SEEC’s Book Club: Einstein Never Used Flash Cards

In the past year SEEC began a book club to enhance our practice through discussions about books relevant to our field.  As educators (and parents for some of us), it can be hard to find time to read books of interest, but having a dedicated time and place to discuss amongst colleagues has proved to be a valuable incentive. Our most recent meeting was about Einstein Never Used Flash Cards  and our conversation centered around the pressure parents often feel related to parenting and how educators can help to alleviate that pressure.  

Parenting Pressure

For October’s book club, we chose Einstein Never Used Flash Cards by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Roberta Michnick Golikoff and Diane Eyer. The book focuses on the pressures that caretakers and educators increasingly feel in regards to young children and achievement.  In the first chapter the authors state, “as parenting itself becomes more competitive, many moms and dads worry that their children could be left behind if they don’t take advantage of every available opportunity” (p. 7).  The book points out that many toy and media companies have capitalized on this fear by producing numerous educational toys that will “give your kids an edge.”  In this day and age, many parents feel anxious to “make the most of these early, finite years.”  During our book club we talked about some of these pressures, and how we can share SEEC’s philosophy and educational experience with caregivers and other educators to help ease these anxieties.

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Academics vs. Context Learning

Our book club participants ranged from infant to kindergarten educators and each of them shared that they had observed this parenting pressure. They noted that parents’ concerns ranged from academic skills to overall school readiness. One educator noted,

“It makes sense they’re concerned with academics.  It’s human nature to want what’s best for your child, and it’s ingrained in society that you need good test scores and to participate in numerous activities, or you’ll get left behind.”

Thinking about the book and the group’s personal experiences, we began to realize that both caretakers and educators ultimately want what is best for the child. The difference seems to stem from HOW we achieve those results.  The authors of the book observed that many caretakers view worksheets, flashcards, and drills as the means through which children will achieve academically. Many times, caregivers don’t recognize that learning occurs naturally via play.  Adults often don’t understand that when learning is coupled with play (at SEEC, we recognize that there are many types of play), the results are more powerful and long lasting. The group concurred with the book’s notion that learning should be fun and “…unleash the child’s natural curiosity and creativity” (p. 257).

We’ve witnessed this combination of play, creativity and curiosity in our own classrooms.  We view play as a vehicle to teach content and build developmental skills. For example, a few years ago one of our four-year-old classes was interested in digging.  The educators noticed this and they embarked on a three month exploration of the underground world.  The class experimented with pipes, understood mining through play, gardened, learned about animals that dig, and even spent some time talking about ancient civilizations and the clues about them that are hidden underground.  Academic learning was integrated throughout the unit as they learned new vocabulary, drew or wrote about their experiences, counted pipes, read literature, and more.  Instead of learning academic skills in a vacuum, we make learning meaningful and memorable by focusing on what is important and immediate in their lives.

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Active Learners

Some parents, understandably, feel that they are solely responsible for their child’s learning and development,  but where does that leave the child? We believe that children are active learners and while adults do have a a role in a child’s learning, the onus isn’t all on them.  The role of an adult, “is to see our children as active learners, to see the world as a virtual school year of interesting lessons, and to find a happy medium that allows us both to teach children and to retain the unprogrammed benefits of childhood” (p. 251).  During our meeting we discussed how we, at SEEC, strive to strike a balance between structured learning opportunities, and unstructured play time.  We want children to leave our doors with a sense of wonder and a love of learning that will motivate them to work hard even when learning becomes difficult.

The authors also provide some perspective stating, “millions of years of evolution have created children who love to learn on their own-it’s how nature has ensured our survival” (p. 21).

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Being Present 

The book also explored specific ways in which this pressure impacted caregiver/child interactions.  One of the participants echoed the book’s sentiment that parents are often not “in the moment.” She shared that she’s witnessed parents focus solely on the intended outcome of an activity so that the child gets it “right.” It felt, to her, like parents aren’t always able to enjoy the experience. This was echoed in the book as well, “families are apparently so busy stimulating their children, they increasingly have little time just to enjoy one another” (p. 5).  We would also suggest that there is value in the process and that by slowing down and allowing a child to direct the course of their play, they learn valuable skills like problem-solving and perseverance.

