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Everyday Play with New Additions to Our Backyard

Everyday Play with New Additions to Our Backyard

BY SUKIE JACKSON

Teacher, Education Director and Assistant extraordinaire Karen Brown has been filling gaps at Ruth Washburn for many years in the best possible way. Karen starting teaching at our school in 1994. She brought professionalism, an expertise in Early Childhood Education, intentional teaching and many, many great themes and curriculum ideas that are still being used daily current teachers.

When an Education Director was needed, Karen competently stepped into that role and helped to mentor and assess teachers. Most recently Karen has served as assistant in the Middle 3s class.  Sadly for all of us who treasure Karen’s presence at Ruth Washburn, she is retiring. In Karen’s characteristically constructive way she and her husband David have donated the Wee Notes Ensemble as a retirement gift to the school. “I felt like there was a gap not having musical instruments outside and this seemed like a sturdy set that would last.” It will be very difficult to fill the huge gap left by Karen’s retirement, but we already love the music. Thank you Karen!

Tracy and Jim Volpe, parents of Hannah (Outdoor Class) and Haelyn (alumna) also identified a need. They recognized that a permanent outdoor easel would facilitate process art in a new setting.  How appropriate that the first person to break in this wonderful outdoor easel was their art-loving daughter Hannah! Hopefully every RW child will take a turn exploring art with this easel.

And last but not least, we now have a nest swing on the Prairie paid for with fundraising event proceeds.  For several years teachers have talked about the benefits of and need for swings for young children. The nest swing brings us an open-ended play structure (“it’s a rocket”  “it’s a giant pizza” “it’s a bed”)  that encourages cooperation among children. It has been pure joy to watch children explore this new swing.

Special thanks to our director Jen, her husband Aaron and son Hudson, and to Karen and David Brown for working overtime to acquire and install these new backyard play structures! Thank you to Kristin Schoonveld for a fun picture of Karen.

Sincerely,

Sukie Jackson, Teacher

 

 

 

Everyday Play with Pikes Peak Library District Resources

Everyday Play with Pikes Peak Library District Resources

BY SUKIE JACKSON

Ruth Washburn has many distinguished alumni parents. Nancy Maday, Children Services manager for the Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) is one of those people. Both Nancy and her husband Mike have found ways to support Ruth Washburn many years after their sons graduated from the school.

Elliott and William Enjoy Reading Together Outside

When talking to our teaching staff about the topics of books and reading, Nancy reminds us that there is a difference between teaching children to read and getting children ready to read. Our job as teachers and parents of preschool age children is getting children ready to read.

PPLD’s “Every Child Ready to Read” program emphasizes talking, singing, reading, writing and playing with children as effective ways to prepare children. Nancy offers the following suggestions to parents and teachers.

  • Make sure that your child has lots of opportunities to talk with you, not just listen to you talk.
  • Songs are a wonderful way to learn about language Singing also slows down language so children can hear different sounds that make up words.
  • Make shared reading interactive. Before you begin a book, look at the cover and predict what the book is about. Have your child turn the pages. Ask questions as you read aloud and listen to what your child has to say. When you finish the book, ask the child to retell the story.
  • Talk to your children about what they draw. Write picture captions or stories together. This helps them make a connection between spoken and printed language.
  • Children learn a lot about language through play. Play helps children think symbolically so they understand that spoken and written words stand for real objects and experiences.
  • Have fun reading with children. If children enjoy books and reading, they they are more likely to want to read. Choose books that you enjoy too and repeat favorites.

Our local library has many, many resources for parents of young children, two of which were created in collaboration with former and current Ruth Washburn staff members.

Grow a Reader Kits. These are bags/suitcases filled with activities, books, toys and music related to a theme designed to promote literacy in preschool age children. To see the kit themes and booklets go to the Pikes Peak Library District website. Click on PPLD Kids. Click on Grown Ups. Click on Early Literacy. Click on the theme of your choice.

Theme Sets. Search JTHEMESETS on the Pikes Peak Library District website. Each theme set includes four high quality, age appropriate books  packaged together on one of over 50  themes including Friends, Kindergarten, Death of a Pet, Gardening, Rhyming, Colors, Divorce and Construction.

Check these out….literally!

Sincerely,

Sukie Jackson, Teacher

Everyday Play in the Ruth Washburn Basement

Everyday Play in the Ruth Washburn Basement

BY SUKIE JACKSON

Everyday Play in the Ruth Washburn Basement.

