Monthly Archives: July 2014

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 both visual arts and music/creative movement classes, 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 Wednesday and Thursday in session, parents are invited to join the program for presentations and activities planned by teachers with the children.

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It’s not surprising that, given the natural environment surrounding the school, this year’s 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 captured everyone’s imagination, and we shared an in-depth project about butterflies and their life cycle over several weeks of the program.

Children were also drawn to conversations about tide pools and ocean life, using many examples of shells and ocean stones from our school collections, found objects, books for research and storytelling, blocks with which to create puppet theaters and other props for storytelling, and art media to extend this interest.

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 started a vegetable container garden the first week, planting beans and Swiss chard that we had started this winter.  We planted flower container gardens as well, with a variety of sizes and colors of marigolds. Other raised beds now have peppers, tomatoes, squash, and carrots. Everyday jobs have included watering our gardens and checking to see if our other plants need water. The garden is doing well and we were able to harvest a few peppers and lots of Swiss chard already!

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.

For example, the gardening process continues into Learning Circle’s regular session, where returning children who participated in the Summer Arts and Science program will be able to carry on with their summer gardening and see it harvested in the Fall.  A few open spaces remain in the regular program, so there is an opportunity for your children to join this exciting, continuing learning process.

LCP Memory

She was a Chickadee and a Nuthatch before she became a Goldfinch. Our chickadee didn’t cling to us on that first day, but instead excitedly moved from activity to activity, noticing everything. It was all so carefully placed, just within reach of her exploring fingers and mind. In this thoughtful environment, she grew beautifully through her three years at Learning Circle.

When looking for preschools for our first, we searched high and low. I can remember doing the math and realizing we probably spent more time visiting, researching, and discussing schools than she would spend at school the first semester of her 2 day, 8:30-11:45 schedule. We visited a couple Montessori schools and I really liked them. I loved the idea of independent and individual discovery. Our girl is self-motivated, creative, and happy to discover her days away here at home. What drew us to Learning Circle, in the end, was its ability to celebrate the individual, allow our daughter to self-discover, but then teach her how to be a friend: contribute to a community. We want her to know that she is a small part of something bigger, to sit in a circle, wait her turn, respect others. As an (at that point) only child, the greatest gift we felt we could give Austin was to recognize others if not before, at least along with, herself. And as first time parents, we wanted to learn, discover, and grow with her.

There was the time she came home retelling the story about her unwillingness to help clean up the blocks. Oh, how my momma heart hurt. Was she unkind? Did she disrespect the teacher? What was the consequence for going against the grain? I drafted an email to Katrina, my first as a mother reaching out to a teacher. (I had so often been on the other side of that email.) I worried about how I sounded…too defensive? Not defensive enough? In what Katrina could have responded to in a couple quick sentences, she took time and effort to really explain what had happened, the details of how the scene played out, and how our Austin responded to a situation not as a future juvenile delinquent, but exactly as she should at the ripe old age of 2.9. She was in the right place. For the next two years Austin would visit that Chickadee room weekly to get a hug from Stacey or check on the littler children.

I remember feeling so reluctant to sign her up for the 5 day Nuthatch program. Oh, how I agonized over all that time she’d spend away from OUR nest. But as is Austin’s way, the child never looked back. There were new friends to make, these extraordinary teachers to fall in love with. She thrived. And we could feel that Gerry and Elaine knew and loved our girl too. At our first conference with Gerry, after we discussed all the things she could and couldn’t yet do, Gerry said, “You know Austin comes into a room and she’s just…” Gerry spread her arms out wide, “TA-DA!” My heart tightened when I realized her teachers saw and celebrated in her the things that make her who she is.

Our only child became a big sister of twins, moved to a new house, dealt with a momma on bed rest, got glasses and an eye patch, and grew beautifully stronger through it all with the help of her Learning Circle family. She’s a feeler, like her momma, and the Goldfinch year brought some growing pains. I can hear Barbara and Anne in her voice. “Momma, I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to think about it. Really think about it.” And she really thinks (and talks!) about so many things. She’s learned how to deal with conflict, have hurt feelings, forgive and grow, and let it go.

Right now my almost 6 year old is running around in the yard in her leotard. She has a leopard print eye patch on her left eye while a rhythmic gymnastics ribbon twirls overhead in the sunlight. Her mouth is moving, but I can’t imagine what she’s explaining to herself. She’s been out there for a half an hour, exploring and discovering, muddy and smiling. She’s carefully documented the fairy house she built with her dad, and will soon come in to tell me about the word plan she’d like to make for going back out again after dinner. So much of her days and ways come from what she’s learned during her three years at Learning Circle. And though we’re all off to new adventures, I feel so lucky that she gets to take all that good stuff with her.