Places to Play

Valuing our youngest citizens and making their work visible

“In June 2011 Providence Mayor Angel Taveras welcomed participants to NAEYC’s National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development with a book written specially for them, Places to Play in Providence… More than a year after the book’s debut, the mayor still keeps copies in his office and hands them out to Providence, Rhode Island, visitors.”

That was the lead paragraph in an article written by the facilitators of our first Places to Play project. In it the authors describe not only the well-received book that came out of the project, but the professional development behind the initiative.

“Subtitled A Guide to the City by Our Youngest Children, the book features children’s comments and drawings about Providence in an area they have particular expertise – play,” explain facilitators Ben Mardell, of Project Zero/Making Learning Visible, and Bethany Carpenter, of Ready to Learn Providence. “In the Places to Play project, teachers treat children as citizens – not as hypothetical or future citizens, but as contemporary members of their community. They see children as capable of constructing and communicating complex ideas, adding their unique and valuable perspectives.”

Our first Places to Play project in 2011 involved 16 center- and home-based educators and more than 100 preschoolers, all from the city of Providence. A second project – Places to Play in Rhode Island – got under way in February 2013 and was open to early-care educators and center administrators from across the state. That book made its official debut at a PawSox game at McCoy Stadium on June 2, 2013. More than 1,500 copies of the book were distributed there, and the young authors received a loud cheer from the fans when they took to the field just before the game.

Facilitators of a Places to Play course lead seven whole-group sessions at Ready to Learn Providence and make two visits to the sites of the participating educators. Participants explore a variety of best practices to support the work of their children. They learn how to introduce preschoolers to the concept of drafts, feedback and peer collaboration.

Places to Play was developed by Ready to Learn Providence and Making Learning Visible, a project of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Ben Mardell served as a consultant for a Places to Play publication in New Orleans that was created in anticipation of the Super Bowl in 2013 and was modeled after Places to Play in Providence.

Ready to Learn offers the Places to Play course as often as funding allows.