When I was a kid, I would often make a huge mess of my bedroom when I pulled a set of hefty wooden building blocks in various shapes and sizes out of the toy box. I spent hours toiling away on construction projects with these blocks (which are not to be confused with the small square blocks that nestle in your palm). Well, according to The New York Times, these blocks are back in style.
A story published the other day reports on “a renewed faith in unit blocks—those basic, indestructible wooden toys created in the early 1900s—sweeping through some elite swaths of New York’s education universe.” It notes that while many “progressive” private and public schools have long sworn by blocks, “more traditional institutions are now refocusing on block centers amid worries that academic pressure and technology are squeezing play out of young children’s lives.”
Studies dating to the 1940s, the story notes, indicate that blocks help children absorb basic math concepts. And a 2007 study found that those with block experience scored significantly better on language acquisition tests.
Trusting that EdWeek surely at some point had taken a look at this phenomenon, I did a quick check of the archives. Sure enough, here’s a big takeout on teaching with unit blocks, published in 1989 on edweek.org’s Teacher channel.
Back to the Times story, it suggests that “perhaps the hottest pitch of late, particularly to high-stress, high-strung New York City parents is that blocks can build the 21st-century skills essential to success in corporate America.”
Watch out corporate America, here I come!
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.