Eastern Breaks Into List of Top 25 Public Regional Universities

Written by Ed Osborn

eastern_front_entranceFor the first time, Eastern Connecticut State University made the list of the top 25 regional public universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 edition of “Best Colleges.” Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 12.

•Theatre students perform Cervantes' "Pedro, The Great Pretender," as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern's new Fine Arts Instructional Center

• Theatre students perform Cervantes’ “Pedro, The Great Pretender,” as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked on the basis of 16 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

•Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono '17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

• Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono ’17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

“I am gratified to see Eastern ranked in the top 25 public institutions in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to high standards, our focus on providing students with personal attention, and the introduction of new academic programs have resulted in our favorable ranking. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,389 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2017 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 10.

For the past 33 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Eastern Named a ‘Great College to Work For’ for Eighth Time

Written by Michael Rouleau

2013GCWF_4CsingularWILLIMANTIC, CT (07/17/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University has again been named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a top trade publication for colleges and universities. Released today by The Chronicle, the results are based on a survey of 232 colleges and universities. This is the eighth time Eastern has received “Great Colleges” distinction since it first began participating in the program in 2009.

Only 79 of the institutions that applied for the program achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition this year. Eastern was also named to the national Great Colleges “Honor Roll,” one of only 42 institutions named to this exclusive club. This is the third year in a row that Eastern has been named to the honor roll. Eastern was also the only public four-year university or college in New England to gain “Great Colleges” distinction.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is the largest and most comprehensive workplace study in higher education. Now in its 10th year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees on workforce practices and policies.

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was employee feedback.

Eastern won honors in six survey categories this year: Collaborative Governance; Compensation and Benefits; Facilities, Workspaces, and Security; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Teaching Environment; and Tenure Clarity and Process.

“It is gratifying to know that our employees continue to value the positive working atmosphere we share on our campus,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ recognition is not only a symbol of the common purpose found among our faculty and staff, it represents the welcoming and supportive environment that our students experience every day.

“To know that Eastern has consistently received this honor – winning ‘Great Colleges’ recognition in each of the eight years we have participated – is an indication that our commitment to campus unity is an enduring value firmly embedded in our culture.”

“Ten years in, the ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ distinction is well-known by academic jobseekers as a sign that an institution’s employees are valued and given opportunities for growth even when they face financial constraints,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Any college or university that’s on the list is showing that they emphasize one of their most valuable assets: their faculty and staff.”

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide. “It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner of ModernThink LLC. “Those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”

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About Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 23 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 39 majors and 64 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 26th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council seven years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

About The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is dedicated to serving the higher-education community with insights, understanding, and intellectual engagement. Academic leaders and professionals from around the world trust The Chronicle’s analysis and in-depth exploration to make informed decisions.

About ModernThink LLC

As a research and consulting leader in workplace issues, ModernThink has supported a wide variety of “Best Place to Work” initiatives. Through these programs, the firm has gained substantial survey and industry expertise, including specific insight into higher education. ModernThink knows what it takes to build a great place to work and shares that know-how with its clients. The ModernThink team of organizational development experts is dedicated to helping colleges follow through and capitalize on feedback from employees and benchmark data from peers to drive meaningful change at their institutions. Learn more at http://www.modernthink.com.

View Online: http://easternct.meritpages.com/news/eastern-named-a–great-college-to-work-for–for-eighth-time/691

Eastern’s Teacher Preparation Program Achieves Reaccreditation

•Education students supervise preschool children on the climbing wall of the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC)

Education students supervise preschool children on the climbing wall of the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC)

WILLIMANTIC, CT (05/30/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University recently received continued accreditation through fall 2021 from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), based on the standards of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). NCATE’s performance-based accreditation system for teacher preparation ensures that teaching candidates are prepared to make a difference in P-12 student learning.

The accreditation report indicated that Eastern has met all six standards for Initial Teacher Preparation and Advanced Preparation, including candidate knowledge and skills; unit evaluation and assessment systems; field experiences and clinical practice; diversity; faculty qualifications, performance and development; and unit governance and resources.

