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.

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The Learning Circle Preschool and Kindergarten offers visits to prospective families Saturday November 6, 2021 and by appointment through the fall

Now is the time to think about registrations for preschool for the 2022-2023 academic year! It may seem early if your child is just 2 years old, but now is the time to start planning for preschool.

Parents looking for preschool or transitional kindergarten options for the academic year beginning September 2022 are invited to tour our classrooms at 3 Blue Hill River Road, Canton on the morning of Saturday November 6th, 2021. We ask that interested families call or email the school to set a time for an individual indoor tour for the morning of the 6th. Weather-permitting, the playground will be open for those waiting.

The Director, Katrina Selawsky, will be on hand to describe the program and answer any questions you may have about the school, its mission, and the enrollment process.

Learning Circle Preschool, accredited by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) offers morning programs with two, three, or five-day options, afternoon enrichment programs, an option for early arrival (7:30 a.m.) and extended day options that run until 4:30 pm. Facilities include three state of the art, open, sunny and spacious classrooms, a welcome room with library and a spacious playground at the foot of the Blue Hills, and features a highly individualized, creative, and engaging curriculum.

With a curriculum inspired by the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, children enjoy engaging, hands on experiences that build a strong foundation for learning with individual attention and project work in small groups, respectful and nurturing interactions, opportunities to plan, reflect on, and work on projects over time, and an integrated language arts, creative arts and science curriculum. Features include:

• An emergent curriculum model developed from observations of the children’s play
• A focus on projects and collaborative learning
• An integrated approach to learning using the graphic arts as tools for both cognitive and social development
• Carefully organized and aesthetically pleasing classrooms and common spaces
• An understanding that the school environment can teach, and sets a tone for a comfortable and engaging place for learning.

The children’s work is extensively documented using photographs, the children’s own drawings, dictations from the children, and videos of classroom projects in action. This documentation helps teachers develop curriculum meaningful to the children, and helps children remember and share their experiences together. Documentation also gives family members a concrete picture of each child’s day at school.

Parents enjoy on-going communication, detailed documentation of each child’s growth and development shared in a portfolio system, newsletters and other written information about the program distributed regularly, parent meetings and discussion groups on educational and parenting issues, and a welcoming attitude towards parent participation in the program.
Class sizes typically range from 10-14 students, each with two highly qualified and experienced co-teachers. Decisions about placements for the fall of 2022 will begin to be made in December.
Please email the Director, Katrina Selawsky at info@learningcirclepreschool.org or call 781-828-4800 for more information or to arrange a tour of the facility if the November 6th date is inconvenient. This year, tours are arranged for late afternoons (when most children have gone) or Saturday mornings.

Learning Circle Preschool
info@learningcirclepreschool.org
www.learningcirclepreschool.org
781-828-4800

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Making Sense of a Changed School Environment

As we prepared for re-opening this fall, we had many of the same underlying questions that many educators of young children have shared:

• What will distancing look like for preschoolers?
• Will many children struggle with the necessity of wearing a mask?
• How will children feel about the need to connect socially with teachers and peers, but keep a physical distance?
• Will the program still look and feel developmentally appropriate, joyful and driven by the interests of each group of children?
• Will small and larger group project interests grow organically within each group, even within new constraints and protocols?

It turns out we didn’t need to worry as much as we did, but to trust the children and see them as the capable and resourceful individuals they are. We can confirm that taking the time to set the environment carefully with our values in mind, and taking the time to watch and listen to the children has led us to a multitude of engaging beginnings and projects. Through this process, we have re-discovered that some of the important developmental business of the children is to move towards mastery of the environment, even an environment with new and unfamiliar constraints, using all the opportunities offered as experiences unfold.

Our meetings may look different at first glance, but still offer opportunities to greet and listen to each other, share informal conversations and think together about “big ideas” that come up in our days together. Opportunities to investigate, ask questions, share our theories and knowledge, and then document our current thinking about the world are a part of every day, indoors and outdoors. We see projects unfolding in every classroom – around self and family, seeds and plants, seasonal changes, insects, owls and other animals that share our environment outdoors, story-telling, and story writing. Children are listening to each other, learning from each other, and following each other’s lead as they play and learn together.

