Monday, January 30, 2012

Basic Trust

One of the pieces of RIE that I love most is basic trust. In short, basic trust means that as a caregiver I trust the child to be the initiator of their own learning. Rather than leading so that they follow me, I let the child lead so that I may follow them.

With this in mind, much of my time during the day that is not devoted to basic needs is focused on observing the children and asking myself: What are they processing? What are they working on? What do they notice?

Currently we are noticing and processing our new environment and the new faces we find in that environment. Much of our day is spent watching one another. It's an exciting time. We are taking those first steps in building relationships.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dramatic Play and Dance

I miss movement class with Iris. I think we all do and with the recently dreary weather, we are in need of lots of indoor movement at TPH. While Iris may be on hiatus, the preschoolers have found myriad ways to incorporate movement into our indoor play. Movement classes that I have recently conducted incorporate yoga, silks, and lots of imagination. In one game the children pretend to be sleeping and then choose an animal to imitate when they wake up. Yoga consists of a child choosing a stretch to hold for 10 seconds. However, the most creative movement ideas have come from the PSers and it has emerged in the form of DANCE!

In December I attended a dance recital that IO and EB performed in. The weeks leading up to the show and the following weeks were filled with enthusiasm for dance. IO often helped MR achieve different poses. Recently KO has demonstrated an interest in dance as well. This past Wednesday, SC IO, EB, TC and KO were inside with me and decided to instruct me on dance moves. "This is first position, now bend your knees for a plie." IO showed me. At one point KO approached IO, bowed, kissed her cheek and took her hand for a dance. SC and TC were interested in instructing me as well. SC waved her hands slowly back and forth and pointed her toe. TC eagerly asked, "Do you want to see my dance move?" He chose to jump and move his arms like wings.

Taking a cue from all of the dance hype, I offered the back room for dance performances. 3 kids at a time chose a song and danced together. Play in the back room usually incorporates dress up as well. I have noticed that dance helps the PSers explore coordination, music and performance. However, I have recently noticed how dress up and dance help the PSers practice teamwork as well. Here SC helps K prepare a dance costume:

IO is also very enthusiastic about helping other dress up. She often helps MR prepare and, here, she helped KO find a costume.
Here, TB helps TC find a dance outfit:

MR proudly displays a silk G helped her tie on:

Moreover, since we take shifts in the back room, the three present PSers learn to work as a team. K approaches SC and askes, "Do you want to dance with me?" and they coordinate a dance together. Or G and K decide to toss silks in unison for their dance performance:

The PSers also help keep track of who has and has not taken a turn in the back room. "TS hasn't had a turn" SC informs me when a space in the back room opens up and then goes to invite TS to dance.
We have been making some BIG movements indoors and our back room has been full of drama and dance! As I try to incorporate these interests into our days at school, I am continually encouraged by the learning that unfolds within movement and performance. The PSers are sharpening their joining and communication skills as they create performances together. From teaching each other dance moves, to costume design, to cooperative choreography TPH is learning to love dance as a community!


The preschoolers spent a long time building fairy homes outside and often still make fairy homes out of various blocks. Throughout the past couple of weeks, this interest in making homes has expanded to other kinds of homes, some real, some represented by other objects, and some imagined. 

Outside, I noticed IR, IO, and EB placing grass and other objects in a tin container. Then, IR began looking around the yard for something in particular. I noticed her pick up a worm and place it in one of the containers. She looked at me and said, "This is a worm home." She set the container into one of the barrels, gently placing a couple more worms into the container, covering them slightly with grass. 

I then noticed a stack of bricks by one of the barrels, near where MR was standing. I said, "I wonder what this is." MR turned to me and said, "It's a snail house. I made it and boy TLC helped!" 

KC came over to see what we were talking about. He looked at the bricks and smiled. TLC then came by and knocked a couple of bricks off of the top. KC said, "Oh no" and looked at MR. KC and MR began to rebuild the "snail house."

MR continued to talk about the snails and then said it was also a "worm house."

