Thursday, May 21, 2015

Creative Minds
May 20, 2015
Throughout the year, the class has been showing a rising interest creating items and adding to them over a period of days. To support this ongoing interest, we have added fabric to the playground outside! The children are offered a variety of fabric ranging in sizes, prints, and textures along with scissors, tape, paper clips, and a stapler (with teacher support). At first some children were interested in using the fabric for blankets. Soon, more children joined in and decided they wanted to make clothing as well! The ideas ranged from dresses, to skirts and capes, to blankets.

The creation of individualized clothing had a process that some children were familiar with from building with tools! First they had to decide what they wanted to make and choose the fabric. Then they had to decide how long or wide they wanted/needed it to be. In order to do that they had to measure! Some of the children were able to measure on their own, whereas others needed a little bit of help. This was a great opportunity for some children to work together and verbalize their intentions. When it came time to cut the fabric some children had difficulty, but soon realized that if you lay the fabric flat on the ground it is easier to cut. Once the fabric was cut everyone wanted to wear their creations, but had to figure out how to wear them without it falling off. Malea expressed “We can use tape!” Some children used tape to secure the fabric to their clothing, others decided to make paper straps. The paper straps eventually ripped so we explored with using fabric for straps and stapled them on. Natalia noticed the fabric straps and soon decided she wanted to make some as well.

Quotes from the activity:
Natalia “I made my dress! I cut it and make the straps. I know how long to make them. I just use my imagination.”
Charlotte suggested “Use tape and staplers.”
Anya said she was going to make “a necklace and a crown.”
Malea expressed how she made her dress “I cut some lines.”
While working with fabric Natalia said “I’m making a curtain.”

Blankets were also popular uses for the fabric. The children shared their ideas and decided to use the mat for a bed, took “naps”, and watched movies. Many of the children are now beginning to expand the uses of the fabric and are starting to create forts/tents. As the group continues to show an interest in the fabric, the teachers will continue to support and challenge the children to become more independent with their work.

My intention for this project was to give children the freedom to create whatever they could imagine, but to also challenge the process. I thought they would have difficulty cutting the fabric and assembling it in a way so they could wear it, but I was quickly proven wrong. Some did have difficulty in the beginning, but after observing others, they were able to remain focused and determined and work through the challenges. I also thought this could be a time for children to practice resolving conflicts independently. We had lots of different fabric options and some children wanted to use the same fabric. I used this as an opportunity to encourage the children to come up with solutions. Some children decided to let the other child have the fabric, whereas others had the idea to cut the fabric into smaller pieces. My intention for the project was also for children to recognize and practice sequencing (similar to writing a story). First come up with an idea, then figure out how to transfer their ideas into their work, and ending their work by wearing or using the final product (beginning, middle, end).

Research states “As teachers discover children’s underlying interests and understandings, you can routinely invite children to explore their ideas by representing them in other ways. In the larger educational arena, students represent their learning with a paper, a test score, or a demonstration of mastery. However, representing what children know doesn’t merely demonstrate their learning, it also enhances it. Different mediums such as drama, drawing, or sculpting provider children with additional perspectives to reflect on an idea or understanding and then confront what isn’t yet clear. Each medium helps children practice different skills and recognize different aspects of the ideas they are pursuing. “ 

Citation: Learning Together with Young Children, A Curriculum Framework for the Reflective Teachers, Deb Curtis and Margie Carter Pg. 144

Clay Exploration
May 19, 2015

 In the past few weeks we have provided the children with several colors of play dough as a consistent sensory activity in the classroom. The children revisited the play dough table day after day and started to ask if they could save their play dough creations. Some children created cupcakes, others created snowmen, and other children spent their time exploring play dough through pulling it, pinching it and rolling it. As a result of their continued interest in play dough, and their wishes to save their play dough creations, we decided to introduce them to clay. My intention with adding the clay was to introduce them to a new material, similar to play dough, that would deepen their exploration of sensory materials in the classroom. In addition, I wanted to honor their desire to start “saving” projects and allow them to expand their creativity with a three dimensional material.

For the first week of clay exploration, we provided the children with a large piece of clay and encouraged them to use their hands as tools. We discussed preparing the clay by throwing it on the table and then encouraged them to manipulate the clay with their hands and fingers. There were several children that immediately came to the clay table and seemed very excited to explore this new material! Matthew used his hands to roll out long skinny pieces of clay. Mackenzie discovered that if she pushed the clay across the table, it made the bottom of the clay smooth and flat (other children also started using this technique).  Chloe rolled the clay into balls of varying shapes and then put them in order from largest to smallest. Grace used her fingers to make indentations in the clay. Fynn experimented with punching the clay and using his fingers to make “caves” in the clay. The children at the table also experimented with punching, pinching, scratching, pulling, rolling, and squeezing the clay!

