The Ultimate Block Party's Blog

Archive for September 2011

Can you believe it? Only 9 days left until the Ultimate Block Party in Baltimore!

Are you coming? RSVP on facebook:


As this article in the Mt. Washington Post discusses, Baltimore is gearing up for the ultimate day of play on Sunday, October 2.  From the kickoff Teach Learn Play 5K presented from Playworks to the official Baltimore Ultimate Block Party, October 2 will be a day of play and learning in Baltimore! Be there!

Check out our official press release – Baltimore, here we come!

For immediate release: September 8, 2011

Marylanders Serious about Play

Baltimore, Md. – Children learn essential skills by doing something they all know and enjoy: playing. And on Sunday, October 2 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Rash Field in the Inner Harbor, the whole city is invited to come together and celebrate playing—and the rich learning and growth that come with it—at Baltimore’s own Ultimate Block Party. The event comes on the heels of two other Ultimate Block Party celebrations—in New York City and Toronto, Canada—and makes Baltimore the third in a series of play celebrations in major cities across North America. Children and their families can take part in classic childhood pastimes—dressing up like railroad conductors, playing Four Square, flying paper airplanes, jumping rope and making art from recycled materials. And they can do yoga, make hip-hop music and play rock-n-roll baseball—and any number of other fun, family-friendly games and activities.

The Ultimate Block Party in Baltimore is hosted by the Ultimate Block Party and Port Discovery Children’s Museum, and sponsored by several local and national organizations: Baltimore City Public Schools’ Family Institute,  Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute, the Goddard Schools, the Walters Art Museum, T. Rowe Price, Sprout, Child First Authority, the Center for Jewish Education.

Family Institute, which works to provide Baltimore City Public Schools families with resources to support student learning in school and at home, embraced the Ultimate Block Party as a way to show that learning extends far beyond school. “The Ultimate Block Party is a great way to help families practice things that will support their students’ achievement –while having fun,” said Michael Sarbanes, executive director of City Schools’ Office of Engagement. “We believe our parents and communities play an incredibly important role in our students’ academic success, and this day puts that belief into action.”

“The Ultimate Block Party shares a common vision and understanding with Family Institute and the event’s many other sponsors that play equals learning—and does wonders to boost a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development,” said Susan Magsamen, president of the organization Ultimate Block Party (UBP) and director of interdisciplinary partnerships for Johns Hopkins Brain Science Institute. “This event is as much about raising awareness of the learning that can happen through play as it is about letting loose and having fun.”

Founded in 2010, UBP is the result of leading scientists in education, psychology, neuroscience and cognitive science coming together with parents, teachers, school administrators and pediatricians who noticed a decrease in the amount of time kids spend playing. “Social, academic and economic pressures have led to an all-but disappearance of play in the lives of children,” Magsamen said. “But we know from our research that children learn best through discovery, imagination, play and collaborative learning.”

Organizers of the initial event were rewarded for their vision when more than 50,000 people from every borough in New York City, and even surrounding communities from New Jersey to Connecticut, came out in droves and spent the day at play. With the success of the New York event, cities across the country rushed to tailor UBP to fit their own communities. Baltimore is the first of these cities to actually hold an Ultimate Block Party event. So come out, Baltimore, come out and play on Sunday, October 2!


Contact: Robin Stevens Payes Ultimate Block Party

Cell: 240.351.5847


Andria Washington

Port Discovery Children’s Museum

Phone: 410.864.2681

Unless you are really lucky and happen to live near a safari or in a high-rise by a zoo, you probably don’t live in an area in which your child is exposed to animals like lions, tigers, and bears very often, if at all!  But many children know that a lion roars, a tiger has stripes, and a bear walks on all fours and is fuzzy.  How is it that young children learn about animals that they rarely, if ever, actually see in real life?  It may seem easy enough to you, but do you remember how hard it was to learn about scientific concepts like electrons and neutrons because you couldn’t actually SEE them?  This raises an interesting challenge – how do children learn about things that we don’t experience in everyday life?

Books plays a key role in exposing children (and adults) to worlds that exist outside of their everyday reality.  A recent paper published online in the journal Child Development examines what children learn from books.  Researchers from the University of Toronto, Ryerson University, and the University of Virginia completed a set of studies examining whether young children could learn information about animals from a picture book and furthermore, could they actually transfer (or extend) this new information to a new animal example or even a real animal?  The researchers first showed 3- and 4-year old children photographs of animals (lizards or caterpillars)  – some of these animals were camouflaged by the background of the picture (i.e., a blue caterpillar in front of a blue background) and some of the animals were not (i.e., a blue caterpillar in front of a red background).  The researchers asked the children which creature was more likely to be eaten by a hungry hawk.  About 57 percent of the children chose the non-camouflaged animal.  Next, the researcher read a picture book to the child which explained how it was harder for a bird to find a frog that was the same color as its surroundings versus a different color.  Then, each child was shown photographs of camouflaged and non-camouflaged frogs and butterflies and asked which would be most likely to be eaten by that pesky hungry hawk.  This allowed researchers to see if children were able to learn from reading the picture book and also whether they were able to apply this new knowledge about camouflage to new creatures (i.e., the butterfly).  It turns out that the simple act of reading a picture book helped children to learn about the concept of camouflage and now 73 percent (compared to 57 percent before they read the picture book) of children chose the non-camouflaged animal when asked about which would be more likely to be eaten.

The researchers also asked whether the story was told in a fact-based way (i.e., factual based statements about animals and camouflage) and an anthropomorphized way (i.e.,  giving the animals feelings and intentions) – it turns out that children were equally able to learn from both kids of stories.  The final question that the researchers asked was whether children would be able to transfer the knowledge that they gained about camouflage to real, live animals.  This time, instead of showing children new pictures after reading a picture book, children were asked to find a ‘safe home’ for a real-life crab and a lizard and choose between two tanks – one which matched the color of the animals and one that did not.  While this was a little harder for kids, they were still able to transfer this brand new knowledge about camouflage to real-life examples.

What does this mean for you?  The fact that 3- and 4-year old children can learn about the biological concept of camouflage just from reading a book suggests that children are learning information about the big, huge world around us from the books that are right in our homes, schools, and libraries.  This means that reading books with your kids isn’t just a fun activity – it is helping them to learn about the world around them – even worlds that they don’t directly experience!  This explains why your little one may love elephants and know that they use their trunks spray water even if they have never seen an elephant before!  If you think about it, this isn’t so easy – in order for children to learn from books, they have to understand that the picture or illustration of an animal or objects on a page actually represents something in the real world. So before your next trip to the zoo, read a book about animals and then talk with your child about the fun new facts that you learned from the book and how it relates to the real animals you see in front of you.  Together, you and your child can explore amazing worlds full of whales, giraffes, and elephants – oh my!

Featured Article:

Ganea, P.A., Ma., L., & DeLoache, J.S. (in press). Young Children’s learning and transfer of biological information from pictures books to real animals. Child Development.

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine


    • Amanda Gambill: Playworks is so happy to have the Ultimate Block party here in Baltimore! The event is going to be amazing! We are also looked forward to being the mo
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    • Beth Kimberly: Absolutely! Recess is an invaluable part of the school day. I love that, as you point out, "there were NO negative impacts of recess." I find it awful
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