Sports Round Up

Recently we brought you a Teacher Feature showcasing a lesson on rowing and crew from of our 4-year-old classes.  We’re back with a round up of their sports unit led by teachers Jessie Miller and Will Kuehnle.   The web below depicts their entire unit, and the photos that follow highlight some of their lessons.

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The Why of Sports
It was important to Will and Jessie, that their sports unit not solely consist of playing games, but also integrated an array of subjects such as science and art.  During their week on the “who and why of sports”, the Honey Bears learned more about the science of their bodies and how sports and exercise affect their health. 1

How does physical exercise get our hearts pumping?  The children took their resting heart rates in the classroom, and then participated in an obstacle course on the playground.  Right after the course they measured their heart rate again, comparing it to their resting heart rate to see the difference.

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They also talked about sports medicine, and the importance of taking care of our bodies when they are injured.  The children were so interested in sports medicine, that Will and Jessie incorporated more lessons related to medicine throughout the unit, for example, they talked about tendinitis during their week on tennis.

Golf

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To introduce the children to golf, the class visited Hendrick Avercamp’s A Scene on the Ice at the National Gallery of Art.  The painting shows people playing on the ice, including two boys playing “colf”, a mix between golf and hockey.  After observing the painting, Jessie showed the children the tools of golf including a golf club, ball, and “hole” (made using blocks from the classroom).

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Later that week the children met with a parent who plays golf.  He answered the children’s questions about golf, and showed how he likes to swing the golf clubs.  The children took turns swinging the golf club at ping pong balls (they wanted to be safe with all the people around).

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Back in the classroom the children collaborated on a golf course using blocks, markers, and paper.

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They also practiced their persistence by playing a golf-like game by blowing their golf balls (pompoms) along the course with a straw.

Tennis

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The class visited the National Museum of African American History and Culture to learn about three exceptional tennis players: Althea Gibson, Serena Williams, and Venus Williams. 4

The National Air and Space Museum has Sally Ride’s racket on view, and the class visited it to learn about Sally Ride, and think about how gravity affects the game of tennis.

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To end their week on tennis, the Honey Bears went to a local tennis court to try their hand at the sport.  After observing and talking about the parts of the court and equipment, they got to hit tennis balls with a racket, and then play a game of “beach ball tennis” using rackets made of paper plates and paint stirrers.

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Back in the classroom, they continued to play tennis with balloons and their now decorated rackets.

Rowing/Crew

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What better way to understand the idea of buoyancy than heading down to the docks and seeing boats on the water?  The class went to the marina by the Tidal Basin to do just that.

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They also went into a boating store and talked with an expert about boats.  Boat safety was also discussed and they got to try on life jackets.

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Later that week, the class ventured to the National Museum of the American Indian to see an Ojibwe Birch Bark Canoe to learn about the parts of a boat.  After that, they headed to imagiNATIONS Activity Center and practiced their balance in boats.


We hope you enjoyed getting a bigger picture of our Honey Bear class’ unit on sports!  Visit our sports Pinterest board for more ideas.

Tips for Challenging Behaviors

We’ve all been there. Your child or student is exhibiting a challenging behavior, you’re frustrated, and you’re not sure what to do. While there is no sure-fire way to address any and all behaviors, we’ve reflected on some of our philosophies when it comes to consequences and dealing with undesired behaviors.

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Choices

Sometimes children act out because they want to feel a sense of control. As adults, we want to offer them the opportunity to assert their autonomy, but sometimes what they want to do is unsafe, unacceptable, or just not appropriate for the time and place. In order to respect the child’s voice and need to feel independent, while also ensuring the behavior is safe and appropriate, we rely on offering choices to the child. A few notes and tips when offering children a choice:

