Teacher Feature: Three-Year-Old Class Explores Rivers

Today we’re featuring Connie Giles, one of the teachers of the three-year-old Wallaby class. The class had been busy exploring a water unit, and I joined them for a lesson about rivers at the National Gallery of Art. Below you will find images from the lesson, as well as reflections from Connie. 

cover

fountain preschool rivers

On the way to the museum the class stopped by one of the large fountains outside of the National Gallery of Art. Connie reminded the children about the other fountains they had seen during their water unit and the class took a few minutes to observe the fountain and listen to the water falling.

The museum or community destination of the day is not the only place where we can learn. We often stop to look at other things and have many interesting experiences along the way. On this particular day, we had some extra time and were able to travel slowly and enjoy the journey more than usual. I had wanted to take the students to this fountain at some point and had not been able to yet, so this was the perfect opportunity for them to see it, hear it, and experience something new. It was also a chance to review the tranquility concept we had learned during an earlier lesson and would be reviewing again at the end of this river lesson.

observation preschool rivers

Upon finding the artwork, River Landscape with Ferry by Salomon van Ruysdael, Connie asked the class to sit in front of it like an audience so that everyone had a clear view of the painting. Next, she led the class in taking a few deep breaths to center themselves and calm their bodies. After that, she asked the children to silently observe the painting for a moment.

To choose this piece, I looked at several paintings with a few criteria in mind. I wanted a piece we had not seen before. I also wanted it to be large with many details so there would be lots to observe. I would have preferred a painting that depicts both sides of a river to point out the difference between a river and other bodies of water, but I finally settled on River Landscape with Ferry because it had lots of details to help with our “careful looking” activity. Before discussing an object, we often take time to look carefully at it as careful looking strengthens the early cognitive skills of examination, observation, and concentration.

movement preschool rivers

After the children observed the artwork, Connie asked the children to move as something they noticed in the piece. One child was a boat sliding on the water, several were moving like horses they spotted on the shore of the river, while someone else moved like the whooshing of wind.

Children need to move after being still, but also, movement is a way to experience and learn something in a different way than through hearing, speaking or seeing. It is important for the brain to be stimulated in as many different ways as possible to create deep understandings of concepts. Movement is another way for the students to make a connection to the art and put their own personal touch on the describing and interpretation of it.

careful looking preschool rivers

Finally, the group discussed what other observations they had, including how the painting made them feel. Common themes among the observations were the shape of clouds and what it reminded them of (a forklift, a lobster, a moose chef), and the castle in the distance. Many children focused on small details and took turns to get up and show their classmates what they had observed. For example, “If you look very closely you can see a white flag hiding behind that boat.”

At the beginning of the year the group always had plenty to say, but their observations were almost solely of things they could see. Gradually, I helped them expand into how it made them feel, what it reminded them of, and what they could imagine was there. I did this through modeling this myself and also giving them prompts to help them get started like, “It makes me feel….” or “It reminds me of….” Gradually the children grew their observations into deeper and more expansive descriptions and explanations of their thought process. Now, I often hear them describe something that is not seen, but imagined or say that something reminds them of something else. Sometimes, on their own, they begin with a phrase like, “It makes me feel…” It has been a great process to watch grow.

One moment from this section of the lesson I have reflected on a lot is how I respond to the children’s responses. I stopped one student a little prematurely because I felt she was repeating what the previous student said instead of sharing an observation of her own. I wanted to give this student more time to think of her own special thought, but she did not want to. I wish I had seen how important it was to her to share her almost identical thought. I have to remember that a thought that seems identical to another child’s isn’t copied, it is simply that the students had the same idea and both want to share it in their own way. Fortunately, when we came back to her, she shared her thought, and while some elements were similar to another student’s thought, there were many parts that were different.

SEECstories.com (39).png

Next, the group rearranged themselves into a circle so they could focus on some objects and activities that Connie had prepared. She told the class that rivers are very special because they are always moving! She showed a video of leaves floating down a river and a video of a toy boat sailing downriver to illustrate this concept.

