Passionate Teachers
Focused Learning Environment
Responsive Students
Involved Parents

Swan School Mission

Swan School builds strong learners in an environment of academic excellence aligned with creativity and personal expression. We develop wise and compassionate leaders as an investment in everyone’s future.

    The View from Discoverer Room 5

2015-2016

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Discovering in the Community Garden


Weekly Update: July 11-July 19

 Dear Discoverer Families,

Last weekly update for this school year…I had more than 20 photos to share, and had difficulty limiting the choices! So many great moments in the last week…I’m sorry I didn’t get any photos of the sprinkler party on the last day, but I asked Loida to send me some of hers. It was a blast!

We visited our sunflowers after recess on Monday – we are so amazed at the speed in which they grow! Caleb is looking at his mammoth sunflower. We planted mammoth flowers and several other varieties, so that there will be flowers of various heights and various bloom colors in the early fall. The crew walked back to school along the edge of the retaining wall – a favorite spot for “tight rope walking”.

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We began experimenting with oil pastels and baby oil last week. This project allows the kids to see their drawings transform into paintings – the oil pastels become very fluid and semi-transparent with the application of baby oil. It’s also a great sensory experience!

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Our field trip to Chetzemoka on Tuesday was delightful! Lila and Max were used small pieces of wood to “carve” the large tree stump into sculptures (they divided up the wood, so that Lila could make a horse, and Max was making a dolphin).

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I loved seeing Calvin’s inventive use of the chairs to make a suspension bridge!

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The kids requested animal masks earlier in the week, so I prepared templates for unicorns, dragons, dinosaurs, horses, bats, foxes, cats and a Bigfoot! Everyone painted or used marker to color their beautiful masks.

Elsie and Boden are explored a book…it is a book without words, called “Inside, Outside”. Every page illustrates either an interior space or an outdoors space in a child’s world. Cut-outs in the book allow you to look through the pages, to seen the view outside a window, or inside a door. A great picture book for talking about opposites and social awareness.

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Louisa added her “writing” to the white board. I put up names of kids for a partner activity. Louisa was singing the ABC’s when she made her mark. This was Thursday, and the partners were each given a bowl with a cup of dry tapioca pearls and a cup of water. After discussing the experiment at circle time, the kids were invited to combine the ingredients and explore. Another wonderful sensory activity – one that is easy to do at home (especially outside – I must remember that for next year!). The tapioca pearls absorb water quickly. Some kids speculate that the pearls would dissolve – we observed that they did not dissolve, but became bigger and squishy. This was the first transformation experiment with tapioca.

Our last field trip – the Ft. Worden beach! It was great fun, and a great opportunity for the two classrooms to celebrate together.
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On the last day of school, the 18th, I took small groups into the kitchen to help create our tapioca pudding. After boiling the tapioca pearls, they become translucent and much larger. We took a few minutes to notice this at lunch time, when we tasted the banana/coconut/tapioca pudding. I ended up taking the remaining batch of pudding home and putting down the disposal – I discovered I do not like the texture at all!

It was wonderful to see many of you at the graduation ceremony on Tuesday…it marks the important threshold of crossing into a new season. I am amazed and delighted by the experience of teaching your children! We have come a long way since last August! If you are not at Swan next year, do drop by to visit. I am going to organize a sunflower house party sometime in September, and I hope to gather all of the kids from this group to participate.

I hope to see you here and there this summer…enjoy many adventures, and take time to relax!

Best wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: July 5-July 8

Dear Discoverer Families,

As the photos reveal, we are finding ways to experience transformation, on many levels! I have heard the word, “transformation”, almost every day for the past few weeks. The idea of transformation is big enough that we can connect literacy lessons and garden projects into this theme.

Reminders:

Field trip tomorrow, Tuesday. Drop off at school (9am) and pick up at Chetzemoka Park (1pm).

Just one day of school next week, Monday the 18th. Do plan on coming to graduation on the 19th. Even though the graduation is for 6th graders, the gathering and potluck is for all! It’s always a fun and profound event.

Summary of the week:

Tuesday:
We worked on a science experiment after recess, one that demonstrated transformation endlessly! I brought out a cup of cornstarch and a cup of water at circle time. I asked the kids to give predictions -what will happen when we mix these two things together? Will the cornstarch mix with the water? What will it feel like? This substance is commonly called oobleck, in preschool circles! Cornstarch is made up of such fine particles, it only partially mixes with water. The result is a wonderful sensory material that feels solid if you press on it, but remains watery on the surface. Some of the kids thought up interesting ingredients to add to the mix: salt, watercolor, and glue were all put to good use! We found that watercolor mixes with the mixture, while glue separates. Drippy and messy, but easy to clean up!

