RANDOLPH, NJ - The Randolph Education Association celebrated the Classroom Closeup NJ filming of Molly Ziegelstein’s Fernbrook Kindergarten class. Approximately 150 guests attended the May 1 Red Carpet event, which included dinner and an awards ceremony honoring the teacher and her class.

The New Jersey Education Association began the selection process by visiting the district, touring the classes and choosing which classroom to feature. The segment was then filmed in December.

“It was very exciting that day, going from school to school, and all of the staff showing their best lessons, and just being who they normally are -- the greatest stars in Randolph,” said Angela Cordova, the REA PRIDE chair.

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Cordova applied for a grant from the REA to host the dinner and viewing in the Randolph High School Commons and Auditorium. After viewing the segment, the teachers and each student “walked the red carpet” on stage to receive a medal.

“The biggest lesson, even in preparing for this Classroom Closeup Red Carpet, is that we all truly have to work together from day to day,” she said.

The segment, “Choicetime,” demonstrated how Ziegelstein incorporates play into the daily schedule, while still enforcing collaboration, planning and problem solving. This need for more play in the classroom became apparent when educators recognized the pressure put on the children in these early years.

“Today, we’re asking children to learn to read and learn to write, and so much more,” Ziegelstein said in the video. “There’s been such a shift since I was in school: I was stunned at the pressure that was put on these little 5 or 6 year old children.”

Pressure put on these children at a young age has “adverse outcomes… because they didn’t have a chance to be a kid,” she adds.

The Kindergarten team began looking for ways to bring play back into the classroom and implemented Choicetime. The Choicetime process involves four stages -- Choose, Plan, Play, and Proud Share. At the beginning of the week, the students will choose a theme such as restaurant or nail salon, plan how they will run the game, play the game and then share how each student helped.

“Choicetime is an hour of play that fosters social-emotional development for students,” Ziegelstein said. “More importantly, Choicetime is a time for kids to be kids and to take risks without a consequence.”

“Typically it will take two to three days to build what the center looks like, and then they play,” she explains in the video. “They assign roles to each person in the group… then we take time to reflect on what they did that day.”

After implementing Choicetime, teachers noticed “giving them this time to be kids has reduced the amount of stress and anxiety.”

At the viewing event, Fernbrook Principal Michelle Telischak commented, “It’s just so wonderful to get to go into the Kindergarten and see how play is such an integral part of what goes on in the classroom.”

Classroom Closeup NJ is a 30-minute show featuring innovative projects and classrooms classes throughout N.J. public schools. View Ziegelstein’s segment at classroomcloseup.org . Read more on play in Kindergarten in Ziegelstein’s article, A Joyful Journey to Play in K.

Another red carpet event on June 18 will feature the Classroom Closeup segment for Shongum’s 5th grade teacher, Bobbie Sobel.