Archive | February 2013

Coaching Children to Learn





While setting up the Garden Classroom each day I don’t always know how the children will interact with the materials or where an investigation will go or what the outcome will be. Really, each day could be compared with a birthday party filled with surprises! As the children arrive and look around for what is familiar or new, I am eager (as any of the wonderful teachers I work with) to support or challenge the children to gain new skills or reach another developmental milestone. The greatest thrill for me is for a child to get excited about learning.


As two of my mentors have reminded me through attending their workshops, reading their books and even an onsite, Hanna Workshop with one of these amazing educators, Deb Curtis and Margie Carter really emphasize that school is for learning and it is not a teacher’s role to be passive. While not enough can be said about the importance of giving children time to have fun with open-ended materials, and being successful at playing well with other children for an extended amount of time (authors and educators Betty Jones and Gretchen Reynolds call the children who have this ability, “master players,”) it is still important to step in at the right moment and do what Curtis and Cater call “coach children to learn about learning.” *


As I watched one of our bright, young learners enthusiastically illustrate his building after being offered a clipboard; I was reminded of other incidents where a child went deeper with his or her thinking, was able to solve a problem or make a new discovery after being given a tool or coached by a teacher. I was able to capture several of these instances that illustrate some of Curtis and Carter’s principals and make my days more satisfying and fulfilling.



Help children use reference materials to support their learning After the “Rainbow Committee” decided which color chips should represent the colors of the rainbow based on personal knowledge and supported by research, the next step was choosing the appropriate tint for each color. Avery compared the selection on the red chip and to the picture of an actual rainbow in the book. After choosing the correct shade, she added white to lighten our paint sample.



Teach children to look closely  I have been inviting children to take a closer look at the hummingbird nest that I found in the Garden Classroom after the pepper tree was trimmed to see what the nest was made out of. The next step will be to provide the birds with some of the items to help them make  new nests.



Teach children to draw in order to see more clearly When asked how we can entice the birds to eat the sunflower seeds we provided, Luella suggested that we make a birdhouse and create a sign that would say, “Birdies have food there!” I asked her to draw the birdhouse that she had in mind, and interestingly, it looks like it could be made out of a gourd. We happen to have several that dried out since we received them in November!



Support children to learn from their friends Bennett knew that birds need food AND water. He discovered a plan for creating a simple bird bath in a book on bird watching. After I brought the needed items from home, he proceeded to set up the bath but couldn’t quite get the pan lid to sit on top of the bricks. We invited Nathaniel to look at the book and he helped Bennett place the bricks closer together to support the pan lid. This coming week, we will work on placing the bird bath in a safe place where we can watch the birds.

With Joy!



*Curtis and Carter, Learning Together with Young Children (2008)


A Field Trip


As much as I love spending each and every day in The Garden Classroom, I had an opportunity to visit one of our local treasures and couldn’t pass it up!


Home  by Turkish sculptor  Ali Acerol (1930-2007)

Before I tell you about my outing, I want to share with you that I did a little internet hunt to try to figure out what the word “Encinitas” means but with no clear cut results. My own description of Encinitas (coming from this southlander from San Diego) is AMAZING! Since I not only visited the Lux Art Institute with The Surfing Seals (Room 4) located in Encinitas, I also visited San Diego Botanical Gardens this week ALSO located in Encinitas! Each of these places is a wonderful opportunity to get in touch with nature and art. They are simply MAGICAL!


Horse donated by the Del Mar Foundation, painted by the kids at Summer Art Camp 2008

On Wednesday morning I joined the children and teachers from Room 4 and had my first experience visiting the Lux Art Institute off on Encinitas Blvd. I joined The Surfing Seals for a morning of exploring the beautiful outdoor art installations found on a lovely meandering pathway and inside the museum to meet the current artist-in-residence Carlos Vega.


Mother Maple by Robert Lobe was created from 1987-1988

There was a culminating experience where each child created a piece of art reminiscent of Vega’s work involving engraving on metal.
IMG_7839IMG_7846 (2)

This is PERFECT opportunity to introduce children to the museum experience. Although children (Or anyone for that matter!) couldn’t touch Vega’s art,  Carlos  explained why and answered the children’s questions or responded to their comments in a complete and charming manner.


Birdhouse II by Joan Bankemper

Outside on the pathway, each piece is responsive to a child’s senses and they could easily relate to the object’s beauty or whimsy. While there is a small fee to view and visit with the artist inside the museum (Well worth the experience!) the nature-sculpture path is free. (We were not able to take photos of Vega’s art – you will just have to go visit him at the Lux and see his art for yourself!)


One of the beautiful  specimens seen at San Diego Botanical Gardens

On Friday, Sarah treated all of the teachers at Hanna Fenichel to a “mini retreat” at the San Diego Botanical Gardens (Formally Quail Gardens) for an hour of relaxation and inspiration amongst the beautiful flora and lovely art. I have visited the gardens several times in the past was still amazed at new displays and even lusher surroundings.


One of the wonderful sculptures seen at San Diego Botanical Gardens

New for me, was the Hamilton Children’s Garden. An earlier visit inspired some of the features in The Garden Classroom such as our fountain.
Both the Lux Art Institute and San Diego Botanical Gardens are located just minutes from Hanna Fenichel and offer wonderful outings and rich experiences. I plan on taking advantage of the close vicinity to both and give myself a mini retreat on a regular basis!