Archive | October 2013

What’s Next?

 

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The weather has been glorious, the children curious and engaged, my co-teachers filled with laughter (and always ready to lend a hand) and each and every day spent in The Garden Classroom has been a delight.

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This is the time of year where things start to get really exciting! I have certain children (either individuals or groups) who come almost daily seeking certain activities or wanting specific materials.  Prompted by the children’s interests, some long term projects have started percolating in my head.

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Based on the children’s enthusiastic reactions to our fantastic monarch caterpillar hatching and growth in the first few weeks of school, I think it is time to revisit that experience and have the children reflect on the parts of the metamorphosis that we were able to witness. While we did not actually observe a monarch butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, we did see one that (we think) may have recently emerged and several empty chrysalides.

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Starting this coming week, I will be offering an invitation to all of the children in our 3 Day (morning and afternoon) and 5 Day programs to join the “Monarch Committee.” I will be meeting with small groups of 3-4 children in the Art Cottage. Using pictures that I took of the butterflies, eggs, caterpillars and chrysalides, books about monarchs and plastic models of the various stages of the monarch, I hope to have the children tell the process of a monarch metamorphosis in their own words. Eventually, the story could be interpreted though their interests or as the educators from Reggio Emilia say, “languages.” Possibilities include the story being represented in colored pencils, paint, dance, clay, drama, collage, construction, or even as ambitious as a mosaic. The children in the Transition classes will also take part in the process and be represented in the final project. 

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With the kind and enthusiastic support of my co-teachers, I will be setting on this new adventure with the goal (fingers crossed!!!) of having a piece of art to be displayed in the Annual Hanna Fenichel Art Show and for the first time, auctioned off to benefit the school!

Stay tuned for updates!

 With Joy!

Francie

 

Belonging

One of the reasons that I don’t feel that spending time on Facebook is a total waste of time (besides staying connected with family and friends) is how much inspiration I receive from the early childhood community who post on Facebook. Finding this quote from a longtime favorite educator and inspirational advocate for young children is one wonderful example.

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After seeing this beautiful photo that features a quote from Bev Bos on Facebook early Friday morning, I had an opportunity to celebrate such a sense of belonging on that very same day.

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As I spotted K and E carrying the HUGE branch across and over The Garden Classroom, I will admit I was feeling a bit apprehensive about their actions. Yet seeing the determined look on their faces, I didn’t interfere and allowed them to continue with their task.  Besides, I was curious  as to what their plans were. It was very obvious that they did indeed have plans.

Unfortunately, my pictures don’t show the results to the best advantage because of the spotty sunlight, but the girls laid the branch across the entrance and blocked the opening to the deck and Art Cottage.  Okay…I couldn’t stand it any longer. I had to ask, what was going on!

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K: We’re keeping the boys out. We’re letting in all the girls and half the boys.

E (asking her twin): You mean “B” don’t you? Don’t you?

K ignored her but started grabbing paper and crayons and began creating signs. E also began to create signage and both girls taped their signs on to the branch.

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Soon other girls joined them on the deck writing and stamping papers and taping signs.

I approached K again and asked her, “What is so special about the Art Cottage that you want to keep some boys from going in?”

I suspect she did not have a clear answer to that question, but I have to hand to her when she responded to me very confidently and even fiercely, “That is something only girls and not teachers can know.” Yowzers! Now that is what I call ownership!

As I was watching the activity on the deck, I commented to K how hard the “crew” was working. K responded to me, “That is the girl crew working to keep the boys out!”

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I invited another teacher over to help me to find out more information and she also got snubbed. All we could do was stand back and observe. With amazement.

Stand back and feel pleased that these strong and determined young girls and future leaders, teachers, astronauts or whatever, took ownership of the space and materials to claim independence and show off their confidence.

With Joy!

Francie

P.S. The “No Boys” rules was very lenient. They did not actually bar any boy from physically stepping over or crawling under the branch and onto the deck and into the Art Cottage.

Fall is Here! Or is it?

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After spending my childhood in San Diego and a few other mild climates, I spent three years in the Midwest and discovered and truly experienced the four seasons. It was during this time living in the tri-state area of Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin that I fell in love with the beauty of autumn.  (Winter: not so much.) 

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I came back to Southern California, first to Los Angeles where my husband attended graduate school and finally back to San Diego in 1981. I remember how dismayed I was by the annual presence of the Santa Ana winds and the accompanied fire threats. While living in the Midwest, during the same period, the air would be chilling and the leaves turning beautiful colors. It made sense that all the stores were filled with clothing featuring layers and wool. Trips to the pumpkin patch involved REAL pumpkin patches on farms out in the country. Celebrating fall in Southern California seemed so artificial and out of touch to me. 

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The traditional approach to teaching in the 1980’s and early 90’s when I returned to the classroom involved using “themes” so our topics would be “apples” and “fall leaves” in September and October. It didn’t make sense to me, so I didn’t do it. I do remember taking a class on a field trip to San Clemente Canyon off 52 where giant, native sycamores grow and drop their dry, yellow and brown leaves starting in November. It was a genuine fall experience that filled our senses with sound, texture and smell.

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Since those days, I have learned to appreciate that Southern California does experience a change of season that goes beyond the threat of wildfires. Although much more subtle than what I experienced in the Midwest, the climate does cool and changes can be observed.

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One simple observation may be a new phenomenon not available when I was growing up. Just like the jacaranda trees (whose purple flowers herald spring) liquid amber trees have been planted everywhere and we can all witness the change of seasons throughout the year. We at Hanna are so lucky to have a small grove available right on our block! If you take a close peek, you will see some leaves where the edges are turning a reddish brown and others have turned a beautiful yellow. Each day as I walk by, I pick up the yellow leaves that have dropped on the ground. Even the leaves on our very own grape vine found along the fence separating the lower and Garden Classroom are changing colors due to the shortened hours of each day.

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These leaves, along with some small pumpkins, and a pomegranate that I received as a gift served as the inspiration for our “fall pallet” that was mixed by the children.  Besides being a tangible concept of autumn, the beautiful jewel tones of the paints is another way for the children to connect with nature and appreciate all the earth has to offer.

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Yes, we can all take the drive to our local mountains to pick some apples or gather acorns (which I do!) but I like looking for the small signs in the trees or even in our own backyards, where the tomato plants are starting to wither (this is one great advantage of living in San Diego) and a new crop of “winter vegetables” can be planted.

Meanwhile, I have to go outside and water, Santa Ana winds are coming. Sigh…