Technology is another way for children to absorb information, it allows them to see actual photos or a video of what they are learning about which takes the teacher’s verbal description one step further. In my experience, technology also seems to enhance concentration, as students seem to become very interested and focused when the iPad, cell phone or laptop comes out.

spelling downriver.png

Connie explained that the direction a river moves is called “downriver”. She brought out a whiteboard and sounded out the word as she wrote. The children enthusiastically called out the letters as Connie made each sound.

Literacy is everywhere and should be a natural and constant part of every child’s day. I try to incorporate literacy into almost every lesson in the form of reading books, sounding out words, talking about letter sounds and letter recognition. I also like to incorporate a specific new vocabulary word about once a week by emphasizing the word, spelling it out, and reviewing it many times. The kids love to learn new words as it makes them feel powerful. The children’s interest in letter sounds has peaked in the second half of the year, so we have increased our spelling and sounding out of words even more and added additional letter related activities for classroom playtime as well.

walking hands up river

Next, Connie put down a paper river with arrows to show the direction the river flows. The class walked their fingers downriver and back upriver.

downriver marble preschool rivers

The class took turns rolling a marble downriver pretending that the marble was being carried by the moving water.

shallow water preschool rivers

Connie asked, “What do you think it feels like if you try to walk upriver?” To explore this idea, the children acted it out with one child being the river water, and another child walking downriver or upriver. They found that in the shallow river water, they could easily walk downriver, but it was harder to walk upriver because they were being pushed in the opposite direction.

deep water upriver preschool rivers

But what if the river water is not so shallow? They tackled this question next. One of the children pretended to be deep river water while another child tried to walk upriver. She found that she could not move very far at all. The group decided that it would be very hard to move upriver!

I wanted the students to learn one main thing about rivers: that river water is always moving and that it is always moving in one direction. I approached this concept from four different angles to help the children gain a deep understanding of the concept: the videos, the finger walk, the marble roll, and the acting out. It is important for kids to learn by doing, to truly experience the feeling of something rather than just hearing it described or looking at pictures. It is always important to teach a concept in several different ways in order to reach several different learning styles as not all children learn best in the same way.

When doing activities in a museum space, I consider how to situate ourselves to ensure a successful experience, while also keeping the gallery safe. In a museum, we sit in a tight circle and keep all activities inside of it. Throughout the year we have also discussed, practiced and reviewed our museum manners such as, quiet voices, walking feet, and calm bodies. With these systems in place, the marble rolling and body pushing activities were no problem at all and disturbed no one. In fact, some people stopped to watch with smiles and one even complimented us on the way out. You can use museum spaces in many ways, you just have to plan carefully and set expectations with the kids.

river rocks tranquil preschool rivers

To end their lesson, Connie passed out river rocks. The class noticed how the rocks were very smooth from the water running over them. They compared these to a bumpy, rough rock and decided that the rough rock must not have come from a river. As the children held their rocks and Connie read/sang the book River by Bill Staines, they took deep breaths and practiced being tranquil, something they had discussed when learning about fountains.

Knowing how to self-regulate and how to calm your body when excited are skills that young children continue to develop well beyond preschool. All year long we have worked on understanding that different places, activities, and times of day influence expectations for how we control our bodies. I found that studying fountains earlier in our water unit was a wonderful opportunity to introduce the idea of water as having a calming effect. During these lessons we learned the word “tranquil” and talked about other words like “peaceful”, “calm”, “mellow” and “relaxed”. We talked about how fountains are often peaceful places. I found that revisiting this concept at the end of the river lesson allowed the children to reconnect with the idea of water as a calming influence as we finished our lesson and prepared for our walk back to school.

classroom extension marble preschool rivers.png

Back in the classroom that afternoon the children enjoyed taking turns rolling the marbles down their river and learned about two animals that live in rivers – crocodiles and alligators.

I set out a “theme choice” every afternoon, which is an activity that is related to the lesson topic of that day. I do this to solidify what was learned and to allow the kids to explore their new knowledge on their own through play. Oftentimes not all students get a turn with an activity during a lesson, but placing the same materials out for free exploration allows them all to get a turn later in the day.



After exploring rivers the class learned about several other bodies of water such as ponds. For more water ideas, visit our boats, ocean, waterfall, and water Pinterest boards.