Throughout the next couple of weeks, homes were made out of various materials. We had play-dough out one morning and GS was building something. I went over near him and he began talking about his structure. 

He said, "This is an ant home." Pointing his finger close to the play-dough he said, "This is the top ground and this is the low ground. The low ground is underground. The ants live in the little holes." He continued to work on his "home" for a minute or so longer and then mushed his dough back into a ball.

During the same day, KC began setting up a focused play area on the large rug. He chose two different types of objects to set up, the multi-colored wooden blocks and the wooden animals. 
KC said, "I'm making a house for the foxes." Before finishing his "house," he put the blocks away and got out the large wooden blocks instead. He built a new "home" for the deer, that completely surrounded the deer.

MR came over and asked, "KC, can I help you?" KC replied, "Yeah." They began trying to put a "gate" on their structure, perhaps so that the deer had somewhere to get in and out of their "home."

They worked together until they were both happy with where the gate was, making sure it fit just right, and was big enough. When the gate was finally put on the "home," MR and KC worked together to open and close it.

The preschoolers have been very interested in collage materials recently. On a few different occasions, a certain kind of home was made out of these materials.

EB placed some string in a circle on the piece of felt in front of her and placed other objects in the center of string. She said, "I'm making a bird's nest." Once she was finished she took apart her bird's nest and put the collage materials away.

The following week, we put out the collage materials again. TLC and SM sat across from each other and began collecting materials on their felt. 

SM and TLC emptied all of the bowls of materials, placing them in large piles on their pieces of felt. SM made sure his pile stayed in tact, moving a few pieces to the top of his pile. He exclaimed, "It's a bird's nest!" TLC said, "Look at mine, it's a bird's nest too!"

Homes have also been imagined by the preschoolers. They often talk about what a real castle might look like, or what various animal homes look like. Some homes are drawn from a memory of something loved.
EB and IO put their drawings up on the wall. EB said as she pointed to her drawing, "This is a castle. Cinderella lives here." She then pointed to IO's drawing and said, "This is little house on the prairie." These house drawings become more detailed and the stories about them more elaborate with each explanation. 

Exploring homes through play not only gives the preschoolers the opportunity to experiment with making real homes for various critters, but to also learn about what different homes look like and how various animals and people live. The preschoolers are pulling more from their memories of stories and observations, while using their imaginations to freely build, draw, and create all sorts of homes.

The Power of Babies

"You can touch her hair."
Surrounded by soft friends
About a year ago I read an article in the NY Times in response to the heightened awareness of childhood bullying that is being highlighted in today's society: Fighting Bullying with Babies.  A group called Roots of Empathy began a program with school aged children using babies to build empathy.  A mother and baby are introduced to the classroom and the children are instructed to observe the baby and mother and even place them selves in themselves in the baby.  Role paying involving what it might feel like to be unable to move like you want is a starting point, which then evolved into deeper realizations of what it must feel like to be a baby.  Teachers were amazed at the care and interest simply having a young baby in the classroom caused with all of the children, even those who struggle with attention and awareness of others.  This article struck me because I realized that this was the work that the children at TIH do on a daily basis!  Learning not just how to be safe and aware around young infants, but how to slow down, interact and even understand what being a baby might be like is built into our daily rhythm.  I have always noticed a strong empathy naturally emanating from the children at our school, so it made a lot of sense to  me that this might simply be because of our work with babies. 
Every child at TIH is introduced to even the youngest babies.  We watch them cry and think about why they might be crying.  We talk about the work of the infant teacher and how they care for the babies.  We talk about the basic needs of the babies, often relating them to our own needs.   We practice touching babies in a safe way and notice the similarities and differences.  They sometimes cannot move on their own.  Some can grab a toy and others are happy simply watching.  Some babies can put their fingers in their mouth, while some are trying to walk.  Just the other day when we were observing cohort 5, L rolled over and as I described what was happening all of the boys cheered for her.

