Thursday, February 18, 2016

Professional Development Day
February 9, 2016
On Friday, February 5th, 2016 Utopia Preschool closed so that all our staff could attend a professional development day at Our Lady of Mercy. It was a day of reflection, intellect, and team building among Utopia teachers and other staff members from Catholic preschools in San Francisco, the North Bay, and Peninsula.
Our keynote speaker was Dr. Joe Gumina, a clinical Psychologist who works with children, teens, and families at the CPMC Kalmanovitz Child Development Center. Some of the key points he discussed focused on building resilience in children so this skill can continue on into adulthood.  Resilience is defined as, “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.”( All people deal with some kind of stress, some stress can be beneficial. We want children at Utopia to be able to deal with age appropriate difficult/stressful situations and learn effective tools and strategies to cope with these situations. Developmental stress leads to mastery and skills are refined over time during times of adversity.
Another key point he highlighted is a strategy that we discuss often at Utopia: “Make comments about effort and approximations more than comments about qualities or accomplishments.” It is beneficial for children (and adults) to hear that we value all the effort they are putting into something rather than just hearing, “good job” or “that’s pretty”.
After the keynote speaker, we each attended two mini workshop sessions. I asked each teacher to share with us a couple of sentences about something they enjoyed or stood out to them during the workshops. This is what they said:
“One of the workshops I attended during our Professional Development Day focused on sensory processing and young children. The presenter, a pediatric occupational therapist, highlighted that we often see challenging behaviors (biting, tantrums, wiggling/movement, withdrawal, etc.) in children that have difficulty processing sensory input in their environment. Furthermore, she suggested that there are some relatively simple modifications that we can make in our classroom to provide organizing inputs for young brains. For example, she suggested that we have weighted blankets accessible in our classroom for children that need deep pressure input. The suggestions that she provided will benefit all children in our classroom, especially children that might have challenges with sensory processing. Overall the workshop was very helpful and provided concrete ideas to support the children and teachers in our classroom.” Rachelle
“I thought the trainings were helpful and refreshing. The fine motor training was helpful because it reminded me of some techniques to use with children who are developing and strengthening their fine motor skills. This training also gave me new activities to use in the classroom such as pop beads, putty, and different kinds of pencil grasps. The keynote speaker reinforced some of the techniques we use when interacting with the children throughout the day. His presentation was also helpful because he explained why these techniques work and suggestions on how to implement them.” Stephanie
“I was very moved by the keynote speaker, Dr. Joseph Gumina. He had us think about the struggles that children go through in the classroom as "a child's best attempt to be well." As teachers, we need to view challenges in the classroom as an opportunity for children to learn and develop resiliency. This means providing them with the love and support they need to work through the problems they face right now, in order for them to confidently approach the challenging new experiences they'll go through as they grow up.” Andrea
“As the keynote speaker at our professional development day, Joseph Gumina asserted the importance that teachers be responsive to their students. This can contribute to more agency and, in turn, foster resilience. Julia Harris spoke about how to be aware of a child's level of sensory processing development. Ms. Harris stressed that the teacher should be attuned to their students' coordination and motor skills. She also presented different toys and writing tools to help meet certain goals in these areas.” Lily

“One of the workshops I attended was called "Connecting Young Children to the Natural World" which gave me lots of fun ideas to use without students to connect them more with nature.  There is so much opportunity to explore that outside of our classroom and even bring some of it inside for further learning.  I learned how important it is to be aware of yourself in nature before you start to teach children about it.  For example when we are out on nature walks, picking up trash we see and making sure to talk about what it does to the environment.  They watch how you treat nature and start to follow this example.  We can also become more aware of the wildlife that is around our school, for example the hummingbirds and squirrels that we see daily! I am so excited to use these new ideas inside and outside of our classroom and bring the children closer to nature!” Nicole
We truly valued our professional development day. This day gave us an opportunity to build on our knowledge together and with other preschool educators. Although we are all at different stages of our teaching careers we all gained new strategies, tools, and information we could use in the classroom.
-Michelle Ovando

Introduction to Cookbooks

In the short time the children have been working with playdough we have directed our focus to baking. The children have been showing a lot of excitement when using playdough to bake food and working together as they do so. At the playdough table, they have been using some utensils from the classroom such as spoons, knives, forks, and rolling pins. I wanted to give them a chance to explore other items used for baking so I  also added some spatulas and baking sheets to encourage explorations of new tools. When I introduced the spatulas, some children recalled seeing them at home and used them to mix the “ingredients”. After having a few weeks to explore playdough and have conversations about past experiences with baking, I noticed the children starting to have more discussions about using different ingredients, baking food in the oven, and what foods they’ve helped bake. Amanda shared “I help my mommy pour inside the vanilla for toast!” Alayna mentioned “We just go to the store, get some cookie cutters, and put some frosting. Put some sprinkles. Put in the oven!”

