Halloween Highlights

 

Boo!

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The kids at LCP had a scary good time this Halloween!

We had pumpkins in the playdough…

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ladybugs in the pumpkins…

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and bumblebees in the glue.

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We had carrots rooting through the sensory table…

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Spiderman making a web with marbles and paint…

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and ninjas wielding paint brushes.

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Puppies saved firefighters…

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and Peter Pan teamed up with a pirate to take the babies for a stroll.

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And at our party, it didn’t matter if someone showed up in the same dress!

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Children trick-or-treated around the preschool…

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and were delighted by their bounty of prizes!

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At circle time, children talked about whether their costumes were scary, silly, or nice…or stinky!

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And Teacher Sherry got lots of help acting out a favorite not-so-scary Halloween story.

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No Halloween would be complete without some yummy (and in our case, healthy!) treats.

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Hurray for a great LCP Halloween!

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Welcome to the 2014-2015 School Year!

The sweet two-year-olds in our Tot Class enjoyed their first two days of preschool at LCP!  New people, new routines, a new place–this can certainly be a daunting experience for little ones (and even some of us grown-ups!).  Yet when they are accompanied and supported by a loving caregiver throughout our school day, the Tots immerse themselves in a multitude of exciting new experiences with confidence and enthusiasm.  Activities included finger painting, collaging, rolling playdough, mixing Ooblick,  scooping colorful cooked pasta in the sensory table, outdoor play in the sand and on trikes, group snack time, and general exploration of their new classroom.

A new school year, especially for little ones just beginning their preschool journeys, always holds the promise of so much possibility.

What new experiences await?

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What theories will be tested?

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What friendships will flourish?

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The kids are mixing up a lot of fun at LCP…and we can’t wait to see what they discover!

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“It’s all magic!”

St. Patrick’s Day has become one of my favorite celebrations at preschool.  The idea of these little elvish creatures sneaking into our classroom, leaving trails of glitter and causing mischief, totally captivates children’s imaginations.  It takes but a moment to introduce this magical scenario, and the children just run with it!

With the help of their trusty leprechaun magnifying glasses, children found clues everywhere:  glitter trails and green footprints and golden treasure left in the sensory tub.   Once child exclaimed, “When you look at the glitter through the magnifying glasses it’s actually glowing!”

Further evidence that the leprechauns had come to visit:  they upended furniture in the block room and left a little note…

 

Leprechauns are small, so you have to look for them in every nook and cranny…

 

“We found more clues!  Footprints!”

 

It takes care and patience to sort out leprechaun treasure…

 

Once we knew that leprechauns were afoot, children made leprechaun traps…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and took a scavenger hunt to find the leprechaun’s hidden gold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within all this magic, there were still technical questions to consider.  And children had the explanations…

How do you catch a leprechaun?  The traps need to be green with something shiny inside.

How did the leprechauns mix up the numbers on our calendar board?  They stood on each other’s shoulders to reach the numbers, and the leprechaun on the top shouted directions to the one on the bottom.

How did they move our block room furniture around?  Lots of leprechauns had to gather around it and work together.

How did they escape?  Through a tiny hole in the wall!

Are you a leprechaun, Teacher?

“Well, look how tall I am.  I’m much too big to be a leprechaun.  And leprechauns have green hair!”

No, they decided leprechauns have brown hair, and therefore I was very likely a leprechaun:  “Leprechauns can change size, ya know!”

And here’s my favorite quote of the whole day.  As he was racing about the classroom, peering through his leprechaun magnifying glass and searching for clues, a little boy stopped in his tracks, looked up at me and declared,  “Santa’s magic!  Everything’s magic!!!”

Ah, if we all could spend our days with this feeling!  What a gift to spend time with young people, who help us reconnect with all the joy, enthusiasm, and creativity that a sense of magic infuses in our lives.