Education Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith speaks at the press conference for Eastern's renowned TIMPANI study (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination)

Education Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith speaks at the press conference for Eastern’s renowned TIMPANI study (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination)

All Eastern teacher preparation programs, including bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education, elementary education, physical education, and secondary education, as well as graduate programs in early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education, educational technology and reading/language arts, are covered by the continuing accreditation decree.

Eastern has been preparing Connecticut’s teaching workforce since its founding in 1889, and its educational programs continue to be recognized in various national rankings. For instance, both the elementary and secondary education undergraduate programs are ranked in the top five in New England by path2teach.org; the secondary program is ranked in the top 10 nationally by the National Council on Teacher Quality. Other noteworthy accomplishments include Eastern’s leadership role in advancing diversity among the teaching profession through its partnership with the Holmes Masters Program, and a new partnership with Norwalk Community College to enable its students to leverage their associate’s degree to earn their bachelor’s degree in the area of early childhood education.

Education faculty are also making news, with Assistant Professor of Education Mark Fabrizi named editor-in-chief of “The Leaflet,” the journal of the New England Association of Teachers of English; and Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, professor and Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair for Early Childhood Education, and Sudha Swaminathan, professor of early childhood education, awarded a Spencer Foundation grant for the project “The Relationship of Teacher-Child Math Talk During Preschool Play to Young Children’s Mathematics Learning.”

Other recent initiatives include two clinical practice partnerships with local school districts that include year-long, residency-based internships for Eastern graduate students seeking master’s degrees in education.

The residency internship is designed to reshape graduate teacher education by ensuring long-term, high quality clinical experiences for professionals seeking to become classroom teachers. Each intern works in an assigned classroom for a full academic year, while completing university coursework.

Both university and school district partners collaborate on supervision and curriculum to ensure that theory and practice are integrated. Graduate students also participate in school wide initiatives and demonstrate positive impact on student learning and the school community as a program outcome.

During fall 2016, an inaugural cohort of 10 was selected for placements in Coventry School District. The program was a success. Of participating school district teachers and administrators, 85 percent indicated that interns were able to positively impact the learning experiences for P-12 students, and 100 percent of district participants supported program continuation.

“The year-long residency internship adheres to national standards for university-school district partnerships for clinical practice,” said Jacob Easley II, dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies and Graduate Division. “We are certain that the profession will be transformed by partnerships such as this; and we are excited about expanding the program in Windham Public Schools during the upcoming academic year.”

Former Washington Post Publisher Addresses Eastern Graduates

Written by Ed Osborn

                                                     Eastern Graduates 1,238 at XL Center

David Graham

David Graham

Hartford, CT — Former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham told the graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 127th Commencement exercises to “treasure this college. Eastern has given you a wonderful education . . . once you are making a living, give something back so that you can help Eastern continue to be great in the future.”

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 17, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,180 undergraduates and 58 graduate students received their diplomas.

Graham also told the graduates, “Throughout our history, American leaders have stood up in times of peril — during the American Revolution, during the Civil War, confronting Hitler, standing up to Communism, and advancing civil and women’s rights.  At some time in your life, you will be asked to stand up for what is right, and I know you will answer the call.” Noting that the American political system has worked very well for more than 200 years, Graham said, “Future politicians will say, ‘I will fight for you.’  That’s fine. But ask them, ‘What will you do when you are done fighting?’”

Commencement 2017 Crowd_7167The commencement speaker also received an honorary degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. Graham is chairman of Graham Holdings Co., formerly the Washington Post Co. A graduate of Harvard College, he is a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving as an information specialist with the First Cavalry Division from 1967-68.  He later served as a patrolman on the Washington, D.C., police force before joining the staff at the Washington Post in 1971 as a reporter.  Graham assumed the position of publisher of the Washington Post in 1979, following in the footsteps of his mother, Katherine Graham, who led the newspaper following her husband Philip Graham’s passing in 1963. In 1991, Donald Graham took over leadership as chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co.

Commencement 2017 Nunez and BabyIn 2013, Graham and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, joined Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Henry R. Munoz III, chairman of Munoz & Company, to co-found TheDream.US, a national scholarship fund that helps undocumented immigrant youth get access to a college education. Since its founding, TheDream.US has raised $91 million in scholarship funds, providing financial support to 1,700 college students nationwide. Graham also co-founded and served as chairman of the District of Columbia College Access Program; he remains a member of the board.  The program has helped double the number of District of Columbia public high school students going on to college and has helped triple the number graduating from college.