I wanted to support these interactions, so decided to add cookbooks to guide their creations. I intentionally added cupcake and pie cookbooks because these seemed to be the foods most children were interested in baking. I also thought that the pictures in the books would be interesting to the children because they had pictures to show some of the steps and the final products.  My intention for adding the cookbooks was also to see if they would act as a support for showing the process of creating the foods they were interested in baking. I noticed that children were familiar with using some common ingredients used while baking and that most of the foods need to be baked in the oven. I thought the cookbooks would be a good reference to introduce new and familiar ingredients as well as some of the tools and steps used to make these foods.
When I first introduced the cookbooks most children gravitated to the cupcake book and a few others were interested in the pie book. They eagerly went through the pages pointing at all the cupcakes and pies they wanted to make. I was interested to see what they would do without intervening so at first I just observed. Angelina found a picture of a cupcake and used a spatula to flatten multiple pieces of playdough. She then stacked the pieces and rolled out tiny balls to use as sprinkles for her cupcake. Evelyn found a picture in the pie book of a woman using a rolling pin to flatten pie crust. She then found a rolling pin on the table and began rolling out her playdough. As she rolled out her playdough, I asked “What are you working on?” Evelyn replied “You go like this. Take a piece of playdough. You roll like this. Now get some more playdough. You go in half like this. Now we can roll the other side.” She continued to work on the crust and frequently looked back at the pictures as she did so. Although they weren’t initially interested in the ingredients used while baking, they did seem interested in the process. As we continue to use the cookbooks at the playdough table, I will continue to encourage children to become more familiar with the ingredients and steps in baking.
After adding the cookbooks I definitely noticed the children’s excitement rise to a whole new level. They were inspired by the pictures and began to show what knowledge they have about baking. Evelyn shared “You hurt your hand. You need gloves.” as she put her pie in the “oven”. As the children become more familiar with the cookbooks, we will discover new pictures and continue to discuss what they are noticing. We will also continue to refer to the recipes next to the pictures to expose the children to more ingredients and steps used while baking.
Research states “By exploring playdough in various ways and using it to create symbolic representations, children make connections between their immediate environments and the larger world in which they live. The playdough table allows them to experiment with different approaches to learning, practice needed to process information in diverse ways, and explore many subjects that they will encounter later in school.” (

When the children create representations of various foods, they are typically drawn to foods they have seen before or foods the like to eat. They often verbally share their experiences with one another, as well as non-verbally when they use playdough to recreate a specific food. When they are inspired to create specific foods from the pictures in the cookbooks, the children are able to remain focused, pay attention to detail, and comprehend specific characteristics (shape, length, etc.)  of the food through hands-on experience. This is also a time for the children to compare and contrast playdough versus real food.
Documented by Stephanie Vorrises
Exploring with Water and Pipettes!
January 25-29, 2016

The afternoon group has been showing interest in water play and other sensory activities, such as playdough and floam. Teacher Nicole decided to create an activity where they could play with water and introduce water colors with pipettes! Each child had their own container of water and their own pipette to use.  Two children would share a container holding 4 different colors. The intention was for each child to have their own space to explore while sharing the materials, opening the activity up to working together and sharing some materials. This gave each child a defined space to choose how they would like to use the colors as well as learning to share colors and how much they have. The children were very engaged, putting their hands and arms into the tubs and talking about everything that they were doing and seeing others do. They used the pipettes to drop different water colors into their tubs and see what reactions occurred.  While some chose to drop a small amount in, others chose to put a lot of color.  Laurent and Caira decided to mix their colors using their pipettes while Sophia and Amanda chose to watch each drop and add more in different spots.
Laurent: “Mine black.”
Teacher Nicole: “How did you get black?”
Laurent: “Mix all the colors.”

