Wednesday, November 12, 2014

           Baking Soda & Vinegar

                                 On-going Activity Started October 2014
        In this activity, the children were given a tub with a tall cylinder labeled by inches, one small bottle of colored vinegar, and a pipette. Extra materials provided around the table were multiple glasses filled with baking soda, spoons, extra pipettes, and extra small bottles of baking soda. 

        Before the children were dismissed from group, I told the children what was set up for them at the table. I mentioned that there were 5 tubs available and if the table was full, they can ask a friend to share with them or write their name on the waiting list. By talking about the available spots and offering other options if the table was full, the children are prepared to communicate their wants and problem solve independently. The provided “waiting list” was intended to support the children in developing their prewriting/writing skills.

    Once at the table, children were encouraged to notice the reaction of mixing the baking soda and vinegar. The group quickly noticed the “bubbles” that were made when combining the ingredients and began exploring techniques (add vinegar then baking soda or baking soda first). My intention for the measurements on the side of the cylinders was to encourage number recognition. Some children used the measurements to set goals for how high they could make the bubbles reach. Another purpose for this activity was for children to develop their expressive language by verbalizing what they are doing, what they are noticing, and what they expect to happen (form hypothesis).

      Research states “Experiences within the aesthetic realm can evoke feelings of wonder, curiosity, surprise, humor, awe, inspiration, and a sense of peace and tranquility. Because they (children) are in the process of exploring and constructing an understanding of the world, they notice the details and try out everything they encounter.”
Curtis and Carter, Deb and Maggie. Learning Together with Young Children(2008): Pg 60 and 69.Print.
                                                                                                        --Stephanie V.

                    Experimenting with Ramps                                                

                             October 20-24,2014

This week in the block area the children started to explore ramps using blocks, Magna-tiles, and cardboard boxes.  They added cars, trains, and balls to slide down the ramps.  Through this play they learned angles that would result in faster and slower speeds.  They practiced problem-solving skills to find the right angles and choose objects that would slide down the ramps.

  The children worked individually as well as together to create the ramps and introduce different objects to add to their play.  Once they became more interested, they examined pictures of various types of ramps and talked about why we use them.  We are continuing to explore ramps and share ideas as a group to learn more.

In the exploration of ramps, the children are developing various skills such as fine motor skills, social skills, language development, and cognitive development.  It has been studied that through block play, children develop writing and literacy skills.  Judith Stroud studied this relationship and examines in her work how children create structures based on what they have seen.  “Block building becomes representational and serves as introduction to symbolism; the blocks themselves become symbols for other objects, just as printed letters and words are symbols for objects and ideas”.  This introduces the method to the children to learn to read and write.  Continuing to enhance their fine motor skills, “children grasp, carry, and stack blocks, developing fine-motor and coordination, which enables the children to manipulate the tools of writing with increased control and precision”.  

The block area provides a wide array of learning, and through the current focus on ramps the children are excited to learn more about them.  Our intentions, as teachers, is to see what they know about ramps and discover more about them together.  As a group they can teach each other through sharing ideas, showing each other how to build, and introducing new options to classmates for what we can use in the process.

Stroud, Judith. "Block Play: Building a Foundation for Literacy." Early Childhood Education Journal 23.1 (1995): Pp. 9-13. Print.
                                                                                   --Nicole P.

       Playdough Making and Play

                          October 14, 2014

 According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, children can learn a variety of skills from the making and play of playdough:
 “Squishing, rolling, sculpting, molding . . . young children love to play with playdough. Add some props from around the home and playdough play becomes a powerful way to support your child’s learning. This simple preschool staple lets children use their imaginations and strengthen the small muscles in their fingers—the same muscles they will one day use to hold a pencil and write. Using playdough with you, a friend, or siblings supports your child’s social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and enjoying being with other people. Playdough also encourages children’s language and literacy, science, and math skills—all at the same time! Homemade or out of a can, playdough  can provide hours of fun and learning at home. Besides the playdough, all you need are a clear surface, a few household items, and lots of time for fun.” (

  On October 14th, some children participated in the playdough making invitational activity. Each child was apart of the process of making the playdough. Each child waited their turn to add the playdough ingredients together. They practiced pouring while using measuring cups and measuring spoons. Then all children had the chance to stir the ingredients together. When it was time to cook the playdough, we took our activity to the kitchen where each child saw the cause and effect of how the heat on the stove changed the liquid like mixture to a more solid substance. After the playdough cooled the children were able to add in glitter to the playdough and then they were able to play with playdough by using props, cookie cutters, tools, etc.; to enhance the learning experiences that go along with playdough play. This activity supports a lot of early childhood development such as: sensory play, fine-motor, math, social emotional, and language skills. Playdough play helps build strong muscles in the hands that can later support a child holding a pencil to write. While making the playdough children practiced taking turns and listening and communicating to each other about what they observed was happening to all the ingredients. They also practiced certain math skills of measuring and counting when they stirred and counted the amount of times they stirred before letting another peer have their turn. And finally this activity is fun and imaginative as children are able to create and enjoy the texture, look, and smell of the playdough we created.

