Rocky Hill Cooperative Nursery School
Nov 20

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve updated the blog! As I’ve said before, and I’ll said it again, when it comes to prioritizing my time at school, the children always come first!

Every year, each class is different. It’s fascinating how different personalities and interests combine. Sometimes one child’s idea is embraced with so much enthusiasm by the others, it takes us in a whole new direction.

This year our group’s uniqueness includes cooking and building with blocks! (More on blocks at a later time!)

It all started in the sandbox, with a couple of boys making an ice cream shop. Other children picked up on it. Some children will naturally “cook” in the dramatic play center, or with play dough. It doesn’t matter what “theme” a class follows, but engagement is much more noticeable when the children are excited about what they are learning. Any “learning skill” can be introduced no matter what the theme is.

Every good ice cream store must have a sign!

Every good ice cream store must have a sign!

Your choices are vanilla, chocolate or blueberry.

Your choices are vanilla, chocolate or blueberry.



By following their interests in cooking, we provide materials to enrich their play. We provide opportunities to expand their interests. We’ve made applesauce and apple pie after our visit to the apple orchard.


After a visit to pick apples at an orchard, we had our own “orchard” and farm stand in class.


Tuck in your fingers, and saw back and forth.

img_2183 img_2175 img_2177 fullsizeoutput_70c3We made play dough.




We made REAL ice cream!









We also visited a farm and got to take eggs from a chicken coop and milk a goat! The children also picked pumpkins and gourds.

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Recently, we’ve been looking at healthy foods and the “My Plate” way of looking at healthy portions.

But wait! We’re learning about OUR nutritional needs, what about the rabbit and guinea pigs? I’ve created our rabbit and guinea pig journals. Now, the child who’s job it is to feed the animals doesn’t just put food in, but records what was given. Did they get hay? Leafy greens? Pellets?





Ok, we know we need protein, grains, fruit, vegetables and dairy. We classify our food at snack time. But where does the food go? Down the esophagus, into the stomach, into the small intestines, where the good parts of the food are sent all over the body. The parts of the food you don’t need go to the colon, then out of your body!


This is obviously not to scale!

Is this all we’ve been doing?  Far from it.  It’s just an example of how one “ice cream store” in the sandbox can grow and evolve!  This week?  Corn muffins and exploring spaghetti squash! (Tell me what you see. How does it feel?  Smell? How is it the same as a pumpkin?  How is it different?)

Don’t forget to check out our Facebook page for more of what we do!

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Sep 06

Welcome to a new school year!

As a teacher/administrator, I’m required to complete 20 hours of professional development a year.  This past weekend, I completed approximately 72 of the most educational hours I’ve had in a long time, and will not get credit for a single one.

What did I do?  I spent the weekend with my niece and her children.  Since I played an active role in her life in her baby/preschool years, her children are very dear to my heart.

Her daughter is three and a half months old; her son, just turned three and started preschool!  I arrived Friday afternoon, just in time to pick him up from his new class.   As I’m sure you can imagine, the preschool teacher/director just MIGHT have an opinion about another preschool program!   I looked in the door, and he was sitting on the rug near the teacher, legs straight out in front of him as they sing “Five Green and Speckled Frogs.”  He sees me, grins, and points to me.  He looks at his teacher, and points to me again.  We live four hours apart and Face Time frequently, but here I am in person!

The family's view. A little boy on a big playground.

        The family’s view. A little boy on a big playground.

Side note: On the drive down, I was imagining him telling his teacher that “Anka Ger” is coming today. If that were me, I’d have no clue what an ankager was!   (I think “Anka” might be a twist on “Great Aunt,” or maybe “uncle.”)  Who knows.  I love it. I don’t want it to change!

The classroom was bright and decorated in primary colors (which I happen to love!)  The teacher is experienced and  seems gentle. I asked her if he could show me around, and she said, “We’re getting ready for dismissal.”  (Which means of course, “Please don’t linger!”)  I then asked if I could take a few pictures, and she said, “Sure!”  I quickly took two and we left.

Then we went out on the playground, where he ran around with many other children.  His preschool is part of an elementary school, so the climbing equipment is for all ages.  I stood by him as he climbed one apparatus and watched as he tested his ability to reach across to another part.  He tried to reach.  Readjusted. Tried to step. Brought his foot back.  I was so proud that he tried several different ways, but in the end, realized he wasn’t comfortable with the next level.  “YES!”  thought the educator, children have an innate sense of what they can do!  Go Kiddo!