Sophia: “Teacher look, I putting the colors.”
Caira: “Mix yours Sophia! I’m mixing mine! I use green!”

As they started to see the colors mix together they talked about what it was making and how they were all different.  Some chose to mix all the colors and found that it made black!  Others mixed only specific colors to create one solid color in the entire tub.  

Sophia: “How is it brown?! The color turned brown! Look teacher, when I put that one and that one, look what happens! It turn light blue.”
Caira: “Let’s see when you stir it!”
Sophia: “Look at this color I made!
Teacher Nicole: “What color is it?”
Sophia: “What color is it Amanda?”
Amanda: “Turquoise.”
The children started to be able to predict what colors it would make when they mixed two. We talked about what else we could add to the water and looked around the room to see what else we could use.  Teacher Nicole brought out some green soap that we use outside when playing with water.  Adding soap gave the group a chance to investigate what could happen and watch the reaction in their play. The soap had a green color to it, which they thought would be the change we were looking for, but to their excitement and surprise bubbles started to pop up in each of their tubs!  

Amanda: “Look bubbles! When I mix with blue, blue bubbles! Now it’s red! Now it’s purple!”

As they added more colors on top of the bubbles, they would turn that color which made for beautiful trays of water and bubbles!  Our intention with this activity was to give the children the opportunity to play with water and different materials and practice skills in the process.  They practiced their pinch grip while using the pipettes, as this is very important for strengthening the muscles in their hand they will use in writing.  They also practiced their color recognition as well as the scientific process of predicting what will happen, watching reactions, and discussing the results after adding colors and soap to their water.  

Water play provides the children with a fun and relaxing way to enjoy themselves as well as time with their friends.  Even those who may like to focus on a specific activity can find pleasure in this as they are learning and socializing with others.  In an article focused on water play, it says:

“Throughout history people have socialized at the sources of their water supply.  Socializing in all of its forms occurs for children, too, when water play is provided.  Talking, sharing, laughing, and touching are some of the good, exciting experiences shared by them as they play.  As in other types of social play the topic of conversation does not necessarily center around the activity but can be a time for sharing other experiences.”

We will continue this activity in a variety of ways, asking the children what else we can add that might change in the water.  We can also share their findings through drawings and writing about them or dictating stories about what they did.  Continuing this exploration will encourage them to keep asking questions and testing out what they would like to know through experimentation.  Seeing their excitement about changes and using new materials is so fun!  They are able to communicate to their friends and teachers what they are doing and what is happening when mixing in new liquids.  This activity has been great for the afternoon group because children that aren’t usually interested in sensory experiences have thrown on an apron and dove right in!  Opening up this area of learning provides a wide array of opportunities for them and they have all the influence to take it new directions.  We look forward to more water fun!


EGGLESTON, PATRICIA J., and MARY KNOX WEIR. “Water Play for Preschoolers”. Young Children 31.1 (1975): 5–11. Web
Documented by Nicole Porter

Final Construction Phase
January 25-29, 2016

After several months of the construction process, we have decided to come to the conclusion of our project and begin to move toward playing with and displaying their hard work for friends and family to come see and learn about.  In  the final week of construction in the Block Area, there have been many new creations!  As we have collected more materials, the children are starting to add new details to their existing buildings such as chimneys, tables, and doors.  The conversations as they are building have now started to include talking to the other children about what they are building and what they may need.
Patrick: “What Lolo make?”
Laurent: “A Police Station Party.”
Patrick: “Why Lolo uses so many stickers?”
Laurent: “It a party.”
Patrick: “I think he needs some light in there.”
Laurent: “It no need light.”

They are also starting to recall what their friends had talked about days before while building.  For example, Roman and Toby were talking about what Toby was making, a Church, and when Toby had changed his mind a few days later to make it into a Cafe, Roman gave him lots of ideas about what he could do and how it can look similar to a Church because it has doors and windows. “Look, this can be the window! Lots of windows!” (Roman).
As they are finishing their work, they are now thinking about names for their buildings and making sure to have it labeled on the outside so that their friends and family can read what they have made.  Some have also been talking about making a story about their building and what people can do in it.  This is a great opportunity for them to practice writing, storytelling, recalling, and using the new vocabulary they have learned throughout this process as they describe in more detail.
The intention with finalizing the building process this week is to encourage the children to finish their projects and think more about what they are making and how they would like it to look.  They then will be able to start incorporating what buildings they have made into their play.  They have spent a lot of time on this project and are very proud of their work.  It is so important that they be given the opportunity to play with their buildings because this part of the project approach gives them the power to give meaning to their work.  In an article about Reggio Emilia and The Project Approach it says:

