Monday, April 30, 2012

Why We Love the Rain!

Since the preschoolers first started at Tumbleweed, we have encouraged their love for all types of weather by being outside no matter what is happening in the sky.


Because of the preschoolers continuing time spent in all types of weather, they find as much joy in the rain as they do in the sunshine.

The preschoolers love the rain and are constantly working, exploring, and discovering as they experiment with the falling rain and the puddles left by the rain. Over the past couple of weeks, I have watched the preschoolers closely to see how many different ways they explore the rain.

Here are just a few observations of explorations and conversations highlighting why we love the rain:

We can explore puddles

                           We can make lakes and rivers     

TS- "This is a lot. This is a river!"                            

                                                                    We can gather water

                                                                                                                   We ask for help

    TLC turned to SF and asked, "Can you fill up my container?" GS also asked SF, "Can you fill up my container?" SF replied, "Yeah."

                         We offer help                                                       

JH exclaims, "It's raining," as he walks over to TLC and GS. He asks, "Can I help?" He takes his container of water and pours it into TLC's container.

We can make soup

                                                                             We can pour and mix

                                                                                                                                              We can  make observations about the rain

                                      KC- "It's a downpour!"

We can swing as the raindrops touch our face

                        We can stretch and exercise                                                                                         

JH- "It's really tricky to exercise."                            

  We can climb slick surfaces

We can build wet, slippery buildings

                                                                                                                    We can hunt for crocodiles

KC- "Crocodile water. There's a crocodile in there!"
MR- "Well they don't bite me."
JH- "Crocodiles are really scary."

                                                                  We can measure and experiment with volume

We can balance on slick surfaces

                        We can explore how water falls through holes in the bottom of containers


 SF- "TS, watch me!"

   We can help life begin and provide nourishment for plants to prosper

Rain provides an outside environment of endless possibilities. The preschoolers pour, measure, mix, test volume and weight, share, imagine, create, water plants, and climb and explore wet textures the rain leaves behind. They are constantly discovering new ways to explore, experiment, and create imagined ideas with the rain puddles and wet surfaces. 

We love the rain and what it provides.
As SF said last week as she noticed the newly fallen rain: 
"Water... yay, yay, yay, yay!"

"Let the rain kiss you.  Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.  Let the rain sing you a lullaby."
  ~Langston Hughes

For more outdoor ideas head over to:

Observation to Inspiration

Today we were outside painting rocks, one of our favorite outside activities.   Lately there has been a burst in observational storytelling between the boys.  Sometimes they are telling me stories of things that they remember, but most recently they have been telling their stories to each other!  Seeing their natural interest in each other fuels our basic trust in other moments where energy might be more tense and also builds that love that we created over the last year and half.  At meal times you might hear someone say, "SW you like cottage cheese?  No? Ok." or "Who needs a bowl/fork/cup?"

The boys are also inspired to tell stories and sing songs based on what they observe.  Supporting and directing these boys in thoughtful observation has been one of my biggest goals.  We take the time to slow down and watch the ant crossing our path.  Sometimes I use this slow down after a big run around the yard and everyone seems drawn to the new flowers exploding over the blueberry bushes!  Now that we have practiced observing and noticing things, they are beginning to initiate it themselves.  Today it was a sound that GW heard while we were painting that reminded him of a previous sound.  Then a simple mis-hear on my part started a whole chain of train-ness: painting, sounds, stories of favorite trains, and finally running through the yard, painting abandoned.

Supporting thoughtful observation is such rewarding work with these boys who are on the go most of the time.  It gives them the ability to focus and balance their physical needs, while harnessing the power of the world around them.  It gives us all a feeling of satisfaction when they know how to express what they are thinking, hearing, feeling and sensing in an environment where they know no matter what their ideas are valid and important.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This afternoon found us enjoying the clouds rolling in, warm and heavy with rain.  The wind blew flowers down from the maple tree as all of the toddlers and infants gathered underneath: our favorite place to be outside.  Dandelions have sprung in abundance and a few have already gone to seed.  A provocation on our large outdoor table enticed the older boys to smell, blow, pull, deconstruct, bang and arrange on the bowls, dishes and smooth surface.  The added sprigs of parsley added an element of scent and encouraged the boys to "eat?" and then proceed to laugh as they pretended to munch. 
GW quickly decided that A needed something.  "Have some parsley, A?"  He said, reaching out with the stem.  She watched his offer first with surprise then joy.  SC was spending a lot of time watching the seeds blow away.  Everyone found them stuck to each others clothing and were even a little wary of them once they were off of the stem.

After a while, A started sounding sad, and SC squatted down gently rubbing her back.  One thing we practice a lot is what to do when we hear others in distress.  A seemed instantly calmed just by having his presence next to her and we all talked about what might be happening in her world and what we might do to help her feel better.

These tender feelings spread through out our afternoon as we explored dandelions and the feelings we all have.  GW noticed L's frustration in waiting for her milk to warm up later and laid down closely to her.  "Lu's feeling nervous.  Feeling nervous." he said while gently rubbing her head and watching her face.

Offering everyone this opportunity to observe and reflect on the feelings and being able to label them give them the power to own how they feel.  Then in turn become the models for self-confidence and language that the younger children look up to.  It also supports our environment of anti-shame, putting the child in control whenever possible, so they have the freedom to clearly express themselves no matter what.

Seeing is Believing

Dirt arrived for the garden boxes at the Preschool House!  When I got there, some children were digging holes as Fairy Homes into the sides of the pile.  Others were climbing on top of it.  And many had a great deal of ownership over getting dirt into the boxes.  Everyone chose their own task (though often peers elicited help from each other or invited each other into imaginary games).  Below is a video highlighting the ebb and flow of the work of a group of children interested in transferring dirt into a box:

I enjoyed observing their hard work.  What a feat!  To be able to observe--available but not intervening, enjoying without affecting, supporting without interrupting--is a magical experience for me.  In addition to highlighting the stellar work of the teachers to set up an environment (both physically and emotionally) that supports collaborative, focused work, it shines a light on the incredible processing of each child.

