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Everyday Play with New Additions to Our Backyard
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.
Sukie Jackson, Teacher
Everyday Play with Pikes Peak Library District Resources
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.
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!
Sukie Jackson, Teacher
Everyday Play in the Ruth Washburn Basement
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.
Sukie Jackson, Teacher
I laugh when I think of the expectations my husband and I had for our first child, Kenji, as he started school at Ruth Washburn. We wanted the perfect preschool and the perfect teacher. One of our biggest expectations was that he have perfect friends and be perfectly well adjusted himself, off on his way to being a happy, productive human being.
Reality set in the very first day of school. Our son was terrified. He did not want to be left and when I finally managed to pry myself away from him and get out the door, he and I were both in tears.
We talked with the school director who assured us that Kenji’s reaction to school and our anxiety were both normal. She had supported other families as they overcame this challenge. Knowing this was reassuring.
Kenji’s classroom teacher had great suggestions.
- Have him arrive a little bit early each day, before children were engaged in play, so that he wouldn’t have to break into already established groups.
- I should avoid long and drawn out good-byes but simply reassure Kenji that I would be back to pick him up.
- He could bring a favorite animal or blanket from home to leave in his cubby.
- And she asked us about Kenji’s favorite interests at home so she could have some familiar and favorite toys out for him.
I was finally able to see this school challenge as a problem we could work through and learn from. Although Kenji’s adjustment was a gradual process that took many weeks, he was eventually stomping around the classroom like a dinosaur and sharing large wooden blocks with his classmates.
School life for Kenji and our two daughters has never been perfect. All three children have faced many less-than-perfect situations. Having dealt successfully with Kenji’s difficult adjustment to preschool gave my husband and me the confidence to work through these problems with our children and to recognize that good things can come from the problem solving process.
I have learned. There is no perfect school, perfect teacher, perfect friend, nor perfect son. It felt and feels so much better, as a parent, to spend less time in life looking for perfect—and more time making less-than-perfect situations better.
Having said all that, I do think that Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School is the perfect imperfect school, if that makes sense!
Sukie Jackson, Teacher
Everyday Play with “Old MacDonald”
Old favorite songs are, well, old favorites for a reason. At Farm Camp our mandolin players Gail and Madison Stuart suggested we sing “Old MacDonald.” Since many children already know the words to this song, we enthusiastically sang “Old Mac Donald Had a Farm, E-I-E-I-0.” The fun began when children playfully added their own verses and sounds.
At first children suggested the usual farm animals. We did cows and pigs. And since we had been spending time with goats, the “maa, maas” here and everywhere sounded like the actual animal. Then camper Erin suggested that “on his farm he had some campers” so we sang her verse which children thought was hilarious!
And on his farm he had some campers. E-I-E-I-O.
With an “I’m hungry for snack here” and “I’m hungry for snack there”
Here an “I’m hungry for a snack” there an “I’m hungry for a snack”
Everywhere an “I’m hungry for a snack.”
Old Mac Donald Had a farm, E-I-E-I-O.
And so on. The children continued with other creative suggestions.
There are many books that play off this familiar tune and song. My favorite is Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop by Lisa Shulman. Not only is MacDonald a woman, but she is a sheep. Instead of a farm she has her woodshop. Instead of animals, she has tools. Instead of animal sounds children can make the sounds of the variety of tools introduced in the book.
In any version of “Old Mac Donald” the famous and rousing chorus “E-I-E-I-O” offers a wonderful literacy opportunity. At school when we sing this song and read this book, I point to the letters as children sing. It’s the perfect way to introduce several letters of the alphabet. Children quickly learn these and can read as they sing along.
Okay, there is one problem with old favorite songs, and in particular, “Old Mac Donald.” It gets stuck in your head. And that playful changing of the verses can start making you a little weird as you sing to yourself at the gas station and grocery store.
“And into the grocery cart I put some kale”
But children are the masters of silliness and will love making up the sound for gas going into a car or coming up with the perfect sound that a head of kale would make—not to mention creating their own verses.
So have some fun and sing old favorites with your child…(or to yourself!).
Sukie Jackson, Teacher
Farm Camp Play With Animals
Animals bring the best out in children. Wonder, imagination, responsibility, joy, surprise, knowledge and love among other things.
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.
All the Parenting Advice You Need on a 3×5 Card?
My dad once gave me the infamous index card with “all the investment advice I would ever need.” I’m sure I didn’t take the advice but I’ve always liked the idea of fitting everything one knows onto an index card. Having just attended the college graduation ceremony of our third child (a Ruth Washburn alumna) I have kiddingly been bragging that my husband and I are done parenting. And then I had the idea that maybe now I could try to fit all my parenting advice to others on one index card. Here’s what I came up with:
I do know that my parenting years are not over. How can I forget being 38 years old and getting in trouble with my wonderful dad for how I was raising my three-year-old daughter? So as my adult children grow older, and have children of their own, I’m sure I’ll be adding more advice to my short-list. But for now, here it is! Give it a try and let me know what I’ve forgotten.
Sukie Jackson 04s teacher
Everyday Play With Four or Five Real Bandages
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:
- “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.
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.
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
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.
- 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
Everyday Play With Boxes
It’s Not A Cardboard Box.
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.
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.
I’d love to hear about your child’s cardboard box creation.
Sukie Jackson 04 Teacher