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That could save districts money and give more resources to kids with severe learning problems that aren't so easily remedied. The new literacy-rich curricu­lum could use projects to teach kids multiple skills. That's the central concept at the Early Child­hood Education Center in Oglesby, Illinois, two hours southwest of downtown Chicago. A typical pro­ject gives 3 to 5-year-olds the task of researching pizza. They begin by asking questions posted on the classroom walls. What is the crust made of? What is the shovel for putting the pizza in the oven? Are there other ways to get pizza besides from a pizza place? They get answers by visiting local pizza parlors and making and decorating their own pies. In the process, they mea­sure ingredients, chart their progress and write about their experiences.

"We aren't teaching reading says Sallee Beneke, the director, "but we are teaching the precur­sors to reading by encouraging children to understand that things we draw and write about can be useful for communication." The fight over what's best for the pizza makers and the finger painters won't be re­solved quickly. But some major change seems inevitable. Even Bos is always looking for creative ways to use language. 

One morning last week she played the autoharp in the indoor play area as youngsters hopped around and made up their own lyrics. Then she" read them a book one mother had brought in, "Piggie Pie," with no clear end­ing.  Bos encouraged the kids to pick their own conclusion. Would the witch eat the wolf for lunch or just make him a burger? Asusual, there were no easy answers.

 

BY BARBARA KANTROWITZ  & PAT WINGERT

With Nadine Joseph  and Karen Springen

©NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE

April 29, 2002