  • Offer a choice between two things. Too many choices can be overwhelming to a child. Often times it can be helpful to hold out a hand as you offer each choice, and allow your child to verbally tell you which they want to do or point to a hand. This is a helpful visual for less verbal children.
  • Make sure that the choice is a real choice. People often will say to young children, “You have a choice: eat the broccoli or you can’t have dessert” believing that they are offering their children a choice. But statements like these are really about consequences not choices. The consequence of not eating the broccoli is no dessert. Talking about and explaining consequences to children is not a bad thing. In fact, we explain more about the power of consequences below. But masquerading a consequence as a choice can actually be harmful. A true choice honors the child’s ability to choose between two (seemingly equal) things. One way to make the above example a choice would be to say “You have a choice between carrots and broccoli. It’s your choice. You choose.”
  • Only offer realistic choices. If you offer a choice, be prepared for your child to choose either of the options. If you are not comfortable with one of the options, simply don’t offer that as a choice. It can be extremely frustrating for a child to be told that they have the opportunity to choose something only to be told that their choose is no longer an option.
  • When there isn’t a choice. Sometimes you cannot offer a child a choice due to safety reasons, for example, “You must hold my hand while we are in the parking lot.” In this case, it is perfectly fine not to offer a choice, but explaining why to the child is respectful and helpful.

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Natural Consequences

At SEEC, we try to give natural consequences as much as possible for children’s behavior. This allows children to understand the cause and effects of their actions. For example, if a child refuses to wear their gloves in the winter, we warn them that their hands will get cold instead of struggling with them to put them on. When they get outside, they more often than not are bothered by the cold on their hands, and want their gloves. At this point we offer the child their gloves, and can remind them of this occasion if they refuse to wear their gloves again.

One of the great things about natural consequences is that the adults do not have to do anything for that consequence to happen. But unfortunately, that is not always the case and sometimes adults have to play a role. When this happens, it is important that the consequence is appropriate for the behavior. For example, it can be tempting to take away play time when a child isn’t listening or playing when they should be doing something else. However, this is not a natural consequence, it tends to not be meaningful as they suffer the consequence minutes or hours after the undesired behavior, and children NEED the play time. In fact, removing play time can often increase the challenging behaviors of children.

It is also equally important that the adult is willing and able to follow through with the consequence. If you say, “You need to behave or we’re leaving the store”, be sure that you are willing and able to leave the store if your child doesn’t behave in the way you want them to. It is also important that you explain to your child exactly what behaviors are appropriate versus not appropriate. Try saying, “you can calm down, hold my hand, and we’ll keep shopping, or we can leave” gives the child a positive idea of how they need to act and what the consequence will be if they do not.

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Time Outs & Redirection

Growing up, I remember receiving time outs and being told that I was supposed to reflect on what I had done to earn the punishment. Instead of reflecting, I remember sitting and stewing about what had happened, and just said what I needed to say to get out of time out. In short, it was not productive for me, or to the learning process of why my behavior was inappropriate.

At times, we will redirect a child and have them leave a heated situation and take a moment to sit down in order to calm their bodies and emotions. We feel that this is helpful in terms of deescalating situations, and assisting children with their developing self-control, however we don’t set time constraints on these sessions, and often tell the child that when they feel like they are ready, to rejoin the group or come talk to the adult.  We often call this “taking a break” instead of a time out.

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Communication 

We recognize that we won’t always be there when a child has a conflict with a peer, nor do we want to always have to step in and solve their problems. Instead, we try to give children agency to solve their problems, and thus we do not step in right away (unless their is a potential safety issue).

We give children language to express themselves, often we call it SEEC Speak. This language encourages and empowers children to communicate their feelings through language instead of physically. This looks different depending on the age group. For example, the toddlers are encouraged to say, “Mine!” or “Space!” in a big, strong voice if another child is trying to take something away from them or invading their personal bubble.

We also think about the language that we as adults use with young children when we are asking them to change their challenging behavior to more appropriate behavior. For example, if a child keeps standing up at lunch time, instead of saying, “Sit down” repeatedly, using more developmental language such as, “Bend your knees and put your bottom in the chair” might help children better understand what you’re asking and follow through.

Playing with Electricity

 

During one of our educator seminars, Play: Engaging Children in Object Rich Environments, participants observed a museum or community visit with our classes, who were all exploring electricity.  But how do you make electricity playful?  And how can educators make the same topic developmentally appropriate for infants, all the way up through five-year-olds?  Below are examples from our classes, ranging in age, across downtown DC, all engaging in playful learning about electricity.

Infants

Our youngest class, the Cottontails, love water play so the class chose to explore watermills . Before their visit, their teachers gave them laminated prints of paintings and images of watermills to look at, while describing their shapes and how they move.  Next they visited the Haupt Garden to play with watermill toys in a fountain to see for themselves how water, when poured onto the watermill, makes the wheel turn.  Through their play the children practiced fine motor skills, witnessed cause and effect, and heard new vocabulary.