Commencement 2017 Nunez Shakes HandOther speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Matt Fleury, chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University System; and Senior Class President Abigail Caselli, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Ellen Lang ’81, president of the ECSU Alumni Association; Father Larry LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Commencement 2017 BEST BalloonNunez told the graduates she was confident they would impact the world in three ways,  first as professionals in the workforce, equipped with “. . . a highly desired set of skills” sought by the majority of American employers — “analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills, the broad intellectual and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.” Nunez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, quoting Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

Waving BESTLastly, Nunez encouraged the Eastern seniors to “. . . exercise your duties and rights as American citizens. Our nation remains a beacon of freedom and a guiding light for other nations to follow, not because of our military might or our economic power, but because of the political, religious and personal freedoms we enjoy.”

Commencement 2017 Four LadiesNoting those freedoms must be protected, Eastern’s president went on to say, “Being a citizen of this great nation is clearly an investment of time, but it is the only way we can protect the freedoms we hold dear. Never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else.  Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

Commencement 2017 FamiliesMore than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Commencement 2017 Student PresidentSenior Class President Abigail Caselli presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2017 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. “To a room filled with the next great doctors, nurses, actors and actresses, genetic counselors, presidents of universities, human resource managers and professors, just to name a few of the success stories to be written about my fellow graduates, I encourage you to use the opportunities that Eastern has given you and make the world around you better.  As someone once said, ‘Service is the highest form of leadership.’ May each of you find and share that leadership within you.”

Matt Fleury, president and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. “Today is a significant milestone for you,” he said. “We are proud of your accomplishments and applaud the many sacrifices you have made to get here. Your journey to this point was not easy, but for that reason, it is so much more satisfying. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference.”Commencement 2017 SelfiesMark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, also spoke to the graduates. “You have come a very long way since the first day you arrived at Eastern,” said Ojakian. “Life will take you in many different directions after you leave here tonight. The road in front of you is undefined. But I am hopeful that our state and our nation will be in a better place — as you become your future.”Commencement 2017 Christina

Commencement 2017 Foot GuardFrom the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions.

Commencemetn 2017 SingersUniversity Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Abigail Perreira and Kristin Uschkureit sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Leigha Grushkin gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Peter Drzewiecki was recognized as the 2017 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Eastern Presents Inclusive Excellence Awards to ALANA Students

Written by Dwight Bachman

Inclusive Excellence Award winners with keynote speaker Natasha Stephens

Inclusive Excellence Award winners with keynote speaker Natasha Stephens

 Eastern Connecticut State University recognized the academic achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students on May 5 during its Fifth Annual Inclusive Excellence Awards ceremony. Nine awards were given and 165 students were recognized for achieving GPAs of 3.5 or higher.

Eastern presented Melat Assefa and Christina Perez the Advisor’s Choice Award; Deja Seawright the Inspirational Leadership Award; and Chisolm Sunny Uduputa the International Student Award. The Resilient Warrior Award to AnnRichelle Akko, Daniel Costillo, Adrian Lopez Diaz and Yineira Lopez. Taylor Hemphill was named recipient of the Social Justice Advocacy Award, and the Volunteer Service Award went to Destiny Hartmann.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Eastern President Elsa Núñez told those in attendance that the awards ceremony was not just about inclusion. “It also speaks to Eastern’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, Social Responsibility, Engagement, and Empowerment. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  We are very proud of you! We are doing everything we can to promote the success of students of color. We know that having an inclusive, diverse, and culturally rich campus is good for all our students — in the end, we all must learn to live together in today’s global society.”

Natasha Stephens

Natasha Stephens

Alumna Natasha Stephens, who graduated from Eastern in 2003 and is the Title IX Coordinator at Wichita State University in Kansas, delivered the keynote address. She told the honorees she was honored to come back to campus. “While you have breath in your body, thank those who helped you, took time to meet with you, who gave you an opportunity and took a chance on you.  Never forget your roots and where you came from — no matter how high you go in life, give back of your time to someone else.”

