"Why is it so warm today? Why does the water in clouds form snow sometimes but frozen rain others? Why would someone make you sit in the back of the bus when you have brown skin? What's the story these tracks are telling us? Does sharing get easier?" These are a few of the questions I heard children ask this week. I welcome the questions. The children grapple with big ideas and little ideas, and we seek out answers. Sometimes friends have answers, but sometimes the answers are different. Sometimes we look in books or online for answers. Sometimes we use close observation to try to figure out what's going on. All of this asking leads to some pretty incredible learning.
Cheryl's Reflections on the PreK
"It smells like spring!" "I can see the grass!" the youngest exclaimed in awe of the melting snow that had held on for some time. We explored our sense of feeling this week: from touching soft new chalk with our personal chalkboards for letter writing practice to icy cold 'gems' (food dye frozen in water balloons - so fun outside or in our indoor sandbox). We practiced our social skills through dramatic play: Tracy had children act out how to ask for a toy/share in big circle and then we acted out in our room how to be flexible if someone takes our favorite chair and not push them out of the way. I love how our school also models simple things each day - like holding the outside door for the person behind you when you enter the school after recess. Our youngest also explored oil pastel crayons tracing the letter of the week: P (ask them what starts with it!) and were entranced with their craft of making yarn dream catchers. We read books on hibernation and playing in the snow, as well as an age appropriate book on Martin Luther King, Jr. where we did an introduction to big ideas such as his 'dream' speech, peace, and standing up for a rule you don't think is fair. Our classroom continues to joyfully buzz with song and movement of nursery rhymes (one, two buckle my shoe), yoga animals, parade of colors, and of course, instruments rockin' accompaniment of the alphabet song.
This week, Theresa visited the Caste Island Bilingual Montessori School in Albany to see what other like minded teachers are doing. She came back with some ideas to bring into her classroom, including extending the time that the kids get to choose their own activities in math. She was also reassured that our students are performing at a similar academic level as these children. They have a truly bilingual teacher and the diversity that Country Classroom lacks, and they sounded like they were willing to visit us or go on field trips with us. That could bring some exciting possibilities!
Martin Luther King, Jr and Civil Rights
We talked about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King this week. Theresa read the older kids a story about the Freedom Schools that occurred in Mississippi in 1964. In the story, a young white woman traveled to be a teacher at a freedom school, and witnessed the hostility that the black families endured. The kids had thoughtful questions about why the white people were so afraid and angry. It led to an interesting conversation about people being nervous about groups of people that they do not know. Everyone listened to the story Dream March about the civil rights march in Washington where Dr. King gave his famous "I Have a Dream Speech." We watched a little part of the speech and talked about what he was saying. Then each child came up with ideas for how the world can be a more just and kind place for everyone. They illustrated those ideas and wrote about their hopes for where our world will be in the future.
All of our full day students are working away on their science projects in the afternoon. Working in pairs, they used their topic to develop lots of questions. For our group thinking about compost, they wondered: "Can all worms help to make compost? Do worms like certain foods better than others? Why is compost called compost? How long does it take for worms to turn foods into compost? Does it matter how warm it is?" From that list, each pair picked a "testable" question. They're developing a hypothesis to answer that question. Many of the students are doing a little research to gain some important background knowledge. Ask your child for an update!