Now that the children are settling into our new routines, we are beginning to see that children are becoming able to spontaneously maintain the protocols of distancing for safety even as they develop their play themes and share experiences. Under the play structure outdoors, where children often meet for pretend games and conversation, we see spontaneous small groups settling in at an appropriate distance as pretend themes are developed each day. We are beginning to observe that when one child goes over to play an instrument on the playground, it’s now common for others to join at a different instrument – connecting the idea and the music at some distance. When children run together, or wait for a turn on the balance beam or to use an obstacle course, we see them giving each other space without a teacher’s reminder more and more. Children create their own small groups to read, share photos or talk together, giving each other appropriate space. When investigating a sunflower, we see one child at each end of the table more and more. In other words, by setting up a clear expectation and interest in considering each other (it’s kind to wear a mask and give each other space as it shows we are thinking of each other), children are beginning to move towards mastery of their environment here at school, and are increasingly able to find their own creative and thoughtful ways to connect, share, learn and grow together.

As you look at this set of photos, all chosen to illustrate how children are connecting and learning together, I hope you’ll consider how this evidence of competence and resilience is unfolding after such a short time (just 4 or 5 weeks) together.

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Virtual Tour of Learning Circle Preschool

We are scheduled to re-open this fall, and look forward to the opportunity to re-connect in person with the children and family members who are part of our school community. There will be many necessary changes in our day at school, but what will not change is our interest in helping children feel connected and listened to, our individualized approach to curriculum development, our attention to the environment in support of each child’s growing sense of competence and independence, our interest in supporting each child’s expanding sense of community, and our understanding that developing on-going and meaningful projects for the children is strengthened and informed by our partnerships with families.

It is unfortunate that we will not be able to invite current or prospective families into our classrooms this fall. The virtual tour you see below may give you a sense of what our space is like and about some typical daily activities at the school.

Please email or call the school for additional information about the school and/or about the enrollment process. Registrations for September 2021 will begin to be accepted this fall.

 

A Turtle and Tortoise Project with a Focus on Helping Keep Wildlife Safe

In her article, The Project Approach to Early Childhood Education, Lilian Katz, PhD. highlights how projects support children’s “dispositions to be curious, to make sense of experience and to explore the environment.” Projects offer children opportunities to investigate a topic in depth and they are an important approach to learning at our school.

The teachers here at LCP incorporate many features described in Dr. Katz’s article: choosing an interesting and meaningful topic, encouraging children to generate questions to investigate, making predictions, comparing and reflecting on results and representing theories and ideas through a variety of media. We also stress the collaborative nature of projects to help support a “community of learners” in which we value the ideas and contributions of each child while reinforcing that our experiences are enriched and deepened by the perspectives and insights of others.

Take a recent project on Turtles and Tortoises. The project began when a child at lunch mentioned that his family re-uses their straws. Children asked why and he said that they do it to “save the turtles” All the children were interested in hearing more.

As children shared what they know about turtles, it became clear that some children wondered about how a turtle and a tortoise are different, and wondered if all turtles live in water. So before thinking more about how straws impact turtles, the group decided to find out more about both turtles and tortoises and clarify the differences between them. In the process, the children generated a list of questions they wanted to research.

Where to research? Teachers offered a variety of books with information and small groups looked at photos and other related information online. (Although as a school we don’t use computers much, we do take advantage of photos, live cams and other videos from museums, researchers and other reputable sources to enrich classroom research).
Children then took opportunities to express what they learned through clay work and drawings.

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As children collected answers to some of their questions, conversations returned to the problem of straws for turtles and to thinking about how the choices people make have impact on the health and safety of wildlife.

The children generated a list of possible next steps and actions to take, including contacting the New England Aquarium to see if someone would talk to the children or share resources, and making a flyer that could be shared with other people about ways to help keep turtles safe.

The children worked together to dictate a letter to the Aquarium and sent it. Although the letter itself did not receive a response, a call made to the Aquarium did lead to a conversation between New England Aquarium staff and teachers, leading to new ideas and  resources for the children.

The children worked together to create a flyer and helped distribute it to everyone in our school. There was some talk of bringing the flyer to our local libraries so that the children’s message could impact a larger community – a firm decision about that hasn’t been made yet.

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Just as Dr. Katz suggests in her article, the Turtle and Tortoise project offers children strong motivation to develop their academic skills as they expand vocabulary, document through both pictures and words, measure and compare, make predictions, and collect information from books as they make connections to their personal experience and knowledge. And this project offered children the opportunity to take personal action on behalf of the turtles – to use what they found out in a meaningful way to try to make a difference and help.

Some projects will last all year. Others, like the Turtle and Tortoise Project, have a clear beginning, middle and end. Not every project will involve every child. But it’s exciting to watch them develop!

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