Mom is smiling, encouraging him, yet reaching out.  Letting our children out of our reach can be a challenge!

 Mom is smiling, encouraging him, yet reaching out. Letting our children out of our reach can be a challenge!

He started climbing what seemed to me to be an impossibly high twisted ladder-type structure.  He was over our heads.  The “children know what they can do” educator flew quickly away and there I was, “Anka Ger,” watching my little love out of my reach!  Should I stand behind him, if he fell backwards, should I stand in front, in case he flipped forward?  (His mom and I tried to cover all the bases.)  In addition, this confident little just turned three year old, wanted to show us how he can stand on one foot while way up high!  Oh, he’s growing up, but he’s not THAT grown up!

"Please put your foot down, hold on, don't let go..."

              “Please put your foot back, hold on, don’t let go…”


Saturday night, we hear this horrible seal-like barking.  My poor little buddy had the croup!   It was so frightening. His mom took him to urgent care, where they gave him oral medication and a nebulizer.  The nebulizer terrified him because the nurses put it on roughly, and it was hitting his eyes.  He didn’t know what was going on.  They returned home at 2 AM. My heart melted as this little boy, barefoot in his pajamas, walked in tiredly and told me, “I feel bettah.”

The weekend was a crash course refresher of what it’s like to parent a preschooler.  When you add an infant into the mix, life gets even more interesting!

What did I learn?  I learned that I needed a reminder.  A reminder of what life is like at home.

On the first day of school, I’ll welcome back our younger children from last year, who are now the oldest!  The new “threes” will enter, some confidently, others with tears.  I will be surprised at how little they seem in comparison to last year’s “little ones.”  However, I’ll see them as capable young people who are learning.  While I don’t expect them to be able to sit through circle time right away, I know they will eventually.  I’ll encourage them to take off and put on their own jackets and shoes.  They will pour their own drinks and clean up after themselves. I will encourage their independence. I will encourage them to climb and take the next step.

I’ll also remember that at home, they are the loves of your life.  They are your little ones, children with cute baby words that you don’t want them to outgrow, your babies that you’ve ached for when they’re sick.  I also know that watching them take these next steps can be scary for you. It can be hard to let go.

In a parent co-op, we’ll work together.  You’ll help me to see the child in your heart, the baby you’ve watched grow.   I’ll help you to see what your child can accomplish, the new stages s/he’s is ready to enter.

To my great-nephew’s preschool teacher:  After three days of school, he loves your program.  He’s ready to learn, but I’m not sure his family will be ready for some of the new “heights” he wants to reach! Help him to be a thinker, a learner.  Help him to develop his skills.  However, please don’t tell him that  the word is really “aunt.”  He’ll grow up soon enough.  I’d like to be “Anka Ger” for as long as possible.

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Mar 15

If you’ve read the previous post, you have an idea about my relationship with educational objectives. For 13 years, I taught children with special needs. In Virginia, I wrote IEPs (yearly Individualized Education Program) and conducted the meetings with parents and support staff.  In NJ, we had consultants who created the IEPs for us, but it was up to the classroom teacher to follow through and identify the goals addressed in lesson plans and whether or not they were met.   I think in terms of goals and objectives. I can’t help it.   In our class, I determine what skills we need to address, THEN I develop an activity to support those goals.

Last week on “small group” days, we went on hikes. The Thursday class (containing our Pre-K’s) have nature journals and backpacks they take on hikes.  The Friday class went to a different area, and found HUGE sheets of bark!



We went into the wooded area behind the school and explored the creek and shoreline of the river. When I thought about blogging  the experience, I immediately thought: “We discussed predator vs. prey, decomposition of trees, etc, etc.”  Then I stopped myself.  NO! This was about FUN!  This was an opportunity for children to be children. In a time when there is pressure to push academics down to preschool, it’s important to stand up for children’s rights. The right to explore. The right to be out in nature. Throw rocks in a stream. See how big of a splash you can make. See if a stick floats. I can’t begin to tell you how much the children learned that day, including pride in themselves and what they’d accomplished.  (Well, I could, but I won’t.)    I’m not going to examine joy. Fun.  A child’s right to have a childhood of exploration like their parents and grandparents had before them.








