.
Educational researchers are analyzing whether it helps close the achievement gap for at-risk students. Neuroscientists are monitoring students’ stress levels from cortisone swabs of students’ cheeks, and economists are seeking to determine if executive function skills affect long-term earnings. See list of studies here.
According to Leong, the technology age has taken over a child's time, from videos to computer games. So much so that there's no time for the child to exercise a common childhood activity that so many of today’s older adults remember.
"I used to daydream. They don’t," says Leong. "Even in the car, children are occupied watching videos instead of using the unoccupied time to daydream and pretend.”
Not surprisingly, Tools has become an in-demand leader in its field.
Leong will attend an invitation-only workshop, called “Frontiers of Innovation,” at Harvard University on May 3-5. It is being held in an effort to engage an initial cadre of colleagues in the design and implementation of a new venture, the Early Childhood Innovation Partnership.
Her Nov. 30, 2010 invitation from Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, who also serves as director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, provides a glimpse of how Tools is viewed by practitioners. In the invitation, Shonkoff wrote, “Central to the success of this effort will be our ability to build a virtual community of creative thinkers and doers who will join us in a shared mission to create a new era in early childhood policy and practice…As a leader in the field, you are being invited because of your distinctive voice, experience, and creative thinking.”
Just last week, Leong was in Boston being taped for a video to run on the partnership’s website to help promote the event.
The recent recognitions speak to the quality of the Tools program, which will soon debut internationally in Chile, thanks to sponsorship from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Leong visited the country in 2010, and this March, NIH representatives will visit Jefferson County School District preschool classrooms to observe the program in action.
To support Tools’ teacher professional development component, the program began piloting an iPad application in classrooms in September 2010. "It worked well beyond our wildest dreams,” said Leong. “The coach can show the teacher a video of the children’s behavior on the iPad right after the activity for immediate feedback.” The College donated the iPads.
Return to Department of Psychology
Housed for five years at Metro State’s Extended Campus Programs, Tools is now back in the Department of Psychology. Leong is looking forward to having “closer ties with the faculty.”
Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology Bill Henry says, “Already, several faculty members are planning research projects associated with Tools of the Mind. …Further, our students will have the opportunity to get research experience within the context of this outstanding program, and to work shoulder to shoulder with some of the leading educational and psychological experts in the world.”
Assistant Vice President of Extended Campus Programs Carol Svendsen says, "We are so proud of Debbie Leong, her staff and the role Extended Campus has played in nurturing this fine program.”
Learn more about the history of Tools of the Mind.
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