Category Archives: Curriculum

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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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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Story, Reading, Writing and Getting to Know Each Other

One of the things we are interested in doing at the beginning of a school year (and now that we have been here a few weeks) is offer children ways to know each better, share their perspectives and ideas, listen to each other well, and begin to express their ideas through language, drawing and writing. All of this is to say we are interested in helping children understand the many values of communication and that we can communicate our feelings and ideas to each other now, write about them so that we can remember and share them at another time, and read books and/or pictures to help us communicate with others we may not know with knowledge or ideas we’d like to connect with.

There are many ways this is happening in each classroom. We talk together about ourselves and family, often using photo albums, books, and family photos. In one class, we started the year with a family project that asked everyone to bring something small in that represents a summer memory, and that has led to rich conversations about the experiences that are important to us. In another class, children made a collaborative book with pages representing each child’s summer memories. When children draw, paint, or build, we invite conversations and stories about their ideas and often write these down so that they can be remembered and shared at another time. Children in every class have started using journals so that drawings, writings and stories can be collected over time in school.

We sing and dance our stories too – either using books with songs, improvised movement ideas, or songs and stories that we can act out together. Many children have already discovered the power of puppets for telling a story, and are taking turns as puppeteers and audience members. We’ve been inspired to use chalk outdoors after reading and thinking about the experiences of a character in the book A Piece of Chalk and have collected leaves after reading Leaf Man so that we can make leaf people or animals of our own. We’ve used flannel pieces to retell familiar songs and stories with a visual component that children can manipulate on their own.

We are already finding ways to document our ideas and questions that arise from investigations and constructions as well. This might happen after building at blocks or out on the playground when we find insects or look at changes in the garden.

In each case, our goal is to encourage community through shared language and experience.

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Helping Children Notice and Engage

As we begin our school year together, it’s important to teachers at LCP to encourage habits of observation and engagement in our environment.

Our outdoor time offers important beginnings. What do we see when we look up? What do we see when we look down and under? What are the properties of the natural materials we have available on the playground – sand, water, mud, grass, or stones? Where are the best running spaces? Where can we see and play with our shadows? How does it feel to be under a cherry tree? If we use chalk or other materials to represent our ideas and create, do they change if we add water? Can we find ways to see the wind? How are the leaves that are falling from the trees the same and different? Can we find seeds? What’s growing in our gardens? How can tools like our story boards and magnifiers stimulate deeper investigations?

At the beginning of our school year we are also purposeful in our support of community, connections, and collaboration. Are children investigating together and sharing their discoveries? Can we set up the environment so that children are encouraged to work together to solve problems with materials in the environment? Are there materials or tools available every day that require the participation of more than one child? How can we teachers encourage child to child helping and caring?

Today we are in the middle of our second week of school. There are so many stories and beginning connections already!

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