Using an “Open Door Day” to Share the Values of School Experiences with Families

A few times a year, the teachers at LCP work together to plan an “Open Door Day” for families – a day in which family members are invited to be part of classroom activities.

These events are organized around a specific topic – often an area of learning in which families have recently expressed an interest. In this model, each classroom is set up with activities that relate to the learning area under consideration. Signs are available for families to read about possible questions to ask and/or things to look for as they play with the children, and samples of children’s work are on display.

In addition to this classroom time, a brief discussion is planned for families to participate in as they arrive.  While this discussion is in progress, children have a chance to start their morning using their typical beginning of day “rituals”. Families are oriented to the topic under consideration, and have an opportunity to ask any questions they may have. We also set up documentation in our shared hallways featuring children’s work and projects. By mid-morning family members begin to say their goodbyes. Handouts are placed in all the children’s cubbies so that the whole community shares information, even if family members didn’t have the opportunity to stay and play.

Our first “Open Door Day” this year was centered around prewriting. The goal of this Open Door was to highlight the complexity of the writing process: the values of child-led experiences with writing, some of the many diverse ways to support the physical development necessary for writing – including sensory play, and fine motor activities – that do not require writing tools or table work. Before the Open Day, we invited children to “write a message” for their family members to see when they came to school. These were then posted to our hallway display. We always prepare the children for the reality that not everyone will be able to come or stay for the whole time, and invite children to re-visit displays and experiences with their family members when they arrive or leave school over the next few weeks.

We hope you’ll take a look at these photos from our recent Prewriting and Fine Motor Development Open Door Day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Summer Science and Arts Program Registration is Now Open

Each year, the summer program begins the Monday after the academic year ends and continues for six weeks. The dates this year are  June 12th- July 20th.  The program runs Monday-Thursday each week, with options to attend either two or four days. Hours are 8:30-12:30, allowing time for relaxed exploration and a lunch brought from home. Typically, we have 3 teachers in the summer and an additional teacher joins when there are a sufficient number of children attending. With three teachers, we maintain a group with a maximum of 18 children (between 2.9 and 7) at any one time, and if more children attend, we maintain a 7 to 1 ratio.

The program features an integrated arts curriculum with a focus on the natural sciences, art, music, and creative movement. Each day includes time for children to participate in both visual arts and music/creative movement classes along with time for snack, free play activities, and outdoor play and exploration. Small groups are organized with each child’s experience, development, and individual styles and preferences in mind.

Summer Curriculum

When we plan curriculum, we focus on our natural environment and incorporate many opportunities to use natural materials in on-going arts experiences. With the children, we think about our impact on the environment, think about how we can take care of the environment and recycle and reuse found materials in our projects and creations. We encourage children to take the time to develop their observation and investigation skills, as they develop the ability to ask questions, use books and conversation with others to collect information (research), and to document details that are of personal importance. Our specific focus and projects emerge over time as we and the children get to know each other better and share time and ideas.

The first few days of the summer program are spent getting to know each other as a new class, introducing our routines, and beginning some basic processes that we expect to develop over the course of the program.

One of our first jobs each summer is to plan new gardening experiences with the children, so that we can watch growth and development over the six weeks we share together. We prepare specialized areas on the school grounds for gardening with the children, and brainstorm ways to keep young plants safe from any hungry animals that may visit our yard. With some luck, we’ll have a small harvest ready by the end of the program.

We also establish areas outdoors for constructive play, painting and printing, drawing observations, etc. Our goal is to include natural materials from the environment to work with whenever possible. Once the children are accustomed to working outdoors, we expect projects and themes to emerge and give shape to our explorations.

From the start, we offer musical experiences that focus on rhythm, a steady beat and using found materials to create musical instruments. Using music outdoors (of our own creation as well as recorded music) may lead us toward a focus on air in motion, as scarves and other props are made available for both guided and spontaneous creative movement. Our outdoor stage and musical instruments offer a wonderful setting for musical and dramatic expression.

In summer sessions, as in the academic school year, teachers and children take the time to document our shared experiences together, and look forward to sharing them with parents, too. Through photos, written text, samples of work, interviews of children, etc., we will be busy documenting the many themes that become important over our days together. Towards the end of the program, this work will be displayed, so that parents will be able to share some of the experiences that become important to each child.

Please call the Director at 781-828-4800 for more information, to arrange a visit, or to receive a registration form. You can also use our contact form here: contact form on our website

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Starting a New School Year

It’s common for children to experience some anxiety at the beginning of a new school year, even if they are returning to a school and to people that they know well. There are so many adjustments to make – summer activities are ending, daily routines may change, there may be new teachers and children to get to know. And the children themselves have grown and may be thinking about their upcoming school experiences in new ways.

Some children adjust to change very quickly and others will need more time. Many experts suggest that it’s not uncommon for children to experience typical separation anxiety for up to ten weeks before routines settle in.  Your consistent positive support can make a big difference as children form deeper relationships with their teachers, who will be their primary supports while they are here at school. Remember that it’s ok for children to take the time they need, and that each child’s feelings need acknowledgement and understanding. And while acknowledging feelings, family members can set up consistent routines, kindly but firmly remind children when you’ll be together again, and develop strategies together that help ease the transition period.

