SEEC’s Oscars

2-2In keeping with the awards season time of year, SEEC held its annual Staff Appreciation dinner recently in order to recognize the hard work and dedication of our entire team. It was also a great opportunity to kick back, relax, and enjoy some time together.

During the course of the evening, we honored six individuals who have really stood out.

Without further ado, the winners are….

Diane Homiak Award

The Diane Homiak Award is a lasting tribute to the memory of SEEC supporter, parent, and employee Diane Homiak. A fund has been established that annually recognizes the commitment, creativity, and contributions made by a teacher to SEEC.sign-me-up

Melinda Bernsdorf, teacher in one of our two-year-old classes, was the 2017 recipient. With numerous nominations from parents, teammates, and colleagues, Melinda was singled out for fostering a creative and inspiring learning environment, her ability to build independence and inquisitiveness in her children, her willingness to share ideas, and the remarkable warmth she brings to everything she does.  Melinda has been at SEEC since 2014 and holds a Bachelors in Psychology. She has a long history of working with children and says she loves how each child has their own individual way of exploring their world.

Rookie of the Year1

First year toddler teacher Elizabeth Kubba was celebrated as this year’s Rookie of the Year!  She, too, was recognized for her creativity in the classroom, her dedication to her children, and her level of communication. As an undergrad, she realized that educating and developing young people was her true passion so she went on to earn her M.Ed. in School Counseling from Liberty University. She has been working in special education at the elementary level for the past three years.

Spirit of SEEC1-3

Brooke Shoemaker was celebrated with the Spirit of SEEC Award.  This award isn’t given out every year – it’s only awarded when an educator who reaches across the entire school really stands out, and Brooke truly fits that bill!  She was recognized for her work supporting teachers in all three of SEEC’s sites, her ability to connect with everyone (big and little), and her outstanding work within the Center for Innovation in Early Learning. Brooke serves as the Education Specialist for Pre-K and Elementary programs. She holds an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education and you will often find her combining her knowledge of young learners with her love for theater.

Team Player Awards

The Team Player is awarded to staff who is recognized by their peers. Infant Educator, Logan Crowley, and Assistant Educators,  Ace Walton and Phoebe Cos were selected as this year’s award winners – each goes above and beyond to support his/her colleagues, with warmth, willingness to jump in, and a positive outlook! We’re incredibly lucky to have such supportive and dedicated educators across SEEC!

While these 6 individuals were specifically recognized, we also took the time at our dinner to recognize each and every member of SEEC’s team.  We’re so incredibly fortunate to have a community of educators as strong and dedicated as those working here each day – it’s what makes SEEC the special place that it is – and we know you recognize that, too! An incredible 27 individuals were nominated this year, and we received more than 50 nominations for these talented educators!

A Playful Experiment

Originally posted May 2014:

This past week I had the chance to attend one of SEEC’s seminars: Play: Engaging Learners in Object Rich Environments. During the two-day workshop, we explored the meaning of play and how to use it when teaching with objects. We began the seminar by defining play as a group. Some of the key words were: fun, tools, free thought, child directed, social, emotional, intellectual. To help us articulate the discussion, we also read Museum Superheroes: The Role of Play in Yong Children’s Lives by Pamela Krakowski, which distinguishes play as:

active engagement, intrinsic motivation, attention to process rather than the ends, nonliteral (symbolic behavior) and freedom from external rules.1

I reflected on these concepts and how they related to my own teaching. I wondered how I could incorporate more play into my practice, especially when I was in the museums. I decided to try out some new play strategies on a recent visit to the National Gallery of Art with a group of preschoolers.

E11183

Asher Brown Durand The Stranded Ship 1844 oil on canvas National Gallery of Art Gift of Ann and Mark Kington/The Kington Foundation through Millennium Funds 2003.71.1

My first playful endeavor was completely spontaneous. I began the discussion by asking the children to describe this painting by Asher Brown Durand. One  girl pointed toward the artwork and said:

The sun is always moving through the sky.

I took this opportunity to ask the rest of the class whether they had ever noticed the sun moving through the sky too. They immediately offered their own examples. At that moment, I decided we should play the Earth. I asked everyone to stand up and slowly turn their bodies. I grabbed a parent and had her stand in the center pretending to be the sun.  As we moved, I explained how it was actually the Earth’s rotation that made it look the sun was moving in the sky. This was a completely unexpected and child-initiated moment, which was great. I think it was the playful element though that really made the experience memorable. If I hadn’t asked the children to get up and pretend to be the Earth, they would have been less likely to understand and remember the concept of rotation. By having them participate in the experience the concept was made real, tangible.

