Getting out into the Community
If you are familiar with us, you know that learning in the community is a hallmark of SEEC. Part of our mission is to share our teaching strategies with other educators. We would be remiss though if we didn’t address the elephant in the room. Sure – getting out into the community is great, but is it realistic? And even if you can do it, is it worthwhile? We recognize that getting a group of ten toddlers out the door, especially during the winter, is no easy feat.
We believe, however, that young children are capable and when given, simple routines to follow, young learners can manage to get from point A to point B safely and in relative harmony.
We have a few key routines, one of which is SEEC trains. Trains means that either one child has either an adult or another child’s hand and walks in pairs or triplets with faculty members placed strategically throughout the train. We are lucky at SEEC and have higher ratios, so that when our younger groups go out they are always on a teacher train. Our preschool children can walk on “free” trains.
When we cross the street, it’s hands and bubbles. We raise our hands tall so cars can see us and catch a bubble in our mouth so we can focus on walking safely. There is also the red light rule – our students know that if they need to stop for any reason, like an untied shoe, they can yell out red light and the group will stop and wait for the problem to be fixed.
In the Museum
Staying on trains in the museum is necessary as well. It helps get the group safely to their destination – making it less tempting to touch or run and easier to navigate crowds. For students who have a free hand on their train, we remind them that they can place that hand in a pocket or on their stomach.
Once we get to what we want to see, we often use a circle song to get everyone seated. Our teachers are thoughtful about finding spaces where children can sit and be themselves. Young children need to move and we want to enable them to enjoy the museum experience in an age appropriate way. When we are in our circle, we consider timing and the needs of the children on that given day. There are some days when a longer lesson might be appropriate and we are lucky to easily be able to return to the museums. If you do not have that luxury, which is also the case for our weekend programs, we recommend bringing a couple of different activities, i.e. art, books, play to see what works best with the group’s dynamic on a particular day. Recently, I’ve noticed that some our teachers are using a Montessori inspired work mat to delineate a teaching area in the museum. The children seem to respond well to this method and respect the space.
When you make a community visit it is equally important to consider your route, where you will be able to sit and have a discussion, what sort of distractions are nearby and, if you are visiting a specific object, will it be accessible to a young child.
There are a number of other techniques that we use for successful visits, but it mostly comes down to planning, responding to the children, setting developmentally appropriate expectations, and providing clear and simple routines.
We hope you join as we consider why community visits are important and how best to plan and execute them in our upcoming educator workshop, Learning Through Objects on March 14 and 15.