Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The magic of a summer garden


 The garden is such a wonderful resource we have at Tumbleweed. Since the start of the warmer temperatures in spring we have seen an explosion of life in the garden. Our plants are growing bigger each day and recognizable vegetables we all know and love are emerging. We love checking on the garden every time we come back from the weekend and seeing what’s new. Sometimes flowers pop up over a few days or crops ripen and are ready to be picked. We harvested the peas on thursday and came back to find several more growing on monday!
We enjoy watching what kind of creatures are crawling in the garden like spiders, beetles, worms and all sorts of multi-legged insects.
One day we released ladybugs and watched where they went and what they did. We talked about how ladybugs help the garden stay healthy because they eat aphids, a bug that eats the plants. Lately we have been noticing beautiful butterflies fly through the garden. Someone always notices and follows the butterfly until it is out of sight. We talk about the important role of insects like bees and what they do to help plants grow.  

The garden presents many learning opportunities ready to be explored. We first started learning about seeds and how a little seed holds the power of life and takes root once it is planted in the ground. Then we learned that once the seed is in the ground it needs nourishment like the sun and water to help it grow strong. As it develops roots it gets the nutrients it needs from the soil and continues to grow.

Since we planted seeds and plant starts in the spring the garden has seen an explosion of growth. At first there were only branches, then leaves began to grow in the spring. We observed blossoms on the branches, and soon enough the little buds turned into miniature versions of the fruits and vegetables we recognize every day like apples, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots.






Children love helping take care of the garden by watering it and helping pull weeds. When it is time to harvest they can help pick peas or pull the leaves off to separate a head of cauliflower or cabbage from the rest of the plant.









When we wait to harvest something as a group, like raspberries, it can be challenging for everyone, especially when we enjoy raspberries so much and they are right at our fingertips, but the garden is a helpful tool to teach the importance of waiting and as a result we develop patience. We learn that through waiting to pick the raspberries as a group that we will be able to
pick them when they are ready to be eaten and enjoy them all together for snack. Through this experience we can promote collaboration through working together to take care of the garden and then enjoy the fruit of our efforts together.







Monday, August 27, 2018

The Language of Consent


Consent. It's a small word but has such a big meaning in our classroom and has a huge role to play in our every day interactions. Cohort 13 as a whole is so close to each other and love spending time together.

 


Some peers really enjoy being close to one another constantly while others feel more comfortable with some space. Since each child desires different levels of closeness and touch, it is my role to act as a moderating presence in the classroom so that when potential conflict arises between peers I can demonstrate to everyone how to use words and body language to communicate their feelings. This is where the language of consent is used as a tool to give each person power and choice over what happens to their body.

 

Hugs are a great way peers show affection and comfort to each other but just as every child is different and unique, each child has a different personality and interest in showing affection through hugging and touch.



A frequent scene in the classroom involves giving and receiving hugs. Our group as a whole loves giving each other hugs. Some children love to hug others frequently, anytime they see their friend they desire to show affection through hugging.

 

Some peers like to receive hugs while others only like hugs when they’re in an affectionate mood. But when they’re occupied with an activity, especially when a child is playing and really focusing on something, a hug isn’t always a welcomed gesture, especially when it is placed upon the child without their consent.

Everyday we talk about seeing if a hug works first before proceeding with it. This looks like approaching each other slowly with open arms and pausing to see if another child will also open their arms to show they would like a hug or it can also mean simply asking another child for a hug and waiting for their response which could be “no”,“space” or an outstretched arm to signify the need for space.

 

We talk frequently about respecting each other's bodies by giving them space. Which can look like sitting next to a friend but not so close that the other friend feels uncomfortable with how close the peer is. We talk about how we can tell how peers feel about something through their body language. If a child pulls away when another child is trying to show them a toy or get them to play with the toy, we talk about how the child isn’t interested in playing with the toy through their body language.




There is so much to learn about each other, our feelings and how to interact with one another in a way that values consent, body autonomy and respect. What important work it is to model this every day so every child can see and duplicate this in their every day world!

The joy of helping out


At Tumbleweed every child gets a chance to help out if they would like to! Toddlerhood is a time when children take great pride in being able to do things, especially if it means helping someone out. In offering opportunities to help out around the house the group learns how to be helpful to others and they learn new life skills that will hopefully last a lifetime. When children participate in tasks that care for their environment, they also take on responsibility and ownership of their space around them.
The greatest example of this willingness to help out is with wiping the table, chairs and floor after meal times. I always let everyone
know that I am going to spray down the table and chairs and then ask if anyone would like to help wipe down the tables. “Me!” exclaims
each willing person as they run to help.



During meal times, whenever there’s a spill on the floor cohort 13 as a whole is eager to clean up the mess and they encourage each
other to clean up as well! During the clean up process I ask if any help is needed. Some kids gladly accept help from me or other peers
while others are determined on cleaning up the spill themselves. Either way, there are plenty of washcloths to go around!

Sweeping is always something that the children love to mimic in the room. Lately, some children have been very interested in using
the big broom. I mention that the big broom is just for teachers to use but if one wants to help, they can hold the dust pan on the
ground while I sweep into it.


Laundry is another task that some people are more than willing to help out with. Helping out can look like emptying out the clothes
from the washer or dryer into the laundry basket and then carrying the basket into the kitchen.

At the table we can practice separating the clothes by the different items. Some laundry only I can fold, but we can certainly try to fold
clothes as best as we can together. After the items are folded, children can help carry wash clothes into the bathroom. It can be
challenging to balance the tall stack of folded washcloths without dropping any, but we can try!