 

The older infant class, the Ducklings, went to National Gallery of Art to see MultiVerse by Leo Villareal.  On their way to the museum their teachers talked about lights, and the Ducklings began pointing to lights along the way in hallways and elevators.  Once at the piece, a tunnel with a moving walkway covered in flashing lights, the children were given glow sticks and flashlights to explore on their own.  They used their fine motor skills to turn the lights on and off, waved them around to see their effect, and watched the flashing lights as they practiced new vocabulary.

 

Toddlers

One of our toddler classes, the Toucans, has been studying the Olympics, so they worked this lesson into their unit by learning about crowd energy.  They talked about why people cheer, and how encouragement and support can make someone feel.  They ventured to the Hirshhorn Museum and cheered on the fountain, which gradually gets higher.  While cheering for the fountain the Toucans practiced their social-emotional skills and also developed literacy skills through the use of songs and chants (“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “We Will Rock You”).

 

The older toddler class, the Dragonflies, focused on light versus dark, and how light gets its energy from different sources.  To illustrate this, the class experimented turning a lamp on and off when it was unplugged versus plugged in.  After their experiment they too went to MultiVerse by Leo Villareal at National Gallery of Art to see the small circular lights go on and off while they played with flashlights and glow sticks. They used their fine motor skills to control their lights and sang, “This Little Light of Mine”, which reinforced the concept while also practicing new vocabulary.

 

Twos

One of our two’s classroom, the Penguins, also focused on the “on and off” functions of objects that use electricity.  In the classroom they looked at light bulbs, and turned the lights on and off.  The class played musical chairs, which meant paying extra attention to when the radio was on versus off, while also engaging in gross motor play and practicing social-emotional skills.  To extend their learning they went to Lighting a Revolution at the National Museum of American History where they looked at a timeline of light bulbs and made observations about how they have changed in size and shape over the years.

 

Threes

The three-year-old class, the Wallabies, had been learning about trees, so they merged this with electricity and learned about the impact of lightning on trees.  The group went to the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden to see Needle Tower by Kenneth Snelson .  The class discussed how storms and lightning can be very damaging to trees and buildings, but they can be protected by lightning rods, like the tall metal sculpture. They built a tower using connector toys, practicing their fine motor and problem solving skills.  Lastly, they played “Rain, Rain, Lightning” (just like “Duck, Duck, Goose”) to reinforce that lighting can be unpredictable, while also working on their turn-taking and gross motor skills.

 

Fours

The four-year-olds learned about renewable energy, specifically wind energy.  They went to the US Botanic Garden to see wind turbines, but found that the turbines had recently been removed.  When the teachers explained to the class that the turbines had been removed they made connections to their past study of animals and conservation, theorizing that they had most likely been taken down due to their potential harm to birds.

After learning about the parts of a wind turbine, the class split up into groups and used their bodies to create their own wind turbines with each child acting out a key role of either the wind, blade, generator, tower, or electron.  Through their play the children were actively engaged in scientific thinking about the different parts of a wind turbine, how they work together, and their effect. Working in groups to bring their wind turbine to life also gave the students a chance to practice teamwork.

 

Reflections

Through their observations the Play seminar participants reflected that the play they witnessed not only engaged young children in the concept of electricity, but also strengthened developmental and learning skills.  One participant was struck by the amount of learning the infants were engaged in through their water play, including their careful concentration on pouring water and making the watermills spin.  Participants also  noticed how the play and content of the lessons carried over into the walks back from their visit, for example, pointing out lights in elevators or talking about lightening.

This day of playful electricity lessons also proved useful for our team. The experience of exploring the same topic on the same day helped us to reflect on the way we use play in the classroom, as well as how topics can be explored in a meaningful and developmentally appropriate way across ages.  We found we were inspired by each other’s unique and creative ideas about how to use the museums and community for playful, object-based, electricity lessons.  We also discussed the standard challenges of taking our students into the communities and museums, such as objects being removed right before our visit, and how we can be flexible to still achieve a successful and engaging lesson in spite of these logistical challenges. We’re already thinking about another all school project to reflect on our practice further, so be sure to keep an eye out for a future blog.

