Rocky Hill Cooperative Nursery School

Latest Blog Entries

Feb 04

I’ve challenged myself to describe our school in photos, without using children’s faces when possible, so you can imagine YOUR child enjoying these experiences!

    

 

 

 

The Grounds for Sculpture

   

Angler Fish!

 

         

 

 

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Feb 03

Come visit us on Saturday, February 10th between 10 AM and 1 PM and enjoy a free Music Together Storybook Singalong class at 10:30!  Please register at registrar@rhcns.  We’re looking forward to meeting you!

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Jan 04

Meet our new mascot, Leonardo da Vinci!   

Why Leonardo da Vinci in preschool?  He’s perfect!   He was fascinated by nature, painting, sculpture, exploration, building, drawing, music… so many things,  just like a preschooler! 

I’ve had this stuffed toy in the room for several years, but this is the first time I decided to make him a family project and send him home.  The results have been amazing!

Leonardo takes turns going home with different families and they fill in his journal telling about the adventures they’ve had together. Since he had so many interests, the possibilities are endless! Some children have taken him in the backyard to observe caterpillars, they’ve built bridges together out of wooden blocks, there was even a trip to the local airport to watch the airplanes since Leonardo was so interested in flight!  He’s attended a parents’ night out painting class, our Music Together Family night, and several of our field trips.  He’s learned to eat with chopsticks, celebrated Divali, and ridden a horse!  

Included in the bag is Neo Leo, by Gene Barratta.  Families can read about Leonardo’s thoughts and inventions, and compare them to what we actually use today.   He has had some fun adventures! 

        

Here are just a few of the entries:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now THIS is some creative thinking! 

 

 

He went trick or treating!  He even came back to school with candy in his hand! 

 

Celebrating Divali

 

Learning to eat with chopsticks

 

“These are olive trees where Leonardo lived, and this is his wife, Mona Lisa.”

 

Leonardo was an excellent equestrian!

 

Of course, he HAD to come to the Parents’ Night Out paint class!

 

Leonardo studying nature from many points of view!

Leonardo and the Music Together gathering drum.  He was a great musician!

 

Judging by the excitement shown by the children and families, I think this  has been a huge success.

One of our students even came back from winter break hugging her very own Leonardo! 

Come back soon to see more of his adventures with our families and staff.

 

 

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Dec 09

I’ve written before about “process vs. product.”  (It’s THAT important!)   Process art is when the children are given materials and they create whatever they want.  They just enjoy the process of creating, painting, mixing colors, and painting themselves!  (Don’t worry, the children are washable!)  Adults usually have no idea what it is.

If it’s process art, adults will need to say, “Tell me about it.”

I decided to do an experiment.  I confess, I knew exactly how it would turn out!  I decided to have the children do a stereotypical preschool “art” project.   I precut rectangles, and some yellow paper “flames.”  I told the children they’d be making candles. I told them to put the glue on the back of the paper, turn it over, and put it vertically (I had a sample for them to copy.)  Then I had them glue on the flame. 

Truthfully, I was embarrassed to be doing this activity.  Anyone who knows me knows how much I despise these types of “crafts.”  I did justify it because our younger ones are learning how to paste.  Yes, it’s a skill.  Taking the top off a glue stick  requires hand strength.  Twisting the bottom so the paste comes up is so much fun, sometimes it gets SO tall it breaks!  Put the paste on back of the strip of paper, TURN IT OVER, and paste it down.  (Many children put paste all over the paper and don’t realized the sticky part has to go down!)  Some like to put more paste all over the top of the finished project.  Why?  Because it’s fun, of course!

When they were done making their “candles” (in about  a minute or two)  I asked each one, “Tell me about it.”  

 

“I made a candle!”

 

 

“A candle!”

 

 

 

“A candle!”

 

 

“A candle!”

(You get the idea)

“A candle!”

“A candle!”

 

“I made a puppy!”

 

 Her friend turned to her and said, “You can’t make a puppy, you have to make a candle!” 

A preschool craft that has a “wrong” answer.  GAH!

Later in the day, I gave them paper rectangles that I’d precut, and  put them by the handfuls on the tables.  I gave children the same white paper and glue sticks, and this time, I told them to make anything they want. 

They worked on the same pasting skills, but many, many, times. One child spread paste all over the white paper, then discovered that the second layer of strips wouldn’t stick.   “Uh-oh, it doesn’t stick!”  When asked what she could do, she looked and said, “Put the glue here.” She then put it on the strip and turned it over.

I’ve found when children enjoy the process of creating, their language skills flourish.  Adults may not know what the project is, but the children certainly do! 

I was careful to use the same materials and verbal instructions with both projects. 

Look at the difference in the language skills:

 “I made this square.  I stick it together I put glue on it because now it sticks. I got many colors.  Red, blue.”

 

 

“This was a really fat one so that’s why he died. This was a living animal and he didn’t eat very good so he died. He said, “hello, hello, hello!”  This guy was swimming in the water.  This one has lots of stripes on it an also it has arms.   (I overheard him say to another child, “No, it’s not an Allosaurus.”  Friend: “I thought it was an aye-aye.”  “No, it’s NOT an aye-aye!”)

 

 

 

“Mine is a whole family of snakes and this is the mommy, daddy, baby, and sister snake and the baby sitter. And then they’re rattle snakes and they’re people and show the picture that they’re eating the people.”

