Storyteller, April 2011
Do not push the river, it will flow by itself. –Polish Proverb
Dear Families and Friends,
The blue skies, the appearance of the lilies and other flowers in front of our school, and the songs of the birds in our large trees all remind us of the arrival of Spring. We also recognize, however, that a little wind, some very cool, damp mornings and, possibly, a few showers still separate us from the warm, mild days we anticipate.
Child development often follows a similar pattern. As educators and parents, we observe the children blossoming at this time in the preschool year. During our conferences on March 30 and the first days of this month, teachers shared examples of documentation affirming the children’s tremendous growth since September. We should remember, though, that development and learning do not always occur at an even, smooth pace. Instead, we see leaps forward and steps backward–and sometimes a period of calm as children pause and readjust to their own new abilities and perspectives. These swings in development are often referred to as intervals of equilibrium and disequilibrium (Ames & Ilg, 1980). It can be challenging for us, as adults, to understand these shifts in children’s behavior. Just as it appears that separation anxiety is no longer an issue, a child “suddenly” doesn’t want to come to school. We assume that there is a problem—and maybe there is a problem—but we have to try to accept that sometimes the disequilibrium is just a part of growth. This does not mean that we encourage a child’s surprising “regression,” but we can try to understand it within the context of what may be a part of that child’s development. As advised in the proverb about the river, we have to resist the temptation to “push.” Children’s development “flows” (with the loving support of caring adults and friends).
With warm wishes for a happy Spring Break,
Findings About Play
In 2008, the work of cultural historian Howard Chudacoff at Brown University about the changes in children’s play over the past several decades was featured in a segment on National Public Radio. Instead of the freewheeling and imaginative activities that characterized children’s play sixty years ago, children now engage in activities that are far more scripted and structured by adults. The selection of toys that dictate certain types of play, anxiety over children’s safety and the influence of the media on children’s play have strongly—and negatively—impacted children’s emotional and cognitive development.
According to Chudacoff, the time spent playing make-believe helps the development of a “critical cognitive skill” called executive function, which includes the ability to self-regulate. Open-ended play allows children the opportunity to practice these self-regulatory skills. Additionally, the private speech that happens when children are engaged in play is related to self-regulation. For example, we sometimes hear children speaking softly to themselves, using phrases such as, “Now I am going to put on my socks to get ready for school,” or, “This is not safe; I have to be careful.” The ability to control emotions and behavior, resist impulses and impose self-discipline turns out to be a better predictor of school success than a child’s IQ. In other words, children who can manage feelings and focus are better able to learn.
March St. Patrick’s Day Celebrations
We would like to thank all of the parents who shared their St. Patrick’s Day traditions in our classrooms last month—Kelli Hass and Jenny Hayden, Kim Egan, Dorothy Snoke, and Casey Muldoon. Special thanks to Zico’s sister, Eva Muldoon (PPS alum), and her friend (both from St. Monica Elementary School) for performing Irish dancing for Sunflower and Dandelion friends!
This Fun event was also a successful fundraiser for our preschool! Thanks to the participation of most families, we raised about $1,500 for our Financial Aid Fund. Thank you!
A Sense of Place
Children in the Rosemary room and their teachers have been exploring our lovely historical building and its surroundings. They are discovering pipes and vents, windows and doors and the people who work in our spaces. Meanwhile, children in the Sunflower room have been visiting the construction site at the corner of California and Lincoln during the past few weeks. Please look for documentation about these two very interesting investigations supporting the children’s sense of place.
Weaving A Community Together
When we return from our Spring Break, our large outdoor loom and weaving materials will together become a language for children’s and parents’ joint artistic expression. During the morning arrival time, please look for the loom on the outdoor studio deck or on the lawn in front of the preschool. A new outdoor display case has been purchased for the entrance area to our play yard with the intention of making visible this community weaving exploration.
A Date with Teachers
Karen will be selling $20 raffle tickets this month for children to win a date to get ice cream or frozen yogurt with their teachers. Winning tickets will be drawn at the end of this month, giving parents and teachers time to make arrangements to meet after school in early to mid-May. Children love this event!
Breakfast with Loved Ones
On Friday, April 20, dads, especially, are invited to share a continental breakfast with their children between 8:45 and 9:30 a.m. The younger children will welcome their dads to the outdoor play area, while older children will share breakfast with their Loved Ones in classrooms. We used to celebrate Breakfast with Loved Ones near Father’s Day, but the preschool calendar is so full in June that we have chosen to invite our dads to school a little earlier this year. If a child’s father is not available on April 20, another Loved One is most certainly welcome. (Lunch with Loved Ones, celebrated near Mother’s Day, comes next month.)
Heal the Bay Beach Clean-up
Lisa and Hugh Fitzgerald are leading this initiative to partner with Heal the Bay for the third annual PPS/Heal the Bay Beach Clean-up. Saturday, June 9th is the date for this event. Heal the Bay provides children and parents with instructions and materials for the safe handling of litter on one of our nearby Santa Monica beaches. Families and teachers bring picnics and spend time together in addition to helping keep our beaches beautiful for all to enjoy. Each class will have a sign-up sheet available after the spring vacation.
We would like to “pilot” the catered lunches proposed by two different caterers later this month for the Cherry Blossom and Rosemary classes. We have invited Paul Osher of Bean and Thyme to provide lunches for the children on April 24, 25 and 26. On May 1, 2 and 3, Il Forno, a local Italian restaurant, will prepare lunches for the children. We will be asking the parents in the CB and Rosemary rooms to help with this effort with a $30 contribution to cover the cost of the lunches for those 6 days. We request that all children in the two classes participate so that we can truly pilot the plan for lunches that we are considering for the coming school year. Creating a stronger sense of community at meal times with lunches served family style on tablecloths, using child-size plates and utensils is part of our intention with the catered lunch. Sample menus include different kinds of pasta, veggies and fruit. (Consideration of food allergies is a component of the menu planning.) We will provide more details about each caterer and their proposed menus later in the month. We expect to pilot one or two more proposals during the month of May. We thank Kim Egan for her leadership of this initiative inspired by the schools in Reggio Emilia.
Week of the Young Child
This annual national celebration of young children and early childhood education is planned for the week of May 7 through 11 at our preschool. Events will include a PPS Parade of children, teachers and parents around the local neighborhood, Lunch with Loved Ones, and an initiative to support the homeless in our Santa Monica community. –Upward Bound House is located within walking distance from our school. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing transitional housing for homeless families with children. The people at Upward Bound House will let us know what kinds of items they need at this time and our role will be to donate these items as an early childhood community. In the past we have donated kitchen and bathroom items. The Outreach Committee will be in charge of organizing our efforts and we will meet on Friday, April 27 to first organize ourselves and contact Upward Bound House. (Nancy will email the parents who signed up to serve on the Outreach Committee.) The theme for the 2012 WOYC, sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children is, “Early Years Are Learning Years. ”
- April 6 through 16—Spring Break
- April 17—Preschool reopens
- April 20—Breakfast with Loved Ones
- May 4—Preschool closed for professional development experience at First Pres.
Pictures from School Events
St. Paddy’s Day Celebrations
Professional Development Day