She concluded by telling students that they can always change their plans. “Don’t limit yourself or your abilities — challenge yourself to new things. Believe in yourself, and give someone the wings to fly.”

Fun Mud Day Returns to Eastern

Written by Ed Osborn

Mud Day 1WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/26/2017) The preschool children of Eastern Connecticut State University’s Child and Family Development Resource Center will participate in the Second Annual Fun Mud Day on May 8 from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Eastern students majoring in physical education will be offering support and motivation to the children throughout the day.

The event consists of a challenge course that is filled with obstacles children do not usually encounter during a typical physical education class. The event is not a race, but an opportunity to work together as a team, so that all participants complete the course and have fun. Fun Mud Day will take place outside in the playground area and include mud, sprinklers, slippery slopes, leaves, ice and other elements of nature designed to challenge children and make them dirty and wet. The event will take place rain or shine.

Mud Day 2Parents and guardians are invited to attend as well to enjoy the activity with their child. They may participate as spectators and take pictures or choose to participate as a Mud Partner alongside their child. You may even see a few physical education majors completing the course as well.

Spectators are welcome and encouraged to attend. Eastern campus community members who are active or retired members of the U.S. military are especially invited, as this event is our preschool version of the “Tough Mudder” obstacle course events. “Tough Mudder” supports the “Wounded Warrior Project,” whose mission is to honor and empower wounded veterans. All visitors should enter through the main CFDRC entrance and sign in at the reception desk.

For more information, contact Darren Robert, robertd@easternct.edu, or Niloufar Rezai at rezain@easternct.edu

 

MEDIA ADVISORY: 300 Students to Participate in Eastern Research Conference

WILLIMANTIC, CT — The Third Annual CREATE Conference at Eastern Connecticut State University will take place this Friday, April 21, from 8:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CREATE stands for “Celebrating Research Excellence and Artistic Talent at Eastern,” and is the University’s premier conference showcasing student research and creative activity.

All activities take place in the Student Center except for an exhibit of student art taking place in room 223 of the Wood Support Services Center from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

From art to zoology, Shakespeare to social media, tax law to terrorism, Eastern students of all majors explore important concepts and produce exemplary research and creative work; the culmination of their work this academic year will be on display at CREATE. The one-day conference will feature more than 300 Eastern undergraduates, who will present talks, professional posters, live music, dance performances, art and photography exhibits, documentary films and panel discussions.

“CREATE is a reaffirmation of Eastern’s commitment to undergraduate research as Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university,” said Niti Pandey, business administration professor and conference co-chair. Reflecting on this year’s record number of participants, she added, “There is a wonderful variety of presentations and performances for people to see. CREATE 2017 showcases the hard work and talent of our students and demonstrates the dedication of their faculty mentors. We look forward to an excellent event!”

Members of the Eastern campus and surrounding communities are invited to browse the conference’s many cultural and academic offerings. “CREATE will be a superb learning experience for all who participate and a true celebration of our student’s achievements,” said Patricia Szczys, biology professor and conference co-chair.

Registration takes place at 8:15 a.m. in the Student Center Café, and the opening ceremony will begin at 8:45 a.m. in the Student Center Theatre. Those interested in the event but unable to attend the whole conference can view the schedule and presentation details at www.easternct.edu/create. Ample parking is available in the University’s two parking garages.

NOTE TO NEWS MEDIA:  The news media is invited to attend and cover the conference. This event is a marvelous collection of academic presentations, plays, musical performances, art on exhibit, and other student work — more than 300 students in all. Students and faculty mentors are available for interviews, and there will be host of photography opportunities. Come and see how undergraduates at Eastern are doing research commonly found only in graduate programs at larger institutions!

Eastern’s CECE Wins Sixth “Telly” Award

Written by Anne Pappalardo

Willimantic, CT – Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) was recently notified that they have been awarded a bronze “Telly” Award for their promotional video, “Welcome to the Center for Early Childhood Education.” This is the sixth time the CECE has been awarded a Telly.

The video won under the “Educational Institution” category for digital/streaming videos. It was created by employees Sean Leser and Ken Measimer to serve as the CECE’s “trailer” for its YouTube channel. Leser penned the script and assisted with voiceover duties, while both Leser and Measimer applied their video editing skills to the effort.

