Ms. Cheng was invited to address researchers at MIT's Lifelong Kindergarten group by Dr. Mitchell Resnick. Dr. Resnick is the LEGO Papert Professor of Learning Research, Director of the Okawa Center, and Director of the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. Dr. Resnick is considered a leading mind in the field of learning research and leads multi-million dollar research initiatives at MIT. Ms. Cheng spoke to Dr. Resnicks group of over 30 researchers about the principles and practices of Anji Play, with particular focus on child-generated rule making, hypotheses, risk and self-regulation. For each subject area, Ms. Cheng played one video and engaged the assembled group in discussion. After her lunch time presentation, Ms. Cheng spoke at length with Dr. Resnick and Dr. Edith Ackerman, a leading expert in education and computer science, who is currently visiting faculty both at Harvard University and MIT. Both Drs. Resnick and Ackerman expressed their deep admiration for the work of Ms. Cheng and emphasized its historical importance in the future of early childhood education.
Ms. Cheng met graduate students at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Invited to RISD by Cas Holman, a professor in the RISD department of industrial design and noted inventor and designer of educational toys and playground, Ms. Cheng addressed her role in designing the environments and materials of Anji Play, and the role of the child in Anji Play as designer, builder, inventor and artist and the importance of the child's role in maintaining, managing and regulation their own environments and materials. Students and faculty in attendence asked engaging questions about Ms. Cheng's design thinking and her future plans for the materials that are integral to the Anji Play approach. Ms. Cheng emphasized the importance of specific, practical considerations in her design process, including the selection of materials that are light, sturdy and stand up to weather, and the core principles of minimal-structure, open-endedness, portability and relevance/presence in the day-to-day life of the child outside of the school enviromnet.
Ms. Cheng delivered a keynote address to an audience of 500 at Mills College in Oakland, CA at a symposium focused on the Anji Play approach. The conference was organized by Dr. Julie Nicholson, professor of practice and education at the Mills Graduate School of Education and Director of the Center for Play Research. Dr. Nicholson visited Anji in the spring of 2015 and is a tireless advocate in the United States for the rights of children. One important aspect of her work focuses on the role of play memories throughout our lives.
The conference began with welcoming remarks from Tasha Henneman, Ed.D. Education and Health Policy Advisor for City of Berkeley Office of the Mayor and Clarissa Doutherd, Executive Director, Parent Voices Oakland. They spoke broadly about the relevance of the AnjiPlay approach to children in the United States, with particular focus on the important value of TruePlay for low-income, African American children and families, who make up a significant proportion of the population Oakland. In particular, Ms. Doutherd, described how she was moved to tears when she saw videos and learned about Anji Play, and saw the Anji Play approach as an important corrective to the pernicious school to prison pipeline that cripples so many young African American boys in the United States. She spoke of Anji Play as an important shift in how we trust, encourage, respect and love children, and how we must allow them to have the freedom to learn and take risks, and channel their natural energy into their own endeavors.
Dr. Mangione spoke about the value of risk in Children's play, based on his observations of children and teachers in Anji, China. Dr. Nicholson spoke of the imporatant role of play memories and inter-cultural and inter-generational experiences of play in Anji schools. Dr. Chelsea Bailey, gave a moving talk on the history and development of Anji Play, with particular focus on how current Western research into congitive development supports the Anji Play approach, the historical and cultural antecedents of Anji Play in China (referencing Tao Xingzhi and Zhuangzi) and the need for American educators and parents to assert their voice and make changes to the practices of early childhood education and policy in the United States so that they relfect core values of joy, love, risk, reflection and engagement. Ms. Cheng spoke on the principles and practices of Anji Play and engaged in a spirited question and answer period with the audience.
Ms. Cheng addressed the 30th annivesary conference of WestEd's Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC) in Berkeley, California. The conference was attended by PITC trainers from across the United States who represent the leading practioners of early childhood educational training. Ms. Cheng was invited to address this conference by Ron Lally and Peter Mangione, founding co-directors of The Center for the Chld and Family Studies. Peter has visited Anji twice, including addressing Chinese educators in Anji last June.
Ms. Cheng spoke from 8:45 to 10:15 AM. Her talk, “Children's Self-Determined Play: The Anji Approach to Early Learning,” addressed the history, development and principles of Anji Play, and the role of parents and teachers. The talk was met with a standing ovation, and a lively question and answer period followed, in which the audience was particularly interested in learning how to bring True Play to American students, the Anji approach to working with special needs students and low-income families, the dignity and economic circumstances of early childhood educators in the Untied States and China, the importance of parents in radically changing educational paradigms and practical questions about class size, age mixing and student-to-teacher ratios.
Following Ms. Cheng's talk, Carla Rinaldi, President of Reggio Children, who traveled from Reggio Emilia, Italy to participate in the conference, spoke about the philosophical and political implications of the Reggio approach, with specific focus on the increasingly diverse ethnic population of Reggio schools as larger number of migrants from the Muslim world settle in Italy. She also discussed the image of the child as economic models change the future orginazation of people's roles and activities within society.
From 1:30 to 3:00 PM, Ms. Cheng and Ms. Rinaldi took part in a dialogue entitled “Meeting of the Minds” a free-ranging discussion moderated by Drs. Lally and Mangione. Ms. Cheng and Ms. Rinaldi shared their views of the role of the child in society, their distinct approaches to early childhood education and their commitment to the children of their communities and the world. A true meeting of minds.
Ms. Cheng Visits Madison, Wisconsin addresses local educators, parents, students and visits first U.S. pilot site
Hosted by Dr. Marianne Bloch, professor emerita Curriculum & Instruction Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ms. Cheng spent a week in Madison meeting with educators, graduate students, local children and parents and met with Kaleem Caire of One City Early Learning Centers to discuss creating the first Anji Play pilot school outside of China. Ms. Cheng addressed Dr. Bloch's graduate class "The Politics of Early Childhood Education," introduced Anji Play to parents and students at Wingra School, Preschool of the Arts and Midvale Elementary. Because Anji Play is committed to equal access to play, Ms. Cheng and our team are thrilled that the first U.S. Anji Play pilot school serves primarily low-income, minority families in Madison. Dr. I-Fang Lee, School of Education, University of Newcastle, New South Wales, a member of the Anji Play advisory committee, took on demanding task of interpreting for Ms. Cheng's during her visit to Madison.