Educational Activities is a pioneering creator and publisher of educational resources for K–12 classrooms, primarily focusing on audio recordings and music created for early childhood education. Since the 1960s, the organization has released recordings by Ella Jenkins, Hap Palmer, Rosemary Hallum, and other prominent musicians. Their recordings, centered on children’s physical development for able and physically challenged students, continue to be used in classrooms today.
Label founder Ed Durlacher, a bandleader and square dance caller, began his journey in 1948, founding a record publishing business with family members Alfred and Adele Harris. The business, Square Dance Associates, was marketed under the label name Honor Your Partner Records. Durlacher felt that the joy of square dancing—along with the positive social interaction and physical activity—was beneficial to child development.
In the 1960s, the company built on the popularity of Durlacher’s square dancing program, the Talk-Through, Walk-Though Method, and changed its name to Educational Activities, Inc. A separate company, Activity Records, Inc., was formed to concentrate on the production and publication of the recordings. They became known for a complete line of easy-to-follow exercise programs for physical education classes, accessible for all students, including the physically challenged.
In 1968, the focus on music and movement led to a partnership with Palmer, who was known as an innovator in early childhood education. His unique series of basic skills recordings published by Educational Activities were some of the first to help children grasp academic concepts by moving and singing. Based on his teaching experience, Palmer created recordings that could assist teachers with the challenge of incorporating music and movement activities into the classroom. His musical style proved popular with the teachers themselves.
In the 1980s, Educational Activities teamed up with another icon in early childhood education, Ella Jenkins, to develop four albums, her only albums not on Folkways. Jenkins, known as “the first lady of children’s music,” was the first "folk” performer to teach fun, interactive music in schools and preschools, incorporating world cultures and the joy of music.
As schools increased the use of media in the classroom, Educational Activities developed videos to engage students through sight and sound in a variety of instructional areas, including math, science, literacy and art.
Smithsonian Folkways acquired Educational Activities in April 2021, and is committed to making available quality products and resources that support the efforts of teachers, librarians, and parents around the world.