“In the course of a project, for example on a topic such as “How houses are built,” children explore the phenomena first-hand and in detail over an extended period of time.  The activities of the children include direct observation, asking questions of relevant participants and experts, collecting pertinent artifacts, and representing observations, ideas, memories, feelings, imaginings, and new understandings in a wide variety of ways including dramatic play.  Most preschoolers—at least at age 3 or 4—are not yet easily able to represent their observations, thoughts and new knowledge in writing.  They may, of course, dictate their thoughts and observations to others who can write for them.”

As we have been actively engaged in this project for several months the children have asked many questions and explored all sorts of methods of discovering the answers.  In closing this project we look back at the changes the children have made in their building process as well as their approach to learning now.  They may start to investigate independently or with friends rather than looking to others for answers.  They are able to do more challenging tasks independently, mostly when manipulating materials such as cardboard, scissors, pipe cleaner, and tape!  Watching these skills develop and grow is so much fun and this project has provided endless learning moments!


Edwards, Carolyn P., Lella Gandini, and George E. Forman. The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach--advanced Reflections. Greenwich, CT: Ablex Pub., 1998. Print.

Documented by Nicole Porter

Continuing to Explore Playdough
January 19, 2016 - January 29, 2016

After reflecting on the children’s play from the past week, I realized I still would like to observe what the children’s interests are with the playdough. I noticed the children were not interested in the toys I had added to the table, and instead brought their own ideas and toys to add to the playdough. All of the children are still experimenting with how the dough feels and how to manipulate it, as well as using it to make representations based on experiences they have had outside of the classroom. I would like to further observe what the children know about using playdough, and what creations interest them. A common theme I am still noticing is the children cooking and baking with the dough, however this week, I did not add any food toys to the playdough table.  I chose to do this because adding toys to the table on previous days didn’t seem to grab the children’s interest. All we kept on the table was baking sheets, and a variety of spatulas and cooking utensils that the children had been using the previous days. I watched as the children brought their own choices of toys to play with at the the table:

Gia: (using colored animals wrapped inside the playdough) I’m making a egg surprise! I see orange… it must be a shark in there!

Sophia: (using spatula and playdough molds) I made cookies for my happy birthday! Look at the shape of this, it’s a flower.

Reilly: I’m making cupcakes. First I get the scissors… This is the banana slug. He has no face or eyes.

Ellie: (using the spatula to “spread butter” on a pancake) I have to make it flat first. You have to smoosh it, then the flavor go inside.

Perry: (patting playdough with rolling pin) This is a pizza!

Gianna: I made a pancake. I wanted to make a waffle but I couldn’t make squares so I made tiny dots (using her finger).

Ellie: (brought Mr. Potato Head toys to the table) Mr. Potato Head needs a dress out of playdough! (wraps toy in playdough)

Mason: (using lego tigers) They’re watching Guardians of the Galaxy on this TV (made of playdough)

An article by Jeanne Goldhaber states, “Playdough is the perfect medium for creating, observing, and thinking about change. Children learn about the properties of playdough through their initial fingering, poking and squeezing. They learn that it’s malleable, smooth to the touch. Now that they “know” playdough, children can begin to change it, transform it.”  As I observed the children at the table, I noticed that playing with the dough gave the children the opportunity to dictate their ideas, their thoughts, and their experiences. The children were telling me, their friends, or sometimes to themselves, talking about what they were doing  as they touched and felt the dough. I noticed that by not adding food toys, the children’s play was more open ended. The children were still interested in making food and other representations, using their own toys they chose independently to the table. This showed me that the children feel free to use the playdough in their own way, as well as tells me that they still find interest in the dough.

In the future I would like to ask the children more direct questions about what they know about the playdough and how they use it. I also want to show the children photos of themselves using the playdough in order for them to revisit some of the things they have created. In doing this, we can talk about the different steps they took in order to create their representations, which supports children’s understanding of cause and effect, persistence, and problem solving.

