Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sprouting Soon: The Bean Patch!

First of all, welcome to our new blog!  With all of the amazing preschool blogs out there giving us inspiration all the time, we figured, why not make our own!  We hope it will be an effective way of sharing the subtler aspects of what we do that we can't convey on the daily board.

And, my apologies, our first post is quite long!

-----The Bean Patch-----

Starting next week, we'll implement an idea we have been discussing for many weeks: an outdoor classroom!  This outdoor classroom, the "Bean Patch", will target the needs of older children in our group and offer activities and works that appeal to their emerging abilities and interests.  It will give them a space to engage in longer periods of play in order to expand on their ideas and feel a sense of completion with more complex and challenging tasks.  These materials and activities will be passed on to the younger children as they become ready for them.  The Bean Patch will hopefully allow us to tailor the curriculum to better serve the needs of the older and younger group (for example, the younger group will appreciate having circletimes that are less talking and more doing!).

The logistics:  

--Three days a week from 9am to 10:30am, the older children will spend time outside in The Bean Patch, working on activities and such until about 10, where they will have their own circle and snack time.  The younger children will stay inside and snack and circle will take place at the same time.  We reconvene after snack and continue the rest of the day as usual.
--When you arrive at school on Bean Patch days, have the child check the chart to see which classroom they will attend.  For the most part, children will be consistently in one group or the other, but until we see the children in the space, we may have a couple of children float back and forth until we establish which group will serve them better.
--We will talk to the children about the Bean Patch beforehand so the kids know what to expect.  Leslie already stirred up some excitement when she let the children watch her build the shelves for the outdoor classroom!

-----Why separate the groups? -----

We have of late observed some small yet developmentally significant differences in the "older" group and the "younger" group.  Here are some developmental trends we are noticing...

Younger children:
  • Engage in solitary, parallel and some cooperative play
  • Follow one- and two-step directions (and notice when others aren't following directions!)
  • Participate in dramatic play that is focused but doesn't always extend into long periods of time nor complex themes
  • Use art materials appropriately and safely with supervision and gentle reminders
  • Pay attention and participate at circle during highly engaging activities (music, movement, dramatic stories, activities with props)
  • Stop when the bell rings and listen to the announcements
  • Carry out the routine and flow of the day, like anticipating the next part of the schedule/routine, clean up their plates and dishes after lunch before playing, finding cubby to get jacket before going outside
  • Carry on meaningful conversations and understand humor in dialogue, especially when an older child or adult is leading the conversation
  • Engage in multi-level cooperative play that extends over long periods of time and often continues later in the day
  • Follow multi-step directions with a new level of testing : )
  • Use information and knowledge to lead dramatic play
  • Use art materials like tape, glue bottles, and scissors with less supervision
  • Focus for extended circle time discussions about more abstract themes and ideas as well as music and other activities
  • Make connections between books, discussions, stories,  curriculum themes and real-life experience
  • Ask questions to probe and investigate ideas as well as to make conversation
  • Make jokes!
  • Focus on activities that require concentration and persistence (puzzles with more pieces, matching games, multi-step works)
  • Capture and hold the attention of their peers in games and dialogue
There is, of course, lots of overlap and we wouldn't ascribe any child to just one group of abilities.  They all have their "curriculum" and are wherever they are in their development.

We'll keep you informed of the progress and let you know how the Bean Patch evolves!

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