Have you ever been down to the basement of the Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School? It is a marvelous place filled with STUFF that teachers use each week, in original combinations, to create enriching, educational classroom environments. Here’s a sneak peek into some favorite items on the chance that you haven’t yet experienced this wonderful space:

  • An entire wall filled with process art materials including a set of baby bottles filled with colored water, fly swatters, sea sponges, golf balls, strawberry baskets and all kinds of brushes including scrub and toothbrushes.
  • Homemade props. One example is the bin containing berets and monkey tails that are used year after year by RW children as they act out the classic story by Esphyr Slobodkina,  Caps for Sale. What simple, grand props!
  • Shelves filled with recycled items. Corks, baby food jars, aluminum trays, paint samples, tiles, scoops, wire pieces, sytrofoam sheets, smooth stones, cardboard squares, egg cartons and so on.  Parents in our cooperative are the perfect source for these materials that get used by children for tinkering, building and creating.
  • Science bins including Weights and Measures, Pulleys, Bubble Wands, Sight and Sound, Beakers and Test Tubes. There is a bin with more than ten bird’s nests. Amazing! Shells, rocks, antlers, even a coconut can be unearthed from the many natural objects stored offering children the opportunity to study real objects.
  • There is more. Paint, glitter, glue, costumes, hats, scarves. Oregon sand, keys, and popcorn. Multi-cultural musical instruments and a set of hand drums. A wooden train, a circus train. Foam, wood, cardboard and other blocks. Puzzles, magnetic builders, flannel boards and stories. Castles, barns, a space ship.

Ann Epstein in The Intentional Teacher recommends that teachers provide “sturdy, open-ended materials that children can use in many ways and reflect the diversity of their homes and communities.” This is just what we do with basement STUFF.

“Children are particularly fond of haunting sites where things are visibly worked on. They are irresistibly drawn to the detritus generated by building, gardening, housework, tailoring or carpeting,”  William Benjamin stated way back in 1924. While our basement “detritus” isn’t generated by tailoring or housework, it is generated by good teaching. RW teachers, parents and children are “irresistibly” drawn to this school, in part, due to all the great STUFF in our basement that we use to facilitate children’s play and learning. If you haven’t yet been down to our basement, be sure to plan a visit. You will be amazed by everything there.

Sincerely,

Sukie Jackson, Teacher

Oh It Snowed Last Night

Oh It Snowed Last Night!

BY SUKIE JACKSON

It is magical to wake up to a snow covered world! Here are some very simple and very fun snowy day activities with young children.

Have a child fill a glass jar up to the brim with snow with a spoon.  Ask the child to predict what will happen to the snow  when you bring the jar inside.  Check the jar periodically. It’s quite surprising to children what happens with this very simple experiment and it can lead to many different discussions.  What is snow made of? What color is the water (“mirror color” was one response I heard!).  What is a puddle? If snow melts into water, what happens to the water?  Why is there still snow in some places in our backyard, and none in other places? Why is there so little water in the jar when it was filled to the top with snow? What are those “black specks” in the water? What will happen to the water in the jar over time?

William and Nicholas spray colored water

Take a walk. In Ezra Jack Keat’s classic book, Snowy Day, the boy experiments making tracks, drags a stick in the snow, makes angels and best of all, he puts a snowball in his pocket when he comes back inside.  Your child may not want to put one in his/her  pocket, but I highly recommend that you put one in yours! What fun for a child to watch your pocket and see what happens with you and the snow as the snow melts.

And be sure to sing this fun song introduced to me by our M3 teacher, Kristin. Don’t be afraid to make up your own tune, or recite it like a poem if you’re not an adventurous singer. Simple props can be great fun with this song. Children can pretend a tissue is a cloud and tear it up. A rectangle of white paper can be a feather tossed up into the air.

Liam experiments by sledding on a tray

Oh, it snowed last night,

It snowed last night.

The sky bears had a pillow fight

They tore up every cloud in sight

And tossed white feathers in the night

Repeat.

 

Sincerely,

Sukie (teacher)

Special thanks to Kristin, and to Diane McCrae who taught Kristin the song!

Farm Camp Play With Animals

Farm Camp Play With Animals

BY SUKIE JACKSON

Animals bring the best out in children. Wonder, imagination, responsibility, joy, surprise, knowledge and love among other things.

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A heartfelt thank to Gail and Dan Stuart for sharing their Redstone Castle “Farm” with Ruth Washburn children this summer. Enjoy these photos from Farm Camp!

Sincerely, Sukie Jackson. Teacher.