At the end of the day, everyone feels happy to have helped make Tumbleweed a cleaner place while also feeling proud of their hard work!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Navigating Transitions Together

We pass through so many transitions at the Preschool House, from our daily transitions like going from inside to outside, and from lunch to nap, to big transitions like starting at our school, saying goodbye to old friends, or greeting a new teacher.  How do preschoolers help themselves and one another through times of transition?






We take the time to slow down and gather as a group to talk through a transition.  The more children are able to anticipate what's coming next, the more they will be able to be active participants in their daily routines.











We ask questions, and listen closely to the answers.  If we don't know an answer when someone asks us something, we do some research - who might know the answer to that question?  Or where could the answer be found?













 We make agreements as a group about what works and what feels safe.  By doing this, when something changes and feels new, we already have a stable foundation of choices that we've built together.



We find ways to get grounded, and reconnect with our body and breath.




We share materials when we want to, and use things by ourselves when we need space or individual focus.


We have daily rituals and routines that are the same every single day, so if one of us forgets what's next, the group is there to help them remember!











We offer choice and variety throughout the day.  If what we are doing right now doesn't work for you, there are options, and there is the knowledge that each part of the day passes and leads to something else.




We offer help and engage in teamwork and collaboration.




We offer our friends a gentle touch to help them feel connected and safe.

Friday, July 13, 2018

"What If They Were All Connected?"

The past two weeks have been big ones at the Preschool House, as a cohort of preschoolers graduated and a new group of two- and three-year-olds joined the school from the Infant House.  For Cohort 10 + 12, there has been a slightly different schedule, a new space, two new teachers, and lots of new children to meet.  The preschoolers who were already here have said goodbye to old friends, greeted new ones, and had a new teacher come into their lives (me!)

Watching the two groups of children get to know one another has been beautiful.  I'm in awe of their openness and willing to accept one another's different ways of doing things.  Above all, I see in these children a desire to connect and understand each other.  This doesn't always happen smoothly, as we learn each other's likes, dislikes, preferences, and boundaries it's been important to have teachers close by, sometimes to provide comfort, sometimes a listening ear, and sometimes guidance or coaching when conflict or confusion arises.

At times of transition, emotions are often heightened, and it feels important to have nonverbal outlets for children to express those big feelings.  We've offered lots of opportunities for dance and yoga, gross motor activities outside, construction and deconstruction of towers and forts, and many chances for nonverbal expression with art materials.


Last Thursday for small group I gathered a group of six children: half established preschoolers and half children who were new to the Preschool House.  I laid out a piece of butcher paper and in front of each child's spot I offered one color of paint directly on the paper and a long paint brush.  My idea was to offer each child limited materials and see if it sparked a conversation about sharing, what feelings might come up, and how we could help each other.

Often with a provocation like this, I will let my intentions remain unspoken, but this time I decided to let the group in on my plan.  I told them, "When we sit at the table, everyone will have only one color of paint.  I'm curious to see what kinds of plans you guys will come up with and what kinds of questions you'll have for each other."

As we sat at the table, each child started out just painting with their own paint in front of their spot.  Everyone was excited about their ideas: FK was making a fire breathing dragon, and LD was making a viking ship.  After a few minutes of painting, LC really wanted some of FK's blue paint to mix with her white paint.  She asked, "Can I share with you?" and FK replied, "Sure - we can connect your picture and my picture."

I felt a brief pause at the table.  Everyone else thought about connecting paintings while FK and LC quietly merged their two areas of the table.  Painting continued for a bit, and then LD realized he'd taken up all the room he could with his viking ship!  He needed more space.

LD proposed to the table: "Hey what if they were all connected?"  AM responded enthusiastically: "Yeah!" and FK chimed in "Hey, yeah!  That's a great idea!"  RM looked at what her friends were doing and let them know "I'm making a ship by myself," and everyone agreed that was just fine.  JS had been watching all the painting and making a plan for his paint and at this point he began to paint as well, and told his friends, "Yeah, you can share my paint, too."  Everyone noticed that where the different paint colors came together they blended and swirled in different ways, and that RM's paint stayed bright blue, which we thought was pretty cool as well!

As the paint started to run out and children started to feel done with their work, FK looked over the whole project: "We made a dragon ship together!"  Everyone checked in with me to make sure that the painting would be hung on the wall for parents and friends to see, feeling very proud of what they had made through connection and collaboration.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Explorations with Clay

Clay time is always a special activity the children of Cohort 13 look forward to participating in.

When we first started, I gave everyone a ball of clay to explore. I saw some excited faces, and some curious faces as each
child poked or prodded the clay in a way that helped them discover more about the properties of clay. I left this activity open
ended at first and when I saw interest beginning to wane, I demonstrated one way to squish the clay by using your fingers to
flatten it out.

Some children noticed how squishy the clay was while poking or pounding it and continued to do that while others noticed those
same qualities and ripped little pieces of the clay, making their one ball turn into several pieces.
Other children decided to explore how it tasted and quickly learned that using their hands to play with it was a more acceptable choice
and more fun as well given the bland taste of clay.

The next time we worked with clay I introduced some tools such as a pick and then a roller. Each person used the tools in a different way.
Some used the pick to poke the clay and were fascinated when the clay was sturdy enough to hold the pick in place yet flexible enough
to be ripped apart into many different pieces.
The next time we worked with clay I added a small metal bowl and metal ring into the mix. Some children pressed down the metal ring into
the clay while others used it as a container for lots of little clay pieces.
Through this child-led exploration we learn about the properties of clay by observing how it changes when it is touched and how it
stays the same. In this way each child can participate in the scientific inquiry process and learn about something not only through
observation but through exploration too.


What a great way to learn about the world around us!