Goldhaber, J. 1992. Sticky to dry; red to purple: Exploring transformation with playdough. Young Children 48 (1): 26-28.
Documented by Andrea Posadas


As the children adjust back to school after the break, they have been showing a strong interest in working with playdough! Many children have had experience with playdough before, but this activity has also caught the attention of some new children who have recently joined our class. Playdough is a great activity for children to use their imagination and create almost anything from shapes, to foods, or familiar objects such as animals or people. It is also a great way for children to collaborate both verbally and nonverbally through their creations.

 My intention for bringing out the playdough was to see if they were going to be more interested in exploring the texture of the playdough and how to mold it or if they would create with specific intentions, such as rolling balls to create a snowman or using the cupcake tin to make cupcakes. At first, children were recalling how playdough feels, how to mold it, and create a variety of shapes.
Angelina shared “It’s like bubblegum! It feel like bubblegum.
After a few minutes of becoming acquainted with the playdough children began rolling, squishing, and cutting the playdough using a variety of tools. Some children created detailed princesses rolling out long strands to make a braid or by squeezing and cutting the playdough to resemble the body of a mermaid. Other children began “baking” and creating a variety of foods by using the rolling pins, molds, scissors, knives, and spoons.
While making some of the food, Alayna had the idea of baking a cake for a party. Toby and Reilly quickly joined in. Reilly explained “I’m cutting sprinkles for the cake!” Toby joined in “I’m making more sprinkles. Those are quarters of cake!” They all seemed so excited about making the cakes, I decided to ask what food they used to make the cake.
Alayna responded “strawberries, blueberries, raspberries!” Other children responded with different fruits as well. I wanted to see if they’ve had any experience using some of the actual ingredients used when baking a cake so I mentioned “When I bake a cake I use milk, eggs, and flour.”
I then went into the house area and brought back some “milk” to share with the children. Alayna then went into the house area and brought back a flower to the playdough table. I explained to her that there is a different kind of flour used for cooking and brought some out for Toby, Alayna, and Reilly to sprinkle on their cakes. All three children were eager to add the flour to their cakes and asked to have more! I brought the real flour out to show them what it looks like how it feels. I also wanted to see if it would spark any conversations about past experiences with flour or baking.
The children were so excited about using the flour that they were more interested in sprinkling it on top of their cakes and sharing the   flour between the group. Although I wasn’t able to find out what experience some children may have with baking, I will continue to investigate this over the next couple of weeks.
As we continue to offer playdough to the children, I will  observe and interact with them to see if they are interested in pursuing more activities related to baking or cooking. I’m curious to find out what about baking and cooking is intriguing to the children. Are they interested in it because a family member at home cooks often? Or are they interested in the cooking/baking process of combining ingredients to create a final product. I feel that most children are interested in using the playdough as food because they encounter it daily and have had experience with either observing someone cook or have had the opportunity to assist with cooking.  To support this rising interest, I will offer new materials to the play dough such as cooking utensils, baking pans, and/or ask the children if they have any ideas of what we could add.
Research states, “Playdough play at home or school supports development and learning in many areas. When children use playdough, they explore ideas and try different approaches until they find one that works. They compare and contrast objects ("Mine’s a fat pancake and yours is skinny”), actions ("No, don’t cut it! Scrape it, like this”), and experiences ("We’re not making a snake—we’re making a road”). In their experimenting, children come up with their own ideas, satisfy their curiosity, and analyze and solve problems. These are all skills that help children learn and succeed in school.” (
As the children sculpt the playdough to create and “cook” foods, they are also working on developing a range of skills. They observe one another and learn new techniques. They also strengthen verbal skills when sharing their ideas about what they’re working on or if they’re asking for a specific tool/item. Over time, the children also become more knowledgeable as they recreate the same foods and add more detail.

Documented by Stephanie Vorrises

Exploring Playdough and Food
January 12, 2016 - January 15, 2016
This week, Mason’s family brought in lots of homemade Playdough to share with our class! The playdough was in a variety of rainbow colors, including red, yellow, green, blue and purple. The children were very excited to see playdough in so many colors and were attracted to the table immediately. The Playdough table has been an exciting way for both new and experienced children in our classroom to strengthen skills such as fine motor, comparing and contrasting, creativity and dramatic play. Mornings at the Playdough table have been filled with conversation and thoughtful observations from the children. A common theme I noticed was food! Using the muffin tins, rolling pins, spoons, bowls, and food-shaped molds, I observed that many of them found an interest in the way food is prepared, how it is shaped, and different flavors.

