Outdoor

Experiencing the curriculum, not just learning a lesson

One of the things I think a good preschool does best, is creating experiences for the children, not just regurgitating information about a topic. We are exploring the United States this year in PreK and while exploring California and learning about Napa Valley and grape growing, we went to a messy, fun place….see video below to experience how we teach the kids about California.

https://my.kaymbu.com/moments#details/5363c116085968020000004f

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Let’s be at the Forefront of this Issue

I am fully aware that I come across a lot of my material and inspiration from my hometown paper, the New York Times, but well, it’s the New York Times. This post is no exception, and in this case, I’m also going to plug the reason behind my pursuing a master’s degree in Physical Education, as well as incorporate my long-term goals for preschool and elementary curriculum changes. This NYT article I read in January is the basis for this post and is alarming to say the least.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/30/science/obesity-takes-hold-early-in-life-study-finds.html?_r=0

“A major new study of more than 7,000 children has found that a third of children who were overweight in kindergarten were obese by eighth grade. And almost every child who was very obese remained that way.”

That sentence alone was enough to depress me, and maybe because we live in one of the healthiest cities in one of the healthiest states, it’s even more jarring to read that fact. But our label of being fit here in Colorado is deceiving. We actually have one of the fastest growing trends of childhood obesity in the nation. Not at the top as far as an existing problem, just to clarify, but a rapidly trending one. Which means to me that we could jump in now and try to reverse the growth.

My master’s degree in Physical Education was inspired by the dramatic reduction my own children saw in physical activity when they entered elementary school. Here at Acorn, our kids are playing and active outside up to 3 hours a day, and in great weather, up to 5 hours. That is reduced to 20 minutes a day at some elementary schools, 40 minutes if your child attends a progressive school. And when I say “progressive”, I mean that the administration understands the multiple studies proving that increased physical activity actually benefits academic grades, behavior in class, and overall attitudes about school. I would be happy to share my thesis with anyone since this was exactly my chosen topic:)

I would love to help reverse this trend of obesity starting in preschool. We can consciously instill a love for daily physical activity and discuss nutritional eating habits right from the infant room, so when they head off to kindergarten they’re already knowledgeable about how to stay healthy. According to Dr. Jeffrey P. Koplan, the vice president of the Emory Global Health Institute in Atlanta, “It is almost as if, if you can make it to kindergarten without the weight, your chances are immensely better.”

How can we do this here at Acorn? Several ways actually. We can weave physical activity into almost every lesson, even if it’s quick silly games of Simon Says or a “Let’s have a 10 minute dance party before we read this book!”; we can discuss the benefits of all the wonderful vegetables we have at lunch – my class already firmly believes carrots make your eyes sparkle more:), we can create annual events like Thanksgiving Turkey Trots and Mini Boulder Bolder Races, and we can incorporate regular exercise programs like Cross Fit Kids into our curriculum.

We could and should make this one of our biggest priorities at Acorn, in preschools in general, and especially here in Boulder. What good it is for all the adults in town to be triathletes if our kids are knocking on the door of a major health epidemic?

Colorado History: Repeating Itself

In the Pre-K class this year, we are exploring the United States, all its different geography, cultures, foods, and history, and what better place to begin our studies than here in beautiful Colorado! We decided that we would try and re-create some of the history of our state the other day by “panning” for gold in the creek behind the school. So armed with foil pie plates, we traipsed down to the banks, and lo and behold, there were nuggets of gold just waiting to be sifted. (Yes, I looked ridiculous to all the biking commuters at 8am when I was in the water surreptitiously placing all our spray-painted rocks)

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Our hope is that “real-world” activities like this tie in to what we are hearing in the classroom, help make a permanent connection in their little minds, and a lasting memory of preschool for both kids and parents. The “gold” they got to take home probably didn’t hurt either:)

THIS is what play-based education is all about!!

Science Learning at Home

Helping our children recognize that science is everywhere in the world and a part of their daily lives is not only important for their cognitive development, but also fun for the entire family. The National Association for the Education of Young Children just published a great article on how we can all further our children’s interest in science outside of school, and even more helpful? They broke it down by age. Here are a couple examples:

Infants/Toddlers

* Describe the physical characteristics of living and nonliving things during play, such as “The water is cold!” and “Kitty’s fur is soft”

* Play peekaboo together using direction and position words: “Where is baby’s belly button? Under her shirt!”

Preschoolers

* Go on a shape scavenger hunt to find and name as many shapes as you can. Sort them afterwards by shape.

* Play with sand and water, discussing your child’s observation as he pours, fills, measures, scoops, and dumps.

* Explore the concept of gravity by having your child toss objects of different weights in the air, noting the speed with which they fall

Encouraging and participating in enjoyable science activities such as these above will help your child establish an interest in science education and build inquiry skills that are crucial for the elementary school years.

Natural Art

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So we ordered this table from the Nature Explore folks awhile ago and unfortunately we thought our kiddos were taller than they actually are:) It was too high for them to use as anything but a fort to be underneath, which was absolutely fine, but not the original intent. So we had our playground maintenance crew bury it a foot or so and wouldn’t you know…….5 minutes later we get this.

THIS is outdoor art, nature being used as a canvas, and creativity with whatever materials she has at hand. All of which was done without a word from me as to what this table was designed for. THIS is what the idea was behind this playground a year ago when we moved to Wilderness Place; a space where everything that is available in the classroom – art, music, building, writing – is also available outdoors. We are accomplishing this slowly but surely (Nature Explore is not cheap) but we are accomplishing it.

Big thanks to everyone who has supported this vision and here’s a link to Nature Explore if anyone wants to help further it!

Nature Explore Program

Mad Scientists:)

As many of you know, over the last 3 years we have forged an amazing partnership with KodoKids, a local toy company that makes fantastic, open-ended, inspiring, scientific, and creative toys. They come by and test their ideas and we reap all the benefits in my opinion:) But in this video, what really blew me away, was not only the cool products, but also how intelligent, imaginative, and experimental our students are at the Acorn School. Take a few minutes to watch the video and I think you’ll see that The Acorn School and it’s use of The Creative Curriculum’s play-based learning style are producing some pretty amazing children!!

The Goal

This is the goal or more specifically, I think this should be the goal at preschool. We put up a swing on the playground last week. It’s a huge hit.

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and I mean HUGE HIT. The go-to item everyday.

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and this is how 10 three to five year olds play with the swing all by themselves. No teacher organized this line or made sure no one was pushing, or cutting, or taking too long of a turn.

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and how they help each other get into it.

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And how one girl takes responsibility to be the spinner.

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This makes me so proud and happy. If this is what we have created here, then we’re doing great.

This is the goal.