Later that week, L joined us in our classroom for a moment.  Our favorite soft friends were arranged around her as the boys came to watch her more closely.  We talked about safe touching, sounds she made and how excited she was to look at the big kids!  It seems like it was just the other day when the boys were being watched by cohort 3!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rain Puddles: The Full Body Experience

 Today the boys discovered the huge puddle that has formed on the top of the sandbox.  I recently replaced our tarp with a sheet of plastic and after the hard rains of the past week a good collection of rain has formed, especially after our last use of the sandbox where we dug out a river and lake.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rainy Day

by Robert Louis Stevenson

The rain is raining all around
It rains on hill and tree
It rains on the umbrellas here
And on the ships at sea.

"Ships!" GW says as he pushes his paintbrush across the paper.  The blue and yellow come together to become green as I recite the rain poem every so often during our art time this morning.  Painting is becoming part of our morning flow, now being asked for in favor over going outside.  Today our Oregon liquid sunshine was falling heavily and after my cajoling to go out and play in the rain fell on busy ears I began reciting this poem.   Fingers pointed to the windows.  "Big puddles." GH said looking out of the window with T and SC.  We talked about the clouds filling the sky and the rain falling.   We listened to the rhythm it drummed above our heads and wondered about if it was warm or cold outside.  "Cold!" insisted SC "Inside!"  So, we stayed inside.

As part of our color study work and to compliment the colors outside I offered small dollops of yellow and blue paint on dishes after going over the parts of the paint brush.  Everyone held the paint brush and moved it over the paper as we practiced and talked about the different parts: The bristles hold the paint, see how soft they are?; The handle is for your hand, you can hold it and help the bristles dance over the paper; the metal part holds the bristles onto the handle, it can scratch your paper, be careful!

I continue to talk about the rain as everyone begins to paint.  The paint goes on the paper, the canvas covered table and hands.  Everyone has their own technique and we admire the indiviual colors and designs that appear.  T holds his paint dish in one hand as he works, pushing the brush around then moving it in long, rounded lines around his page causing green to quickly appear.  GH dips his brush mostly in blue, using the yellow sparingly.  GW jumps right in and begins painting his hands and paper equally.  SC very carefully holds the dish as he dips his brush in so that his hands do not get paint on them.  

When everyone is finished we hang up our work and then admire each other's end result.  Some are hung next to previous paintings and we talk about what we notice: handprints, lines, purple, yellow, dots. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sharing Eggs

Today I came up with a great recipe for Eggs and Chard.  Chard isn't something that the children usually enjoy so it seemed important to mix it with something I know the do love.  Eggs!
Everyone seemed very interested today in what I was doing in the kitchen and I invited them to help out with making the eggs!
I brought out the bowl and SC brought it to the little table in the kitchen.  I added a whisk and everyone practiced now it can move in the bowl.  I brought out the eggs from the refrigerator and as I open it, I give everyone the chance to check out the eggs.  GW tried smelling one, and T placed his quickly in the bowl causing it to crack. 
Soon all the eggs were inside, minus some shell, and everyone got a chance to stir with the whisk.  We counted to 5 for everyone's turn and by the time we were done everyone was joining a long in the chant in some way or another: "1-2-3-4-5. K GW turn!  1-2-3-4-5 K, SC turn!  1-2-3-4-5 K!  T's turn!".  We probably could have stirred the eggs all day.  I added some milk and then fennel seeds to add a new dimension of flavor. 
Once the chard was sauted most of the way (first the stems cut into small pieces, then the chopped leaves in a bit of olive oil, salt, garlic and pepper.) I poured the egg mixture over the top and covered with a sheet tray.  In a few minutes the entire thing was cooked and I rolled it up and set it aside until lunch time.

We were so busy eating it during lunch that I couldn't even take a picture!  Everyone enjoyed our creation, even those who don't usually eat mixtures of food or green leafy veggies.  Allowing the children to take part in as many aspects of their day gives them the opportunity to take ownership over themselves and what they want or need.  It's also an excellent opportunity for social interaction and sharing space with their peers, something we are working hard on perfecting (aren't we all!?!)