The children have started to use these techniques to create clay sculptures and had the following ideas about using the clay in the coming weeks:

Grace: “I want to make a plate.”

Rachelle: “How will you make a plate?”

Grace: “I flatten it like this (pushed the clay on the table) and then I can do this (made a pinching motion along the outside). Just smoosh it down and do this.”

Gianna: “I’m making a mouse house. I also made a slide for the mouse house.”

Colin: “I make a happy faces. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.”

Fynn: “I’m making a cave! See?”

Mackenzie: “When can we add water?”

Rachelle: “What will you use the water for?”

Mackenzie: “It makes the clay wet.”

Grace: “You can smoosh it down and do this!” (Grace made a flat piece of clay)
Gianna: “Mine looks like a hot dog.”

Paul: “I make a police car! Look at this little gate.”

According to Early Childhood Specialist, Suzanne Gainsley, “We know that young children are oriented toward sensory experiences. From birth, children have learned about the world by touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing. Sensory play also contributes in crucial ways to brain development. Think of it as “food for the brain.” Stimulating the senses sends signals to children’s brains that help to strengthen neural pathways important for all types of learning. For example, as children explore sensory materials, they develop their sense of touch, which lays the foundation for learning other skills, such as identifying objects by touch, and using fine-motor muscles. The materials children work with at the sand and water table have many sensory attributes — they may be warm or cool, wet or dry, rough or smooth, hard or soft, textured or slimy. Discovering and differentiating these characteristics is a first step in classification, or sorting — an important part of preschoolers’ science learning and discovery.”

The children have been actively manipulating the clay and some have mentioned adding water to the clay table (specifically children that have used clay in the past with Linette). In the coming weeks, I plan to add spray bottles with water to the table to encourage the children to experiment with wet and dry clay. I’m curious to see how they react to the water with the clay and I’m wondering if it will create more interest in using clay at the table. As our exploration continues I plan to ask the children what additional tools and materials we should add to the table. I’m excited to see how their understanding of clay develops and hope to encourage them to explore this material over an extended period of time.
FEATURE ARTICLE: Look, Listen, Touch, Feel, Taste: The Importance of Sensory Play By Suzanne Gainsley, Early Childhood Specialist


Thank You Julian!
May 12, 2015
As we come to the end of our mail project, we say a final thank you to our mail carrier Julian!  Throughout our project he visited our class and taught us so much about the mail process.  The children learned about the uniform mail carriers wear, their bags, keys, hats, as well as their routine.  As the class prepared many questions for Julian, he answered each one and even highlighted a few that stuck out, such as “How do you send ducks in the mail?”  He made sure each child understood that their questions are important and can be investigated.  With his final visit coming up, the children wanted to present a special gift to Julian they all had worked together to make.
         In the weeks prior to his visit the children brainstormed ideas of what they could do for Julian.  They came to the conclusion of making him a special book.  Each child recalled what they knew about Julian from his visits and all that he had done for our class.  Many chose to focus on his uniform, drawing details such as his hat, the color of his shirt and pants, his shoes, his mail bag, and even his keys.  This activity gave a lot of insight about what the children observed and took away from just seeing Julian twice.  The children talked to each other about if Julian drove a truck, or walked, or maybe rode a bike.  Lots of ideas went around the table while creating this book.  Each child made a page, and were encouraged to draw or write whatever they wanted to make for Julian.

       While creating their page, many children wanted to write Julian’s name as well as their own name.  Several children even knew how to spell Julian’s name by memory from making him mail during the mail project.  Many children wanted to write a story about their drawing for the book so that Julian would understand what they drew.  The writing that started to emerge during this activity added great detail and interest to the book and encouraged more to do the same.  According to an article called, “Starting Write” by the Center for Early Literacy Learning, we should encourage the children to write their own name on their artwork and can start to write words that are in their drawings, such as “mail” in this case.  “ It is important for children to explore written language this way and talk about their writing with an interested adult. It allows them to gain the important motor and cognitive skills needed for “real” writing skills to develop.”

During group time we asked the children to talk about their favorite things about Julian.  This required that they recall his visits and the activities that they did together.  They remembered his uniform, the mail he sent to them individually, the cranes he made for them, and when he made mail with the class.  We went around the circle and each child had the opportunity to share their favorite thing about Julian.
  On the day of Julian’s last visit, he spent a lot of time with the children in each group making mail, drawing, talking, and playing.  He even brought in origami houses for each child to draw on and take home.  Everyone that wanted to, got to take a picture with Julian.  At snack time, the entire class had snack together with Julian, and Colin presented the book the class had made.  He was very excited to see all their hard work and wonderful pictures and stories.  It was a great way to end our mail project and celebrate all the fun and learning we did along the way.  We are so grateful to have Julian work with our class on this project and enhance their learning through such exciting and heartwarming experiences.

