Friday, May 20, 2011


In order to maximize the children's sense of ownership over their experience at Beansprouts, we try to allow children as many opportunities as possible to practice independence.  Now that they are getting older, these experiences have gotten more varied.  I wanted to share one great example of how the "system" has supported autonomy and encouraged leadership.

Usually before snacks and lunch, we call the kids over to the "soap area" to wait for soap to be passed by a teacher or child.  One day, after I made the announcement for lunch, two children approached me.  One of them wanted to pass out the soap and one wanted to call the names of the person whose turn it was to wash their hands.  I said okay and gave them the soap.  Next thing I knew, a beautifully orchestrated system of passing out soap and washing hands had ensued, with Le and Be gracefully taking on the role of leaders.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Rope Tree

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Mulberry Tree.  

In the fall, it provides fallen leaves that make worms and creatures feel safe enough to come out of the ground.  That's because we rake so rarely that the leaves begin the composting process and worms just love that.

In the spring, new leaves begin to emerge in preparation for 1. feeding silkworms, and 2. providing shade in the summer.

But my favorite contribution of the mulberry tree's role as The Rope Tree.

One day, we took about ten minutes to hang some ropes and tie some knots and drill some holes and make some swings.  Later, Brianna (our student teacher from DeAnza College), brought a ski rope and hung that from the tree as well.  This has been  most popular activity area for the children.  When they climb, all of the muscles engage, including the core.

There are a few safety features of the ropes we hang on the trees.  First, the hand holds and foot holds are small enough loops that they don't fit over children's heads.  We also have a rule in place that if they want to swing the swing (which is a large, heavy piece of wood), the children must be sitting on the swing.  Otherwise it becomes a huge solid pendulum ready to knock someone out.  Brianna found a way to feed the children's interest in pendulums as well, but I'll post about that later!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cut-and-Color Tables

Bev Bos, one of my inspirations in the field of ECE, always has a "cut and color" table available for the children.  Basically, it's an open-ended art station for kids to create something entirely self-initiated.  Last week I tried implementing a cut-and-color theme in the mornings at Beansprouts.  Here's my formula:
  • Paper (any kind, any color, depending on the theme)
  • Cutters (scissors, hole punchers, or pre-cut somethings)
  • Coloring media (crayons, markers, pencils, oil pastels, or even water colors)
  • Something sticky (tape, stickers, glue stick)
Here are some of the cut-and-color tables that I set up:

 Masking Tape, Highlighters, Scissors, and Bright paper

Fish cutouts, glue sticks, triangular crayons, blue and white paper
Shape hole punches, Glue sticks, Letter collage pieces, colored pencils

Open-ended creativity has been so under-rated, especially in my generation.  Coloring books and those paint-by-number pages told me how my art should look, while characters in the media became more tightly defined.  The ability to think creatively and outside the box is so valuable in so many contexts.  When I watch the children engage in open-ended art as well as open-ended play, I am reminded how, and why, Beansprouts is a great venue for the child's natural emergence of the self.  They come up with profound ideas and themes in their play, and because it comes from them, it captures their interest beyond anything I could offer.

Wrestling is good for children.

Originally published Sept 2010 Many of our parents seemed shocked when they came to pick up their children from Beansprouts and found the...