 

 

Teacher Feature: PreK 4 Class Explores Archaeology

Today we’re featuring Pre-K 4 teacher Jessie Miller of the Honey Bear classroom. The class has been exploring topics related to digging, and I joined them for a lesson at the Freer Sackler Galleries about archaeology.  Below you will find images from the lesson, as well as reflections from Jessie. 

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The children had recently shown a growing interest in digging and the creatures and objects they were discovering underground. To build on this interest, we decided to start a “can you dig it?”unit where we would explore a variety of topics related to digging, such as underground animals and insects, construction, gems and minerals, paleontology, archaeology, etc.

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 The class visited the Freer Sackler Galleries for their lesson on archaeology. There are many wonderful exhibits at the Freer Sackler, but for this lesson, they looked for gallery 21: Feast Your Eyes: A Taste of Luxury in Ancient Iran.

Engaging the children throughout the entire journey from classroom to the museum and back to classroom creates excitement and curiosity. This also scaffolds their learning and gives them multiple exposure to a topic. For example, we will often tell them the name of the exhibit we are looking for before we leave the classroom, then ask them what we are looking for before we enter the museum, and once we find the exhibit inside. This gets the children looking for letters, words, and/or numbers, as well as sparks their interest about our learning topic for that day.

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After finding the gallery, the class walked through it, stopping at artifacts that they wanted to look closely at. Jessie went with the groups’ pace and read information about each object that interested the children. They wondered and predicted together what each object was used for and from what materials they were made.

I chose this exhibit because it has a variety of objects to explore rather than just one. I also wanted the exhibit to provide our class with enough space to move around freely. This exhibit in the Sackler Gallery tends to have less foot traffic, and it has an array of objects to observe. The word ‘ancient’ in the title of the exhibit indicates the objects are from a long time ago, which was perfect for us to use in our exploration of archaeology.

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Near the end of the exhibit, the class sat down in a circle in front of the photograph Panorama of Persepolis by Ernst Herzfeld. Jessie asked the children to remember what paleontology is and the class recalled that it is the study of fossils or things that were once alive. Jessie asked if they saw any fossils in the exhibit or in the photograph behind them. The children said that they couldn’t see any fossils, but perhaps there were some beneath the surface in the photograph. One child said that they weren’t sure about fossils, but that the pillars in the photograph looked old because she could see holes, scratches, and dents on them.

The children had learned about fossils and paleontology the day before this lesson. We explored the fossil hall in the Natural History Museum and observed a variety of things paleontologists study. The main learning objectives of this lesson were to reflect on what we had learned about paleontology, compare and contrast paleontology and archaeology, and provide the children with some authentic objects archaeologists would work with. These objectives provided the children with exposure to these two fields of science, and their similarities and differences.

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Jessie told the group that the pillars or columns were old and in the country of Iran. All the artifacts they had seen in the galleries are from Iran as well. To better understand where Iran is located, the class looked at a world map and sang the song, “7 Continents“, which they often sing when locating a place on the map. Jessie told the group that Iran is on the continent of Asia and pointed out where it is.

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Next, the group thought about the difference between paleontology and archaeology. While both fields dig into the Earth to find clues about the past, paleontology is the study of fossils, and archaeology is the study of objects that are human-made. To further explore this, Jessie gave each child an object to examine. Then, everyone had a turn to place their object either in the paleontology group if it would be studied by paleontologists, or the archaeology group, if it would be studied by archaeologists.   

I already had some previous knowledge about these two topics and had created related lessons in the past. However, I wanted to prepare myself a bit more for this lesson through online research and books to make sure my knowledge was up to date. I also relied on the exhibits we visited to provide us with information. For example, as we ventured through the exhibit before sitting down for our lesson, I made observations about the objects we were seeing along with the children, and then read the titles and descriptions from the labels so we could have organic conversations about the pieces in the exhibit.

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 When the game ended there were two distinct piles for each field of study. The children understood that paleontologists study fossils, or things that used to be alive, while archaeologists study objects or buildings that were human-made.

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Jessie reiterated that we know how people lived long ago because of the artifacts that archaeologists dig up and examine. She shared some pages from the book A Street Through Time by Anne Millard, which shows the same street and how it might have looked from the Stone Age to modern day. 

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To end their lesson Jessie gave the children a challenge: pick an artifact in the exhibit that made them curious, observe it closely, and sketch what they saw.

