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Portrait of Anna Liuzzo in her school classroom.

Published June 12, 2018

Childhood learning the focus of Project Play

GSE and Fisher-Price collaborate to explore childhood learning

To bridge the communities of early childhood researchers, pre-service teachers and toy industry experts, X. Christine Wang and Corinne Eggleston, director and associate director of ECRC have been working in close collaboration with colleagues at the Fisher-Price Play Lab to design Project Play.

Project Play provides a service-learning opportunity to UB EdM students in the development, implementation and assessment of guided play sessions using Fisher-Price toys. Students apply and build upon their knowledge of child development while learning about toy development, toy evaluation and how to use toys/play materials with young children. The experience provides students the chance to explore alternative career pathways, broadening their scope of education-based career opportunities outside the classroom.

“Project Play allows you the opportunity to gain real-world experience and knowledge beyond the classroom environment,” said Ashley Graffam, a current master’s degree student. “This opportunity sparked my interest in the research and industrial design side of early childhood education.”

EdM student Madeleine Burns said, “This was an invaluable experience. In other classes, we learn about theory, child development and instructional methods. Project Play was a unique opportunity to apply all of that knowledge and gain practical experience. I didn’t truly understand what a valuable instructional method play can be until I witnessed kids’ learning and growth during Project Play.”

The design teams at Fisher-Price gain knowledge and understanding about intentional teaching strategies applied and the purposeful use of their products when incorporated into a preschool classroom; a setting not routinely considered in toy design.

“Project Play has given our design teams an opportunity to see their toys played with in a new way,” said Lisa Lohiser, associate manager of early childhood development research at Fisher-Price. “The observations and insights have proven to be valuable assets as we begin to design and develop new toys and curriculums.”

The success and impact of Project Play is evident by how well it has bridged researchers, teachers and experts. “This project allows these different communities to get together to discuss and inform ways to engage young children’s learning and development through purposeful play and through thoughtful toy/learning materials design,” said Wang.

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