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.