Going into the lesson I wanted to make sure the children had time and space to complete structured as well as unstructured activities. Sometimes providing the children with too much freedom in a space can cause silliness but by preparing them for the sketching activity and giving them specific guidelines to follow they completed the activity with no issues.

 Back in the classroom, we asked each child to describe the object from the exhibit they had chosen to sketch. We wrote these descriptions on their paper with the date and a title, and then hung them up in the classroom. Once they were up in the classroom, we could refer to them later and encourage the children to share them with their families and friends. This provided multiple exposures to the topics we were learning about and enhanced their curiosity to learn more.

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If another teacher wanted to try this lesson, I would recommend finding spaces for the lessons and activities that give the children enough space to move around and explore. I would also recommend being prepared with a few things, such as a book and activity or two, but also leave plenty of time for organic conversation to happen. By building in time to just wander around and chat about what you are seeing, the children get more unstructured time to simply enjoy the space and objects and share their thoughts with their classmates and teachers.

After this lesson, the children were provided with a variety of tools, such as paintbrushes, gloves, magnifying glasses, pencils, and sketch paper, that would help them to explore little “dig sites”with sand, and mini objects that an archaeologist would study. We also picked out books from the library related to digging and incorporated story times into multiple parts of our day. This lesson was one of our final explorations in our “can you dig it?”unit, so we spent the following days reflecting on and making comparisons between the digging topics we had explored over the previous weeks.


After exploring digging, it was time for our preschoolers to graduate! For more digging ideas, visit our Dinosaurs, Can You Dig it?, and Ancient RomePinterest boards.

Teacher Feature: Three-Year-Old Class Explores Amphibians

Today we’re featuring Maya Alston and Amy Schoolcraft, the teachers of the three-year-old Wallaby class. The class has been busy exploring the Animal Kingdom, and I joined them for a lesson about amphibians and frogs at the National Museum of Natural History. Below you will find images from the lesson, as well as reflections from Maya.

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For the past two years, a mallard duck has made SEEC’s playground her nesting ground to lay her eggs. Every year we section off a part of the playground for mama duck to lay her eggs safely and use this as an opportunity to engage the children about the importance of respecting her space while she cares for her babies. This was the Wallabies’ first time experiencing the process, and while they have always shown interest in animals through play, we noticed that this experience really seemed to stick with them and pique their interest. Amy and I decided this was the perfect time to begin a unit on the animal kingdom.

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For their lesson, the class headed to Q?rius, an interactive learning space at the National Museum of Natural History, for their lesson.

Q?rius is a space dedicated to encouraging young children to be curious and investigate through hands on exploration. I wanted my students to be active participants and be able to have tangible objects to help them make these connections. I took some time to explore Q?rius on my own first, imagining how my children could engage with objects that were relevant to our lesson. From there, I began to piece together what I wanted the lesson to look like based off what the space offered.

Since it was also my first time going to Q?rius, I wanted to make sure the space was appropriate for my students. I took time to explore on my own as well as speaking with Q?rius employees about what objects they had related to amphibians.

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Q?rius has many objects and specimens to examine closely. Maya led the class to a case and took out a specimen box without showing the class. She gave the group some clues as to what might be in the box including making a frog noise with a frog musical instrument, and showing them an image of a frog. Between both clues many children exclaimed, “a froggie!”

For this unit, we wanted our students to understand the concept that animals belong to different groups. While animal kingdoms are generally taught in later years, I wanted to build a foundation of the concept of categorizing animals based on physical traits, habitat, and other characteristics unique to that animal group. In this lesson, we began exploring amphibians.

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Maya shared two frog skeletons and allowed each child a turn to look closely. They noticed the difference in sizes between the skeletons.

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Next, the class went upstairs to the Q?rius jr. space, a dedicated area of Q?rius for young children. They sat down and Maya told the class what they were going to learn about today: amphibians. They practiced saying the word and Maya explained that amphibian means two lives; one life in the water, and one on land. She asked what animals they know of that live in the water. The children listed animals such as sharks, fish, and dolphins. Next, she asked what animals live on land. They identified many animals including butterflies, cheetahs, birds, bunnies, and elephants.

