At first glance, it may seem like chaos. Before you can even see them, you can hear them, shrieking with delight, growling and roaring as they role play, and chugging like train engines on a track. As you come around the corner, you may see someone dashing across the sand or jumping down from the play structure, leaping out over the tire “steps”. My senses take in all of it. In front of the structure, my attention is captured by a very developed game that is going on. I find an inconspicuous spot to sit down and observe. There are children on each side of the structure. One child attempts to throw a large green ball over the top of the structure to another child who is waiting on the other side. Some attempts are successful and others demand a retry. The children are taking turns..some decide to kick the ball as well. Some attempts to kick the ball send it right back into the kicker’s face, but the children quickly figure out that throwing it over has a better success rate. The children develop an order of turns that works at first and then leads to a discussion.

“It’s MY turn!”
“No, it’s not! It’s my turn!”
(At this point I am momentarily tempted to interject, but I wait and watch).
“No–it’s my turn! You can’t play if you don’t take turns.  I am telling Mrs. Burton.”
Another child, who is playing as well, says, “Why don’t we do it together?” That satisfies everyone for a moment. The disgruntled child walks back to join the group. The children resume turn-taking and after a few more rounds, the rules seem to change again.

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Last week I had the opportunity to take part in the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) Public Policy Forum in Washington, DC. I must admit that I was pretty nervous about this endeavor. My knowledge of policy making and advocacy was limited. Granted, I did learn a lot about the legislature in my high school Government and Politics class many years ago..surely working as a page on the floor of the Connecticut House of Representatives counts for something, right? I think over the years I had lost confidence in my ability to make my voice heard in political arenas. I questioned how much I could really do to inform politicians and effect change. So, with just my nerves and the Schoolhouse Rock classic, “I’m Just a Bill”, rolling around in my head, I boarded a plane to DC.

Upon arrival, my expectations immediately began to grow. Looking up at the enormous hand of our 16th president at the Lincoln Memorial, I thought about how change begins with one person reaching out and employing his/her voice as an advocate for a cause. It is spurred on by those who have the courage and integrity to pursue what they know to be right, regardless of how their platform is received.

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