And for the record, while I did sprinkle trails of glitter, I did not make any little green footprints…so perhaps the leprechauns are real after all…

 

 

 

Inspiration

In a previous post, I was thinking about the importance of seeing the world in news ways, from new perspectives, for both children and adults.  As a teacher, I am always grateful for ideas and inspiration that will help make our classroom more dynamic and engaging.  Here are some of the most recent results of my search for new ideas…

Magnet Wall

Thanks to the fundraising efforts of our families, we recently purchased a magnet wall set from the company Kodo Kids (http://www.kodokids.com/).  They create an awesome array of high quality products that encourage open-ended, play-based exploration.   One of our parents generously built the actual magnet wall for us–a piece of sheet metal backed with playwood, spray painted black, with a wooden frame.  The magnet set we purchased includes ramps, rings (to hold funnels and cups), and small “walls” (that help control the path of materials as they move down the ramps).  With this magnet wall system, children have the opportunity to explore and manipulate materials on a large, vertical space.  So far, children have experimented with both balls and water (and then the two together)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first few times we explored with the mag wall, I set up a few ramps systems to get children started.  But I love the fact that the children weren’t satisfied to stay with those set-ups for long, as they quickly discovered these moveable parts were meant to be manipulated again and again.  I am so excited to have this new activity as a permanent fixture on our playground!

Sensory Table

While researching new ideas for our sensory table, I came across the blog of an early childhood educator, Tom Bedard (http://tomsensori.blogspot.com/2012/12/horizontal-channels-version-50.html).  He has such creative ideas for augmenting the sensory table:  rather than just changing out the contents of the table, he uses cardboard, PVC, and other materials to manipulate the space and shape of the table itself.  Here was my first attempt to replicate his great ideas.  I used a large cardboard box that sat on top of the table, with cardboard walls taped inside to create channels, and another large box attached to create a ramp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the pictures show, the ramp was the most engaging aspect of this particular structure!  Thank you, patient parents, for endlessly sweeping up birdseed scattered across the floor!

Children were also fascinated by a watercolor mixing station in the sensory table, which included cups of liquid watercolors, eye droppers, plastic tubes, funnels and clear plastic egg cartons.  Just the simple change of adding two racks in the sensory tub, and a table next to the tub, invited children to explore the space in a new way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loose parts

Pintrest proved to be very helpful in my search, allowing me to see a wealth of ideas in one place.  (I am quite new to Pintrest, so these initial findings were very exciting and rewarding!)  Adding “loose parts” to the block room area was a popular concept; and, again, I am so impressed by all the creativity of early childhood teachers out there, not to mention grateful that they are sharing their ideas!  I tried out the addition of thin branches trimmed from a mulberry tree in my backyard, cut into about one foot in length, and cuttings from Teacher Sherry’s redwood tree.  We started with the sticks and branches in the block room, which inspired a camping theme.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the campfire was built, children suddenly wanted to sing together.  We’d read, sung and acted out  “The Farmer in the Dell” at circle time,  so the Block room parent opened the book back up and led the children in a singalong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The camping theme morphed to include our plastic animal set and a fishing expedition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This particular activity proved to be a wonderful interplay between the children’s creativity and the attentive support of the working parent who responded to and encouraged their ideas.  For the adults in a play-based classroom, it’s a delicate balance between giving children space to engage their own ideas, creativity, problem-solving, and intuition and stepping in to offer needed guidance and support.  While children should indeed take the lead, the thoughtful support of attentive adults can guide children’s play to new levels of interest and engagement.

Pulleys & Pendulums

A book called More Than Magnets, by Sally Moomaw and Brenda Hieronymus,  is to thank for a variety of activity ideas based on pulleys and pendulums.

Children first experimented with using the pulleys to transport cans full of small objects (small plastic bears, stones, cube blocks, etc).  I appreciated how using the pulleys required teamwork and communication; as children became more familiar with the action of the pulleys, they were able to teach classmates just joining the activity.  Children then started a game of collecting a piece of “treasure” every time they pulled the bucket back over to their side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next adventure with pulleys added the exciting and messy element of paint.  I cut a plastic water bottle in half and filled a small squeeze bottle with watered down paint.  The top of the squeeze bottle (mostly) stayed  nestled in the narrow opening of the water bottle.  I punched holes in the cut side of the water bottle and tied it to the pulley rope.  As the children pulled the rope back and forth, it provided sufficient action to “shake” the paint from the squeeze bottles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children’s engagement with this activity included both quiet concentration on the action of the pulleys and giddy laughter at the satisfying splatter of paint!

