tools-nytmag1The article appears in an education-themed edition of the magazine.

The Red Bank school system‘s cutting-edge early childhood education program known as Tools of the Mind is spotlighted in the New York Times Magazine on newsstands today and tomorrow.

Already a magnet for education theorists who come to town to see it in action, the borough program is used by the magazine as a jumping-off point for a detailed discussion of some fairly arcane research into what works and doesn’t work in equipping pre-K and kindergarten students with the ability to learn.

The article appears in an education themed issue. And while it doesn’t quote any local parents, teachers or administrators, it does open with an extended narrative focusing on three Red Bank students — Abigail, Jocelyn and Henry, no last names used — as they interact over an assignment. The aim of the assignment is to instill the quality of “self-regulation,” or the ability to focus on a task until it’s completed, and other skills believed to be essential to learning.

Here’s author Paul Tough’s thumbnail on what Tools of the Mind is all about:

At the heart of the Tools of the Mind methodology is a simple but surprising idea: that the key to developing self-regulation is play, and lots of it. But not just any play. The necessary ingredient is what Leong and Bodrova call “mature dramatic play”: complex, extended make-believe scenarios, involving multiple children and lasting for hours, even days. If you want to succeed in school and in life, they say, you first need to do what Abigail and Jocelyn and Henry have done every school day for the past two years: spend hour after hour dressing up in firefighter hats and wedding gowns, cooking make-believe hamburgers and pouring nonexistent tea, doing the hard, serious work of playing pretend.

After running a pilot program for 3- and 4-year-olds last year, the district dramatically expanded its pre-k program this month.