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Maya reiterated that amphibians are special because they live in both the water and on land, such as frogs. She showed them images of more amphibians including newts, salamanders, toads and caecilians. The group remembered some previously learned knowledge about how many legs insects have (six) and arachnids have (eight). Maya let the class know that many amphibians have four. The class counted the legs of the amphibians together. The group explored another physical aspect of amphibians – how they feel. The class felt their own skin and described it as smooth and soft. Maya let them know that amphibians are smooth and soft as well, but they’re also moist, meaning they’re always a little bit wet.

I knew very general information about amphibians and frogs, but to prepare for this lesson I took some time to research as well. Sometimes the children have questions that I might not have been expecting, so it’s always helpful to come with some additional information prepared.

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One of the children brought up how bunnies feel, and Maya took this opportunity to transition to her next point. She asked the group what bunnies like to do. They excitedly said, “hopping!” Maya told the group that frogs also like to hop. The class began jumping and hopping like frogs all over the circle. Maya let them have some time and then said, “3, 2, 1, and done.” The children took the cue and sat back down in their circle.

While I had not planned for the group to jump like frogs at this point, it was the children’s way of staying engaged and actively participating with the lesson. I really want them to connect with our lesson in a way that speaks to them, and most often, it is through movement. It makes our lessons feel a lot more organic and can even help to push the conversation along. I’ve found my lessons to be much more fun and exciting when I allow the kids to steer the direction we go in just a little during our discussions. It’s an excellent way to gauge their interest and see what they know already.

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Next, they explored frogs more deeply by looking at plastic frogs, and playing wood frog guiro musical instruments. They enjoyed stroking the wooden frog’s back with the mallet and listening to the ribbit-like sound. They also compared the difference in sound between the larger frog guiro and the smaller one.

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The last aspect of the lesson was to explore how strong frog legs are and how they help them to jump very far distances. Maya said that some frogs can jump up to seven feet! To illustrate this she measured out the distance with a tape measure.

The inclusion of math skills into the lesson was something that happened naturally. I really wanted to provide a visual to see just how far of a distance it was, and a tape measure was the perfect object. It just so happened to be a great way to incorporate math skills!

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Then it was the children’s turn to jump like a frog and measure how far they could go. Maya randomly pulled each child’s photo from a bag to indicate it was their turn to jump.

The children seemed to really take to the activity portion and liked comparing their distances to see if they could jump as far as their friends. I think the activity was engaging enough that even when it wasn’t their turn to jump, they were still excited to get to participate in some fashion, for example cheering on their friend who was jumping.

There’s always a little bit of unknown when taking your students to a new space. Sometimes doing gross motor activities in confined spaces can be a little tricky. I wanted to make sure the kids were able to get the most out of the lesson, while also respecting other people using the space, so we discussed.

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As each child jumped, the rest of the class cheered for them and how far they went. Maya integrated math skills by measuring how far each child went and writing down the numbers next to their photo. To conclude this part of the lesson Maya let them know that they were all great jumpers, but frogs could still jump a lot further and they would learn more about them later in the week.

I absolutely loved how the group waited so patiently to take their turn to jump and were cheering each other on. It can be difficult to wait patiently for eleven other people to go before it’s finally your turn. Unity and camaraderie are concepts we encourage throughout the year, and seeing them be so supportive unprompted was very heartwarming.

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To end the visit, the class got a chance to explore the Q?rius jr. space. Some children explored the many specimens both displayed and available to touch. Some played more with the frog instruments or engaged in a variety of puzzles (including a frog puzzle!).

I think what’s great about this lesson is the fact that it can be done in just about any setting with objects. My recommendation for other educators without easily accessible museum spaces, but wishing to do a similar lesson would be to go sit outside or go to a local nature center or pond to connect with the concepts.

We made sure to say a quick goodbye to our frog skeletons before leaving Q?rius. Upon reflection, this would have been an excellent time to have the students take another look at the skeletons and have a brief discussion about what new information they had learned during the lesson. That would give them the opportunity to make connections and help to bring the visit full circle.

Later in the week, we continued the conversation by visiting the Moongate Garden to talk about the life cycle of frogs. Following our week on amphibians, we began to explore other animal classifications.


After exploring frogs the class learned about reptiles. For more animal ideas, visit our Amphibian, Birds, Reptile, and Ocean Pinterest boards.

SEEC Faculty’s DC Summer Favorites

Summer in DC offers lots of great opportunities to get out of the house and experience nature, art, sports, and more. Our faculty shared some of their favorite DC summer activities and events. Maybe something will catch your eye and you can start a new tradition with your family this summer!