    My intention for this activity was to expand upon a child’s knowledge of cooking by following a recipe (set of steps), i.e. cause and effect and to support the development of children’s fine-motor and hand dexterity.
                                                                                --Brittany K.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Today we went on our field trip to the pumpkin patch. We had such an amazing time! We split up into four groups and each group took turns going on the train, hayride, pony ride, and bounce houses. At the end we each got to choose a pumpkin and then we went to enjoy lunch at the picnic tables! Most of us were exhausted and almost falling asleep on the ride back to school. It was a great adventure!

Here are a few pictures from today's field trip:


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Finger Paint

 As the school year proceeds, the class will do a lot of learning and exploring through sensory activities and art. This year we’ve decided to start with finger paint! This activity gives opportunities for children to practice a variety of skills, such as color and letter recognition, letter formation, exploring with cause and effect (mixing colors and materials), and sharing the space and materials.

Children are asked to write their name on the paper before they start painting. This encourages children to become more familiar with the letters in their names and also strengthens their fine motor skills to prepare them for writing more letter and numbers. Some children have also chosen to etch their names with the back of a paintbrush or their finger. This also is a fun activity to practice writing skills.

Teachers also guide the children in exploring and problem solving with other classmates. For example, a teacher may point out a child making the color purple. This comment may attract other children to the process of mixing colors, talking about how purple was made, or encourage the group to explore mixing different colors to make a new color.

Finger painting is also a good time for children to practice communicating their thoughts with each other.

These are some comments from classmates:
“Look at my wave! It’s really huge!” –Malea

“It makes really sticky goo. Want to make goo with me? You have to put glue on it. You have to use a paint brush.”- Daisy

“Look, I made a dark rainbow! Red and blue make purple. Pink and blue make purple.” –Ethan

“I’m actually mixing colors. Pink and orange. It’s called volcano.” –Malea

“Look, it’s grey. It’s like a pretzel.” –Patrick

P.E. With Sharon

 Our P.E. class with Sharon has begun! Sharon offers a variety of activities for the children that practice many skills such as, listening, following directions, gross motor development, and safety awareness.

During class, Sharon focused on a few new words for the children to become familiar with. The two words introduced during class were “boundary” and “safe”.  The focus of the word “safe” allows children to express their own interpretations of safe actions and acts as a key word to help them recognize when they are or are not being safe.

The focus of “boundary” supports children becoming more aware of their surroundings. Sharon sets up colored cones in a large square so the class has a visual aide in recognizing the boundary. The word “boundary” is also used as a tool to encourage children to help their classmates stay in the coned boundary.

This week the children recognized the different colored cones. They also took turns being the “leader” as they called out a specific color for the group to go to and chose how to move to that color (skip, walk, run, tiptoe, etc.).

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teacher In-Service Preparation

August 4-August 15, 2013

For the past two weeks, the Utopia teaching team has been hard at work preparing the classroom environment for the 2014-2015 school year! The teachers organized and cleaned the classroom, labeled each child’s personal areas (cubbies, mailboxes, extra clothes, etc.), prepared for the new children joining our class, and restocked and organized the various learning areas. In addition to the work in the classroom, the staff took a training focused on positive guidance and discipline, attended a welcome back workshop provided by Preschool For All (PFA), and participated in a Project Approach curriculum workshop.
During the Project Approach curriculum workshop, our PFA Coach, Betty, challenged the staff to think of new ways to engage the children in our classroom. As part of the training, the staff discussed a project about birds and participated in activities that would allow them to have a better understanding about birds and their nests. Stephanie, Maria, and Nicole were asked to look carefully at several different types of nests and to create observational drawings of one nest. Meanwhile, Rachelle, Michelle, Jenny and Winnie, were provided with a wide variety of materials (sticks, twigs, yarn, wax, glue, and paper) and were asked to create their own birds’ nests. After the activity, the staff reflected on their experiences and discussed their ideas about implementing similar activities in the classroom. The staff had several insights about how to support each child’s learning in the classroom environment, while challenging children to go deeper with their learning.

As teachers, we are constantly learning and growing in an effort to provide the most supportive and engaging environment possible for your children. The in-service time was invaluable and will help the staff effectively support your children in our rich classroom environment!

Play Dough

August 18-22, 2014

      The school year is off to a great start! The children have been exploring their classroom and becoming familiar with the different activities surrounding them. As they explore, many have made their way over to the play dough table! This is a great activity for children to bond with others and create friendships with their new classmates.

Play dough is a great tool for children to expand on their pretend play and expressive language skills while they interact with each other. During this activity, some children have been working together on “baking pies”, which has triggered multiple conversations on fruit (ex. What each fruit looks like, what color they are, where they grow, which ones we have in our playground, etc.)

This activity is also a great way for children to strengthen their fine motor skills, which helps prepare and develop their muscles used for writing and manipulating smaller objects. The play dough table also creates many opportunities for comparing sizes, measuring, recognizing shapes, and recognizing physical characteristics (smooth, bumpy, ruff, etc.)