Agents of Change

SEECstories.com (17)A few months ago, I wrote a blog about museums and democracy and I have, of late, been reminded that I am not the only one thinking about young children, civics, and advocacy. I was taking time to go through my predecessor’s files and was reminded that SEEC collaborated with Project Zero on a project entitled Children Are Citizens, a collaboration of children and teachers participating in a professional development and curriculum project that sees young children as not just future citizens, but current citizens. The goal of the project is to connect children to their DC community in an active and meaningful way. There is even an upcoming conference on this very topic next weekend at the Washington International School. SEEC’s participation in 2014 -2015 highlighted the students’ perspectives on the museums on the National Mall – offering insight into the collections and commenting on the importance of museums and what other children should see when they visit.

My team and I also recently spent two days at the Capitol conducting a training for their visitor services staff and I was lucky enough to engage in a conversation with their educators about civics and young children. Like us, they felt that civics has a definitive place in early childhood education.

With all these elements converging, I wanted to take time to reflect back on SEEC’s students and their role as young citizens. In my previous blog, I made the case for how SEEC’s approach to learning naturally promotes civic and community engagement. With this blog, I wanted to examine how specific lessons help young children become active members of their community.

One of my favorite SEEC stories comes from the Kindergarten class a few years ago when they learned about biblioburro or the donkey library, a mobile library in Columbia. After learning about this library and taking some time to formulate questions for it’s founder, Luis Soriano, the kindergartners wanted to do something to support it. They ultimately decided on hosting a bake sale, which they successfully planned and implemented as a group. They earned $500, which they excitedly counted and then tracked as their teacher transferred the money.  The biblioburro also inspired them to make an alphabet book of ocean animals in Spanish. The book was not only donated to the biblioburro, but was also sold as a fundraiser for SEEC.

1236038_10151651895909716_728206024_n

Photo used with permission from Luis Soriano.

Young children are naturally egocentric and empathy is a skill that they are still developing. So when one of our classes was having difficulty with conflict resolution, the educators thought it was time to focus on developing these skills.  The class embarked on a longer study of heroes and heroism, a part of which included going to Martha’s Table where they not only donated food, but actually gave part of their own lunches to make sandwiches. Here is a small portion from that blog:

The following week we told the kids that there was a special place in DC called Martha’s Table where you could take food for people who can’t afford to buy their own. “We have lots of food in our kitchen at my house,” one girl said. “I’ll bring some to school and we can send it to the Martha’s Table.” It was a sweet offer, but it didn’t require any heroic action on the part of our students and it didn’t teach them anything other than how to ask their parents for food- which was always available to them. So we told them to go ahead and bring some food from home to flesh out our donation and then we put our grand plan to a class vote. We told them that what we really wanted to do was to make sandwiches to take to Martha’s Table and that we wanted to use the sliced bread that was going to be delivered as a side dish for the children’s lunch the next day. The vote was unanimous. We used all of the bread that was delivered the next morning, made 30 sandwiches, loaded them in a wagon along with 50 additional pounds of food and took them on the metro to hand-deliver them to Martha’s Table. The kids were so proud of their work and I was so proud of their choice to take food that was meant for them and give it to someone who needed it more.

These are just a small sampling of experiences in which children at SEEC have participated as agents of change. There have been other experiences, especially among  our pre-K and K students, but its important to remember our younger students too.

Children zero to three are still trying to understand their place in the world, the concept of sharing, and being helpful. This developmental stage is a powerful time to introduce students to the concept of community and empathy.  One of our toddler classes did just this via a lesson about setting the table. This lesson was part of a larger unit in which they explored family, love, and community all around the winter holiday season. What I found most powerful about this lesson was the educators observations about how the children continued to help with setting the table well after the lesson.  The children truly began to see how they were not only part of a bigger group, but able to give and receive help in a way that benefited the greater good.

SEECstories.com

In another toddler class, they participated in a unit on superheroes. Children easily identify with the image of the superhero and our faculty saw the opportunity to extend that interest into a study about real life heroes. They explored community helpers like firefighters, military personnel, police officers and even talked about the Red Cross. The students began to see how some members of the community can make a real difference in helping and protecting people. Not only did this unit of exploration give them time to think about those roles, but it also gave them the opportunity to make real connections with the people and places that are dedicated to community service.