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Our art educator, Carolyn, recommends Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. Located in Anacostia Park, the Gardens is hosting their annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival on July 13th. Not only will the lotus be in full bloom, but there will also be live music, crafts, and a live animal exhibit. 

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Yards Park

Infant and Twos Director, Melody, loves taking a visit to Yards Park to cool off. She says, “It’s free and it’s a big area with shallow water to splash around. We haven’t been in awhile and hope to go back this summer with the new baby!”

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National Building Museum 

Pre-K 4 teacher, Sara, looks forward to the National Building Museum’s summer exhibits. “Last year was the first year I went. I loved the immersive experience. It was a celebration of avant-garde architecture and also pure fun. I felt like a child, jumping in ball pits and running through streamers. I had a blast.” Check out information about this year’s exhibit, Lawn, which opens July 4th.

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Nationals Park

Toddler educator, Kat, loves to go to Nationals Park to catch a game in the summer. She elaborates, “Plus, every year they have Opera in the Outfield in partnership with the Washington National Opera; you can bring a blanket and sit on the field while enjoying a show! It is one of my favorite places to be in DC. Go Nats!”

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Great Falls National Park

Brittany, twos educator, enjoys hiking and climbing at Great Falls National Park. Brittany says, “Growing up in the area visiting Great Falls was a weekend tradition. It is a great space to explore and learn the local history of DC. You are able to see great beautiful views of the Potomac River gushing over rocks, plus the awesome wildlife. For the climbers, Great Falls is one of the first Climbing areas in the Mid-Atlantic area. It is a great spot to work on top skills. Plus climbing by the water is always fun!”


What’s your favorite DC summer activity? Be sure to let us know in the comments!

Playing WITH Children

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Young children are capable learners and at SEEC, we have strong beliefs about young children and how they learn best. One belief is that adults should play with children, be silly, sing, have fun, and get dirty. While we recognize and value the benefits of child play without adult involvement, we see many benefits for both adults and children when grown-ups join in the fun.

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Adults need to play too! While society tends to view play as a pastime exclusive to childhood, research has shown that adults need to play  in order to maintain a joyful and healthy life. Play, whether it be participating in a kickball league, painting, or engaging in improv theater, maintains cognitive skills, strengthens relationships, and reduces stress. Stuart Brown, physician and founder of the National Institute for Play, feels that play is essential and recommends building playtime into our everyday lives to avoid feeling stuck and stressed. Innovative companies are even bringing play into their work spaces. For example, Tim Brown, CEO of design firm, IDEO, incorporates a preschool-like play setting that allows employees to innovate new, creative solutions through play. At SEEC, we feel similarly, which is why we use play to teach concepts at our educator workshops. Not only is it engaging, and fun, but it builds community among educators, and provides practical applications that can be used in the classroom.

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Playing with children not only provides benefits to adults, but children as well. When an adult chooses to participate in a child’s play, they are sending a powerful message that what the child is doing is valuable, and their learning is important. Plus, playing with children builds strong relationships, whether that be a teacher-child or caregiver-child relationship. Not sure where to start? Try simply asking, “Can I play with you?” Generally, children will be more than willing to invite you in and tell you how you can be involved!

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When adults play with children, they become models of social emotional skills. They are able to model being a graceful winner or loser in competitive games, demonstrate teamwork, and  show children how to navigate social interactions. For example, “I see that Adam is a pirate too, can we make room for him on the ship?” or “Roberta, it looks like you’d like to play! We’re building an ice cream parlor, what would you like to do?”

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Adults also have the ability to open other avenues of thinking and inquiry through play that children might not think of on their own. For example, if the children are pretending to sail on a boat, asking, “Where are you going?” or “What will you do when you get there?” helps children expand their thinking and possibilities for their play. Vivian Gussin Paley, noted play theorist, believes in the power of an adult to help make connections for children that they might have otherwise missed. She likens the adult’s role to a Greek Chorus, commenting on or repeating what players have said. For example, “I heard Sally say that the baby is crying. How do you think we can make the baby feel better?”

Have we convinced you of the benefits of play as an adult? Would you like to come and PLAY with our SEEC team at the Smithsonian while thinking more about play in the community with young children? Join us for our Play in the Community seminar on May 6 & 7. Learn more and register.