As for the pendulum activity, we tried two variations with paint.  Both variations utilized long PVC pipes mounted in concrete, with a rope strung between them, as the frame.  In the first, paintbrushes were attached to string and hung from the rope; children could dip their brushes in paint and then swing the brushes back and forth.  In the second (and much messier!) variation, I again used a water bottle cut in half; but instead of a squeeze bottle, I nestled a small funnel in the spout of the water bottle, and children could scoop slightly watered-down paint into the funnel before sending the pendulum for a ride.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Needless to say, we needed a paper three times this size to contain the drips of paint!!

So that’s a little sampling of some of the new activities we tested out over the past few days and weeks.  I am so grateful for the creative ideas educators are sharing in books and blogs.  But most of all, I am so grateful to the parents of our school who support Teacher Sherry and me as we introduce these new, often messy, activities and implement them with energy, flexibility, and a great sense of humor.  None of this fun would be possible without all of you!  Thank you!!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Piles of red and pink paper scraps and a layer of glitter over the entire classroom…must be Valentine’s Day!  Children were busy with a variety of Valentine-themed activities.

They practiced fine motor skills as they cut out paper hearts for a heart garland, which we hung up for decoration.

 

 

Conversation hearts offered the opportunity to practice math skills such as sorting, counting, and graphing.

 

We not only had a Valentine exchange within our class, allowing each child to make a homemade card for a secret Valentine, but children also put great care into creating dozens of Valentines for our friends at the Senior L.I.F.E. Center.

 

And of course, we had to get messy!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Here’s to putting our hearts into joyful play!

 

New perspectives…

The other day I took a few photos of two different play scenarios in the block room.  In one, children were invited to “build inside a hoop.”    We laid hula hoops around the block room carpet, and children could use wooden blocks to create a structure that fit inside a hoop.  These are two of the resulting structures:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the second play scenario, a group of girls were taking turns pretending they were pregnant (it’s on their minds– their teacher and a classmate’s mom are both pregnant).  The child “with a baby in her tummy” was attended diligently by a doctor, a friend, and a puppy.  A conversation ensued as to whether or not “it hurts to have a baby.”  (Two said yes, two said no.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was thinking about these different ways children were creating and playing.  And while at first they seemed unrelated, I recognized that both demonstrated an important aspect of early childhood development:  the opportunity to take on new perspectives.  Indeed, when creating environments for children, we think about materials and activities that encourage children to think about the world in new ways.   In the block play, the perspective shift happened in the physical world, as children had a new way of thinking about their block building to make it fit inside the hoop (they built up and around rather than out).  In the dramatic play, the perspective shift happened on an emotional and imaginative level, as the girls pretended to take on the experience of grown-ups in their lives.  However it happens, it is always so fascinating to witness the ways in which children respond to new situations or ideas, piecing together information and knowledge from previous experiences with the unexpected or unfamiliar.

I suppose this idea of seeing the world in new ways resonates with me for a variety of reasons.  As it pertains, specifically, to my professional life and my role as a teacher, I find that I, too, am in need of a little shift in perspective.  It can be easy to feel stuck in a certain pattern or routine, or that I’m doing the same activities over and over again.  Repetition can be very important–children need the opportunity to try things over and over again as they work to master a new concept or skill.  And often our adult attention spans urge us to move on too quickly when children are still doing important work.  (And honestly, ooblick and shaving cream are ALWAYS engaging and fun!)  But it also feels like I’m overdue to infuse our classroom with a few things new, so that all of us–children, parents, and teachers–can feel that excitement that comes with a little shift in perspective.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

A few more highlights from 2012…

Happy 2013!

Though a bit late, here are a few highlights from our fall & early winter.

In October, just as we did with apples, we explored all things pumpkin.

