Overview of Exploring Childhood
Marilyn Felt was the guiding spirit behind and director of two major curricular projects: Exploring Childhood and Exploring Humanitarian Law. The special features of these curricula involved dealing with topics in education rarely addressed and never as successfully, in taking a very broad sweep rather than just hitting on the topic du jour, in providing beautiful, extensive, carefully thought out materials for both student and teacher. And in providing a very special pedagogy. Students are provided with needed factual background and then oriented towards observation, reasoning and discussion. The teacher serves as a guide, rather than as a lecturer. Marilyn's curricula place great emphasis on bridging the gap between theory and practice. For example, students enrolled in Exploring Childhood applied their understandings to daycare and family settings and developed realistic attitudes about early parenthood.Top of Page
The Goals of Exploring Childhood
[From the Exploring Childhood Brochure] Exploring Childhood is a program in which high school and junior high school students work with young children while learning about human development and their own identity. Major goals of the program are to help students to understand the biological and social forces affecting human development and to become better prepared to take on adult responsibilities involving the care of the young.
Course materials are designed to help students make the link between experience and reflection in an 'enactive' mode of learning: one in which they get involved in questions, exercises, and activities requiring a high level of initiative on their part. In class students are helped to clarify their own values, to understand the values of others, and to work cooperatively with others. They develop the ability to evaluate and use a variety of data - theory, field work with children, their own childhood - and become able to measure their own progress and growth during the year. Additionally, Exploring Childhood is designed to help students develop a positive sense of family and personal identity.
Exploring Childhood offers written material, role-plays, films, posters, audio cassettes and records, each of which is designed to give students a particular starting point for the questions they are addressing.Top of Page
A Brief History
In 1972, the U.S. Office of Child Development, the National Institute for Mental Health and the Office of Education launched Education for Parenthood. Exploring Childhood, the cornerstone curriculum of this program was developed at the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) over the next eight years by a staff of over 100 directed by Marilyn Clayton Felt. Guidance was provided by a long list of eminent educators, scholars, and practitioners including Jerome Kagan, James Jones, and Freda Rebelsky, with assistance from the consultants Elaine A Blechman, T. Berry Brazelton, Urie Bronfenbrenner, Jerome S. Bruner, Betty H. Bryant, Courtney Cazden, Joan Goldsmith, Patricia Marks Greenfield, John Herzog, David Kantor, Eli H. Newberger, Ed Tronick, Robert Selman, and Beatrice Blyth Whiting.
This highly acclaimed effort resulted in nationwide implementation of parenthood education in schools and voluntary agencies. Exploring Childhood" was adopted by 6000 schools and seven national voluntary agencies, it remained in use for nearly twenty years. The two-year national field test showed students growing in an understanding of children's abilities and needs, able to apply classroom concepts in work with children, and impressed with the degree of responsibility involved in having a child.
The program did not reach its full potential - to involve the majority of future parents - partly because the program was taught mainly in the area of Home Economics, where child development has always been part of the curriculum, but where only a small percentage of the student body and very few males were enrolled. Use of the program declined in the second decade, partly for lack of a sustainable way to fund support services and program updating, and partly, we believe, because it was simply swept out of the school curriculum by new priorities.
Gradually Exploring Childhood disappeared entirely from the schools. Today, there is not even a complete archive of its materials. Yet this program has great importance. No other curriculum has been so far-reaching and comprehensive. None have taken the same pedagogic approach. Exploring Childhood is a work in the best EDC tradition. Children work with teachers within a carefully designed framework to develop their own understandings and the tools with which to develop further - to see clearly, to analyze, to criticize, and to learn. This pedagogy is a hallmark of Marilyn's curricula.
Marilyn studied the reasons for the fading away of Exploring Childhood and how it might be revived in a study funded by the Smith-Richardson Foundation in 1995. Here is her thoughtful Final Report (PDF 0.2MB)Top of Page
The Structure of the Materials and How to View Them
This site will, when completed, contain all extant Exploring Childhood materials.
One view of the Exploring Childhood curriculum, presented at the beginning of each Teacher's Guide, is as three teaching modules plus a set of implementation references. This view has been implemented on this Web site as four clickable maps, accessible via the left-hand menu on this page:
- Module I. Working with Children: Preparing for Work in Fieldsites and Discussion of That Work.
- Module II Seeing Development: Determining Children's Needs and Abilities at Each Age, What Children Need to Grow and How Their Growth Can Be Supported.
- Module III. Family and Society: Considering the Effects of Family and Society on the Growth of a Child.
- Implementing Exploring Childhood, Materials for Teachers, Administrators, and Parents
The alternative view accessed by the EC Materials menu selection provides access to all Exploring Childhood materials, organizing them differently, as a set of smaller, more focused units. Note that this view provides access to additional materials that support the curriculum but are not contained in any of the modules.
The booklet Exploring Childhood: Program Overview and Catalog of Materials (PDF 5MB) provides a summary of each component of the curriculum.
The Preview Package provides an excellent, concise overview of the program.Top of Page
Marilyn Felt was responsible for the thematic framework and for direction of this project but this project is the product of many people bringing many talents. Curriculum developers, scholars, designers, editors, evaluators, filmmakers, photographers among others. Their contributions are recognized on the title page and end paper of each Exploring Childhood booklet.
Ron Israel, EDC Vice President, first suggested that a Web site be used to disseminate Exploring Childhood. Janet Whitla, former President of EDC, encouraged and supported its creation. Wlliam Hulsey, EDC General Counsel expedited the granting of EDC permissions. Henry Felt, Exploring Childhood filmmaker continues to help in tracking down and contributing materials. Nanni Feurzeig who had previously worked as editor with Marilyn generously applied her skills to improving the structure and language of this Web site. EDC's assistance and its permission to present the Exploring Childhood curriculum on this Web site is gratefully acknowledged.
We thank the Smith-Richardson Foundation for permission to present the final report of a feasibility study conducted by MarilynTop of Page
All Exploring Childhood materials appear courtesy of Education Development Center, Inc. EDC owns the copyright to these works and they may not be reproduced without EDC's permission. To request permission or learn more about EDC, go to http://www.edc.orgTop of Page