NURSERY SCHOOL EXPERIENCE

Many studies have been made of the effect of nursery school on the intellectual, social, and emotional development of the child. The experience appears to have a somewhat positive effect on IQ scores for most children, although this may be largely due to greater familiarity with materials and tasks that are typical of intelligence tests, and partly to increased rapport with adults. The effect appears to be most pronounced in deprived children, as indicated by recent studies as well as an earlier experiment performed by Skeels, Updegraff et al. (1938). The latter investigators compared a group of orphanage children who attended nursery school with a group that did not have this experience. They found that after twenty months the experimental group showed an average gain of 4.6 IQ points, while the control group showed an average loss of 4.6 points.Nursery school children make their greatest gains in the area of social adjustment. When compared with children who have not had this experience, they usually show considerably more independence, spontaneity, self-reliance, curiosity, and ability to react constructively to failure (Van Alstyne and Hatt- wick, 1939; Walsh, 1931). They also show increased sociability and participation in group activities, as well as improvement in self-help, skill, and resourcefulness in using play materials and equipment. On the whole these positive effects have been found to persist into elementary school.These trends, however, are not universal, since children respond in their own way, and the experience is better suited to some than to others. It would therefore be a mistake to assume that a few months in nursery school will automatically change a child’s behavior patterns or remedy his shortcomings. Changes can certainly take place, but they depend largely upon the atmosphere of the school and the sensitivity of the teacher. Thompson (1944) has shown that in a school where the teachers were warm, helpful, and perceptive, the children rated far higher in constructive activity, social participation, and leadership than children who attended a school in which the teacher gave little guidance and rarely participated in their activities. It seems to be true that a great many teachers spend far more time on such externals as arranging materials and helping the children with their clothing than they do on their emotional needs. But when they do pay attention to the individual child and his problems, and set the stage for growth experiences, remarkable progress frequently takes place, as the illustrative case at the end of this article indicates.The value of nursery school for the handicapped and retarded is being increasingly recognized, although few clinics and communities offer adequate facilities. Under the guidance of specially trained teachers, blind children profit greatly from the opportunity for social play and development of compensatory skills. The earlier they start, the better, since they will more readily learn to respond to touch, taste and smell stimuli, and to orient themselves by other means than sight. Moreover, school activities prevent them from withdrawing into isolation, and also compensate for parental overprotection and oversolicitude. The benefits are equally great for the mildly and moderately retarded. These children usually respond best to the stimulation provided by group games, musical and rhythmic activities, and the chance to play with brightly colored materials of different shapes and sizes. Just as important is practice in tending to their own needs, as in toileting, changing their clothes, and keeping their “cubby” orderly.A nursery school recently organized by the New York University Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine has demonstrated that children with severe disabilities resulting from congenital defects as well as brain and spinal diseases profit immensely from opportunities for varied sensory experience and activity as well as for emotional release. The school’s gaily colored room has been especially designed for these children, with cut-out tables for patients in wheel chairs, easels slanted to permit the armless child to paint with his feet, toys and puzzles fitted with knoblike handles for those who cannot grasp well, and easily opened shelves and cabinets to encourage independence. Finally, special nursery schools have been organized for children suffering from emotional disturbances, such as those conducted by the Child Development Center and the Riverside Church in New York City.The following case illustrates the use of one nursery school activity, dramatic play, as an instrument for growth and self-realization. Four-year-old Donnie, living in a fatherless home, was described by his teachers as “a quiet and scared kid” who could