Our intention for Julian’s last visit was to say thank you and goodbye to him for helping us through our mail project and providing such enriching experiences for all the children, and to bring our mail project to a close.  The children learned so much and enjoyed each activity.  This was an incredible ending to a successful project for our class.  They were able to demonstrate their skills and talk about everything they have learned.  Having Julian there for this brought a lot of meaning to the children and the project and created the perfect environment to close our project.

"Starting Write." Http:// CELL Practices (Center for Early Literacy Learning, 2010. Web. 11 May 2015. 
Playing with Nature
May 8, 2015


Outside, a lot of the children have been collecting leaves and wanted to do an art activity with all the leaves they had gathered.  We asked them what some of their ideas were and together they decided they wanted to use paint and glitter.  The children got right to work at decorating about four leaves each, adding lots of color and glitter to each one.  Teacher Nicole put out the smallest paintbrushes so that each child would have to focus carefully on painting and take more time to add details.  The intention behind this was to focus more on fine motor skills and continue to work on their grips.  They talked about the colors of paint they wanted to use as well as colors of glitter.
Including nature into our table activities is important.  It opens up the conversation about where things come from in nature, why they are there, and why they are important.  During this activity the children talked a lot about why we have so many leaves in our yard and where they come from.  We talked about why sometimes there are a lot of leaves on the trees and other times there aren’t very many.  While it can be harder to identify the seasons in San Francisco, we talked about the changing seasons and why they must go through those changes.
The book, “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv, goes into great detail about how children need to have close relationships with nature.

“Yet, at the very moment that the bond is breaking between the young and the natural world, a growing body of research links our mental, physical, and spiritual health directly to our association with nature—in positive ways.  Several of these studies suggest that thoughtful exposure of youngsters to nature can even be a powerful form of therapy for attention-deficit disorders and other maladies.  As one scientist puts it, we can now assume that just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.”

We are continuing to investigate the nature we have around our school and continue to play with it and talk about it together.  The children are really interested in exploring and sharing their ideas recalling past experiences.  We now have our decorated leaves hanging from our large branch over the block area for the class to see and enjoy.
Our intention behind activities that include leaves, planting, and nature walks are all based on the ideas talked about in this book.  We want the children to have a close relationship with nature and understanding of its wonder.  There is so much to learn and discover.  The next idea that is being talked about is bugs.  This would be a fun transition in our activities!
Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. S.l.: Algonquin, 2008. 3. Print.

Making Animals with Shapes
 May 6, 2015
As an afternoon activity, Teacher Andrea put out a wide variety of shapes made out of construction paper along with some toy animals for the children to use in their art.  They were told they could create anything they wanted with the shapes, including animals.  A lot of the children decided to trace the animals that were put out at the table and create them with the shapes as well.
As they were using shapes, they talked about which one they were holding or what shape they needed next.  This activity opened up their conversations to talk more about shapes and identify them by name.  They also would talk about how many sides each one has and which ones have the most.  Natalia identified that some of the shapes looked like clouds because they curve.  She added more detail into her picture by comparing the shapes to things she has seen.  She also made a house in her picture using a square with a triangle on top of it.  Malea traced most of her animals, adding detail after, including faces as well as arms and legs.
We encourage the children to play with the shapes and figure out new ways to create.  "As children draw, paint, and make collages, they are learning about the world (color, shape and size of objects). When they use paints, glue, and markers, children are planning, experimenting, and problem solving. As children mix paint, they learn to understand cause and effect. Art gives children chances to make decisions, and to learn from the experience of making choices about their art work.”  This activity was very open for them to make their own choices and get creative.  When Malea started to trace the animals, she gained a better understanding of what their profile looked like on paper and was better able to match shapes to the animal’s bodies.  This was an excellent example of how they learned to problem solve
Our intention with this activity was to encourage the children to identify and compare shapes.  They can see a variety of sizes, colors, as well as shapes and start to compare and contrast based on what they see.  The challenge was to create an animal out of the shapes which required more planning before they were to start.  They needed to identify the parts of the animal they wanted to create, as well as the shapes they would need and what those shapes would represent.  The idea of tracing the animals came up and quickly circulated the group to help with their planning.  Fine motor skills were put to work as they focused on holding the animal in place with one hand and traced with precision using the other hand.

"Art-An Opportunity to Develop Children's Skills." Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Penn Extension. Penn State, 6 Feb. 2014. Web. 20 May 2015.

