“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
The Pips have had a busy Fall so far, meeting new teachers and new classmates, and working on exciting projects. October's theme was Harvest. We played lots of morning music outside, created Fall colors with our paint and painted logs and pumpkins, as well as crafted paintbrushes from sticks and leaves. We made leaf rubbings and did lots and lots of pumpkin and gourd rolling. We completed an herb harvest and raked and jumped in leaf piles! Additionally, Ms. Mary, our lead teacher made some exciting new invitations for the room, like our fabric sachets, stuffed with lavender.
November's theme is Family. We have added new books to our library all about family and what that looks like for different people. We are taking the next few weeks to work on our family trees. The Pips have been painting trees with their hand prints and fingers, and we have invited our parents to bring in photos of their families to add to the trees. Ms. Mary has been playing her ukulele and we have been singing songs that have been tradition in Green Apple community since our opening, as well as songs about family and togetherness. Additionally, the Pips have been enjoying lots of dramatic play and invitations about the different activities families do together: i.e. baking and washing dishes. In the coming weeks, we will be writing thankful notes, painting with cinnamon sticks, singing lots of songs, and completing a few more family chores.
" Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit."
The freedom for children to take risks is an integral part of our program! We give the children room to test the boundaries of their bodies and minds, through free exploration of art materials, hay bales, loose parts and the weather. We believe that in order to grow, children must be permitted to take appropriate chances and learn from the results. We trust that within risk-taking lies the seeds of innovation and resilience.
Unless there is risk of serious injury we allow children to take chances. Through risk-taking children have the opportunity to grow their skills and confidence. They learn their current boundaries, and work diligently at building the necessary "muscles" to gain strength and resilience.
Since we know each child in our care deeply, Teachers are able to tailor support as needed. We assess a situation and ask ourselves, "what's the worst thing that could happen if this goes awry?" If the answer means something that can't be fixed by a couple band-aids, we redirect children to another outlet, or stand closely enough to be a safety net. We stand closer to a small friend, trying a new trick, and remind a more agile child, about the possible risks that surround her.
What does it mean for teachers to take risks? We work hard at professional development and listen to the conversations and needs of the children. Guided by the information we get about children's interests we take chances in our curriculum and push ourselves to trust the lead of the children in our care. We try new activities, themes and solutions to challenges. We work together to gain footing in new terrain, and master skills that we once struggled with. The result is a fruitful and exhilarating place to be, for children and their teachers.
A few weeks ago we started the new tradition of Forest Fridays. Each Friday the Saplings take a short bus ride down the road to Miller Nature Area. We walk along the trails and spend a couple of hours fully immersed in the forest. The Saplings have a blast! They enjoy the fresh air, and free space, and love looking for bugs and birds.
Last week we were joined by a staff person from Ann Arbor's Natural Area Preservation, shown above. She gave the children more information about how to identify garlic mustard, and told us about the importance of removing invasive species so that local plants and animals have enough resources in their habitats.
We are so grateful to have a wonderful nature area close by where our kiddos can learn about environmental stewardship through hands-on experiences!
Spring is finally here! The Saplings have been particularly interested in the winged creatures around us. Our first winged visitor was Emma the Chicken, who was brought in by Ms. Moonbeam, the Pips Lead Teacher and parent of a Sapling.
We learned that chickens can be ordered via catalog and can even come in the mail! The children were also excited to learn that Emma lays green eggs!
The children made drawings of chickens before and after the visit, and we talked about some things that we'd noticed, such as Emma's eye color, the many colors on her wings, and the scratchy fingernails on her claws.
We also got an exciting visit of an Eastern Screech Owl from the Leslie Science Center. Raptors are probably the most exciting birds to the Saplings this year. We are interested in their powerful talons, excellent vision, and fast, silent wings. The presenter read a children's book, "I'm Not Cute!" by Johnathan Allen and let us touch prop talons and wings of a great horned owl!
I'm excited to see how screech owls make their way into the imaginative play of the children in the coming weeks.
March was a delightful exploration of Dogs. The Saplings created a list of questions that wanted to explore related to the topic, including "What do wild dogs eat?", "How do they run fast?" and "What is a cheetah not a wild dog?"
Some of the answers eluded us, and others were learned through observation and analysis. For example, we noticed that dogs tend to have fur, while large cats tend to have skin and hair.