Wednesday:
The work with oobleck continued in the morning, with the addition of small, plastic figures.

I took several photos of Elliot, Lihroy and Elsie working with the magnetic tiles. The magnetic tiles are used almost every day, and some impressive structures have been built, but on Wednesday I wanted to document the collaborative work the kids were doing with these manipulative toys. The structure transformed many times, and each change in the structure brought about a different purpose for imaginative play.

After recess, I brought out a selection of beads and buttons for the kids to use as decoration on their hand made paper. Some kids chose only two buttons, others covered nearly their entire paper bowl with the collage materials!

Thursday:
After recess, we had a popcorn party! The popcorn came about because I wanted to find a sensory project to highlight letter “P” in the alphabet. I also realized that popping the corn is a fantastic lesson in transformation. I borrowed an air popper from Ansel’s family, and as the popcorn popped, each child had a chance to watch the process. Brynn prepared the butter, and we all indulged in the popcorn along with lunch.

Friday:
I brought out some clay from Daily Bird pottery Friday morning. This clay was used in the Adventurer’s art class, and we had plenty of extra for the preschool kids to work with it. It’s such a different material than play dough or salt dough – I love allowing the kids explore the smooth, silky, earthy clay whenever possible.

Earlier in the week, I had some artwork on my desk from the Explorer’s class. These were mirror prints, made by doing a painting on half a piece of paper and then folding the paper over, to make a symmetrical image. A few preschoolers noticed these prints, and admired them earlier in the week. I realized that this would be a great project for the pre-k kids as well, so after recess on Friday, I demonstrated how to work with the paint and fold the paper. The kids were so attentive during that circle! We talked about symmetry, and what that looks like.  The artwork they created is really beautiful; you will see it very soon.

One more announcement – you may have noticed a new student in our class – Boden joined Swan School recently, and just joined our class last week. Welcome Boden and family!

Best Wishes,

Dana

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Weekly Update: June 27-July 1

 Dear Discoverer Families,

Greetings, and happy 4th of July! I may run into you at Fort Worden tonight. One of my cats, Leia, just decided she could become a lap cat, so I’ve been enjoying some restful time on the couch, reading and planning for summer…

Announcements: Loida and I want to do another field trip this week – we talked about hiking the Ft Worden beach. This is dependent on good weather, and the forecast is rather discouraging. Wednesday looks like the best day, but I will keep you informed.

Summary of the week:

Monday: On Monday morning, much to my surprise, a 5th grader arrived in my class with a pink box, full of toys. It was Maggie, and she was gifting her collection of fairy and unicorn figurines to our preschoolers! It is a very generous gift. Zadie wrote down names for all of the figures, and placed them strategically in the box, with Louisa observing. These fantasy characters have already triggered some wonderful collaborative dramatic play!

After recess, I asked the kids what they expected to find in our visit to the sunflower garden. We discussed the four essential things plants need: sun, water, air and nutritious soil. Then we headed over to our garden, and discovered how tall our sprouts have grown. We felt the soil, and found it was dry, so we made two trips to the water spigot with our watering can. Everyone was able to water their sprout.

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Tuesday: Field trip to the woods of Ft. Worden! The kids were so excited to have a whole day outside – and to use all of their senses during the experience! They did a great job of staying together as a team, and working on fort building as a focus project. We even found evidence of a fairy garden!

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Wednesday: Our hand made paper from last week finally dried, and most of the class went to work painting or drawing on these unique surfaces. A small group went into the kitchen with Brynn to make more pulp and scoop it into the screens, so all students will have at least one piece of hand made paper. It’s a good activity for seeing how materials transform, and for learning the process of paper making.

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Thursday: Rain Fish collages were so captivating, several kids requested working on more Th. Morning, and we were happy to comply!After recess, we discussed the sounds letter O can make, and we brainstormed words that begin with O. I revealed the owl cape (a new dress-up option from IKEA), and we made a list of names so that all who were interested would have a chance to wear the cape. Everyone was invited to color or paint an owl mask – I found a wonderful template online.
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Friday: We went to Morning Meeting in Loida’s room, and she read a favorite story – commonly called “the love bucket book”. It’s a great book for teaching young children about empathy, responsibility and compassion.After recess, we took a mini field trip to the community garden, to see all the changes taking place there. We also took drawing boards, and a few kids made good use of the opportunity to draw. Everyone was delighted to see a few sunflowers already blooming in this garden. Some fruit was ripe or nearly ripe – the kids had to practice a lot of self control not to take fruit from this garden! On the way back to the classroom, we checked on our sunflower garden to monitor the sprouts – they are starting to grow more rapidly now!
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Wishing you a festive day with good food, good company, and fireworks!Best wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: June 20-June 24

Dear Discoverer Families,

I haven’t visited the sunflower garden this weekend…but with all the rain, followed by sun and warmth, I expect the sprouts to be shooting up! I plan on taking the kids to see the growth of our flowers (and weeds) tomorrow.