 

 

 

“I got rainbow because I made it. It’s blue, red, orange, blue, orange!”

 

 

 

“It’s a giraffe.  It’s a lion. It’s a hippo. It’s a Grandma lion and Grandpa lion.” 

 

 

 

“This is a road and the dinosaur is on it an and he messed it up!  A spider came and tried to eat him.  Oh my goodness!”

 

 

“I’m not finished yet. I made it, it’s a letter I made. What number is this?  Yeah, I made the number T. When I made t his with some more glue.  N handed me her glue and and I colored with it.” 

  

Would you rather have your child be creative, think, and develop language skills, or be able to recognize a product?

Think about it.

Look at your child’s art.  You know what to say.  “Tell me about it.”  I think you’ll be impressed!

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Feb 11

 

There are several things you will not see at RHCNS.  First of all, there won’t be a multitude of exactly the same “art” product on the walls, especially the ones precut by adults!  Here, we encourage children think for themselves, to create what’s important to them.  Process art allows children to express themselves using different media.  Occasionally, we will have a “product,” but always with specific learning goals in mind.

Stereotypical preschool themes.  You will not see  hearts all over the classroom  in February, or shamrocks in March. Preschoolers are capable of so much more!  February studies include the Post Office (we walk there to mail our own letters.)  Since we walking, we need a map. Since we need a map, we’ll create more maps. Yes, we celebrate Valentine’s Day.  On one day.  We observe the Berry Eagle Cam.  We watch for the eaglets to hatch. We create life size eagle nests.  We discuss predator and prey. 

Worksheets.  While we’re aware that many kindergarteners will be facing worksheets, it’s not appropriated to “push down” academics.  If we’re using a worksheet format, it’s typically done with clipboards, where children can roam around the room searching for items to check off on their lists.  Preschoolers need to move and explore. 

Teachers who are not certified.  All of our teachers have been college-educated, fully certified teachers. 

One strict philosophy.   We are definitely play-based.  After all, that’s how children learn! Experiences should be hands-on!  After 36 years of teaching, I may take an idea from Waldorf, another from Montessori, yet another from a presenter at a NAEYC conference. One size does not fit all.  What works for one group of children one year may not work for another group.

Children restricted to ONE center, or limits on how many children may be in one center.  Your child will not be told to play in blocks, and ONLY in blocks. Children like to drift from center to center.  Sometimes, you need pretend food and babies in the blocks! 

 

 

Things you WILL see at RHCNS.  

Family involvement.

Parents and children staying on the playground after school, having lunch, talking and playing. 

Parents supporting each other, sending out emails to suggest side trips on afternoons and weekends. 

Weather appropriate clothes in the coatroom.  We go outside EVERYDAY  unless it’s freezing cold  (based on how it actually feels outside, not on what the thermometer says)  or a downpour. Children are encouraged to have rain pants and boots during muddy conditions. Snow pants are a must.  We LOVE playing in the snow! 

Parents welcome in the classroom.  Is your child having a rough morning?  Stay for awhile. Do you have something to share? Let us know.

Children exploring and following their interests. 

Musical instruments always available to the children.

Field trips.  Apple picking, a farm, a grocery store, walking to the Post Office, the Rescue Squad, and being visited by the Rocky Hill Firefighters are all highlights.

Questions to ask other preschools to see how we compare: 

Are parents welcome in the classroom anytime? 

Do you use worksheets? How often? 

Do you go outside EVERYDAY?  What conditions will prevent you from going outside?  Mud? Snow? 

Are all of your teachers certified?  What type of certification? 

Will my child get to follow his/her interests during the day? 

Do you go on field trips? How many? How does it relate to your curriculum? 

What is the most important thing that you want students to learn before they leave? 

Letter and numeral recognition are developmental skills, just like crawling and walking. While we do address these skills, we also want our children to know that they are a part of a supportive family and community.  We want them to be able to work cooperatively and learn some techniques for conflict resolution. We want them to be thinkers, to realize that there are so many possibilities. We want them to have the courage to explore.  

One amazing fact.  I am the FOURTH Director in FIFTY-SEVEN years!  Many of our teachers have been former helping parents. We love this school. We’re about family.  The most important thing about choosing a preschool is if it’s a good fit for you family.  Trust your “gut.”  We may be the right fit for you, we may not be.  Come see us at Open House (February 11, 2017 from 10-1.  Free Music Together class at 10:30 AM.) More importantly, make an appointment to visit with your child during class time. 

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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.

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

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Tuck in your fingers, and saw back and forth.

img_2183 img_2175 img_2177 fullsizeoutput_70c3We made play dough.

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We made REAL ice cream!

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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?

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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!

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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!

Then:

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!

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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.

 

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“I need help, I can’t do this.”

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

 

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

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Draw a picture of something special you saw or did.

“I climbed over a log!”

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“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.

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Team work: making mud!

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“That was a big one!”

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“That’s looks like a fossil!”

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Here’s the windup!

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“Is this turning into soil?

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HUGE sheets of bark!

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The tree without its bark!

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More teamwork!

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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!)

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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.

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(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!)

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Walking down the street!

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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!)

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Then they extended their learning on their own.

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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.

 

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There was a shallow end, and a deep end.

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“Here’s the pool and here’s the rug.”

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Another structure and map.

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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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