Reilly: I’m making cupcakes… all done! Put them in the oven (under the table)… I got my mittens on, it’s cool now!

Ellie: Here’s your ice cream. It’s strawberry... If you smoosh it like that it gets flat.

Perry: Now I’m making a pancake (Flips a flat piece of playdough in a cup).

Amaris: I’m making strawberry cupcakes. I put it in the refrigerator.
Gianna: (After seeing a “donut” the teacher made as well as a donut toy on the table, Gianna makes her own donut by rolling a long piece in her hands and connecting the two ends together)

Jackson: Tada! A bowling ball! This one a pizza, pepperoni pizza!

On Wednesday, I added some of the food toys on the Playdough table to see what the children would do with them. I took a donut, cupcake, pizza, and ice cream toy from the House Area, all types of food I had noticed the children making the previous days. I expected them to use the food as a guide to make more detailed shaped creations, however I found that most of them used the playdough to cover the toys by “hiding them,” and to make them “bigger.” My intention for adding the food toys was to provide examples of what real food looks like, as well as to spark the children’s ideas about how food is prepared. Gia covered a small rabbit in playdough calling it an “egg surprise. She also covered a donut toy in playdough and said she was “hiding it.” Mason brought over some animal toys and added tails and “clothes” to them. I would like to research more about why children are interested in hiding and covering the toys in dough.

Other children used the playdough to make familiar foods: Sophia made a chicken burrito, while Mairead made a hotdog, and Jackson made a pizza. Gianna, spent a lot of time at the table making an ice cream, while carefully looking at an ice cream toy. As she manipulated the dough, she explained to me, “We can just roll into a little ball (the cone), and then make a little line (a line she noticed on the cone). To make the ice cream, she noticed, “A Christmas tree is the same shape as this ice cream!”

Next week, I would like to continue to add certain foods toys to the table, as well as kitchen toys such as the frying pan, pots and utensils, to see how the children’s play would be changed, as well as ask the children what other tools they would like to add to the table. I would also like to see if creating food out of playdough could be an extension to the Restaurant Project that we completed last semester. An article from the National Association for the Education of Young Children states, “With playdough, young children express their ideas through art and make-believe play. At the same time they learn symbolic thinking by pretending that the playdough is something else.” Symbolic thinking is how we use images, words, objects, symbols, and gestures to represent something else. As children are manipulating the dough with their hands and tools, they are using symbolic thought as a way to use the dough as a means of expression and thought.
Documented by Andrea Posadas

Open-ended Art Materials
Since returning from Christmas break, the children have been actively exploring the classroom materials and environment. As a means of inviting them to explore the art area, I decided to display some new, colorful, open-ended art materials including colored popsicle sticks, cotton balls, multi-colored pipe cleaners, tape and glue. The new items were displayed on the shelves and several children were immediately attracted to them. My intention with providing new, open-ended materials was to allow the children to create three-dimensional representations of their ideas and interests. I wasn’t sure if the children would be interested in the new materials, but I hoped that they would find the items appealing and thought provoking.