The group also discussed how important it is to be present so that adults can learn ABOUT their children. The book remarks that it is worthwhile to take the time to be “be good observers to find out what our children are interested in and … build from there” (p. 130).   Learning experiences are more meaningful and memorable for both the adult and child when it stems from the child and not the adult.

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General Thoughts on the Book 

During our discussion, we acknowledged that early childhood is a critical time in a child’s life, but we agreed with the book that it is not the time to fit EVERYTHING in.  Instead, it’s a time to foster a love of learning and a sense of wonder that will benefit them throughout their entire lives.

Our only complaint was that tone of the book was heavy handed at times. Ironically, we felt that it might leave parents feeling more pressure, rather than less. At SEEC, we believe that parenting is hard work and we do our best not to be judgmental. While we feel that it is important to educate our parent community, we want to do so in a way that makes them feel comfortable and supported.  Overall though, we  agreed that the research presented was helpful and understandable. The suggestions for parents at the end of each chapter brought these concepts into real life, and provided accessible ideas for all families.  We’ll definitely keep this book handy as a reference down the road.

Read along with us!  Our next book will be Free to Learn by Peter Gray, and see what we’ve read in the past on our Pinterest board.


References:

Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M, & Eyer, D. (2003). Einstein never used flash cards: How our children really learn- and why they need to play more and memorize less. New York, NY: Rodale Books.

How Books Help Young Children Develop From Head to Toe

This week’s blog is written by Melinda Bernsdorf. Melinda has been working in the classroom with toddlers and twos for a decade and strongly believes in the magic of a good book. She studied Developmental Psychology and Learning at St. Joseph’s University and has been an educator at SEEC since 2014. When traveling, she always brings home a children’s book (or two!) to add to her library. For this blog, she drew on her experiences as a toddler teacher to write about books and how they can help children develop physical skills. 

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Children’s literature is so fantastic with funny stories, catchy rhyme schemes, and interesting information presented in novel ways. Educators and researchers often praise children’s books, citing their importance in supporting vocabulary development, but children’s books can also meet developmental needs of infants and toddlers beyond language acquisition. These other developmental domains, such as motor skills, are often overlooked when talking about the importance of providing literature to young children. Although it may seem counterintuitive, when young children engage with books, they are also engaging their bodies in ways that help them grow physically.

SEECstories.com (2)When our toddlers begin the school year, they devote a lot of their resources to the development of their emerging physical skills. It takes a lot of energy and hard work to figure out the complex series of muscle movements needed to walk, climb the stairs, hold a peer’s hand, or interact physically with another toddler. In one of our toddler classes, we used Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe as a platform for our students to work on these physical skills in meaningful and enjoyable ways while also integrating vocabulary and early literacy skills in our lessons. Our class was so inspired by this book, that we decided to create a unit that focused on body movement and used the book as jumping off point.

SEECstories.com (4)Toddlers are intrinsically drawn to the repetition of a familiar and beloved book. Their interest in multiple exposures provides opportunities to increase their knowledge and contextual understanding of the new vocabulary. Additionally, these multiple exposures allow children to mirror and repeatedly practice movements depicted in the images of the book. Often these movements link directly to physical skills that toddlers are working on mastering. The book, From Head To Toe, was a great fit for developing physical skills because of its simple, repetitive narrative that drew in our students, and for its playful directives that allowed each child to practice moving their individual body parts like each animal. We decided to create a unit using From Head To Toe that focused on one body part each week. Using the book as a starting off point, we were able to explore how we can use our arms and hands, legs and feet, and head and neck.

SEECstories.com (5)First, we set up the room to give our students many opportunities to freely play and explore the book and concepts we were covering. We had copies of the board book on the bookshelf and a bulletin board showing each animal. We moved the climber directly below the bulletin board to both give them access to the board, enticing them to practice physically going up and down the stairs, and to encourage them to extend their hands to touch the pictures.

