Sag Harbor mother of two and creator of the Playful Learning Ecadmey, which offers online classes for parents and their children to foster creative learning at home.
By Ellen Frankman
Where did the idea of Playful Learning Ecademy come from?
A few years ago I had opened a local shop and it was a shop that sold educational toys. While I had the shop I also had a blog and I had written a book and I decided to try to teach an online course. About 100 people signed up for it the first time. It was women from all over the world who had come together to support their children’s learning at home. It was the first time that I realized that as an educator I could reach hundreds of people from all over the world in one class.
Then I launched an online class for children photo-journaling and I had 70 children from all over the world participating. It became this kind of cultural exchange that introduced an entire curriculum above and beyond a photo-journaling class. When the classes became successful I decided to close the store because I wanted to focus on channeling my teaching and educative knowledge to reach as many children and parents as I could.
How does Playful Learning Ecademy work?
It basically takes my favorite classroom experiences that I had as a teacher and making them available to parents and their children in a safe online community. There is a video I make for the parents which explains the lesson and offers tips on reading recommendations for how parents can support their children’s learning at home. Then we have videos for children that are taught by children. It makes it a really dynamic and engaging experience for children to watch and they teach powerful lessons. Then they can print out different projects and activities and post pictures of their work and share in a community with each other in a way that is very safe and supportive. One of the most powerful lessons I’ve ever taught is “The Power of Put-Ups,” a lesson about how powerful your words are. I believe so strongly in it that now we are offering it for free on our site with the use of the code WORLDPEACE.
How have you developed your personal philosophy about education?
When I was in college I studied child development and that is where I discovered the work of Maria Montessori and she opened up my whole paradigm of what education can be. She felt that as a society we really haven’t tapped into a child’s full potential. We’ve put them into these industrialized schools with industrial style curriculum and of course when you put them into a class all day in one seat that’s when you get sort of abnormalities in behavior that become problematic. It was amazing to me to think that we haven’t really seen what children are capable of.
The most direct form of change comes from education and teaching children from a young age to be aware of the world around them and to answer whatever calling they have so they can make a positive contribution to the world. I moved to New York City and started teaching at the Dalton School and that’s where I was exposed to other people that were really influential, like Harold Gardiner, who believe that the underlying philosophy that ties everything together is project-based education. In project-based education children are able to move from one project to another transferring their skills and knowledge from one project to the next.
August marks the first leg of a worldwide blog tour for Playful Learning. What is it about the site that allows it to connect with people on a global level?
I think what it comes down to is we all need to ask ourselves what kind of people do we want to raise? What are they passionate about and how do they pursue those passions? What kind of attitude do they have toward the people around them? What kind of attitude do they have toward learning? I think for parents everywhere their biggest goal is to add innovation and creativity to curriculum. I think when I share the hands-on projects with parents they are simple little things that you can do – maybe a basket with paper and colored pencils on your coffee table – that can make a big difference.