Every now and then an especially noteworthy person comes along. They challenge existing norms without care for bucking a trend. Caroline Pratt is one of those people. We are such big fans of her work, in fact, we consider her our hero. The American born, Pratt (1867-1954) revolutionized education as we know it.
When you were a kid, do you remember sitting squarely in desks while your teacher drilled multiplication tables in your heads? You most likely were not in a classroom abiding by the Pratt philosophy. Instead of talking down to children, she felt teachers should work alongside students, facilitating kid’s education, rather than driving it.
In 1914, Pratt took all of her educational knowledge and founded the City and Country School in Manhattan. The school is still flourishing today and follows Pratt’s open-ended curriculum. In Pratt-inspired classrooms, mathematics are not taught while you sit at a desk, with just numbers on paper. And science? Not just a diagram of molecules. Pratt challenged teachers to provide real world applications when teaching classroom subjects. To us, this sounds like an educational environment every student should have the opportunity to experience. And they can by learning with block play.
Why should school be a rigid environment when kids are naturally wiley and silly and curious? Recess should not be the only time kids get to use their hands and be free. A key component to Pratt’s curriculum was and still is play. When children are given a set of objects (if you’re thinking blocks, you’re right on track) with little guidelines and license to experiment, we see their creativity and imaginations at work.
Much of City and Country School’s curriculum was based around Pratt’s creation of wooden Unit Blocks. Pratt’s Unit Blocks were not just a random collection of toys; there was a science behind their creation, based off of Pratt’s observations of how kids actually play.
We wish Pratt was still alive today to see what we’ve created at Unit Bricks, but alas we keep her spirit and gusto for children’s education alive every time we sit down to play.