SEECstories.com (6)During circle time, our toddlers held photographs of animals’ feet, legs, knees, and toes, as they were encouraged to bend their own knees, wiggle their own toes, and kick their own feet. They gained mastery over their actions in a controlled manner, while also increasing their ability to sit in one place for an extended period. This helped them to expand their capability to focus on one thing, which is very different kind of physical work for toddlers.

SEECstories.com (7)In our classroom, we invited our students to continue using their arms and hands in meaningful ways with art activities and sensory choices that connected to From Head to Toe. They loved waving their arms like a monkey while throwing the paper packing material in the air!

SEECstories.com (8)We did not just focus on gross motor movements, but spent time finding, identifying, and moving our facial features. We also practiced the small muscle movements that are involved in communication by smiling, frowning, and using our mouths to form different sounds.

SEECstories.com (9)We also brought the book into the museum, stomping our feet alongside an elephant, clapping our hands next to a seal, and bending our necks with a giraffe.

SEECstories.comAcross these lessons and experiences, the constant was Eric Carle’s book. We referred back to the work, over and over again, not only because our students loved it and asked for it (which they did!), but because we could offer them the chance to work on the difficult physical tasks of developing new motor skills, without asking them to shift their attention and devote resources to a new topic of exploration. By choosing an age-appropriate, well loved book, we were able to extend our students’ focus, offering them meaningful learning opportunities in multiple disciplines while they were engaged and having fun. We allowed them to do the hard, physical work of being a toddler in a way that was exciting, enticing, and very enjoyable.

Interested in learning more about literacy and young children? Check out our upcoming seminar Literacy Development for Toddlers and Twos using Literature, Art & Objects.  

Looking for other books that help young children practice their emerging physical skills, check these out: 

 

Object Feature: Freer|Sackler Reopens

Cynthia Teaching

Teaching in the Japanese Screen Galleries in 2001

The Freer and Sackler Galleries, one of the jewels of the National Mall, reopened just a few weeks ago and our faculty is grateful to have it back. For those of you who don’t know, the Freer|Sackler is comprised mostly of Asian art with a small collection of 19th century American art.  I love this museum. I worked here at the beginning of my career and it is still one of my favorite museums in which to teach.  When I began working in early education though, I observed that many of my colleagues struggled using this collection with young children. I can see their perspective — many of the concepts and traditions represented throughout the collection can be complex and unfamiliar.

With the reopening, it felt like the perfect time to explore the Freer|Sackler through the lens of early childhood education. At SEEC, we believe that it is imperative to introduce children to cultures and ideas other than their own. We feel that this exposure helps them develop empathy and perspective and moreover, it prepares them to be global citizens. We also feel strongly that all the children in our school should be represented through our lessons. It is vital that children see themselves reflected in their learning environment.

Over the course of our almost 30 years, SEEC has worked hard to define approaches that engage children and help them make meaning of objects that might have little or nothing to do with their daily life. Because we know that small children connect best with what they know and do regularly, I wanted to highlight a few ways to approach this collection. The following list is by no means complete, it is more of a snapshot of the techniques an educator, or even a parent, can use with children.  If you discover something I haven’t, please leave a comment – we are always looking to learn from our educator community.

Storytelling

Gandharan Frieze


Scenes from the Life of the Buddha; Pakistan or Afghanistan, Kushan Dynasty (late 2nd – early 3rd century); stone, Purchase, Freer Gallery of Art; F1949.9a-d 

Storytelling is a tool for the young and the old alike, and the Freer|Sackler houses its fair share of good stories. The Museum includes stories of Hindu gods, the life of the Buddha, and Chinese folktales – just to name a few.  With some research and dramatic flair, an educator can bring these stories to life. At SEEC, we often make books for our younger students. This helps us gather information and format it in an accessible way for our students.