Since we weren't able to have any really wild dogs come visit, we were instead visited by two domesticated dog! The first was a very soothing therapy dog, named Gideon. We learned that Gideon gets washed and brushed very often so that he smells good and has as shiny coat. We were especially excited to learn that Gideon gets to brush his teeth and take breath mints! Gideon was very calm and patient with all of the Saplings and even let everyone have a turn touching his soft fur. Therapaws is a free service, and I highly recommend connecting with them!
We were also visited by Lola, a beautiful and energetic puppy. Lola let each Saplings take a turn playing fetch with her. The Saplings were amazed that Lola ran faster than them every time!
A couple of weeks ago we were fortunate enough to have Chuck Warpehoski of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice come visit with us. The children were very excited to have a new face in the building!
Leading up to his visit, we sand "Peace like a River" at music time. Chuck talked with the children about times that its hard to be peaceful, like when we feel angry; as well as things we can do to help ourselves calm down, like snuggling or deep breathing. He then read "26 Big Things Small Hands Can Do" by Coleen Paratore.
We love having visitors come share their interests and passions with the children. Connecting with the larger community is an important way for children to learn about the diversity and beauty of the world around them!
We pride ourselves on the work we do to help facilitate emotional intelligence in children. This week we explored love and separation with the book "The Invisible String" by Patrice Karst. In case you haven't read the book the story is about two young children who are afraid of a thunderstorm in the night. They go to their mom for comfort and she talks with them about the invisible string that connects us to the people we love, even when we're far apart.
Early in the week we read from the book and later re-imagined the story with sea shells and puppets as the main characters. The children who are new to our group were particularly soothed by the story!
To bring home the topic we made salt-dough charms to put string around and gift to someone we love.
Each child got a few pieces of salt dough and we invited them to use shells to make imprints in their dough. After baking the charms, the children painted them with warm and cool colors. The Saplings were very proud to have created their own "lucky charms".
We, the Saplings teachers, are very excited about all of the strides in introducing mindfulness into education. Most of the information available is for elementary school and above, but we believe its crucial to give our children tools for calming their bodies and soothing their minds in the early childhood years.
Peacemaking and mindfulness are two major themes that run throughout our curriculum. A few projects we've done to help plant the seeds are:
There are also peaceful practices that we weave into our daily routine. These are moments we use to help introduce a quality of attention as being weaved into various moments. A few of those are:
Peace breaks: About ten seconds of breathing before we transition into a new activity. We turn off the lights, put our hands on our chests or tummies and hum after each deep breath. We usually do three or four breaths each peace break. The children seem to feel some benefit and often remind us to do them!
Nature observations: We love to play outside! And in the winter months we love to bring nature indoors as well. We take time to notice the textures, smells, and colors in natural materials. Making imprints in playdough with shells is a simple and fun way to explore this idea. The Saplings also like to notice, and repeat bird calls.
Listening games: Another chance to playfully integrate stillness and attention into the day.
Snack blessing: We sing the snack blessing before morning and afternoon snack. We intend the blessing as a moment to show gratitude for and attention to our meal.
Yoga invitations: We've posted pictures of a few yoga poses on one of our walls. The children like to practice the poses alone or with friends, and it gives them a safe and new way to use their bodies intentionally.
The teachers also work to notice the needs expressed by each child's body language. Sometimes internal peace can be found in a tight snuggle or directing restless feet to do a silly dance.
The Saplings are such an active and diverse group it is rare that we find a book that each child adores. The major exception is "Sometimes I'm Bombaloo" by Rachel Vail. The book is about a preschool aged child, Katie Honors, who is usually happy and playful, but sometimes feels very very "Bombaloo", meaning overwhelmingly angry.
The children have asked to read this book a few times a day and we were inspired to make art to explore our Bombaloo feelings! We started the project with a list of things that make us feel bombaloo which range from "when my little brother knocks down my tower" to "when my Mommy says I can't have ice-cream."
Then we made bombaloo masks! Its been great to explore our angry feelings in relation to peace because it seems to put both feelings in context.
In the coming weeks we'll be talking more about people who help to make the world peaceful, as well as how we can make ourselves feel peaceful whenever we get to a Bombaloo place. I'm excited to see what creative solutions the children come up with!