By David Ogul
Cal State San Marcos professor Christiane Wood has written the book on innovative education. Literally.
Wood’s new publication, “The Literacy of Play and Innovation: Children as Makers” (Routledge, 2019) provides an in-depth study of four early educators’ classrooms at a “maker” school where a makerspace, learning-by-creating environment fuels children’s curiosity and creativity, critical ingredients in literacy learning.
“Makerspaces help children expand their intellectual capability,” said Wood, an assistant professor of literacy education. “For young children, literacy and play are the foundations of all learning, and for this reason, understanding how literacy and play intersect with design and makerspaces becomes important as we explore the pedagogical value of making and creating cultures of innovation,” she wrote in her book.
“The Literacy of Play and Innovation: Children as Makers” evolved through Wood’s dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: “The Literacy of Play and Innovation: A Case Study of Bricolage” – Bricolage referring to the innovative New Orleans charter school that provided the case study.
“This truly amazing school employed makerspaces in giving kids the opportunity to be creative in learning while at the same time boosting the social and emotional development of children and allowing them to celebrate and incorporate their culture into their lessons,” Wood said.
A key aim of the book, Wood said, is to lay a foundation for developing theories and models that open the doors of exploration into new and complex literacies in early childhood makerspace contexts. “Makerspaces and making specifically informal learning environments for diverse populations of young urban children is currently underexplored and undertheorized.”
“The Literacy of Play and Innovation: Children as Makers” is far from Wood’s only endeavor examining the role of makerspaces as equitable literacy learning environments for younger children. She is currently engaged in a research project with the San Marcos Unified School District focusing on how schools provide innovative opportunities and employ makerspaces to boost learning. She’s also working with an elementary school in Oceanside to create a makerspace and curriculum for transitional kindergarten and kindergarten classes. And she has authored or co-authored several research papers and made a number of presentations on the subject.
Wood began her career as an educator in Milwaukee, where Wood – who had a language certificate in French from the University of Paris – taught kindergartners, first graders and second graders in a French-immersion school just months after graduating from Marquette University in 1999. The school drew students from both inner-city and affluent neighborhoods. Socioeconomic background, however, seemed to matter not; achievement levels were high for children from both rich and poor families. Which begged the question: How were students from inner-city neighborhoods thriving academically in an immersion school, yet achievement gaps persisted at traditional city schools?
She returned to Marquette for a master’s degree in educational policy, leadership, and literacy studies, picking up a teaching certificate in early childhood education along the way. That led to further work in public education, including teaching sixth, seventh and eighth grades before returning to kindergarten and first-grade classrooms.
Wood secured her doctorate in curriculum and instruction – literacy studies, educational technology, in May 2016 and began teaching at CSUSM’s School of Education that fall. In just her second year at CSUSM, she was honored with the College of Education, Health & Human Services’ 2017-18 Outstanding Faculty Award for Scholarship and Creative Activity.