Today’s class began with a presentation on a wonderful research project by Nancy Milch, an Occupational Therapist in the Holyoke Schools, who has also had experience in Nicaragua in recent years. Nancy joined us for our panel discussion back in September, and I wanted to give her a chance to share her research in more depth than the panel discussion permitted. Her research project compared fine motor skills of pre-school children in Holyoke and Nicaragua. The impetus for her research came from a sense that children in rural communities have a great deal more opportunity to develop motor skills compared to children in urban settings like Holyoke. This is related to the amount of time children in rural Nicaragua spend playing outdoors, climbing trees, helping with chores and tasks like gardening as part of their daily lives. This active participation in daily chores and activities, along with more time playing outside, seems to result in children with a better sense of their bodies and improved hand skills as they enter school. Though the group of children studied was small (8 children in each community) there were dramatic differences in the amount of time children in each community spent in front of “screens” , including TV and video games, as well as outdoor playtime. It makes so much sense that kids need active play and exploration outdoors to build their hand skills, and TV and video games doesn’t provide the rich experience of real life.
The class also presented their “equipment reviews”, where each student chose an inexpensive item (less than $50.) from one of the commercial equipment companies, and reviewed it. This is another direction where I hope we can have an impact, in reviewing and recommending inexpensive commercial items that pre-schools can choose when they have some money available. The students had to work from pictures and descriptions only, and didn’t have the equipment in hand for the review. But in the future, we would like to make equipment reviews part of out website and educational help for preschools (more funding would help!)