Part of the seminar was inspired by our colleagues at Discovery Theater. This session was, as one would expect, more theater driven and honestly, really challenged me. As the class continued to describe the Durand painting, I added secondary questions to enliven the discussion. For example, when the ocean was observed, I asked them to show me with their bodies how the ocean was moving and then I asked them to make the sound of the waves.  The kids were happy to illustrate both for me so when it came time to talk about the clouds and wind, we added sound effects and movements again. These exercises captured the essence of the painting, encouraged different learning styles and made everything more fun.

photo 2 (3)As the last part of the object lesson, I laid out several objects and asked them to work together to recreate the painting. They needed no instruction, but went right to work, collaborating until the composition was complete. Was it exactly like the painting, no, but they had used these tools to create their OWN composition. They were quite proud and were completely engaged in the activity. I saw them looking back at the painting, rearranging objects and making their own decisions.

All in all, the visit felt playful and meaningful. I am continuing to think about how to make my lessons more playful and how play can be a tool for learning within the museum environment.  If you have any ideas, please share!!!!

1. Journal of Museum Education, Volume 37, number 1, Spring 2012, pp. 49-58.

It’s been quite a year!: Teacher Feature Highlights

Written by Alex Francis (Liaison and Curriculum Development Specialist @ SEEC):

What a year it has been here at SEEC!  It has been a privilege to bring you Teacher Feature each week and offer a peek into the magical experiences our teachers provide their students. As our school year comes to a close I wanted to take the opportunity to share some of my favorite moments caught on camera during Teacher Feature. Being able to regularly join the classes has only confirmed how AMAZING these teachers are at creating age appropriate and exciting learning opportunities for their students! Here is visual proof of some of the things I believe they are especially great at doing! If you want to read more about the lessons be sure to look back at our archived Teacher Features and  to stay tuned in to the blog in the Fall for the triumphant return of Teacher Feature.

Teacher Feature 2014-2015 Greatest Hits:

1. Use of Authentic Objects in Museum and Classroom Experiences.

 

2.Lesson Introductions

 

3. Sensory Experiences

 

4. Classroom Lesson Extensions

 

5. Use of Technology

 

6. Community Visits

 

7. Museum Visits


Thank you teachers for a great year! We can’t wait to see what’s in store next!

Shared Curiosity with the Smithsonian Early Explorers

Not many of us remember when we were two years old, but imagine if two mornings a week your day had started out in the Natural History Museum’s Q?rius Jr. Discovery Room space! And, what if those two mornings were spent exploring interesting things with somebody that you cared about – maybe a grandma or a parent, special caregiver or nanny? Wait, though, it gets even better. What if those opportunities for adventure took place in the Smithsonian museums and surrounding DC community? Last year, just such an experience got off the ground!

In September 2014, SEEC launched its brand new Smithsonian Early Explorer program where two mornings a week, children and their adults came together to learn about the world around them through hands-on experiences designed for active and growing toddlers. Activities took place in the discovery room space, SEEC’s art studio, museum galleries, surrounding community, and outdoors on the playground. In collaboration with Smithsonian Early Explorer facilitators, this small multi-generational learning community explored topics ranging from safari animals and the strength of bones, to dance traditions of Bollywood and shelters from around the world.

It is now one year later and we have learned a lot. The second SEE cohort will soon get together for another year of growing and learning together. Children and adults will share moments of curiosity, awe and wonder as we encounter the amazing and authentic artifacts, objects and masterpieces that make up the vast collections of our Smithsonian. Imaginations will be sparked and creativity encouraged. We are excited for what’s in store and look forward to reconnecting with returning families and welcoming new ones. For more information about the Smithsonian Early Explorer’s program visit seecstories.com/see

Cherry Blossoms, Friendship and the National Archives

This post was written by the Center for Innovation in Early Learning’s Director, Betsy Bowers

PartnershipFriendship Between Nations Family Day

Friendship was the theme for the National Archives Cherry Blossom Festival Family Day, and SEEC was excited to help plan a variety of activities for the event. Our goal was to engage families of all types and provide fun but informative activities that spoke to multiple generations and varied interests.

Geography

The GeoFind Challenge gave visitors an opportunity to learn interesting facts related to gift giving between nations. For example, did you know that the King of Siam offered President Lincoln an elephant to help with farming but he graciously declined? While several participants already knew, others learned that the city of DC’s many cherry blossom trees were originally a gift from Japan. We met students from all over the world who enjoyed the geography, history and political connections tied to this mapping challenge.

