Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When friendships are more precious than gold

The first time I saw children hunting for gold (spray painted pebbles) that leprechauns (teachers) had hidden in the yard, I remember commenting to my co-worker, "Wow, it's really like the gold rush! They've all got gold fever!" and we laughed--because it was so accurate! Every year, we would watch gold fever unfold, where children frantically looked for as much gold as they could get their mitts on, having complete meltdowns when they spilled their gold, and feverishly looked for anything shiny, hoping on all hope that it was another piece of gold.

I thought this behavior was just a given. I thought it spoke to human nature, and that we all just have this inherent greed that is only overcome by tireless hours of self reflection and growth.

This year, the children showed me how easy it is to be selfless.

Rather than having millions of little golden pebbles, the "leprechauns" only hid two dozen large pieces of gold. We only have twelve children in our school on a given day.

I told the children that when I was out in the yard, I found a piece of gold (I pulled it from my pocket to show them). I told them that I thought I saw some more, but only a few pieces. Could the kids find them and also make sure everyone had some before filling their bags? They all agreed.

They put on their shoes and jackets and went outside. It was a beautiful process that unfolded.

Children were as concerned, if not more, in helping others find gold than they were for finding gold themselves. When they found a spot with many pieces of gold, they'd call their friends over to see and partake.  They had conversations, gave suggestions where to look, talked to each other about who had not found any gold yet.  Their excitement to show others what they had found supplanted their need for "more".  Above all it was downright heartwarming to see children ensuring that everybody's needs were being met.

It's nice to see that as they have gotten older, the community spirit has gotten brighter at Beansprouts.

Further, I would like these children to talk to our politicians and teach them a thing or two!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wind catchers and staying in touch (with each other and with nature)

Today, a fellow teacher and I pondered on the question
'how on earth did we plan our curriculum before the internet?'.

Now, with the use of Pinterest, Facebook, and Google Reader, I am inundated with daily curriculum inspiration.  Not to mention, the good old Google Search.

And by the way, friends...
soon, Google Friend Connect will go away.
We want to stay friends
and continue to inspire each other,
so be sure to follow us on
by email subscription (see side bar)
or by following in Google Reader
 or any other feed catcher!

So, where were we?

Oh yeah, the original topic. So I was thinking about all of this online curriculum stuff and realized that it's been months, maybe years, since I've used a curriculum book.

So I went old school and pulled out Mary Ann Kohl's Science Arts.

I had forgotten what precious gems her books could be!

Being a windy, rainy week, it's the perfect time to make "Wind Catchers" (p. 40).  We adapted them since we didn't have the materials needed, and they turned out just fine.  

The idea is that we'll hang them outside our classroom window so we can observe the wind.

I've been trying to point out some of the subtler aspects of our surroundings that have of late gone  unnoticed due to things like big kid sports and big events.

I want the children, no matter how old, to experience the many patches of clover in our yard, or the way the rain gathers on the corrugated patio roof and drains in a perfect stream into our little tire garden.

Or the giant palm tree that we just noticed in our neighbor's yard. As we pondered its magnitude (it was taller than the tallest evergreen tree visible from our yard), we observed a squirrel run all the way up to where the fronds begin to grow.

So we will notice the wind, and later, we will notice other, different things.

When we're done wind watching, we can engage in the universal way to have fun with something when you are in preschool by putting our wind catchers on our heads.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Models and expectations

Last week, I introduced a tray of sorted color strips for the children, and I showed them how to make 3 dimensional rainbows.  There were a ton, but here is a small sampling. Interesting how different they can turn out!

Definitely not like my model, which told me how creative and 'outside-the-box' thinkers they are!!!

 Well with all of those paper strips, I had lots left over.  So I thought I'd show the children how to make paper chains.  I thought that since we've been exploring the idea of rainbows and colors, the paper chain would make a beautiful garland around the classroom.   You know, a long colorful chain, where we all connect our chains to those of others.

Yeah, right. That's not how it went at all.

Nobody wanted to connect their chain to anybody else's, and they all wanted to decide where to hang their own up in the classroom.

Imagine how frustrating it would be for the teacher and the children if I had enforced my model about how this activity "should" go.  The children were learning a new skill, so focusing on color arrangement and even looping two circles together took a lot of cognitive and fine motor control.  Creating the chains based on my model was totally out of the question.

I had a model, but the kids had their process.

And once they realized they could make me "faint" because of how beautiful they were making the classroom, then the fun began.

What makes these children happy? Making Stephanie faint!!!

I was too busy fainting to take photos of what was happening, but I told the kids very firmly that they can't hang up their paper chains because it might make the classroom so beautiful that I would faint!!!

But of course they did it anyway.

They had so much fun making me faint and then waking me up that we ended up with paper chains all over the place!

The classroom is theirs. They chose where to put the decorations and how long to make them.  The most important thing is that they had fun. This would have been a very unlikely outcome if I had made this activity go my way!

And, better than my expectations, our Rainbow Tree is also quite lovely these days.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Science-y Bubbles

We had a science-y sort of morning.

I mean, any teacher who dares to leave dish soap blended in the food processor next to a tray full of colors and droppers is asking for it! 

Asking for scientific discovery, that is!!!

We discovered that it is very hard to mix the colors that were dropped into the foam.

After experimenting with using multiple droppers in one hand (many kids tried this independently of each other--I guess they are ready for the next level of fine motor)...

Stirring was a must.

Making prints would have worked, but they were pretty bubbly.

Here is the stirred and non-stirred one.

We rinsed and refilled the bubble trays several times.

When these two got together, the scientific exploration took off! (De ja vu!)

They rocked and shook the tray, at first gently and then more vigorously:

And they observed the results.

Here are the results.  How would you describe them???

So, of course, they had to shake the other tray to test the hypothesis that shaking works!  

Eventually, every new child who came to the activity thought that shaking was just part of the process, leaving no tray unshaken from this point on.

My favorite part was hearing the children use the language that I normally use. "I wonder what will happen if we..."

That statement is a scientific mind in the making.

Oh, and in the above photo, they learned how to make crevasses. These don't come from standard dropping.  These require squeezing at a certain pressure and coming in from a certain angle.  Try it! 

And we made a good ol' Beansprouts Preschool Mess.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Playin' Ball

Oh my goodness, like I really needed yet another reason to love PVC pipes!!!

Just hammer it into the dirt and voila! A perfect T-ball stand. 

Well, not perfect:
A few rocks around the base made it stand up straight after the first few times it was hit with the baseball bat.

A motivating time to practice waiting in line. Some early childhood educators think lines are a developmentally inappropriate practice.  I disagree--if they are voluntary.  This line was for a turn at bat. Very motivating.

I love my new really fast camera! It got all of the awesome postures---those mid-movement body positions that we miss with the naked eye.

Some poses were more intentional : ) She did lots of post-batting poses.

Stay tuned for a post about our baseball-inspired board story and some reflections about that!


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...