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.