The first morning, Amanda went to the art area and mentioned, “These are new! We’ve never had rainbow popsicle sticks before.”  She immediately sat at the table and created an airplane made of colored popsicle sticks and tape! Shortly thereafter, she started flying her airplane around the classroom and other children began to notice her creation. Several other children were intrigued by her creation and followed her lead in creating popsicle stick airplanes. I was surprised that the children created airplanes, as this idea hadn’t occurred to me when I set out the popsicle sticks. The children seemed excited about the new materials and began creating a wide variety of other items using varying materials. James later approached the table and started using the tape and popsicle sticks to create a butterfly. James and Russell started discussing butterflies while James worked thoughtfully on his creation:
Russell: “The butterflies have 300,500 teeth that they eat with. They have teeth on their tongue like banana slugs.”
James: “They don’t eat with their teeth. They eat with their burgers silly.”
Rachelle: “Where are the burgers?”
James: “In his nose you know? Burgers. I make a small butterfly. Only the butterfly can fly. Not snails.”
James continued creating his butterfly using tape and popsicle sticks and other children joined him at the table. I was excited by how many children came to the table and how much variety there was in their use of the materials! Many of the children described their creations:
Gabriel: “I made a boat. No, no, no. It’s a hoop. And this is Stephen Curry.”
Paul: “I made a police helicopter. It’s for my dad. Anyone need more tape? I’m good at ripping tape. My dad says I’m a really good man. You need more tape Gianna? I’m good at giving tape.”
Gia: “I’m making a helicopter.”
Rachelle: “Have you ever seen a helicopter before?”
Gia: “Yes, I’ve been to Hawaii.”
Rachelle: “Did you ride in the helicopter?”
Gia: “Yeah! It was fun. I wasn’t scared.”
Mason: “I made a surfboard. I made flames on the back.”
Gianna: “I’m making a sword.”
Sophia: “I made a shark fish.”
Amanda: “I’m going to make a stripey fish with only purple. This one’s eyes blend in with the lines so other fish can’t see it. Also fish can be little sharks when they’re born in eggs.”
Allowing the children to explore and utilize open-ended materials to create art allows for critical thinking, creativity and problem solving skills while also supporting fine motor skills. According to the article Promoting Creativity for Life Using Open-Ended Materials written by Walter F. Drew and Baji Rankin, When children play with open-ended materials, they explore the look and feel of the materials. They develop a sense of aesthetics by investigating what is beautiful and pleasing about the material. The wide variety of forms of different kinds of materials, along with suggestions of things to do and to look at, flows over into artistic and scientific creation. These experiences naturally lead to conversations among children that they can write or draw about or make into books or other literacy or science experiences. Play helps children develop a meaningful understanding of subject matter.”
Thus far, the children have shown interest in representing their past experiences or specific personal interests with the open-ended materials. Many of their creations reflect their knowledge about the world around them (banana slugs, helicopters, Stephen Curry, etc).  I plan to continue to observe the children while they explore these open-ended materials and engage them in conversations about what other types of materials they would like to use. I am excited to watch their creativity emerge and explore their ideas using three-dimensional materials. I anticipate that their creations will become more detailed and have already noticed that they have started to use markers and paint to add more dimension and detail to their work.
Documented by Rachelle Frantz

Visiting Houses Around Our School
January 14, 2016

A small group of children and teachers took a walking field trip over to the new houses being built on Brotherhood Way to take a closer look at what they look like and observe all their different parts.  As many children have been working hard on our city in the Block Area, some have made some beautiful houses out of large boxes.  This was a great opportunity to get an up close look at what some different houses look like and talk about what we see.  Along the way we saw a couple of churches, many cars, plants, and people working.
  While walking over to the houses there was so much to see!
Roman: “A park! Teacher a park!”
Toby: “A Church! A lot of houses!”
Amanda: “A mailbox! There’s a lot of them!”
Toby: “96!” (number on a mailbox)
Amanda: “73!” (number on a mailbox)

As we got closer to the houses there were construction workers in various vehicles such as a golf cart, trucks, cranes, vans, and some walking with wheel barrels.  There were all sorts of tools and tool boxes on the ground and fences to keep us out of the dangerous areas.  We got to sit and watch as a construction worker went all the way up to the roof in a crane and was working on the house.

Kaylee: “I see a guy going up!”
Amanda: “I see a construction guy on a machine!”
Teacher Nicole: “What is he doing?”
Amanda: “Fixing.”

Once we had looked around and talked about what we saw, we found a spot to sit and draw what we learned and were looking at.  Everyone had their own piece of paper and markers and drew detailed drawings including windows, doors, addresses, construction men and the crane.  Laurent decided he would draw the Church we could see from where we were sitting, located across the street.  They talked about what colors they would need and how to draw certain things.  When drawing windows, they talked about how it’s a square and a door is a rectangle.  It was exciting to see them talking to one another and thinking about how to correctly draw what they were observing.
My intention with this field trip was to strengthen the children’s original interest in building and give them more opportunity to observe various buildings together.  Having this common experience brought them together and allowed them to have conversations about what they were noticing and talk about what they know.  For example, we learned that the group didn’t know that the numbers on the houses were called an “address”.  They each had an idea of what it could be for, but were unsure on why they were there and what it was called.  Field trips are very valuable to children’s learning, and it is important that when we see they are interested in a topic, we provide these opportunities and allow them to explore it in all different ways.