Here are some practical tips to think about:

1. Look for the special ways your child handles the transition time comfortably; take your cues from your child.

2. Support your child – try to be positive. Children are very sensitive to your ambivalent feelings; these can represent doubt to your child, and add to his or her sense of insecurity.

3. If you enter the classroom and choose an activity to aid in your child’s transition, choose something that has a definite end (puzzle, book, etc.). Let your child know that upon completion of this activity, you will be leaving. Then stick to it.

4. It is helpful for some children to bring something from home – a favorite stuffed toy, book, photo of a family member, note, etc. This connection to home can be very reassuring.

Here are some helpful phrases you might use when it’s time to say good-by:

“I know it’s hard to say good-by.” “Mom and dad will always come back.”

“This is a special place, just for children.” “Will you make me (daddy, sister, etc.) a special drawing today?”

“I’ll be back to pick you up at lunch time.”

“Have a fun day.”

I’ve included some links below to articles on NAEYC’s “For Families” website with more tips on handling transitions into school:

A Few Thoughts on Separation Anxiety

Tips for Easing School-Time Anxiety from a Mom Who’s Been There

13 Tips for Starting Preschool

Have a Concern about School? Tips for Talking to the Teacher

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What I Did this Summer at Learning Circle Preschool

We’ve just finished another wonderful summer experience at Learning Circle Preschool!
The Summer Science and Arts Program at Learning Circle Preschool is an integrated arts enrichment program with a focus on the natural sciences, storytelling and puppetry, art, music and creative movement.

Each day, the program includes time for children to participate in activities featuring science, the visual arts, construction and music/creative movement, along with time for snack, free play activities and outdoor play, in a highly individualized and nurturing setting. Teachers observe the children’s interests and, guided by an understanding of child development, organize the curriculum to extend the children’s thinking and knowledge about topics of importance to them.

Teachers are partners in learning with the children, and model the curiosity, research and documentation skills, ability to ask questions, and engagement over time that are hallmarks of deep learning. Diverse experiences, learning styles and interests are all valued as children and teachers cooperate together to create a “community of learners.”
The result is an experience that is both fun and serious – children actively involved in playing and learning at the same time.To see this in action, look at the pictures in the gallery.

On the last day in session, parents are invited to join the program for presentations and activities planned by teachers with the children.

It’s not surprising that, given the natural environment surrounding the school, the children were very interested in investigating woodland habitats, especially the wide variety of birds we heard and saw daily around our playground. Children also developed their observation skills as they examined the many types of insects, worms and spiders inhabiting the playground and other freer areas around the school. Butterflies capture everyone’s imagination!

Teachers offered some basic gardening experiences to the children early in the program so that we could all take care of our gardens over time. Our first task was to think together about what new plants would need, and to prepare some gardening spaces. We planted seeds and plants during the first week, including chard, beans, peas, tomatoes, pepper, and a variety of herbs. We planted flower container gardens as well, with a variety of sizes and colors of marigolds. Everyday jobs have included watering our gardens and checking to see if our other plants need water. The garden did well enough for children to enjoy a few harvests.

We found that the group of children attending this summer were all very interested in creating and constructing with a variety of recyclable materials, tape and glue. Children worked on individual projects over many days, and decided to work on one collaborative project (a fire truck) all together. This took a great deal of planning, coming to consensus, problem-solving, working together, listening, and researching in addition to the construction itself!

If we shared one “big theme” this summer, it was about forces in motion. What is wind? What makes a wave? Why do some objects roll and others slide? How can we design ramp systems for balls to roll faster or slower? How does a pump work? How can we move water from one container to another?

There are always many stories unfolding when children come together and begin to form a classroom community. Some of those stories attract the attention of the group as a whole, and these become central themes that teachers can support with conversation, materials and time. The examples above are only a small sample of the many experiences the children shared this summer.

Many of these summer “stories” and interests will inform our decisions on experiences to continue to offer children this fall, as a new classroom context begins to unfold. We look forward to continuing this learning dialog!

Enjoy these summer program photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What Can We Do with a Leaf?

This is a wonderful time of year for collecting diverse materials from nature for play and education. The “loose parts”* that we can find all around us offer many diverse opportunities for sensory play, focused observation and exploration. We concentrate on color, shape, symmetry and other properties, and research into where these items come from, grow and change over time. And when we encourage the open-ended creative and imagination-rich exploration of these materials, children can show us eye-opening and varied ways to use them to realize their ideas.

Most recently the children have been especially interested in using leaves. How many ways can we use a leaf? Can we combine them to make something new? Can we sort them? How are they the same and how are they different? Do we enjoy their textures when they are fresh and when they dry out? Have we watched them falling from the trees or blowing in the wind? What sounds do we hear when we walk through leaves? What else can we notice about our leaves?

By watching the children and listening to their ideas, teachers can get a window into the children’s thinking and motivations, and can extend opportunities.

Books can be sources of inspiration and information. Here are a few that have been in the classrooms recently:
A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas
Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert
Red Leaf Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
We’re Going on a Leaf Hunt by Steve Metzger
Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins

*There is a growing conversation among educators about ways to incorporate “loose parts” – materials that can be used by children in their own unique and open-end ways – in support of play, divergent thinking, problem solving and learning that is child-driven.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.