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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Implementing Curriculum through the Planning/Observation/Individualization Cycle Ample Time for Play and Investigation with Children Making Choices Supported by long-term research, recommendations from national organiza- tions continue to emphasize the importance of play as a vehicle for learning (NAEYC and NAECS/SDE 2003, 6): Particularly for younger children, firsthand learning—through physical, mental, and social activity—is key. At every age from birth through age eight (and beyond), play can stimulate children’s en- gagement, motivation, and lasting learning (Bodrova & Leong 2003). Learning is facilitated when children can “choose from a variety of activities, decide what type of products they want to create, and en- gage in important conversations with friends” (Espinosa 2002, 5). For children to engage in high-level play, which is the kind of play that is deeply engaging and full of learning opportunities, they need plenty of time to get involved. They may need to look over the materials and possi- bilities available in the different areas of the classroom. They may observe other children to get ideas or to decide which group to join. Once they start to play, they need time to develop ideas, to talk with other children, and to try out different things. Providing ample time (at least forty-five minutes to one hour) for deep play to develop is an important element of effective curriculum planning. Teachers recognize that offering choices leads to more participation and engagement in play. Children will stretch themselves and apply more of their skills and capabilities when the activity is one in which they are interested. Thus, it’s important for teachers to let the children figure out how long they want to stay with specific activities. Timing the children and making them rotate to different areas does not allow them the oppor- tunity to make a plan and stick with it through completion. Teachers Scaffolding and Assisting Children as They Play It is not enough to organize a classroom environment and allow ample time for the children to explore it. Teachers need to facilitate children’s use of the environment. Teachers first build trusting, caring relationships with children. They then offer a wide range of opportunities within the environment. Some of those opportunities allow children to make choices and to follow their own or their peers’ interests. Some of those opportu- COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 27