Key pieces:

Connecting the Familiar with the Unfamiliar

Young children are concrete learners. If you take something with which they are

Bell

Explore the sounds a Chinese bell makes.

familiar and put it next to something with which they are not familiar, you make a connection.

Here are some connections:

  • Music – Resound: Ancient Bells of China is a great exhibit not just because there are bells, but because there are several hands-on components that allow children to understand sound and to hear the difference between Chinese and western bells. Consider bringing a real bell or shaker on your visit to provide a hands-on experience.
  • Animals – There are many examples from which to choose, but of course one of the most prominent work is the Peacock Room by James McNeill Whistler. When visiting the Peacock Room, bring photos of peacocks and/or peacock feathers. Encourage the children to look closely at both the peacock and the room to notice shapes, colors, similarities, and differences.
  • Seasons – The American art galleries in the Freer have a great collection of paintings depicting different seasons and weather. There are so many contextual objects that you can use when exploring seasons. Educators might consider bringing seasonal clothing and/or photos, ice packs, or sensory bottles containing seasonal colors or natural elements.
  • Writing/Books – In addition to a gallery that explores Buddhist sutras, there are other examples of writing from all across Asia throughout the Museum. Bring examples of your favorite children’s books and/or special books that might be important to you or to one of your student’s families.

    Guardian Figure

    Guardian figure; Japan, Kamakura period (1185–1333); wood; Purchase, Freer Gallery of Art; F1949.21

  • Human Body, Gestures or Movement – There are two galleries devoted to how the human body is depicted on the Indian subcontinent. You can also find other examples, including this Guardian Figure from Japan. Don’t be afraid to encourage children to move their bodies in these spaces. The opportunity to move and explore their own body will enrich the experience and develop their gross motor skills.

Do you ever wonder why babies put things in their mouths? That is how they learn. Young children begin to understand their world by using their five senses (actually there are seven, but that is another blog – vestibular and proprioception). So I was especially excited to see that Freer has a whole room devoted to Islamic art and the senses. Plates, candlesticks, incense burners, and illustrations of music are just a few of the objects you will encounter. While you obviously can’t burn incense or make a meal in the galleries, educators can easily pair these objects with in-classroom activities that might inspire our sense of smell or taste.  It might also be an opportunity to reach out to your classroom families, the objects in these galleries come from a wide geographic area and might help you make some personal connections in your community.

The Sackler  has a Tibetan shrine room that will allow children to be in a space where they will encounter sumptuous images while listening Buddhist chants and watching the flickering of candlelight. The accompanying app, Sacred Spaces, has a lot of information to help inform your visit. If you have the time, you can distill a few key points that can help your students make stronger connections.

Beauty

Looking at Buddha

At SEEC, we believe that young children should be introduced to art, begin to develop a visual vocabulary, and embrace their own creativity. The works throughout the museum, but especially in the American galleries, offer young children the opportunity to explore and notice similarities and differences.

Charles Lang Freer’s taste in collecting art was influenced by the Aesthetic Movement in the late 1800’s, which advocated for “art for art’s sake.”  The artists associated with this movement were more concerned with making art that was an expression of creativity and beauty. I think this quote, taken from the Freer|Sackler website, sums it up well.

.. it was through American art of his own time that Freer developed the habits of quiet contemplation and intelligent comparison that he hoped to share with future generations of museum visitors.

I think Freer would be satisfied to know that SEEC’s students are using his art collection to begin  developing their own aesthetic and appreciation for museums.

 

 

Beyond Stereotypes: Teaching about Native Peoples in Practice

We take a look back at a blog that we published last year around Thanksgiving, hoping it will help educators think about ways they might consider talking about other cultures all year around.


As we discussed in our previous blog, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) and the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center have teamed up to provide teachers with a framework for exploring culturally diverse topics in their classrooms. We believe that early childhood educators are in a unique position to craft experiences for young children that will help them appreciate the diverse world around them. We also feel that it is important for children to see themselves reflected in their classroom in order to develop a positive sense of self.