We like to write about Basic Trust.  It seems to underlie everything we do and is a core component of how we view children.  For me, even moments like this--moments that are simple and beautiful and calm--are an opportunity to use my entire body to send messages to the children about this vision:  I trust you; I am interested in what you're doing and enjoy watching you work; I value your interpretation of how to do this; You are competent and capable.  Viewing children in this way empowers them and opens the door for increasingly more intense and beautiful work. 

Watch out world.  These children are changing you.
They are certainly changing me.
And they can change you too.  Just watch.  Just try to really, really see them.  Sure, step in if you're invited, but if you're not, don't be offended, don't think you need to do something, don't multitask... Just BE.  Just watch.  Just see.
They'll blow your mind.  I promise.

Monday, April 23, 2012

#2 - The Environment

"An environment for the child that is physically safe, cognitively challenging and emotionally nurturing."
I love this quote from the RIE tenets from their website, but I find that if I interchange the words it would be just as true for how I view creating a child centered environment for children.

"An environment for the child that is emotionally safe, physically challenging and cognitively nurturing."
"An environment for the child that is cognitively safe, emotionally challenging and physically safe."

What I tell my children is, "We are responsible for everyone feeling happy, healthy, and safe.  I wonder how we can do that?"  In my now toddler classroom this has lately been our main goal as the boys find every moment to test personal boundaries in various ways.  I find myself constantly returning to the environment to set the limits they need to feel safe and secure, yet challenged and happy and supported emotionally, psychically and physically.  

I have written a few times about creating environments that are safe, magical and supporting inquiry, but I have found that I can now narrow it down to a few key points.

* A Safe Space : The beginning of safety is creating an environment where all needs are met.  Once a child feels safe, then they are able to explore and use their imagination.  This also means that the child feels love from the adults and children in their space.  They feel like they are seen and have all of their needs met and even predicted. This includes ease of caregiving activities, a sense of security and the presence of basic trust and respect between peers and adults.  The adult is the key element in maintaining this safety, especially securing the child's ability to express them self effectively and confidently.  We also are the model and the limit through our expectations and construction of the environment based on our knowledge of the children in our care, our own needs, and the basic needs of a normal day. 

* A Place of Magic  Giving children the gift of wonder can be a satisfying motivation to their play, inquiry and imagination.  Using natural materials as much as possible gives a child the ability to explore and learn the parts of their world by touching it as much as possible.  Little treasures and scenes hidden in various areas invite the children to naturally become inspired to tell their own stories and even to ask why, while using their own gathered information about the qualities of their world in ways that inspire them.  Using beauty of materials and asthetics, you can draw a child into normalcy and focus, inspiring their imagination and helping them creating their own magic.

* My Own Place Where a child see where and how they fit into the environment.  This is their space and their sense of ownership gives them the confidence to expand and explore.  Children have access to anything their body might need and they are able to do for them selves to the best of their ability.  Supporting functional independence by following their interests in self care and caring for the space, both inside and out, enhances the child's view of the world that surrounds them and naturally fosters a sense of responsibility.  The adults in the environment feel their place as well.  They feel the confidence in showing their personality in the classroom and use it as a method to inspire the children.  There is an ease to how each child or adult fits: chairs of the right size; materials, manipulatives and toys supporting interests; safe places for things to be.  The environment should say, "I see you.  I know you.  Touch me."


*A Connection to Our World  The biggest work of childhood is to become a part of the world they have been brought to.  Everything they do from movement to language, play to social interactions is all about figuring out the world.  A successful environment includes as many opportunities for a child to learn more, question more, be more.  Bringing artifacts from outside, inside from a young age gives a child the ability to learn the qualities of the natural world.  I view the outdoor environment in equal with the  indoors.  At TIH we are blessed to have unlimited access to a beautiful yard, blossoming with puddles, rocks, leaves, gardens, plants, birds, worms, sand.  By giving a child free access to any environment allows them to become masters of their surroundings and contributing members of their community. 

While we are heavily influenced by RIE at Tumbleweeds, we also take parts of all of my collective knowledge of various philosophies and who my unique children are when creating an environment: nuggets of beauty and order from my Montessori training, moments of wonder and curiosity from Reggio, bright colors and imagination from Waldorf, and hours and hours of play outside from Richard Louv.  It is this mixture of our own experience and that of those that have come before us, mixed with observation that creates the Tumbleweeds environment.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day Planting Party!

This morning TIH and TPH parents, children, and teachers came to the Preschool House to help put together garden boxes, weed, and plant in celebration of Earth Day in the beautiful sunshine. We also had garden art activities, including rock and canvas painting, and coffee filter butterflies to celebrate life and the expected budding, blooming, and production of our plants.

And a day of celebration it was:

 Painting with watercolor, tempera paint, and acrylics:

 It wouldn't be a Tumbleweed get together without snacks:

Planting and our finished boxes, minus the dirt:

 Thank you to everyone who made it out today and those who were unable to make it, you were with us in spirit. Our garden boxes turned out amazing and our front garden area is beautiful. We are now on the way toward a sustainable yard, growing many of our own herbs, vegetables, and fruit to harvest throughout the year. We could not have done it without all of your help and we are so lucky to have such amazing families that make up our Tumbleweed community.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

 "Gardens, scholars say, are the first sign of commitment to a community. When people plant corn they are saying, let's stay here. And by their connection to the land, they are connected to one another." 
-  Anne Raver