“Trips provide children with first-hand experiences using scientific strategies to gather information, to observe, and to draw conclusions (Seefeldt, 1993).  The field trip is a meaningful experience in which children can develop language, literacy (Bredekamp, 1987), and problem-solving skills (Sauls, 1993).”

Since this field trip was so successful and the group is eager to go back again and explore some more we look forward to more trips and taking new friends with us to continue our project and start building again!  


Taylor, Satomi Izumi, Vivian Gunn Morris, and Carol Cordeau -Young. "Field Trips in Early Childhood Settings: Expanding the Walls of the Classroom." Early Childhood Education Journal 25.2 (1997): Pp 141-146. SpringerLink. Kluwer Academic Publishers-Plenum Publishers. Web. 14 Jan. 2016.

Documented by Nicole Porter

New Buildings for Our City!
January 5-15, 2016

Since the children had a couple weeks off of school, our plan in the City Project was to remind the children about what they had made previously and talk to them about what they would like to build next.  We revisited ideas they talked about before break such as Cafes, Skyscrapers, streets, and methods of transportation.  As we returned from break, the children went straight back to work building their city in the Block Area!  Some decided they would work together while others started their own projects.  As they have now had a lot of opportunity to work with these materials, they are moving on to more complicated building techniques.  

Brandon has started to cut out doors in his cafe and bowling alley that will be large enough for our people toys to fit through, and tests them out by putting them through the opening.  He makes sure the door is able to open and close as well.  Toby and Roman have started to build a fire station, and were trying to figure out where the fire truck would go and how to have a large door that could open and close for them to come and go.  After talking about it, they decided to use a book with a picture of a fire station as reference for what they need to build.  This was an exciting moment to watch as the children refer to other materials for ideas, and talk to one another to solve a problem.  

Roman: “We’re making a fire station.”
Teacher Nicole: “How will you start?”
Toby: “I’ll figure out a way.  Roman can you hold this (the box) while I tape it?”

Kaylee also referred to books when she was trying to construct a bathtub for her house.

Kaylee: “I want to make a tub.” (holding a small rectangle box)
Teacher Nicole: “What does a tub look like?”
Kaylee: “I don’t know.”

Kaylee looked through the books in our baskets and found one with pictures of pigs in a bathtub. She then went to get some white paper and began to cut it, “The white paper can be water!”.

These problem solving skills have been developing dramatically in each of their buildings and they are starting to add more detail.  This week a few of the children will go on a walking field trip to the houses on Brotherhood Way to observe them and talk about what they notice.  They also will get to see some of the unfinished houses being built.  Our intention is to inspire the children to become more detailed in their work and think more about what their building really includes and how it is used.  Since many of them are making houses this will be a great opportunity!  While visiting the houses, the children will do observational drawings, which we have already started this week to do based on what they have built with boxes.  This will be very helpful to them when we return to school and they continue to build.

Seeing such a great improvement in their skills since they have began this project is exciting and will continue to grow as their experience is enhanced through activities and materials.  They are beginning to engage in the planning process of building, problem solving, and persistence as it takes time to complete.  They are both working independently and together, and finding many teachable moments whether it is showing another child how to use the tape, or sharing the materials all together.  Using the recycled materials and various boxes they are giving them new uses and discovering how we can look at them differently.  Research in early childhood development supports this approach to learning by showing how far it can take their thoughts and expands their play immensely.

”The peculiarity of finished objects presented to children, meaning artistic, naturalistic, scientific and also daily objects, including waste materials, seemed like offering them a significant view of reality. By investigating the specificity of each object, we can always discover a range of possible explorations which refer to materials, colors, forms, uses, designs, thoughts, stories, people, relationships. They are pieces of the world which enter the classroom and offer new stimuli.”

We will continue to follow the children’s interest in building their city and offer more materials and experiences to expand their learning.  They have made some beautiful and detailed buildings so far we are excited to see what they make next!


Guerra, Monica, and Franca Zuccoli. "Finished and Unfinished Objects: Supporting Children's Creativity Through Materials." Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences: 721-27. Science Direct. Web. 13 Jan. 2016.

Documented by Nicole Porter