Creating our own books!
April 27,2015- May 15, 2015

    Within the last few weeks the children have shown an interest in creating their own books. While the children have created books throughout the school year, they've shown a big interest within the last couple of weeks. The children create their books independently by choosing what kind of paper they want to use, drawing their own pictures, and writing their own words. After drawing the pictures, the teachers then transcribe the words of the story and/or book for them. Some of the children created stories that tell (or retell) events, and others have created books with pictures and a description on each page. There are a few different ways the children wanted to put their books together.

For example:

Ariana created a book called, The Life of Birds. In her book, Ariana drew pictures of various birds, with a description on each page.

Patrick created several books called, The Machine Book. In these books, Patrick draws pictures of different machines and had the teacher write down what each machine was, and what each machine did. While some of the children created books similar to Ariana and Patrick, other children wrote stories.

                                   "A yellow-blue machine. It makes staples."

Chloe created a book called, The Library. In her book, Chloe describes a trip to the library that includes characters such as her mom, her baby brother, and her friend.
"This is the library and me and my mom and my brother, we are buying some books then we buy a book, we go home. Then we read it together.."

In Matthew's book, The Julian Book, he tells a story about Julian (the mailman) and the different things that Julian does.

"A satchel, a big satchel! Julian wears it."

After making their books, the children also expressed interest in reading their books aloud at group time. The children show excitement in sharing their books with their friends, and show equal interest in listening and looking at the other books. This provides the children with an opportunity to share what they've made with their friends and teachers. We've noticed that all of the children are engaged and attentive when listening and look at their friends' books. As time may not always permit, the children can work on their books during their outside time, or in the afternoon. The children can also finish their books at home with family members, which offers the opportunity for the children to take something home and continue working on it.

    Our intention for this activity was to follow the current interest of the children. We noticed that several children were becoming interested in creating their own books. Following this interest allows the children to express their own ideas through the pictures that they draw and the words that they use. This activity promotes several language and literacy skills such as expression of self through language, language in conversation, interest in literacy, concepts about print, letter and word knowledge, and emergent writing. Moving forward, we will continue with the children's interest in creating books, while trying to create a book collaboratively. So far, all the children have worked together to create a book for Julian The Mailman, and we will be working together on creating a book for our P.E. teacher, Sharon!
In the article,The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction, Roskos, Christie, and Richgels (2003, p. 2-3) states some benefits of early literacy practices,
"Children’s early reading and writing learning, in other words, is embedded in a larger developing system of oral communication. Early literacy is an emerging set of relationships between reading and writing.These relationships are situated in a broader communication network of speaking and listening, whose components work together to help the learner negotiate the world and make sense of experience (Thelen & Smith 1995; Lewis 2000; Siegler 2000). Young children need writing to help them learn about reading, they need reading to help them learn about writing; and they need oral language to help them learn about both." This article also offers literacy activities that can be done with children at home or in the classroom!

Roskos,K.A., Christie, J. F. Richgels, D.J., (2003), The Essentials of early literacy instruction. National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Walking Field Trip to the Mailbox
April 22, 2015

For the past several weeks, both groups have shown an ongoing interest in the mail. As a means of exposing new children to the mail project and continuing the project for other children, we decided to revisit our local mailbox. Some children had visited the mailbox previously and remembered our past visits, while others were visiting for the first time and were very curious about the different parts of the mailbox. My intention with visiting the mailbox was to expose a new group of children to the mailbox and mail in general, while allowing the children that had previously visited to expand their understanding and revisit their experiences from past trips. We discovered that the children that had visited previously had a greater awareness about specific aspects of the mailbox (the eagle, the handle, collection times, etc.) and were able to point these things out to the new group.

When we arrived at the mailbox, we asked the children, “What do you notice about the mailbox?”

The children had the following questions and comments:

Colin: “It have keys. That’s the mailman put it in the triangles and it get stuck.”

Matthew: “It’s blue. It have a key. It have a handle to put the mail in.”
Daniel: “It got a special door to put the mail in.”

Mackenzie: “I see a eagle. I see a handle and it’s blue and it has legs.”

Patrick: “The mailbox is blue and it have a key hole.”

Ariana: “There’s an eagle and a handle and a key and then you have to put the mail where it has a handle.”

Sofia: “There’s a really straight hole for the mail.”

Patrick: “I think the mail goes in the bottom under the top. They take a key and get it out. Somebody draw on this (pointed to graffiti on the mailbox.”