Cranes

Origami Workshop Tutorial

For visitors that had family members more interested in using their hands to create a special souvenir to remember the day, many made origami cranes.   A Japanese legend says that if you fold 1000 cranes you are granted a wish.  Over the years, thousands of origami cranes were sent to the American people and US presidents, along with good wishes from the people of Japan.  These are now found in the National Archives’ holdings.  Folding the origami crane was a popular activity enjoyed by many visitors. Younger participants were encouraged to try creating the slightly simpler samurai helmet – which also has interesting connections to the diverse holdings of the Archives. Did you know that President Reagan received a very large framed origami samurai helmet made of over 3000 pieces of paper folded by Japanese children?

Treaties

Especially meaniTreaty Boxngful was the amount of time that families took to work together to create a family treaty. Many took the task to heart as they learned that this type of agreement between two nations required conversation, cooperation and compromise. A wide variety of ideas were discussed. For example, younger family members agreed to clean up their rooms in exchange for time to play with a special toy. Teenagers agreed to balance their screen time with in person family time together. And, members of a high school color guard worked on agreements that supported their group and bound their friendship.  After using language from a treaty between the US and Japan and writing the document in special script, families worked together to bind them with a fabric cover. Once finished, this personal connection to treaties inspired visitors to find out more and the discovery boxes which included the examples of materials that were used to make historic treaties.  From there, they were encouraged to find an authentic treaty on display in the Archives’ galleries.

Benefits of Working Together

SEEC and NARA worked together to create additional activities that accommodated different Treatyages, learning styles and interests. As NARA and SEEC colleagues reflect on the planning experience, we are reminded of the synergy that these types of collaborations evoke. Each team member brought a different area of expertise to the planning process. We encourage you to refresh your own practice and seek out a similar partnership. Your results may be similar: positive multigenerational learning experiences for families from near and far. More important to us, though, was to see families of all ages having fun together in this national treasure known as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

 

Teachers

Want to turn these ideas into classroom-friendly projects? Just visit NARA’s blog for some great adaptations.

Sensory Learning – What and Why?

Sensory PlayHave you scrolled through Pinterest lately and seen all the preschool or parenting boards related to sensory play? Usually it involves some beautifully crafted photos featuring a young child participating in a hands-on activity, but sensory learning is so much more than just getting dirty. As the name suggest, it is learning through the senses. Often times, it is related to the sense of touch, i.e finger painting, water table, playing with sand. Sensory learning is not limited to touch and can encompass all the senses.

Why bother with all of this – children and adults learn best through their senses. Sensory learning also helps children retain information. Think about it this way: if you are cooking and your child inquires about the rosemary you are using you can, A: simply describe it as something that adds flavor to your dish or, B: hand some over and give them the opportunity touch, smell and examine it. I can guarantee that your child will be able to recount their rosemary experience better if they are given the sensory option.

Once a child begins to explore something through their serosemarynses, a lot of other things can happen. They can use the experience to practice and build upon their vocabulary. Ask them questions: “What color is it?; How does it feel?; What does it smell like?. A parent can also enhance this experience by adding objects that can be used for comparison purposes. , Add parsley, for example, and encourage basic math skills by asking them to find shapes or compare the size of the two herbs. You can also stimulate critical thinking by adding elements like, scissors or water. These elements prompt children to conduct experiments: i.e. “What will happen if I cut the rosemary – will it still smell? or, What will the rosemary feel like when I pour water on it? Adding these components not only gets them to investigate and hypothesize, it also gives them the chance to practice their fine motor skills. Cutting and pouring are everyday tasks that they hope to master one day and using these skills will also aid in developing the coordination required for writing.

You can take the sensory experience a step further by adding some art supplies too. Put out some glue and construction paper, but don’t give them explicit instructions. Let them be inspired to create what comes to their mind. You’d be surprised at what they can come up with! Finally, try including a friend or sibling in the experience, which will encourage social interaction and compel them to practice taking turns and listening to one another. It also encourages them to work as a team and build on each others ideas.penguins food

So the next time you see a beautifully crafted sensory experience pop up on your Pinterest feed, don’t feel daunted. Remember, sensory learning can happen organically during the course of the day and you can add to the experience by simply including common art tools and other found objects in and around the home. Too busy to clean it up? Don’t worry leaving it out for awhile and letting your child return to the materials will actually enhance the experience.

