Rocky Hill Cooperative Nursery School
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.

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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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