Friday, November 29, 2013

Simple Gifts: Thanksgiving in Kindergarten - Teacher Jean

The Small Friends kindergarten class has been busy learning about health and nutrition.  We've learned about the importance of eating a variety of foods from all the food groups and reinforced hand washing to prevent the spread of germs. We've read books and talked about taking care of ourselves, both physically and emotionally. This week we capped the unit off with a real-life application of these lessons: shopping for, preparing, and enjoying a nutritious soup together for our own Thanksgiving "feast."

We started with a walking field trip to the grocery store across the street from Small Friends. Before we left, Teacher Lisa went over safety rules and passed out name tags.  Then we were off!

Each child carried a clipboard with a shopping list so they could check off items as we put them into the cart.

Each child had a turn putting one of our soup ingredients into the cart, then we watched as Teacher Lisa went through the checkout line.  We couldn't have been prouder of our little group. They stayed together, followed all the safety precautions, and used excellent manners throughout the excursion.

Back in the classroom on Wednesday, we prepared the soup.  Each child got a turn to chop, stir, sauté, or add ingredients to the soup.

We let it simmer while we took a recess break on the playground.  Teacher Lisa kept an eye on it while she transformed our three work tables into one large banquet table.

We passed the rolls and butter family-style (a great opportunity to practice good table manners), and enjoyed the fruits of our labor as a community.

We ended the day with a sharing circle, each person taking a turn to share something they were thankful for about our class.

Both of us are thankful for the kindness that our kindergartners show to each other every day, and for the parents who model that kindness for their children and support our program in so many ways. Together we create a warm and welcoming learning community. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Back to the Basics - Teacher Sydney

We have a sign in our classroom that we got from Bev Bos, a well-known early childhood educator.  We leave it up all year long to remind us of what is important.  The sign says:


At Small Friends we have a wonderful woods at the edge of our playground which helps us with these Basics.  Throughout the year we take walks and explore there as much as possible.  The gorgeous weather this fall gave us several such opportunities.

We started the first week of school by taking small groups of children for walks in the woods.  Before going, we asked the children what they thought we might see.  "Birds, squirrels, trees, maybe a bear(!)" were some of the replies.

We took magnifying glasses and binoculars to help us look carefully.  We also took a camera to help us remember what it looked like later.

We saw lots of green trees, sunlight and even a big spider web!

Several weeks later, as the seasons started to change, we again walked in our woods.  We began by looking at pictures of our last trip and talked about how the woods might have changed now.

This time we made a list of "wonderings" as we walked:
   "I wonder where the spiders go in the rain..."
   "I wonder what made that big hole..."
   "I wonder if you can hear the leaves fall..."


We found a big log that had fallen (a long time ago) which was perfect for sitting on.  We all sat quietly for a full minute to find out what we could hear.  Each group heard birds singing in the trees, children's voices in the distance and the crackling of leaves (we wondered what was making that sound!).  One group heard a flock of geese overhead.  And one group was lucky enough to get an answer for our "wonderings" about the sound of falling leaves.  A big breeze came up and lots of leaves fell all around us.  Yes, we could actually hear them "crackle" and "crunch" as they hit against branches and bushes on their way down.  In fact, it was quite noisy!  Who knew?  Everyone was very excited and it seemed like a magical experience!

These walks in the woods give us lots of opportunities for learning.  We have a chance to notice and talk about the changes in the seasons.  We take time to explore and pay attention to the world around us.  They even give us an opportunity for further explorations back in the classroom.  But they do even more.  Rachel Carson, a renowned naturalist, said, "If I had influence with the Good Fairy...I should ask that her gift to each child in the world would be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life."  I think these walks in the woods are a perfect way to nurture that!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Halloween Happenings - Teacher Lisa

I think that if you ask young children to name their favorite holiday, many of them would respond enthusiastically with "Halloween!" Not because it's a free pass to go around to the neighbors' houses and unabashedly ask for candy, but because it's a time when our whole community plays dress-up. 

Because of this, at Small Friends we tend to let coming to school in costume be the "main event" on Halloween. In preschool through kindergarten, we keep our regular school routines in place as we invite everyone (teachers and parents included) to spend the school day in costume.

That's not to say that we don't make the rest of the day special - but all of the fun happens in the context of our typical school day. Here are some of the things we enjoyed doing in kindergarten:

There was a spooky surprise on the check-in table.

We began our calendar time with a call-and-response poem we'd learned. We took photos of each child so that we could make a class book (and introduce the use of speech bubbles).

Our math activity was a response to the book, Harriet's Halloween Candy by Nancy L. Carlson. After hearing the story, children worked in groups to sort and classify the candy in their trick-or-treat bucket. The categories they came up with were color, size, shape, favorites, and transparent vs. solid wrappers.

Then each group brought the candy they had the most of to the rug and we put it on a graph so that we could compare quantities.

Children took some of the candy outside with them so that they could launch it from candy catapults during recess. They experimented with a couple of different types to see which would go the furthest. They also tried launching more than one piece at a time. We may pull these catapults out again for more intentional predicting, measuring and recording activities, but on Halloween we just used them for free exploration.

When we came in, we gathered on the rug to make our magic brew (a favorite part of all of the Halloween celebrations here at Small Friends!) Each child added some juice (and some magic) until we could hear it begin to bubble and boil. It was delicious!

We took a bit of time to finish a project from the day before...

The children opted to shorten our Free Time (their favorite part of the day) so that we would could squeeze in a game of Musical Chairs. Instead of eliminating chairs, each child found a place to sit when the music stopped, picking up the numbered pumpkin that was on the chair. We rolled 3 dice and whoever was holding the pumpkin with the sum got a sticker. Such a simple game, but I think they would have continued playing for much longer than time allowed.

Our day ended much as it began - with Halloween stories together on the rug.

The costumes are gone, but I bet you can guess which class book is their new favorite!