Drs. Bodrova and Leong
The Tools of the Mind curriculum began in 1993 at Metropolitan State College of Denver (now Metropolitan State University of Denver) when Dr. Elena Bodrova and Dr. Deborah Leong began working together in early childhood classrooms to improve children’s ability to learn and to teach educators new techniques for working with children. Dr. Bodrova came to the United States from Russia, where she had studied with students and colleagues of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky and had worked on the application of Vygotskian-based teaching methods in preschool and kindergarten classrooms.
The first priority of Drs. Bodrova and Leong was to create Vygotskian-based instructional strategies that would work in U.S. classrooms, which have different cultural demands than those in Russia, where the strategies were first developed. They crafted activities that teachers would be able to implement and that formed a coherent whole—with both a consistent theoretical framework and an internal logic.
In 1996, Drs. Bodrova and Leong collaborated on a book, Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education. Today this book is recognized as a classic for its down-to-earth explanation of the Vygotskian approach and how it can be applied in classrooms. The second edition was published in 2007, and has been translated into several languages.
Tools of the Mind has been the subject of numerous research studies, ranging from single district evaluations to multi-site, nation-wide implementations. In 2001, Tools was named an “exemplary educational intervention” by the International Bureau of Education, a UNESCO program. The November 30, 2007 issue of Science Magazine presented the results of research on cognitive control from a study conducted in Tools of the Mind classrooms by the National Institute for Early Education Research. In 2012, Tools of the Mind was included in the 2013 CASEL Guide to Effective Social and Emotional Learning Programs.
Formerly administered out of the Center for the Improvement of Early Learning at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, the program now operates as an independent non-profit and is housed at the Third Sector New England.