The Telly Awards recognize excellence in the technical aspects of video production. The Telly is “the premier award honoring the best in TV and cable, digital and streaming and non-broadcast productions.”  More than 13,000 entries are submitted annually.

Telly Awards honor excellence in film and video productions; groundbreaking web commercials, videos and films; and outstanding local, regional, cable television commercials and other programs. A Telly Award is one of the awards most valued by industry leaders, and entrants range from local production companies and advertising agencies to large international firms. This year’s award is the CECE’s sixth Telly. They also won awards for video projects submitted in 2010, 2011, 2013 (2) and 2016.

The video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/user/EarlyChildhoodVideos.

Eastern Unveils 2016 TIMPANI Toy Study Results

Written by Ed Osborn

-Plus-Plus® received the highest overall score in this year’s study.

– Plus-Plus® received the highest overall score in this year’s study.

Plus Plus in action at the preschool in Eastern's CECE

Plus Plus in action at the Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC) on the Eastern campus

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Early Childhood Education announced on Dec. 12 that “Plus-Plus®,” a toy made by the Danish company Plus-Plus®, has been named the 2016 TIMPANI (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination) Toy.

The annual toy study, which is now in its eighth year, investigates how young children play with a variety of toys in natural settings.  This year, 10 toys were selected for the study by teachers, faculty and student researchers.  The toys were placed in preschool classrooms in Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center, and student researchers used hidden cameras to videotape children playing with the toys.  Researchers then coded the footage according to the study’s evaluation rubric, which includes four subscales: thinking and learning, cooperation and social interaction, creativity and imagination, and verbalization.

“The TIMPANI study is ground-breaking, empirical and thought-provoking, and has garnered international attention since we started it eight years ago,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Eastern faculty and students are providing research-based guidance to preschool teachers, parents and others on toys that promote children’s intellectual growth, social interaction and creativity. In the process, our early childhood education students are learning to conduct empirical research of the highest quality.”

Plus-Plus® (Midi size) received the highest overall score in this year’s study.  It also scored the highest in the “thinking and learning” and “creativity and imagination” subscales.  In addition, the toy scored very highly with both boys and girls and with children from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“This was a toy that children from all different backgrounds could play with at a very high level,” said Julia DeLapp, director of the Center for Early Childhood Education. “We didn’t see some of the gender differences that we did with other toys, and children from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds played with it at equally high levels of play quality.”

Leah Slawinowski, a psychology and early childhood education student involved in the study, said, “I think that Plus-Plus did really well overall because you can do so many different things with it.  Children could build simple structures and develop their fine motor skills, or build something to be used in an elaborate pretend-play scenario.”

Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study, addresses the TIMPANI press conference

Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study, addresses the TIMPANI press conference

Professor Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, principal investigator of the study and Phyllis Waite Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education, noted, “Plus-Plus is a construction toy, and we’ve found from previous research that construction toys do very well on our evaluation rubric.  As children are building with these toys, they’re creating designs; they’re testing out their designs; they’re re-building their structures.  So if you think about it, construction toys like Plus-Plus are really simple engineering tools for very young children.”  Plus-Plus® is the fourth construction toy to be named the TIMPANI toy of the year since the study began in 2010.

Speaking to today’s educational emphasis on STEM fields — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — Trawick-Smith found that the skills developed through playing with construction toys are similar to the skills developed in engineering schools, citing Columbia University’s Graduate School of Engineering as an example.  They include skills like planning, measuring, model making and modifying designs. “Toys serve as engineering tools for young children,” he said.

One interesting finding in this year’s study was that the most frequently used toys did not always earn the highest play quality scores.  “Just because a toy is very popular does not mean it’s going to be the most beneficial in terms of children’s play,” commented Trawick-Smith.  “One implication of this is that adults need to carefully observe the impact that individual toys have on children and keep an eye open for toys that may not be selected as often but are really supportive of children’s play.  Then maybe they can guide children toward those toys and provide some support to children as they play.”

Eastern student researchers involved in various education studies with the CECE

Eastern student researchers are involved in various early childhood education studies with the CECE, including TIMPANI and an on-going study about “math talk.”