Over and over, I am reminded of how fundamental the early years are to learning these life skills. The academic portion will come, but we have a real opportunity to shape active, engaged, and empathetic citizens.

Top 5: Inquiry

This post is authored by preschool educator, Katie Heimsath. Katie has been at SEEC since 2015, teaching both toddlers and three-year-olds. Katie has used an emergent style of teaching and learning with young infants through kindergarten in Texas, Chicago, and Washington D.C. While at SEEC, Katie has found a passion for using the community, including the natural world, to foster curiosity, agency, and a respect for ourselves and others.  


At SEEC we think of inquiry not just as asking questions, but seeking an answer through exploration, experimentation, books, images, trusted experts, and more. Fostering wonder in young children doesn’t need to be difficult or time consuming – it can be integrated throughout the day in many ways. Here are some ideas and techniques we use at SEEC to encourage an inquisitive environment:

11

 

1. Inquiry Tree or a Question Wall

 

Writing down a child’s question or curiosity and displaying it somewhere in the classroom is an easy way to honor their ideas and curiosities. Using post-it notes makes it easy to reorganize questions or bring along an individual question to another space. If you’re working at a center or table to answer a specific question, it’s simple to pull the post-it out and reference it directly.

SEECstories.com (1)

2. “What do you see?” “What makes you say that?”

Two simple questions can illicit deep thinking and rich conversation. When we visit an object or art piece, we always start with, “What do you see?” This question encourages children to look carefully at what is in front of them, while identifying what they see and imagine. “What makes you say that?” as a follow-up question encourages children to communicate their thinking process.

2

 

3. Thumbs Up

 

For younger age groups, using “thumbs up” or “likes” can help less verbal children communicate what they’re interested in learning more about. Several of our two-year-old teachers posted illustrations of familiar topics to choose from, which allowed their class to express their interests and direct the learning experience.

3

4. What I know, What I want to know

When exploring a specific topic, it can help to categorize thoughts and questions. Question asking is a learned skill, and a chart like this can help distinguish between a statement and question. It also allows both the educators and class to learn what knowledge the class may already have on a topic, allowing for a deeper and more specific exploration.  

SEECstories.com (37)

5. Loose parts and real life materials

At SEEC we believe strongly in the power of play as a tool to enrich understanding. Providing many different kinds of materials and loose parts allows children to experiment with concepts in their own way. In the photo on the left, two three-year-olds built a rocket out of chairs and other objects on the playground after studying parts of a rocket. The photo on the right shows one of our four-year-old classes using lots of recycled materials to create a fanciful structure in the style of Antoni Gaudi. Both situations occurred during unstructured play time, which allowed freedom and flexibility to investigate big concepts like space travel or architecture in ways that is meaningful for them.

Honoring Adults and Children: Family Workshop Philosophies

2At SEEC, we believe that children are much more than cute. We believe they are curious learners who should be respected in the same way we do adults. Honoring our young learners has long been a hallmark of our school and it is no different in our weekend programs.

Our weekend family programs are an extension of our school’s pedagogical model so that we can effectively incorporate the caregiver in the learning experience. Our programs have three goals:.

  • Create community with our families.
  • Support the cognitive, physical, and emotional development of young children.
  • Support family experiences that promote a love of learning in a variety of environments.

1-3

 

 

This Saturday we will spend time with our weekend faculty thinking about how we support these goals in one of our staff development sessions. We will specifically be thinking about the power of inquiry and curiosity. Although our lessons are written ahead of time, we feel it is important to incorporate our students’ perspectives and experiences into the learning process. We will also spend time discussing how we support community. The weekend faculty is always excited when they see returning families and we want to make our participants feel comfortable and welcome. Finally, we will spend some time considering the language we use in the classroom, what it communicates to children and also how we can work together with the caregivers to support positive outcomes.

We are excited to begin another year together. We hope you will join our community for a workshop sometime soon.

If you are new to our programs, this guiding document below will help you understand our core beliefs as educators and what to expect from our family experiences.