“I need help, I can’t do this.”



“I’ll help. Put your hands here and your feet there.”



“PLEASE can we write in our journals now?”  (Yes, they actually pleaded!)



Draw a picture of something special you saw or did.

“I climbed over a log!”




“It’s a half a snake!” “Where’s the head?” “Did a predator get it?” “What predator?”  Some children took out their magnifying  glasses to examine more closely.



Team work: making mud!



“That was a big one!”



“That’s looks like a fossil!”



Here’s the windup!



“Is this turning into soil?


HUGE sheets of bark!







The tree without its bark!



More teamwork!




RHCNS: defending  children’s right to learn through play and exploration.

Comments Off on Because It’s FUN!!!
Mar 15

I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a saying in the Early Childhood world: Process vs Product.   This refers to methods with which art materials are used. With process art, the children are in control.  They experiment and explore with the materials.  It’s theirs.  A product, however, looks exactly the way the teacher decides.  Typically the teacher precuts the pieces and tells the children where to put them and what colors to use.  (Once my son, when he was 3, came out from his  camp program saying, “Look what my teacher made for me!”   Counselor:” No, you made it, remember when you painted the plates last week?”  He said, “No.”  He had spread brown paint on paper plates, and the  adults precut eyes, ears, arms, legs and a bow tie and stapled them on to make a bear.  What did my son learn?  The adults did a great job on their project!

Today, we made a product. Turtles, to be exact, in the style of Dr.Seuss’s Yertle the Turtle.  I actually drew shapes for the children to cut!  (In general, beware of any “art” project done because it’s “cute.” Everything a preschooler does in school should have meaning!)

Why on earth did I do something  which I  strongly despise?  This  was a “vehicle” to achieve the desired objectives.

The educational objectives for the children depended on the age of the child.  We have 3-5 year olds in class.

Some of the objectives were:

The child will use scissors correctly. (Thumb up, placed in smaller hole, other fingers in larger hole. Point scissors forward, perpendicular to the body, using the opposite hand to guide the paper.)

(Some) children will use correct hand placement to “snip” pieces from a 1 inch rectangle.

(Some) will cut along black lines.

(For me: assess the children’s hand grip, ability to follow lines.) Observe comfort level of cutting.  (Some could quickly cut all of the detailed pieces, others struggled with a simple curve.)   Some were given pre-cut pieces, depending on the difficulty level.

Younger ones, use glue to paste small pieces. (Yes, there were puddles of glue, but those hand muscles were used! Good pre-writing skills!)



Older ones:  review and create patterns. Create a pattern using squares previously cut from strips.   For me: Assess child’s ability to create (and continue) patterns independently.


(First we reviewed patterns using the children (sit, sit, stand, sit, sit, stand) then made patterns with larger pieces of paper.

The product was a way to address these objectives, and a prop to help them recall the story.

Some children were capable of cutting out all of the pieces. Some just the curves of the shell. Some just snips of paper.   Two children wanted to do their own thing and create their own turtles, including a “fancy rectangle turtle.”  Did it look like a turtle?  To her it did.  She snipped, cut independently, had proper scissor grip and was able to use the glue appropriately. Objectives achieved. The same with the boy who decided to create a “foot face.”  Yes, the face was on the turtle’s foot! Another cut his own head, and legs.  It doesn’t matter what the end result was, the skills I’d previously identified were accomplished.

This is a "Beautiful Rectangle Turtle."

This is a “Beautiful Rectangle Turtle.”

The majority of the time, we are process oriented.  Sometimes,(a couple of times a year!) a product can be used to address goals. As  you can see, the reason for the product was not “to make a turtle,” but to develop specific fine motor and math skills. Process and an occasional  product.   It’s all about balance, young padawans!

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Feb 24

Every teacher knows that sometimes you plan a lesson/activity that you think the children will love, and it falls flat.  Then there are the magical days.  The days where you THINK the children might like (and learn) from the activity, and then magic happens.  It goes beyond your expectations.

We’ll be walking to the Post Office (when the weather permits) to mail letters home. We’re tying in addresses, mail, the Post Office, and maps.