After the children verbalized their observations we invited them to step onto a stool in front of the mailbox and allowed them to look inside. They pulled the mail slot open and closed and noticed that it made a loud noise when it slammed shut! After allowing them to explore the mailbox, we asked them to draw pictures of what they saw. Some children focused on the different parts of the mailbox, while other children were engaged in telling stories about the mail and where it was going.
According to the book, Young Investigators:

“Projects are especially valuable for children in the early years because this is a period of rapid intellectual growth that can have important long-term consequences. A common understanding emerging from research is that the brain and the ability to think are shaped by experiences (Zull, 2002). The capacity of the brain to think in different ways—the ability to problem solve, reflect, and be open to new ideas—is built over time and exposure, with the greatest plasticity and potential in the beginning years of life (Wexler, 2008). Additional insight into intellectual development is now coming from recent experimental developments in the study of early cognition, such as observing the activity of the brain during cognitive activity and growth, and from computer-assisted models of the brain’s development of networks of information during early learning (Blakemore & Frith, 2005). Although it is too early to draw many conclusions from this new research, Catherwood (2000), in a review of these new views of the young child’s growth and development, came to the conclusion that experiences that support the child in making connections amongst domains of knowledge (e.g. as in ‘event-based’ programs in which children develop activities around conceptual themes) are likely to impact on and enhance the richness of neural networks in the child’s brain.

There are many experiences in project work that are consistent with Catherwood’s conclusion. These include the focus of projects on topics in which the child has some background knowledge and interest, the integration of many domains of learning, the opportunity and purpose for verbal communication that emerges in project work, the “events” of field-site visits and visits by experts, and the development of activities by children. “

Visiting the mailbox and providing the children with “real-world” opportunities supports cognitive development and allows them to actively explore the world around them. We will continue to follow the children’s interests and hope to bring mail to our local mailbox the next time we visit!


Buildings, Buildings, Buildings!

Our little construction workers have been working diligently! Over the past few months, the children have been constructing buildings of their choice! We started the building process by introducing blueprints and having children create blueprints of their own. This helped the children establish a plan for their project and mainly focused on the exterior of the structures. We’ve also created individual binders (for those interested) to organize their blueprints/drawings. As we proceed with this project, we are taking on a more detailed approach, where we are noticing and drawing more specific features of buildings. This may include number of rooms, types of room, how many walls needed, doors, windows, etc.  This part of the building process assists the children in becoming more intentional with their work.
The construction of buildings also requires a large amount of comparing and contrasting! Many children are interested in building a birdhouse. We compared a real birdhouse to a dollhouse (resembling a house for people). This created multiple discussions comparing both interior and exterior characteristics. Here is the list we came up with as a group:
People House
1 room
4 rooms
No table
Laundry room
No beds
Metal roof
No doors/has a hole
No metal roof
No windows
No mailbox

When building in the tool area, the children have a variety of tools and materials to choose from. These items include hammers, screwdrivers (phillips and flathead), rasps, nails, screws, wood, a power drill (with teacher support), and a saw (also with teacher support).  First, they choose a piece of wood, decide where to put it, and mark a spot to make a hole for the nail or screw. He/she then decides if they want to use a screw or a nail. The nails and screws are in separate jars and sorted by size. After choosing the materials, the children then measure the screw/nail by holding the nail/screw next to the 2 pieces of wood they are trying to connect. If the nail is too long or short, they choose another size and continue the process until they find the correct one. The nails and screws can be challenging for the children to use without predrilled holes, so we have been using a power drill to assist them! Once the nail/screw is chosen, the child then finds the right drill bit to use by comparing the width of the nail/screw to the bit. Then comes the fun part! We work together by putting the drill bit in the power drill and put the power drill on the marked spot for the hole. I hold the weight of the drill as the child pushes the trigger to drill the hole! Once the hold is made the child is able to independently attach the wood with the corresponding tool (screwdriver or hammer). We repeat the process and refer to their blueprints as they continue to build their structure. It’s a lot of steps and work, but they have fun and are learning exponential amounts as they do it!!!
My intention for this building process is for the children to learn and explore through meaningful experiences. When measuring the sizes of tools and wood they are developing a wide range of math skills, such as, matching, comparing, and sorting. I offer a variety of tools and sizes of materials to support their development in problem solving and to challenge their ability to remain focused. If one the small screwdriver doesn’t work with the large screw, they have to find the right sized screwdriver.  Building with tools also supports literacy development! Using the tools helps develop fine motor skills and their binders included drawings and names of tools/buildings. The process of using the tools from finding the right tool, to the correct size nail/screw, to finding the corresponding drill bit, and inserting the nail/screw supports literacy development, as it encourages children to sequence (beginning, middle, and end) similar to stories in a book. It also promotes comprehension skills as each child has to figure out which sizes to use and why.
Research says “A play-based, active learning approach allows many opportunities for practicing social interaction and relationship skills. It provides support for the growth of age- and developmentally appropriate self-regulation abilities. Finally, play in a well-planned early learning program provides each child with a network of nurturing, dependable adults who will actively support and scaffold their learning in a group setting”. (P. 87 California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 1, California Department of Education)

