Semi-annual visits to the kindergartens of Anji County provide a unqiue opportunity for educators to observe the practices of Anji Play, learn from peers and meet with colleagues from across the globe.
As China's first Ecological County and the first United Nations-recognized model for environmental stewardship and rural-urban planning in China, Anji is committed to preserving its cultural heritage and the environmental heritage of its bamboo forested mountains. The UN describes Dipu, the Anji county seat as "one of the world's greenest cities." We encourage everyone to visit Anji on their next trip to China.
"I returned this week from 9 days in China visiting the schools of Anji. The area is a 3-hour drive from Shanghai in an area of bamboo forest and mountains. We visited schools that have revolutionized play for 3, 4, 5 and 6 year olds. The children create their own play outdoors with open ended materials. They exude joy and thrill as they build climbers, figure out how to make ramps for rolling old tires, and jump for joy from heights well beyond their size. Laughter and joy pervades every school we visited as children painted walls and rocks outside, worked together to create play environments and had the support of teachers who were onlookers- they 'put their hands down and step back' so that the play world belongs to the children. And belong to them it does! Why is this exciting to see? Because the children are filled with confidence and trust, trust in themselves, in the adults and their peers. They have initiative and creativity, problem solving and collaboration, ideas and the carrying out of ideas. THIS is the basis of building caring, strong human beings. And it is equally the base for learning. In every bit of play, they are learning- about themselves, others, math, science, language and literacy, thinking and getting along. It was simply amazing....I hold out hope that we will do right by our children in America and give them this type of learning. No doubt, the science shows, that basis for learning and life comes from self-guided, adult supported, hands-on experiences and play."
-Dr. Tovah Klein, Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development; Associate Professor of Psychology
“Weeks after my experiences in Anji, joy is the word that continues to be at the forefront of my thinking. The amounts of joy present in the children, teachers, staff, families and all others is remarkable. Since returning home from Anji, I have tried to inject that type of joy into my own teaching practice. I feel honored to have been able to experience true joy in Anji and I wish all educators had a chance to experience these magical schools.”
-Krystina Tapia, Lead Teacher, The Primary School
"I was introduced to Anjiplay via WestEd and a lecture given by Ms. Cheng at Mills College less than a year ago. As a veteran videographer of young children in early child care settings I was intrigued by Ms. Cheng’s description of how video is used in Anji Play kindergartens, and equally intrigued by the 5 core principles of Love, Joy, Risk, Engagement and Reflection – and, the concept of True Play. To see these elements in action in person was an extraordinary learning experience. Chelsea and Jesse framed each day around one of the principles and led our multi-age group through the region to explore schools of varying size and experience. Ms. Cheng along with the principals, teachers, families and children were overwhelmingly welcoming, and along with many hours of observing children’s play, we had many powerful sessions at the schools and in the communities to help us dive deep into all things Anji Play. The study tour was comfortable, collegial, delicious (!), and rewarding. I now have a new lens to look through as I continue my video work, and a profound respect for and interest in Anji Play."
-Glynn Butterfield, Independent Filmmaker
"According to the Random House dictionary, the word PLAY means "a general word for any form of activity, often undirected, spontaneous or random". My week visiting Anji Play opened up for me what that word could mean when young children have the love, freedom, and environment to be active in ways that are responses to their bodily abilities and their own creative thinking. What stood out for me was seeing the joy and creativity that seems to grow out of the built-in curiosity and urge to move when children are nurtured in such loving, joyful, open-ended environments. Moreover, children seem to know and develop confidence in what their bodies can do. I would strongly urge my fellow Early Childhood educators to go to Anji , see Ms. Cheng's beliefs in action, and then think of how we can re-create ideas about PLAY in the U.S."
-Alice Nakahata, Faculty (retired), City College of San Francisco