We Believe

  • …that children are individuals who develop and learn differently. If you let them choose what speaks to them, you will set them up for a lifetime love of learning.
  • …that caregiving is a hard job and is not to be judged.
  • …that young children are developing their ability to sit, listen, cooperate, and control their emotions. As adults, is it important to remember that this is hard work and we should try to balance our expectations with a child’s individual progression.
  • … that weekends are for fun and family.
  • …that playing is learning.CORNER TAB (1)
  • …in playing with children, being silly, singing, having fun, and getting dirty.
  • …in asking open-ended questions and wondering out loud, even with infants and toddlers.
  • …in taking time to stop, look carefully, and describe the objects we encounter in the classroom, community, and in the museums.
  • …in encouraging children to try new skills and not be afraid to fail.
  • …in a community of learners. Learning truly begins at birth and should continue into adulthood.
  • ….that having a calm body and an adult hand will keep us and the objects we visit safe, but this will not preclude us from looking, talking, singing, and playing during our museum visits.

How We Teach

Not all children will be interested in ALL of our teaching methods so we use a variety of techniques to engage them. Follow your child’s lead and be flexible; there is no one way to learn.

Community

The world is our classroom and we not only use museums, but parks, stores, libraries, and beyond.

Objects

Objects help engage the senses and provide a concrete and memorable learning experience. They are more powerful than words and pictures alone and children are more likely to remember and connect with the experience.

Observations

Observation encourages our minds to focus, eyes to look closely, and brains to develop a deeper understanding.  We often start lessons by asking, “What do you see?”

Questions

Questions require children to be active participants in the learning process and because of this, inquiry is more powerful than simply sharing information. We also ask questions as a way to create dialog and cultivate flexible thinking. Thinking out loud helps us see how others are thinking and therefore, expand our own thinking.

Non-verbal Learners

Posing questions to children who are non-verbal is still important. Look for non-verbal cues such as pointing, looking, and giggling, and respond to them.

Experimentation

Experimentation is a process by which children explore a topic. Children experiment as a way of understanding cause and effect relationships or as a way to solve problems. Anything a child does more than once can be considered an experiment. We will ask, “What would happen if …” as a way to harness a learner’s natural desire to experiment.

Exploration

Exploration allows children to discover and learn about a topic in a variety of ways. While exploring, children may engage in the following activities …

Math

Math concepts are interwoven into lessons. Examples you might observe are: counting, representing quantities, noticing differences in quantities, observing patterns, and categorizing.

Fine motor

Fine motor activities allow children to use the small muscles in their hands to help them learn how to do things like dress independently, and write.

Movement

Gross motor activities engage a child’s large muscles, for example running, jumping, and climbing. Movement helps children learn what their bodies are capable of, as well as provide necessary and fun outlets for physical movement.

Art

Our art activities focus on the process, rather than the outcome. Participating in process-based art encourages creativity and problem solving and develops fine motor skills.

 Sensory

Sensory activities are those that stimulate a child’s senses. Young children have a more meaningful learning experience when their senses are engaged.

Play

Play can be defined in many ways, but typically involves some element of imagination.  Play helps children explore roles, ideas, and situations, and often builds social skills as they navigate play with peers or adults.

 Literacy3

Research has proven the importance of reading with young children, and that positive experiences with books help create a love of reading.

Singing

Singing is important tool with young children, science has proven that music helps children better remember concepts and vocabulary. It also helps children transition from one activity to another.

 

 

 

Classroom Updates for a New School Year

Can you believe it? Another school year is here! Last week our faculty was busy partaking in professional development workshops, and also getting their classrooms ready for the new school year. There were many exciting new additions to the classrooms, and here are a few examples:

2

Bulletin Board in Twos Room

This new bulletin board display in one our twos classrooms is at eye level for the children. The teachers Brittany Leavitt, Brittany Brown, and Rosalie Reyes, created it by painting different skin tones and adding photos of people. Brittany Leavitt, one of the twos teachers explains,”One of the biggest ideas I want to always bring in the classroom is the beauty and importance of accepting and appreciating everyone around us. I want to pass along the importance of the phrase, ‘We are all the same. We are all different.’ That having curly hair is beautiful. That wearing a dress to school is cool, doesn’t matter what gender you identify with. That family lifestyle and up bringing should be acknowledged.”