Elevator Investigation
March 3rd --March 31st, 2015

The children’s initial interest in elevators started from our Hotel Project in the Block Area. Many of them were adding details to their hotels such as bedrooms, swimming pools, security guards, and elevators! We noticed how many of the children were trying hard to figure out how to make their elevator go up and down using wire, small boxes, and other materials. This was a big topic of conversation since most of the children in our group already had prior knowledge of elevators outside of our classroom. We saw this as a great opportunity to explore how elevators worked! Our intention for elevator investigation was for the children to explore the mechanics of an elevator, their purpose, as well as to link our Building and Hotel projects together!

Teacher Stephanie had a great idea to create an elevator in the House Area with a large box that the children used as a hiding spot. We turned it over from a long horizontal box, to a tall one that resembled an elevator. The morning we did this, the children were so excited to see something new in the House Area:

Natalia: “Buttons, buttons, buttons!”

Malea: “It’s like a rocket ship, ‘cause they got lots of buttons.”

Paul: “We’re gonna go inside and put all the kids in there!”  

Toby: “I’ve been interested in elevators for a while! The elevator... it had 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 buttons! It was in a hospital.”

In the House Area, children created buttons, signs, and even made their own rules for how many people were allowed inside. Teacher Andrea asked the children what kinds of materials they needed in order to make our elevator complete. Rosalie, Natalia, and Malena glued round clothing buttons onto paper in order to create elevator buttons! Some children drew circles and labeled them with numbers for each floor. We talked about how some buttons were for the different floors, and some were to tell the elevator to go “up” or “down.” Rosalie created a sign inside the elevator that read “Only 3 people at a time.”

Elevator Visits

As we had more conversations about elevators, we noticed how the children were so excited to share that they had used elevators in hotels, apartment buildings, in the doctor’s office, at the mall, and with their parents at work! We were able elaborate on these experiences by bringing them to more real elevators: one in our school hallway, and one in the Parkmerced Apartments. Our intention in bringing them to these places were for the children to expand their knowledge on what an elevator looks like, how they work, and how to make our classroom elevator look like the real thing!

Teacher Andrea took small groups each week to the elevator in our school hallway. We also took a special key with us to open the elevator door. Many of them noticed right away that this was different that other elevators that they had seen before (most elevators use buttons, not a key!). We spent some time observing the outside of the elevator, the inside with buttons, and the second floor elevator. The children noticed so many things:

Natalia: “I wonder if it’s a girl or a boy (referring to the ”In Case of Emergency, Use Stairs” sign).”

Malea: “I see a rectangle! What are those buttons on the outside?”
Daniel: “I see a star. Teacher, what’s the star mean?”
Natalia: “The star means #1 Elevator.”
Malea: “Hey, there’s the fire guy! (pointing at the “In Case of Emergency, Use Stairs” sign. What’s at the top floor?”

Toby: “Star 1 means it goes up!”

Sofia: “I’ve been to a real elevator at Macy’s. It was a stair elevator.”

Paul: “We can go to Knott’s Berry Farm and there’s a lot of floors there.”

Daisy: (after learning that our school only has 2 floors) “Then why is it so tall?!”

At Parkmerced, the children were able to sit in front of the two elevators on the lobby floor and create drawings of what they saw. Our intention for this visit was to focus on the special signs and buttons for firefighters and emergencies, how long it took to get from one floor to the other, and how the doors opened and closed. The doors were a significant part of our visit to the elevators because children were noticing that these doors did not swing like a regular door with a hinge and a handle, instead they slid open automatically. After our visit, children were able to create their own sliding door on the elevator in our class!

“What do you see at the Parkmerced Elevators?”
March 20, 2015
Natalia: There’s 5 buttons.

Ethan: The buttons inside the elevator… there’s like a hotel!

Patrick: A lot of button. 8 Buttons.

Toby: The numbers are changing when it goes up and down!

Sofia: There’s a star.

Ian: There’s a map!

Daisy: I see that picture, those people, a horse, hello!

Malea: Why does the elevator open and close?

Our elevator project has given the children many opportunities to practice skills in writing, math and critical thinking. They have been practicing fine motor by making signs and observational drawings of the elevators they’ve seen. They have also been able to practice counting by looking at the buttons and floors of elevator. Lastly, the children have exercised their critical thinking skills by asking “How does this elevator work?” In the next coming weeks, we plan to use pulleys and rope to further children’s understanding of how elevators go up and down. We also plan to highlight and add an emergency alarm into our classroom elevator.