Though we published the first blog just before the Thanksgiving holiday, we specifically wanted to post the follow-up afterwards as a reminder that teachers can explore American Indian culture throughout the school year.

Before we look at the lesson, it is important to note that I had only a week to implement it and I struggled with how to use the limited time frame best with the students. Ultimately, I decided that it was important to begin the lesson with what was familiar to the students and build on that.  Had I had the opportunity to continue the lesson, I would have most certainly spent more time exploring Wampanoag culture and ensuring that the children were introduced to the Wampanoags in a contemporary context.

Lesson Objectives

  • observe natural materials and weather in our own environment and how these elements vary in other environments
  • demonstrate that not all homes look the same, but all homes do have the job of protecting us.
  • introducing three different types of American Indian homes and explore the natural materials out of which they are made.
  • investigate the materials used to construct wetus and how those materials serve as protection against their environment

Day 1

We began our morning with a visit to the National Mall where we used our senses to explore what was part of our environment. I wrote down the children’s responses and then we headed to the National Gallery of Art where we sat in front of Albert Bierstadt’s Mount Corcoran. Together, we recreated the landscape with representative objects and worked as a group to create a “soundscape.” To create the soundscape, we identified a sound for each element of the landscape. Once complete, we assigned a sound to small groups and then produced our soundscape all-together.

Day 2

When we were on the Mall, I observed the children were noticing elements of their environment that were man-made, so I thought it was important to use day two’s lesson to distinguish between the natural environment and human-made environment. This discussion transitioned nicely into a conversation about weather, which was another natural component of our environment. We identified different types of weather by making a list and then creating our own weather movements. We watched a weather report and read Sky Tree by Thomas Locker. While we read the book, we paused to use our weather movements when they were mentioned.

Day 3

Before heading out for the morning, we reviewed the different types of weather and discussed the weather that day. We walked to the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden to visit Roy Lichtenstein’s House I. We spent a few minutes walking around the house and then I asked the students to share what they noticed. Following their observations, I asked them if they thought that the house was a good one. There was a consensus that it would not be a good house to live in because it wasn’t real – it was open on the backside. I agreed that I didn’t think the house was doing what a house or home needed to do. I asked them what homes were for, to which I heard responses like: “to play in, eat in, sleep in.” I agreed and pulled out a blanket – I said the blanket was a lot like a home – it could keep me warm when it was cold, it would keep me dry if it rained. I concluded that both the blanket and the home could protect me from things in my environment.

I asked the group whether they thought that everyone lived in the same type of home. We had a short discussion about what our homes were like, the other educators with us shared that they lived in an apartment. We then began to make a home collage. Students shared photos of their homes and we placed them on large sized paper. I also brought photos of homes from around the world and as we placed them on our collage. When we finished, we discussed the similarities and differences.

Day 4

I began this class by asking the students about the Thanksgiving holiday that was coming up. Each child excitedly shared what they were planning to do for the holiday. I shared was formed around the idea that two groups of people came together to have a meal.   One group had come to America from a place called Europe and another had lived on the land we call America for a very long time. I explained that these people who had been living here for a long time were often referred to as American Indians and that in fact, there are many groups of American Indians. I shared a map and said that each group has their own language, clothing, traditions, and of, course, homes. I also pulled out our sensory bins that were representative of a Eastern coastal environment, a desert environment, and an Arctic environment.  We looked at the bins and discussed their physical features and imagined what the weather would feel like.  We wondered together whether the homes in these environments would be the same or different.

We then walked to the ImagiNATIONS Activity Center at NMAI and invited them to play in the Native homes area.  When we sat down, I asked them what they noticed about the different homes. After sharing their own observations, we talked about how each of these homes came from a different type of environment – a lot like our sensory bins. I brought objects that demonstrated the connection between these homes and their environment. For the iglu, I had a simple bottle of water; for the tipi, I had a photo of a buffalo, and for the adobe house, I had some mud and straw. I shared my objects with each student in the circle and left them with the reminder that Native peoples live in many places throughout the country and their homes tell us a lot about their environment.

