Early education programs invest in childhood development - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Early education programs invest in childhood development

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TEMPE, Ariz. -

There was a lot of enthusiasm among educators as President Obama announced plans in his State of the Union to improve America's early education programs.

It comes with a price tag: up to $10 billion, but many say it's an important investment in our country's future.

The news was music to the ears of Arizona State University researchers, who say children learning skills early on will have better chances of success.

"There are a lot of students who still aren't getting access to preschool and that's why we're looking at kindergarten, which is that first year everyone experiences school," said Tashia Abry, an assistant research professor at ASU Sanford School.

At ASU's kindergarten project, where research merges with classroom experience, professors say it's all about first impressions.

If a child's first encounter in a classroom is positive, it can impact that child's outlook for life.

"We have this hunch that these early formal school experiences are going to be really important to how a child views herself as a student and as a learner," said Abry.

Many studies show states that invest resources in their youngest kids are more likely to see those same kids succeed in the world.

Researchers say it's almost important to balance academic skills with social interactions.

"There's less emphasis on some of these more emotional and social competencies that we think as child development researchers are important," said Jodi Swanson, an assistant research professor at ASU Sanford School.

ASU researchers say interactive play is a vital part of healthy child development.

Games like "Simon Says" actually teach children about memory and inhibition control.

"Connections are better made in the brain when children are experiencing something firsthand.  Using a flash card or filling out a worksheet is somewhat abstract for a child," said Mary Ann Duggan, an assistant research professor at ASU Sanford School.

The kindergarten project at ASU is helping more than 500 student teachers make the transition to the classroom.

Online: kindergartenproject.org

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