When young children are involved in exploration and discovery, they are enthusiastic and motivated. A constructivist classroom allows children to gather information through their senses and make hypotheses, test predictions, and discuss results. This is how children gain knowledge. New knowledge leads to further action and action produces greater energy. This cycle continues to repeat. It is the collaborative unearthing of knowledge that keeps children, teachers, and classroom settings creatively alive and exciting... When something is required to be taught, it should be related to real life experiences. This keeps all of us joyfully interacting to find solutions and looking forward to what the next pursuit of knowledge will bring.”


Miles Ed.D, S. (2008, January 1). Exploration and Discovery! Creating an Enthusiastic, Exciting Classroom. Retrieved March 31, 2015, from

Building a Classroom Mailbox
March 19, 2015-March 30, 2015

As we have been opening packages sent to the school, we are left with many large and small boxes.  After a couple of weeks of children sending mail out to family and friends, the idea to build a classroom mailbox quickly circulated.  Using a box from a package the classroom received, we started to construct a mailbox.  Our intention was to recreate the blue mailbox the children visited previously, in order to use a realistic prop in their play and continue to practice the process of mail.  We plan to assign a “Mail Carrier of the Day” to carry out the process of sending mail and giving everyone the opportunity to collect, sort, and deliver the mail.
The children started by observing pictures from their walking field trip to a nearby blue mailbox.  They talked about the shape, the colors, the writing on the sides, and necessary components such as a slot to put mail in, a lock, and a door in the back.  On the first day of constructing the mailbox, a group of children covered the entire box in blue paint.  Once it was dry they added the eagle on the side, and a couple smaller details they noticed in the pictures.  

Evelyn: “Teacher I draw a square."
Brandon: “I drawed a line!”

Each child added their own details and shared ideas about what else they could do to make it look just like the one we visited.  As we were painting, Ayush and Chloe talked with Teacher Nicole about how to create new colors with the ones they were using.

Ayush: “Teacher, what happens when you mix red and black?”

Teacher: “What do you think?”

Ayush: “Yellow?”

Teacher: “Let’s try and find out.”

Chloe: “Black and red make purple!”

Ayush: “Purple?! That’s silly…”

This conversation was a wonderful example of how this activity fostered the children’s learning in an unexpected way.  “In the preschool classroom or in the university re- search laboratory, science is an active and open-ended search for new knowledge. It involves people working together in building theories, testing those theories, and then evaluating what worked, what didn’t, and why.”  Asking questions and experimenting allows the children to work together and continue to discover.
Having been out for a couple of days, the mailbox has already received mail from various children excited to send more mail.  It will be an important addition to our classroom and give the children more options in their play.  They will be able to access the mailbox on their own without having to wait for a day we can walk as a group to the blue mailbox near our school.
Conezio, Kathleen, and Lucia French. "Capitalizing on Children's Fascination with the Everyday Word to Foster Language and Literacy Development." Teaching and Learning about Science. Science in the Preschool Classroom (2002): 12-18. Print.

                         Quotes From Building the Mailbox
Teacher: “How can we make it a mailbox?”
Colin: “Glue.”
Mackenzie: “We can cut it out into a mailbox.”
Brandon: “Grey.”
Teacher: “What color should it be?”
Brandon: “Blue, grey, and white.”
Kaylin: “We drawl it.”
Mackenzie: “We cut it out and paint it!”
Colin: “So we can make a mailbox.”
Brandon: “Maybe Julian can paint it.”

Teacher: “Why do we have a mailbox in our classroom?”
Grace: “So we can put mail in there.”

Teacher: “Where will it go?”
Ariana: “It will disappear!  To San Francisco, but not the real San Francisco.”

Julian’s Special Package
March 27, 2015
During our last two visits from our friend Julian the mailman, one child in particular asked each time “Can you send ducks in the mail?”  This question seemed a little silly to some friends but Julian answered both times explaining that we can send ducks in the mail, we just have to send them in a box with holes and labeled in a particular way.
On Friday we received a very special package.  The box looked different from any other that we have seen and talked about.  We placed the package in the center at group time as the children sat in a circle around it.  They each took a turn to examine the box and talk about what they saw.  Many common observations were, “There’s holes in the box” and “It has ribbon”.  On the bottom of the box were two envelopes.  We opened the one labeled, “Utopia Students” and it read, “Dear Class, This is how we send ducks thru the mail.  Your Friend, Julian”.
We then opened the package to find thirty paper cranes.  Each child received a different colored paper crane, when the children pulled on a part of the crane, the wings moved.  Everyone was very excited about this special package and letter from Julian.
The child that had asked about ducks originally was very excited to see the packaging and learn about how we can send ducks in the mail.  Julian’s efforts showed this child that his question was an entirely valid question and it is important to explore what we are curious about.  When he raised his hand and asked his important question to the class, it took a lot of confidence and when the other children thought it was silly he could have been easily discouraged.  This special package shows how important everyone’s interest is and ways that we can learn.