Day 5

On our last day together,  I reminded them about that Thanksgiving meal. I said that many people assume that the American Indians who ate with the Europeans during that meal lived in tipis. We paused to recall the tipi we had seen the day before and then I shared with them that the Native peoples who were at the meal so long ago actually lived in wetus and they are called Wampanoags.  Using 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O’Neill Grace, we explored some of the photos of what life for the Wampanoags looked a long time ago. I was careful to note that the photographs were of people pretending to be from a long time. They were helping teach people today about what life was like in the past.

We proceeded to watch parts of this video. We looked at the materials of the winter and summer wetu. We decided that all of the materials were from nature and we took a closer look at cattail reed mat provided by NMAI that would have covered the roof of the summer wetu. We talked about how the rain water would slide off the reeds and keep the house dry. We also blew through the mat so we could feel the way the breeze could come through and help keep the space cool.

We ended our morning by taking a nature walk and collecting materials. We broke out into smaller groups and built houses out of our materials.

In addition to the lessons, the teachers planned the following learning centers for the children to interact with during free-time.

  • Dramatic Play – Kitchen, office, or playing house
  • Fine motor – blocks or other loose parts for building (include photos of different types of houses from all over the world)
  • Environment – This sensory station recreates three different types of environment
    • North Eastern – Wampanoag – inland/coastal environment with forest, ponds, grass, sand, and water
    • Choose two others.
  • Dramatic Play – weatherman
  • Puzzles and Maps – United States

By no means is the lesson an all-encompassing study of Native Peoples or the Wampanoags, but it is a realistic snapshot of how with a little planning we, as educators, can begin to develop lessons that share more accurate information that help our students see that the world from multiple perspectives. Let us know what you are doing in your classroom to help combat stereotypes and create an inclusive environment.

Letting the Children Be My Guide…

We are pleased to have our new Executive Director, Meredith McMahon, authoring, what we hope will be the first of many, Director’s Blogs.


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Earlier this year I moved into the role of Executive Director at SEEC, which has been both exciting and daunting at the same time!  While I’ve been at SEEC for more than 13 years, this new position brings new responsibilities that often leave me feeling like there aren’t enough hours to get everything done.  I know I’m not alone in feeling rushed and like I never have enough time, but I’m fortunate that one of the very best parts of my job is being surrounded by children. As I think about how to find balance in my days, I’m reminded that these youngest children are pretty great models – there are great lessons in how young children approach their days that can offer help to those of us who find ourselves constantly on the go or rushing to get to the next thing.

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We should all get up and move around!  If you watch a SEEC class engaged in a whole group activity, you’ll likely see children engaged in a book, conversation or discussion of an object, but it’s not a given that they’ll all be sitting. That’s true whether it’s toddlers or kindergartners. We recognize that some children can focus better when they can move around, instead of concentrating on keeping their bodies still.  For me, that’s a reminder that a quick walk (or in my case, a few minutes in a classroom) can clear my head, and it’s time well-spent if it means that I will come back to what I’m doing a little fresher than where I left off.

SEECstories.com (7)We should engage our senses! From their earliest moments, children use their senses to build knowledge and a growing understanding of their world. So much is new for them that they utilize their senses to create meaning in new experiences. I love watching the expressions on the faces of our infants when they feel new textures or experiment with sounds. They remind me that I should take a moment to appreciate the smell of fallen leaves and the crunch of the acorns underfoot. I should take note of the warm sun on a cool fall day, and I should tune into the sounds of music and laughter.

SEECstories.com (13)We should approach problem solving the way young children do, actively and open-mindedly!  Children have a seemingly never-ending stream of questions, and at SEEC we encourage children to ask these questions. Across our classrooms teachers encourage children to wonder out loud – it’s one of the ways we can figure out what we want or need to know, and it allows us to connect our questions.  At times I find myself stumped by a question or an issue, and wondering out loud with colleagues can get us all thinking creatively. I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by talented people who willingly share great ideas. The children remind me that asking together and thinking out loud can yield solutions, whether we’re big or little.