3

Bulletin Board in Toddler Room

While we follow an emergent curriculum at SEEC, we often start the year talking about our community. To bring the DC community into the classroom, toddler teacher Erica Collins created a street of row houses and stores on her classroom’s bulletin board.

4

She included lots of details that provide opportunities for careful looking and observation with the toddlers.

2

Paint Display in the Art Studio

Carolyn Eby, our art educator, spends time in the beginning of the year reorganizing her studio in order to make it an inviting and functional space for creating. She used wood and paint to create this paint brush display in a rainbow pattern, modeling her own creativity for the children.

3

Relaxation Nook in Fours Room

PreK four educators, Jessie Miller and Will Kuehnle, think strategically about how they organize the space in their classroom to create multiple areas for the children to interact, play, and relax. This is a new space they created after a trip to Ikea. By using a rug and a curtain hung from the ceiling, they defined this nook area from the rest of the classroom, even though it’s in the middle of the room.

1

Exhibit Case in Kindergarten Room

We have several museum cases across our school that children use to display an object collection of their own. To begin the year, kindergarten teacher Cathryn Prudencio brought in a collection to help introduce herself to her new students. Can you guess which DC sports team Cathyrn is passionate about?

1

Birthday Display in Threes Room

Birthdays are such an important part of growing up, especially for young children. Most of our classrooms display the birthday months of each child, and celebrate their special day together as a class. In this threes room, called the Koalas, teachers Katie Heimsath and Morgan Powell have dressed up their koala friend for a party, with their students’ birthday months surrounding him.


Are you an educator? What new classroom elements are you excited about for this year? Leave a comment below!

Also, check out our classroom environments Pinterest board for inspiration!

Class Exhibits of the 2017 – 2018 School Year

Every year each of our classes holds an exhibit that highlights the learning that took place over the course of a unit. The children are engaged in helping set up, and for the older children, deciding what will be exhibited and how. The children become curators and docents as they welcome their families and peers into their classroom-turned exhibit space. As our school year comes to a close we thought we would take a look back at the exhibits from our 2017 – 2018 school year.

Cottontail (Infant) Class – Hats Exhibition 

CORNER TAB (5).png

Our youngest class became very interested in hats as they began wearing sun hats in the spring and summer months. This interest turned into a unit, and the group enjoyed finding hats in the museums and the community. Their exhibit featured photos from their visits, hat art, hats they love to wear, and an interactive piece where children and families could create their own hat out of bowls.

Duckling (Infant) Class  – Healthy Living Exhibition 

SEECstories.com (31).png

The Duckling class spent a few months learning about aspects of healthy living including exercise and food. Their exhibit included lots of helmets (one of their favorite items from their lessons on bikes), bread dough that they made, and the “Duckling Bodega” full of pretend food the class had explored.

Toucan (Toddler) Class – Space Exhibition 

5

The Toucan class went out of this world for their space unit. They set the mood for their exhibit by dimming the lights, and having lots of options for the children to play with, while also showing their families about which concepts they had. For example, there was a moon surface sensory bin (kinetic sand and rocks painted by the children) and a box with string lights for imaginary stargazing.

Dragonfly (Toddler) Class – Nature Exhibition 

4

The Dragonflies were very busy this year learning about all things nature. They took their exhibit outside of their classroom and into our school garden. They displayed art including; snail sculptures, nests and flowers. The children and their families also had several activities to partake in together such as, planting a flower and making lemonade.

Penguins (Twos) Class – Garden Exhibition 

2

The Penguin class was also influenced by the warm weather and put on an exhibit about gardens. They showcased their many artworks pertaining to gardens including mosaic sunflowers, a flower collage and painted butterflies.

Firefly (Twos) Class – Hats Exhibition 

SEECstories.com (32).png

When a child is two-years-old they become more aware of their bodies and all they can do. The Firefly children were no exception, and their interest in their bodies led to a unit exploring bodies inside and out. Their exhibit included large outlines of their bodies with organs they had learned about over the course of the unit.