Kindergartners and Exhibit Design, Part I

That there is a national emphasis on the value of early childhood education goes without saying.  So it makes good sense that museums are starting to think more about how they serve this audience.  At the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, our students generally visit museums 3-5 times a week; it’s a space in which they are comfortable and familiar.  So when  staff at the National Museum of American History wanted to understand more about how young children interact with exhibits, they thought of SEEC.  Through a series of discussions, the staff agreed upon using Little Golden Books, an exhibit with obvious kid-appeal, to examine how children felt about their exhibit design.  Similarly, SEEC wanted to see the exhibit through the eyes of their students in order to inform our own teaching practices and professional development.  Finally, we decided to experiment with SEEC’s Kindergarten class because, at the end of the year, they will be asked to create their very own exhibitions.  The experience seemed like a great way to support their endeavor.

ClassCircleWe planned two visits to the exhibit.  The first visit was simply to familiarize the students with the content and the layout of the space.  Prior to going to the museum, Sara Cardello, Museum Educator, planned an interactive, hands-on lesson in which the students identified parts of the exhibit; i.e. object, case, label etc. and introduced them to Golden Books.  Almost all of them immediately recognized the Golden Books and were anxious to share their personal stories with the class.

Museum1

We headed over to the exhibit and first, met with the exhibit designer.  We then took turns walking through the exhibit in small groups, each with either a classroom or museum educator.  During that time, the children got to look and ask questions.  Educators came prepared with specific questions to encourage them to think about the exhibit.  Below are some of the questions and some of their answers.

What do you see, notice, or what is the exhibit showing you?

  • Really old books
  • TV screen helps us read the booksExhibit2
  • Some of the books have interesting ideas
  • Each display case has a theme: doctor, transportation, mining, cooking
  • Measurements along the sides of the larger illustrations
  • Really old (again)
  • Some are dusty
  • Some are new
  • Golden strip


What do you hear?

  • Wanted to hear the stories
  • Kind of loud because we are all in here
  • No music
  • Too loud
  • Conversations about all of our observations

What are you learning, thinking about, what would you add?

  • Who is in the picture with Mickey and Donald?
  • Beautiful, looks painted
  • I see some letters, and I see the same letters, but different pictures (referring to Little Golden Books)
  • I would add a kids book, like Toy Story 3, even though these are kids books
  • I would add toys that you see in the books to play with

Who is the exhibit for, who would like this exhibit?

  • Me and my mom would like this, she read these books
  • My grandma likes to read
  • Grandma and grandpa would like them because they haven’t seen them in years
  • Bullies would not like it because they do not like books
  • Giants would be too big and they like to break stuff

In addition to these questions, we had some open-ended discussions based on their responses to the objects.  Here is an example of one such discussion. 

When looking at the case displaying the Here Comes the Parade the students quickly identified Donald Duck and Mickey, but were stumped when it came to Howdy Doody.  This was a great time for us to look at the label and see if we could get some more information.  Although the name didn’t ring a bell, it did give us a chance to talk about when the book was made and how our parents or grandparents might know about this character.  I asked this group if they could tell me where they thought the characters were and after some investigation, they concluded it was a parade.  This line of inquiry prompted me to share my own experiences watching the parade on Thanksgiving morning.  This encouraged others to share their own Thanksgiving traditions and/or recollections of parades.  It was a great conversation and before we knew it, we had been standing at that case for close to 10 minutes, which is considerable for a Kindergartner.

Following the visit to the exhibit, we had a chance to debrief as a whole group (there are 18 students in the class).  Below is a glimpse of that discussion. 

What did you notice?WrapUp2

  • A new book, Little Red Hen
  • An interesting book about cars
  • A girl cleaning up
  • Boy and girl playing doctor
  • I noticed #65 on one of the books

Who would like this exhibit?

  • Grandma and grandpa would like it because they haven’t seen them in years
  • Grandma and grandpa would like the books because they would remember them
  • Moms and dads like books, they would like to visit

How did you feel about the exhibit?

  • Really like it because they are lots of interesting books to see
  • Cool. Cool books, cool answers, moms and dads would like it too
  • I felt surprised when I saw the spine but then I realized that’s why it’s called Golden Books

What would you add or change?WrapUp1

  • More books!
  • Add books that you might know
  • You could bring your own Golden Books once you were done with them
  • Add a book or a chair to look at books
  • I love Golden Books
  • I would add airplanes, they are more interesting
  • I would add my own books

What questions do you have for the curator or designer?

  • Why did you choose Golden Books?
  • Why do they make Golden Books?
  • Dinosaurs are big and you have to think about cases and storage, you have to think about the size of objects for exhibits

How much did it cost to build this exhibit?

  • $100 because books can break easily
  • $60 because book are expensive
  • $15 because it is a really big exhibit