M. Manuela Fonseca, the early-education coordinator for Vermont, said her state was trying to emphasize the learning value of play in its new guidelines.
“Before we had the water table because it was fun and kids liked it,” she said. “Now we have the water table so kids can explore how water moves and actually explore scientific ideas.”
Still, teachers like Therese Iwancio, who works at Cecil Elementary School in Baltimore’s Greenmount neighborhood, where the vast majority of children come from low-income families, say their students benefit from explicit academic instruction. She does not have a sand table, play kitchen or easel in the room.
“I have never had a child say to me, ‘I just want to play,’ ” said Ms. Iwancio, who has taught for two decades.
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