Children learn from the concrete to the symbolic.  (Which is why workbooks, worksheets, and sitting for long periods of time are not appropriate for preschoolers.)   Maps are symbolic.  They represent real things.  How do you explain that to a preschooler?   By starting with something they can see, explore and touch.

I started off with ribbons, creating “Red Street” and “Yellow Way” on the floor of our classroom. I put cards with the numerals 1-7 along the way. First, the children explored, walked on it,  tried to figure out what it was.  (A racetrack perhaps?)  Then in our “Mystery Box,” there was a piece of paper with a drawing of the streets.  A map!   Children were shown cards with different “addresses,” such as 4 Yellow Way, and 7 Red Street.  They walked to the corresponding “houses” on the streets.     Each child was assigned an address, and they walked to their houses.


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Then it was time to create mail for a friend.  Writing a friend’s name (or their first initial) and their own name on mail is far more interesting than on a “sign in” sheet! Folding paper and putting them into envelopes (fine motor) then writing their friends address (it could be 1 with a yellow scribble next to it) then DELIVERING it to their house was SO exciting!   (Numeral recognition!)



Walking down the street!



Opening the mail was even more exciting! Here, one child is thanking the other for the wonderful letter, and the other is explaining what she did.

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One of the most exciting things (for me!) is that EVERY SINGLE CHILD was able to look at the map and show me where they “lived” and where their friends lived!  (Which I was not expecting!)


Then they extended their learning on their own.



The girls are making a pool.  Here, they’re deciding whether or not they need a wall to keep the water from splashing out.  The cartographer is on the left.



There was a shallow end, and a deep end.



“Here’s the pool and here’s the rug.”


Another structure and map.


I have to say again that this was a VERY magical day!  There aren’t photos, but I was surprised when I heard them at a their “houses,” saying, “Can I come to your house to play?”  and my favorite: “Hey! You live across the street from me!”

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Feb 23

Ah, that famous phrase. There are a lot of skills that just can’t be tested. All of the flashcards and workbooks can’t even begin to address them.  They are skills that need to be learned, and the only way to learn them is by trial and error, and lots of experience. What skills are those? Cooperation,  negotiation, planning, analyzing, communicating, and creativity to name a few. When children start preschool (usually around the age of three,) most have very little practice with larger groups of children and the fact that the toys are for EVERYONE, not just them.  Socialization is a learned skill, one that takes time and patience (on the adult’s part!)  to develop.


This structure was built by three three-year-old boys. Together they planned and constructed their building.  Can you see the rainbows on the floor? There was a lot of quiet talking, negotiating and compromise going on.


For this age, it was so exciting to see!



They topped off the structure with triangles all around the top.


But what about the little guy in the back?  He’s working alone!  Ah, but look!


It’s difficult to see, but there are different levels inside, similar to steps. He was so excited to create the triangle on the tower!


Look at the trapezoids surrounding the bottom of his building. He’s experimenting with fit and design.




If you look very closely, there are small triangles on many of the squares, creating a design. Planning, implementing, creating, thinking.  THESE are skills preschoolers need to learn. It’s not “just”  play!


Comments Off on Kindergarten Readiness: Part 2
Feb 07

Kindergarten readiness means different things to different people (and schools.) Just as you wouldn’t even think of drilling a newborn in how to walk (because they’ll be doing it next year,) preschoolers need to be respected for who they are, and where they are developmentally!  They are not Kindergarteners. Or first graders. They should NOT be exposed to “drill and kill.”  (Sound scary?  It is.  It means that skills like letter recognition and phonics are drilled into them so much that it kills their love of learning!)  At Rocky Hill Co-op, Kindergarten readiness is:

Developing gross motor skills by:

Navigating through deep snow






Hopping (everyday!)


Running up and down hills (in the back of your school!)





Developing fine motor skills and strengthening hand muscles by:

 Playing the piano


Serving yourself snack


Opening and applying bandaids to those in need


Painting in unusual ways


Examining nature


Recording your observations in your nature journal



More to come!

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Jan 25

We are so excited to be a part of the Music Together family!  We will be offering FREE Music Together classes on Saturday, February 6 at 10 AM and Noon.  Registration is required.  Please reserve your spots by emailing

Comments Off on FREE MUSIC TOGETHER CLASSES AND OPEN HOUSE! Saturday, February 6, from 10:00 until 1:00.