Rachel Borden, an art and early childhood education student involved in the study, noted how working on the study will influence her future teaching practices. “I will definitely think about the toys that I put in my classroom. Some toys are great for imagination, while others may be great at fostering thinking and decision making.  If I really want my students to work on socializing more, I’ll pick a toy that’s going to help and foster that.”

Slawinowski, also an aspiring teacher, added, “This study has made me consider the toys that are most beneficial for children in the long run. It really is important for kids to play with high-quality toys that promote critical skills such as verbalization and problem solving.”

Previous TIMPANI toys include Wooden Cash Register by Hape (2015); Paint and Easel (easel by Community Playthings), and Hot Wheels Cars by Mattel (2014); Magna-Tiles by Valtech!, and My First Railway by Brio (2013); Duplo Blocks by LEGO (2012); Tinker Toys by Hasbro (2011); Wooden Vehicles and Signs by Melissa and Doug (2010).

All of the toys investigated in the 2016 TIMPANI study

All of the toys investigated in the 2016 TIMPANI study

In discussing the success of certain TIMPANI toys, Trawick-Smith mentioned the Theory of Loose Parts. Developed in the 1970s by architect Simon Nicholson, the theory suggests that “loose parts” — materials that can be moved around, modified and tinkered with — allow for more creative and thoughtful play. “Loose parts are a common characteristic of many of our toys,” said Trawick-Smith. “They don’t come with instructions and they can be used in an infinite number of ways.”

For more information about the TIMPANI Toy Study, contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0687 or visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani/.

* * * * *
Disclaimer: The TIMPANI toy study does not consider, nor does it test, the safety of toys. The study makes no claims about the safety of any toy studied. Neither the Center for Early Childhood Education nor Eastern Connecticut State University is liable for any mishaps related to the use of toys mentioned in study findings. Concerns about any toy listed in the study findings should be directed to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

Eastern to Unveil 2016 TIMPANI Toy

Written by Michael Rouleau

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. — At a Dec. 12 press conference, the Center for Early Childhood Education (CECE) at Eastern Connecticut State University will announce the 2016 TIMPANI Toy (Toys that Inspire Mindful Play and Nurture Imagination) in the Joinery of the CECE. The press conference will begin at 10 a.m.

Last year’s TIMPANI Toy winner was a wooden cash register produced by Hape Toys. The register was chosen out of a selection of 10 toys based on its high tendency to engage children in cooperative play and social interaction, problem solving, creativity and verbalization.

Last year’s TIMPANI Toy winner was a wooden cash register produced by Hape Toys. The register was chosen out of a selection of 10 toys based on its high tendency to engage children in cooperative play and social interaction, problem-solving, creativity and verbalization.

The annual study, which is now in its eighth year, investigates how young children play with a variety of toys in natural settings. This year, 10 toys were selected for the study by the center’s faculty and student researchers. The toys were then approved by an advisory committee made up of Child and Family Development Resource Center staff.

The toys are placed in preschool classrooms, and student researchers use hidden cameras to videotape children playing with the toys. Researchers then code the footage according to the study’s evaluation rubric, which includes four subscales:  thinking and problem-solving, cooperation and social interaction, creativity and imagination, and verbalization.

Previous TIMPANI toys include Wooden Cash Register by Hape (2015); Paint and Easel by Community Playthings, and Hot Wheels Cars by Mattel (2014); Magna-Tiles by Valtech!, and My First Railway by Brio (2013); Duplo Blocks by LEGO (2012); Tinker Toys by Hasbro (2011); and Wooden Vehicles and Signs by Melissa and Doug (2010).

For more information about the TIMPANI Toy Study, contact the Center for Early Childhood Education at (860) 465-0687 or visit www.easternct.edu/cece/timpani/.

MEMBERS OF THE NEWS MEDIA ARE ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND THIS PRESS CONFERENCE.  Following the toy unveiling, video b-roll and still photography opportunities will be available in the Child and Family Development Resource Center.  You can’t find better photos and footage than that!

The press conference will take place in the Joinery in the Center for Early Childhood Education, Building 46 on the map found at http://www1.easternct.edu/map/files/2013/08/CampusMap2014.pdf.