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Everyday Play with Four or Five Real Bandages

Everyday Play With Four or Five Real Bandages

BY SUKIE JACKSON

Every Day Play with Four or Five Real Bandages

The Housekeeping Area is the part of the classroom that Ruth Washburn teachers transform into grocery stores, flower shops, beauty salons, bike repair shops and pizzerias (among other places!) allowing children many options for role playing. A favorite set up among teachers and children is the pediatric hospital. With some minor adaptations, a parent could easily create a hospital (or doctor’s office) environment at home to offer children the opportunity for rich, imaginative pay. Our Ruth Washburn pediatric hospital has these props:

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  • “Open” and “Closed” and other signs for the office (these can be made by children).
  • Clipboard with a checklist and blank paper for writing prescriptions.
  • X-rays taped on windows.
  • Doctor’s Kits with stethoscopes, aspirators and blood pressure gauges.
  • Real bandages and gauze. Children love to bandage dolls, stuffed animals, themselves, friends and willing adults.
  • Facial tissues, tape, scraps of fabric and bandanas are other materials that can be used for bandaging.
  • A couch, long pillow or sheet on the floor works too.
  • Health and Human Body Books. The 610 section of your library will have many non-fiction books from which to choose. Don’t miss Tedd Arnold’s three humorous books, Parts, More Parts, and Even More Parts. Children seem to love these.

Bandages3Thanks to the good imaginations of the children in the classroom, we improvise when it comes to props that we don’t have. Check out Haleyn’s makeshift crutches in the photo!

From my experience  every child has something to say about a time he or she was hurt or when he/she visited the doctor. The pretend pediatric hospital is the perfect setting in which a parent can talk to a child about doctor visits, injuries and/or the importance of good health.Bandages2

I’m all for simple.  While we have all many great props at our school for our pediatric hospital, all you need at home is a couch and four or five real bandages to inspire opportunities for role play.

Next time you are feeling exhausted, give your child four or five real bandages, lie down on the couch and tell your child that you need a doctor or a nurse! Let your child take care of you for a change. Well timed moans and groans and newly “hurting” body parts while acting as pretend patient can extend the play. If only you can keep from snoozing I’m pretty sure you are in for some fun!

 

Stay well. Sincerely,

Sukie Jackson, Older 4s teacher

Everyday Play with Baseball

Everyday Play With Baseball

BY SUKIE JACKSON

These spring days remind me of Ava’s dad, Kevin, who as parent helper spent an entire outdoor play time pitching balls to the Older 4 children.

Kevin instinctively understood how to pitch so that each child holding the plastic bat had success.Baseball

  • For the children who already knew how to hold a bat and swing, Kevin took several steps back and pitched strikes. These children didn’t mind missing a few tosses. Kevin would pitch to them until they got a hit.
  • For those children who didn’t know how to hold a bat, Kevin would model a stance and grip. He would pitch from close enough so that these children also made contact with the ball. A hit!
  • And for the children for whom swinging a bat didn’t come naturally, Kevin basically aimed his pitch so that it would hit the bat wherever the bat happened to be.  Once again, success!

Kevin kindly responded to a child’s request to play. He welcomed both boys and girls. Kevin pitched until the last child tired of the activity. All children participating had great fun playing “baseball” and eagerly waited for his or her time at bat.  No one worried about rules or the formal game of baseball.

Ann Epstein in The Intentional Teacher writes “the development of these fundamental manipulative skills (including catching/collecting) is critical for children’s later participation in sports and games. Because some involve interacting with others, their mastery also opens a world of social relationships.” Kevin offered a perfect age-appropriate practice session!

For learning the “catch” part of baseball, I recommend beginning by tossing a large stuffed animal back and forth with a  young child. This game can be varied by increasing the distance between you and your child. Once he or she gets good at this, try some high throws, or throws to the right or left. And eventually you can work your way to playing catch with a ball. If you are lucky enough to have a child with a great imagination, use a winter glove for a mitt.

Kevin’s daughter Ava is now in kindergarten. We miss her but look forward to Kevin, his wife Amanda and their one-year-old slugger George at the school in the future. Thank you Kevin.

Batter up and play ball,

Sukie Jackson   Older 4s teacher

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Everyday Play With Boxes

Everyday Play With Boxes

BY SUKIE JACKSON

It’s Not A Cardboard Box.

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It’s a….flying tent, an elevator, a book shelf, a doll’s bed,  a race car called “Thunderbolt,” a playhouse, a hospital, an airplane.

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It’s a process to give a child a plain and simple cardboard box and offer him/her  the opportunity to use planning, imaginative, artistic and building skills to create his/her very own box project. The steps are simple for facilitating this activity.