Koalas (Threes) Class – Ocean Exhibition 

1

The Koalas dove deep into the ocean this year and put on a splashy exhibit for their families and friends. Their exhibit showcased photos and descriptions from the many concepts they explored and had activities for the families to do together such as,sailboat making. They also sang a song about pirates to top it off!

Wallaby (Threes) Class – Food & Restaurants Exhibition 

3

The Wallaby class spent much of the spring learning about food and restaurants. They visited many local restaurants and even started their own herb garden. During their exhibit, the classroom featured artwork and photos, while another part of the school was transformed into an Italian Eatery complete with homemade pasta (with the herbs they grew).

Cinnamon Bears (Fours) Class – Performing Arts Exhibition 

2

The Cinnamon Bears spent the cold winter months learning about many aspects of the performing arts. They wrote their own play, Three Little Aliens, based on The Three Little Pigs. They created their costumes and sets, and performed their play at the National Museum of American History for their families. Afterwards they had a cast party and exhibit in their classroom featuring photos that documented their process creating their production.

Honey Bear (Fours) Class – Film Exhibition 

1

Meanwhile, our other four-year-old class, the Honey Bears, also spent their winter learning about performing, however they focused on film making. They wrote and starred in an original movie, Super Honey Bear Magic Forest, based loosely on Super Happy Magic ForestAfter premiering their movie at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, they came back to the classroom to share  how they made their movie with their families.

Kindergarten Class – Hats Exhibition 

SEECstories.com (36).png

To round out their year, the kindergarten class wrote and performed the play, The Case of the Missing Teachers. The play recapped their major units of exploration throughout the year including, Ancient Egypt, Hawaii and human origins. They even included a Pepper character as they had recently met Smithsonian’s robot, Pepper, and were keen to include her!


We can’t wait to see what will be explored in the 2018 to 2019 school year!

Top 5 – Back to School Edition

Fresh pens, paper and backpacks at all the stores. Heavier traffic in the mornings and afternoons.  Cooler weather.  All tell-tale signs of another school year beginning.  We’ve compiled a Top 5 list of Back to School ideas, which will hopefully inspire you and get your school year off to a great start!

1. Nose wiping station.  The start of fall brings refreshing breezes, but also germs.  We love this idea for a Nose Wiping Station that we found on Montessori Mama and How We Montessori.  Pick a corner of the classroom and set up a shelf with tissues that the children will be able to reach.  Hang a mirror above the shelf so children can see themselves as they wipe their nose to make sure they clean it sufficiently.  Not only will this station keep germs from spreading, it will also encourage self-help and health skills. (Image from How We Montessori).

6a0147e1d4f40f970b015432d37f1f970c-800wi

2. Class collage. This SEEC 3-year-old class made a class collage at the beginning of the year to honor individuality while also creating a classroom culture. Using collages are a great way to talk about multiple, unique parts that make up a whole. The class visited and observed “Dam” by Robert Rauschenberg at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and made their own class collage, complete with photos of their faces.

3. Documentation.  Documenting can seem daunting when you’ve got so many other things going on at the beginning of the year, but these ideas could make it easier, while making learning more visible in the classroom. The image on the left is from the TransformationEd blog and features their Rabbit Road, which depicts their learning process during their inquiry on Rabbits. Displaying the journey on a linear road is a concrete way that children can see their work over time as they explore a topic.  The image on the right is from the Science Notebook, Teaching, and Technology blog, which depicts another documentation idea – choose a space in the classroom (that children can see) to display blank sheets representing each month of your school year.  At the conclusion of each month (or throughout) add images or work that share what the class has been doing.  Keep them up all year long, even as you switch out other displays and documentation, to help children see their work and progress over the whole school year.

4. Organizational hacks.  In our opinion, there are few greater feelings than starting a new year with an organized classroom.  This yahoo list has 15 organizational hacks from around the web that will help you feel fresh and ready. (Image on left from Motherhood On a Dime, image on right from Organized Cassroom)

5. Exploring Questions.  Fostering a sense of wonder and curiousity is something we take very seriously here at SEEC.  One of our four-year-old classes spent a considerable amount of time exploring questions last September and October to set them up for an inquisitive year.  To read more about their unit, click here.

For more Back to School ideas, visit our Pinterest board here.  Happy Back to School everyone!