We picked pumpkins…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We pounded golf tees into pumpkins…(such concentration!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We dissected pumpkins…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We cooked with pumpkins…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We savored the beauty of the changing leaves on our liquid amber trees.  Two friends were inspired to make leaf bouquets.  (The bike served as a nice method of transportation on this leaf hunt!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In November we visited the local farmers’ market, where children went on a scavenger hunt and purchased vegetables for our Stone Soup Feast…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in December we practiced our gift wrapping skills in the block room.  Some friends even organized a tape dispensing/wrapping assembly line!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you parents and kids for a great first half of the school year!   Here’s to lots more fun in 2013!

“A is for Apple”

“A is for Apple”:  a common theme in preschool.  One way to explore this concept is, perhaps, through worksheets, tracing the letter “A”, cutting out and gluing construction paper apples.  These activities would, indeed, offer opportunity to develop fine motor skills.  However, they do very little to explore the concept of “apple.”

In a play-based program, we certainly talk about the fact that apple starts with “A”, that the letter A makes certain sounds.  (Though the letter A becomes much more exciting when a child in the class connects that her name starts with an A!)  And then we delve into all things apple!

This year, it started with a field trip to a local apple orchard, Machado’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children hiked through the orchards…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tasted a variety of apples (and pears and peaches, too)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

watched mesmerized as a huge machine cored and peeled several apples at once…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and delighted in the smells of fresh baked apple (and pumpkin and berry and peach…) pies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the classroom, we set  up an apple tasting station, in which children sampled three different apple varieties and recorded their favorites on a chart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Our discerning panel of taste-testers!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the art table, we put cut apples in paint for print-making.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the dramatic play area, children set up an apple stand, selling “apples” made from balled-up pieces of grocery bags and tape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, children set to work peeling, coring, and dicing apples for a batch of applesauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Can’t let those nice peels go to waste!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the art table, we covered the table with paper, squirted tempera paint on the paper, and explored how well apples roll!  The laughter and shouts of delight that ensued made cleaning endless trails of paint off the floor entirely worth it.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter recognition and phonemic awareness are, indeed, very important concepts to introduce in the early childhood classroom.  Yet the concept of “apple” covered so many different curriculum and developmental areas:  math concepts of counting and graphing; concepts of print-making and color-mixing; scientific inquiry skills of observation (as they observed the change of an apple as it turns into applesauce, investigation (as they investigated the physics of an apple rolling through paint at high speeds), and exploration (as they used all their senses to explore the qualities of an apple); and social-emotional skills of collaboration and communication, not only in their apple store dramatic play, but also as they coordinated the catch and release of all those fast-rolling apples!

Our goal is that by providing a wide variety of open-ended, hands-on activities, we will engage children’s natural curiosity, inquisitiveness, and creativity.  These activities are meant to offer children the opportunity to explore the world around them, to interact, to try new things.  Furthermore, varied, open-ended activities will meet the needs of our diverse group of learners, with different learning styles and at different stages of development.  And, most importantly, our goal is that we create activities that allow children to have fun!!

 

Punch Line

So the other day, a 4-year-old in one of my classes told me a joke, which, I believe, she made it up right there on the spot!

She was exploring a weighing and measuring station at the science table, which included a balance scale and colorful plastic bears.  She put two bears on one side of the balance scale, then looked up at me and said, “What’s more than two bears?”

She proceeded to put several handfuls of bears on the other side of the scale, until the container was nearly overflowing, and exclaimed, “Too much bears!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were both giggling with delight!

 

 

Back in action!

Hooray!  Our classroom is bustling again with children and families!

Children returning to our school for the 2nd (or even 3rd) year entered the classroom with such confidence and enthusiasm–and got right to work playing!  And new children we are welcoming for their first year entered the classroom a little cautiously, taking it all in…and then got right to work playing!

And our little preschool world is, once again, as it should be:

the mud pit has been reinstated in our sand box, and the dinosaurs are getting much needed mud baths…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the playhouse is receiving fresh coats of (water) paint…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

kitchen gadgets are covered in tempera paint…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

markers are employed conveying all kinds of creative thoughts…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the cash registers are full of (kid-made) money…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the watercolors are prepped and ready for mixing…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and OOBLICK (cornstarch & water) is back!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, kids, for infusing our classroom with energy and creative play!

Thank you, families, for making all this fun possible!