  • Find an empty box, preferably one without writing and graphics leaving plenty of space for children’s decorations. A box big enough for the child to sit in is especially fun.
  • Brainstorm with your child some of the things the box could potentially become. By rotating the box into different positions you and your child can come up with a variety of possibilities. A jack-in-the-box, a vending machine, a pet’s cage, a cave, a table, a garbage truck and so on.
  • During this brainstorming session, show your child a variety of ways you can support this project.
    • An adult can cut a door, window, circle, coin slot, skylight, windshield or whatever might need cutting.
    • Fabric scraps can be supplied for possible use as carpeting, curtains, wallpaper, cushions, blankets, and more.
    • A supply of recycled items including plates, plastic lids, aluminum foil, colored paper and old CDs can be glued on as buttons, wheels, house siding , dashboards and other uses dreamed by a child.
    • Paint, markers, crayons and colored pencils can add details and “finishing touches” to  the box.
  • Give the child the box and support him/her with what he/she needs from you. Sometimes it’s as easy as cutting open a door or helping with glue. Children may want you want you to write a name or number on the box. I encourage children to do as much independently as they can.
  • Finally, enjoy watching a creative process at work. Your child will bring ideas and a plan to the project demonstrating his/her ability to think symbolically. And they will work to make their plan a reality.

“Tell me what you need,” “tell me about your plan,” and “tell me about your box” are perfect questions to support your child throughout the process.  Your children will enjoy reading the book It’s Not A Box, by Antoinette Portis before, during and after the process of making his/her own cardboard box project. Both the book and the activity are celebrations of children’s imaginations.

Not a Box

I’d love to hear about your child’s cardboard box creation.

Sincerely,

Sukie  Jackson  04 Teacher

Everyday Play Making Outdoor Winter Ornaments

Everyday Play Making Outdoor Winter Ornaments

BY SUKIE JACKSON

Several Ruth Washburn teachers make ice ornaments with children in their classes. It is both a science experiment and art activity that uses natural materials, gets children outside and results in a surprisingly lovely decoration.

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Kristin Schoonveld’s Middle 3s Class decorates a tree with their ornaments.

Here’s the “recipe” for making ice ornaments.

  • Take children for an outdoor walk.
  • Have them gather an assortment of evergreen branches, berries, small pinecones, twigs and dried flowers in pie pans. Or, as I have learned from experience, let them gather whatever they wish! I was curious how Liam’s ice pie would turn out when he selected an assortment of rocks.

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To make the ornaments:

  • Fill each pan with several inches of water
  • Next, lay twine or yarn around the inside edges of the pan to create a frame. Leave 8 to 10 inches of extra twine at the top from both ends.
  • Have children arrange their collected items in a pleasing pattern.
  • Freeze the pan outdoors or in a freezer.
  • When frozen, remove the ice ornaments from the pan and hang outdoors.

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As natural scientists, children are using their five senses to experience winter and experiment in the outdoors. In my experience, some children like the collecting, others enjoy making predictions about what will happen at various stages, some children love the resulting ice ornament, and others like hanging them up and watching them melt. Give this a try with your child and most importantly enjoy precious time together.

Sincerely,

Sukie Jackson, Older 4s teacher

Thanks to Kristi (Morning Mixed Age Class teacher)  and Kristin for photos.

Help Your Child to Wonder

Help Your Child to Wonder

BY SUKIE JACKSON

I have always loved an article written by environmentalist RachelWonder1 Carson entitled, “Help Your Child to Wonder” which tells about how Ms. Carson shared the beauty and mystery of life with her nephew.

“One stormy autumn night when my nephew Roger was about twenty months old, I wrapped him in blanket and carried him down to the beach in the rainy darkness. Out there, just at the edge of where-we-couldn’t-see, big waves were thundering in, dimly seen white shapes that boomed and shouted and threw great handfuls of froth at us. Together we laughed for pure joy….”

Wonder2It was hardly a conventional way to entertain one so young, I suppose, but now with Roger a little past his fourth birthday, we are continuing that sharing of adventures in the world of nature that we began in his babyhood, and I think there results are good. That sharing includes nature in storm as well as calm, by night as well as day, and is based on having fun together rather than on teaching.”

The article inspired our family to take “night walks” each year in December (these are some of my children’s fondest memories from childhood) and make visits throughout the year to a shallow stream where bridge building, stick floating and river watercolor painting happened in a spontaneous way. Rachel Carson’s gift of a magnifying glass to her nephew broadened my thinking about age-appropriate gifts for children. Small tackle boxes for collecting natural treasures, folding shovels that invited digging projects, flashlights for indoor and outdoor exploration and  a simple pulley and rope set were gifts that encouraged involvement in the natural world.

I have also grown to appreciate that Rachel Carson based her adventures on “having fun together.” In this same article she writes “I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow.”Wonder3
If you are wondering about outdoor education at Ruth Washburn, please join us  on January 21 at 6:00 PM in Minnow’s Room for a presentation and discussion about Outdoors 4s and 5s, a new class that will be offered in the fall. We would love to hear your thoughts about sharing the outdoors with young children.

Sincerely,

Sukie Jacksone, Older 4s teacher

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