not participate in the usual group activities for fear that “I will get my clothes dirty.” The brief excerpts from the observer’s protocols show how he was gradually able to free himself from timidity and feminine tendencies and adopt a more masculine role.Illustrative Case: First Record. “Donnie and Alice are pushing doll carriages round and round the room. Donnie seems to be very happy this morning. As he pushes his carriage into an enclosure, he turns to Alice, saying, ‘Bring yours in this way—this way,’ indicating the opening. She continues on, however, and he follows her to the enclosure on the other side of the room. . . . Donnie lies down on the play bed for a moment, than gets up and they walk back to the house holding hands. They sit down there for a moment and, holding hands, walk back to the enclosure. They sit on the bed and whisper.Second Record, five months later. Donnie now shows an interest in more exciting play with boys, but cannot participate fully. “He goes over to join bis friend Rex who, with Eddie, is building blocks. Donnie kneels and watches them, saying nothing. The two other boys make a ramp for a car to glide down and Donnie makes a humming sound and then, ‘Be-eep, beep,’ as the car slides down. . . . The three children pile blocks on top of the car and Donnie says, ‘Put ’em all in the garbage can. Hee.’ Next they pretend they are burning the car up. Rex is the leader in this play. He announces, ‘I’m goin’ in the fire,’ and lies down over the blocks. Jackie [who has joined the group] follows suit. Donnie is somewhat hesitant about getting in and draws back. Jackie: ‘C’mon, Donnie, let’s bum him [Rex] up.’ Donnie starts to whine about the car which is under the pile of blocks and tries to get it out: ‘I want it now.’ The other children excitedly drop bricks on Rex, and Donnie halfheartedly does the same.”Third Record. Donnie attempts to change his conception of himself—a car is a symbol of power and driving it is a mark of mastery. ‘Ivan, Rex and Donnie have made a large block structure in a sort of square. The observer asks what this is and Donnie replies, ‘A jeep car.’ He is standing looking at the car when Buddy comes along and tries to knock it down. A few of the blocks tumble and Ivan yells; Donnie and Rex build the car up again. During all this Donnie has said nothing. Suddenly, as if he had been thinking it over all this while, he says in a plaintive way, ‘I have to drive, let me in, let me in.’ Despite having said this he does nothing about it, probably because he is afraid of being pushed away.” Fourth Record. Building a car gives him the courage to boss others and defy an old enemy, though he uses the car as a place for sleep and refuge. “Again Donnie says, ‘I wanta play with the car.’ It seems as if he is the ‘boss’ as he says to Rex, ‘Get me two blocks to put here.’ Rex complies and Donnie says, ‘Get in the car.’ They both climb in. The two boys continue building their car and proudly display it to the teacher. Donnie: ‘We could sleep in the car, couldn’t we?’ He seems very satisfied. . . . Buddy, who is in a very aggressive mood, comes along to disturb the peace. As Donnie watches him come over, his whole face puckers in fear. Bud pushes him; Donnie gets quite red and tries to push him off. He whines and sticks out his tongue (which is the first sign this observer had seen of an attempt at aggressive defense).”Fifth Record. Donnie assumes masculine roles and carries out his power fantasies. “The children are having their free play in the big gym hall. Donnie sees a small ladder and props it up against the radiator. Oblivious of the others, he climbs it and says to the observer, Who wants their windows cleaned?’ He makes a few cleaning gestures, comes down, holds out his hand and says, ‘Here, thirty cents.’ . . . Donnie is now playing another game of his own making. He puts the ladder against the water fountains, above which is a ledge piled with big square blocks. He climbs the ladder, lifts the blocks off one by one and moves them to another place. He tells the observer they are ice. Since they are big and bulky and Donnie is rather small, he strains as he carries them but seems rather proud of his success, looking at the observer as if to say, ‘Look what I’m doing!’ Bud and Donnie have a tussle over one of the blocks. To the observer’s surprise, Donnie clings to it with all his strength and manages to keep it (without calling for the teacher). The other children want to join in this game and Donnie readily lets them.” (Hartley, Frank, and Goldenson, 1952)"

Cite this page: N., Pam M.S., "NURSERY SCHOOL EXPERIENCE," in PsychologyDictionary.org, November 28, 2018, https://psychologydictionary.org/nursery-school-experience/ (accessed March 18, 2019).
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