SEECstories.com (11)I could go on and on about ways we can all learn from the youngest around us, but I’ll offer just one last thought on what I can learn from our youngest: what if we all tried to recapture some small sense of wonder?  Young children are fascinated with even the smallest details, and they notice much that we overlook.  They find joy in little, unexpected ways. Imagine if we could match the level of joy a toddler finds in discovering that perfect piece of mulch or a satisfyingly smooth stone.  We can all get easily frustrated by life’s ups and downs, but I find myself trying to keep that joy and wonder in mind in those challenging moments – I just need to find my piece of mulch!

Ask for help when you can’t work it out on your own.

What We Believe

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At SEEC, we respect young children and recognize that through care and education we can support their development and foster their love of learning. We take time to reflect on our practice, try new techniques, think about what benefits our students and as a result, our approach to learning subtly changes over time. We embrace a variety of pedagogical approaches and adapt them to our unique museum school hybrid.  But because our model can be hard define in a single catch phrase, our faculty has had to think about the best ways in which to effectively communicate our educational approach, especially to our caregivers. Caregivers are an essential component to all of our programs. They participate in our weekend and part-time programs and while they are not present during our daily school operations, they most certainly connected to the classrooms and also benefit from understanding our work.

It is with these factors in mind, that the team of educators who work with our family programs sat down last year and began to construct a document for caregivers. We hope this provides insight into our methods and an understanding of how deeply committed we are to creating meaningful learning experiences for your child. Educators – we hope you enjoy reading and will share with us some of your own beliefs.

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  • 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 our programs are for fun and family.
  • that playing is learning.
  • 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.
  • SEECstories.com (2)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 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.

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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 like to remember and connect with them.

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

Questions2
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.

Preverbal Learners
Posing questions to children who are preverbal is still important. Look for nonverbal 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.

ExplorationSEECstories.com (5)
Exploration allows children to discover and learn about a topic in a variety of ways.

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.

ArtSEECstories.com (4)
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.

Literacy
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.

 

10 Things You Can Do Right Now with Your Child in the Grocery Store

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Taking a trip to the grocery store? Try these easy activities to convert your trip to the store from a chore to a fun and enriching outing for you and your child!

  1. Alphabet Grocery List: While not the most efficient way to plan your visit, sorting your list alphabetically is a great way to work on early literacy skills and make hunting for items a fun game!
  2. Scale Showdown: Weighing your fruits and veggies is a great way to work on early math skills. Make it a game by taking turns weighing items and guessing whose item will weigh more!SEECstories.com (18)
  3. Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Get a little gross motor practice in as you move around the grocery store. Select different animals to imitate and stomp, slither, and hop down the aisles.
  4. Play: Where does it come from?: By the time food reaches your child it is often very far removed from its original source. Have your child guess where the item came from. For example, milk comes from cows, blueberries grow on bushes, etc.
  5. Warm, Warmer, Warmest: Hunting for items will keep your child engaged in the shopping process and may keep them from breaking down before you reach the end of your list. Pre-spot the item and have your child hunt for them based on saying warm, warmer, warmest.
  6. Plan a Recipe Together: Picky eater? Having your child be a part of the process from the very beginning will give them a larger investment in the final product. Who knows, it might even get them to try something new!
  7. Texture Talk: There are lots of great textures at the grocery store. Ask your child to help find items based on their texture. 6
  8. Shape Hunt: Just like texture, there are a number of great shapes at the grocery store. Ask your child to find items based on their shape.
  9. Start a Grocery Cart Band: While being conscious of other shoppers, pick a few items from your cart for your child to use as instruments. Items such as coffee cans, boxes, of cereal, and spices make excellent shakers!
  10. Pay: Create a smaller group of items that your child is in charge of checking out with (this works especially well at the self-checkout). Allow them to help pay and bag the items. Children love taking on adult tasks and it will give them a sense of responsibility and ownership over those items.

 

Have other fun grocery store games? Please share! We would to love to hear them.