“Researchers and practitioners have described key social-emotional skills that children need as they enter school, including self-confidence, the capacity to develop positive relationships with peers and adults, concentration and persistence on challenging tasks, an ability to effectively communicate emotions, an ability to listen to instructions and be attentive, and skills in solving social problems (Bowman, Donovan, Burns et al., 2000; Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). These competencies are considered critical to children's success as they transition into school.”

Experiences such as this demonstrate the importance in taking every child’s question and exploring what they are curious about.  Their thoughts and ideas are valid and they have every right to be able to learn about what they are interested in.  As teachers, we want to give them every opportunity to gain these skills and become stronger in their emotional development.
We are very thankful for Julian’s generous gift, and some of the children have already written and drawn thank you cards to send in the mail to Julian.  Thank you Julian!
Hemmeter, Mary Louise, Michaelene Ostrosky, and Lise Fox. "Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning: A Conceptual Model for Intervention." School Psychology Review 35.4 (2006). Print.

                                                        Mail From Julian!

March 18, 2015
Julian, the mailman, brought attention to our new mailboxes by bringing in mail for each child and having them help sort and distribute envelopes according to colors and letters. Several children had written and addressed mail for loved ones which they gave to Julian to send.  Most of the children in the group are able to properly address an envelope and are becoming more familiar with the process of sending and receiving mail.
Several children assisted Julian in delivering the mail to their friends’ mailboxes by finding their name and placing the envelopes in the slots.  This was great practice in letter recognition!  As our mail project has gone on, the children have been referring to the mailboxes to correctly spell their friend’s name and deliver to the person they choose.
This kind gesture from our new friend Julian gave every child the opportunity to experience receiving mail.  Through the process of sorting, writing, delivering, and talking about mail, we have integrated math, science, and writing into our project.  According to a journal article by Tsunghui Tu, “Experiences in science provide opportunities for young children to develop an appreciation and awareness of the world around them and develop science through inquiry skills, such as “wondering, questioning, exploring and investigating, discussing, reflecting, and formulating ideas and theories.””
This activity was a fun way to integrate all of these important factors.  Our intention for inviting Julian in to visit our class was for the children to have an understanding of the process of mail and be able to ask their important questions to an actual mail carrier.  In the process of Julian visiting, we developed a friendship with him and now the children send him mail when they have questions or just want to send him a picture.  He has responded to the children, validating their efforts and answering their many questions. We are extremely grateful to have made this connection and look forward to providing many more wonderful learning experiences.

Tu, Tsunghui. "Preschool Science Environment: What Is Available in a Preschool Classroom?" Early Childhood Education Journal 33.4 (2006): 245. Print.

Classroom Mailboxes
March 9, 2015-March 30, 2015

After two field trips to the blue mailbox up the street from our school and a visit from our friendly mailman Julian, the children were eager to continue our mail project.  The next step we took was creating individual mailboxes in the classroom where the children could check daily to see what friends and family have sent them.  This experience was exciting from the beginning and encouraged them to write more mail.  Each child wrote their own name that would designate their personal mailbox.  Practicing writing in this activity was important as it would be posted in the classroom and their friends would use it to find their mailbox.
Several of the children sent family members mail, which they addressed properly, put a stamp on, and either gave to Julian or walked with a small group to the blue mailbox to send.  This past week, those children have received mail in response to their letters.  During group time we looked at their mailboxes and those children took out their mail with excitement and opened it to share.  Teacher Rachelle read aloud the letters and cards.  Some cards had pictures, others were handwritten or typed, and they each came in different types of envelopes.  We talked as a group about how each one looked, what we noticed, and compared them with what we have been using at school.
Our intention is to create an environment where the children can explore through their play using actual materials and processes used in the Post office and by postal workers.  We believe giving them this opportunity allows for their curiosity to lead them in their learning and expand from what they already know and gain through these new experiences.  According to the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), “Play is the way children can learn what it is like to be an adult as they try on adult roles.  Play is the most important way that young children learn”.  The article talks about how children have a right to play, “It expands children’s creativity.  It provides practice of adult roles. Play is motivating. Free play allows children time to investigate, think, socialize, question, and problem solve without judgment from adults”.
We will continue to encourage the children to explore and play in this project.  In support of their curiosity and interest we will add materials and experiences.  The next step we are taking is to create a blue mailbox for our classroom! 

Adamson-Kain, Stefanie. "Children Need and Have a Right to Play." Young Children. NAEYC, 2014. Print.