Reminders:

Next week is a short week, with no school on the 4th. Also, we are preparing for the 2nd Annual Picnic on the Pier – July 9th. Last year’s Picnic was a huge success, and great fun. Hope to see you there.

Summary of the week:

Monday: I introduced a new application for the magnetic tiles – placing them on the light projector. The plastic tiles are semi-transparent, and it’s incredibly fun to shine light through them, and manipulate them on the light projector.

After recess, we looked at examples of letter “N”, from the Dr. Seuss ABC book. We did some brainstorming, and made a list, including the word “nest”. I shared with the group a paper “nest” that I made years ago, with recycled paper pulp. I explained how the process works – ripping up scrap paper, blending it with water, and then letting the pulp dry on a screen. The kids eagerly helped rip up scrap paper, and contributed many cups of water to the blender. Our pulp was a good consistency. This took up most of our project time, so we continued the process the next day.

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Tuesday: We’ve made a slight change to our schedule – after much reflection, Brynn and I decided to try skipping morning circle, and spending more time in circle after recess. I’m still introducing new activities each morning, but doing so as the kids are playing/working/exploring. It seems to make for a smoother transition to clean-up and snack. On Tuesday, our focus in the morning was with the light projector. The kids decided to try various objects on the projector, creating many different shadow creatures. The experimented with Mobilos, stuffed animals, and little people figures (flat, wooden pieces cut into simple people shapes). A couple of students worked on tracing around the shadows, making some amazing drawings!After recess, we continued to make paper pulp, and everyone had a chance to make either a bowl (a.k.a nest) of paper or a flat piece. The kids enjoyed the thick, gooey pulp and the process of spreading it around on the mesh of the screens. I realized that this is a great project for learning about transformation! We will transform these paper forms again after they dry.
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Wednesday: I set up a station in the room for kids to use a hair dryer and help their paper pulp dry. It was thick pulp, and quite damp, even after 24 hours.After recess, we gathered in a circle to talk about our walking field trip. I described our destination: Natalie and James Lagergren’s garden. They live in the neighborhood, and are generous with their time! We discussed field trip safety and expectations, and we consulted Google maps before heading out. James was a wonderful tour guide! He showed us the thriving vegetable garden first, and allowed everyone to pick a red lettuce leaf (they were about to bolt). He then took us to the chicken coop, where the kids got to feed their lettuce leaves to the hens. James showed us the nests, and we found several eggs resting there. He explained that they use chicken droppings, egg shells and garden scraps in their compost. The kids also got to dig through the compost bin, finding worms and other happy bugs. When I later asked the kids to describe their favorite part of the field trip, most of them mentioned the hens, eggs, or compost!

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Thursday: Ansel brought a library book to school titled, “Rain Fish”, by Lois Ehlert. She is one of my favorite children’s authors. Ansel said that he wanted to create one of the fish images in the book, which I thought was a fantastic idea. We made a list of items found in the pictures (leaves, scrap paper, beads, etc) and I said I would prepare the project for Friday.After recess, I did a demonstration of using liquid watercolor to paint over a black and white print out of a photo. I used the recent photos of each child standing in front of their own flowers in the “Imaginary Garden” mural. The painting takes some effort, because the watercolor beads up over the ink on the paper. I showed how to be persistent with applying the paint, to eventually get the paper to absorb the watercolor. The kids enjoyed playing with this process. Some of the images became so wet, the paper tore, but we can always print out a few more!

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Friday: I prepared two note cards for the kids to sign before snack time – a thank you note to James, and a birthday card for Caleb. Some kids do sign their names, and others draw. All mark-making is welcome!

We worked on our Rain Fish project after recess. I prepared some very basic “fish forms” out of scrap paper, and the kids got to work! They were so innovative with the materials – we loved watching these fish appear out of paper, buttons, leaves, and bottle caps. Trash transformed into treasure.

During one of our snack times, I asked the kids what kind of project we should do to celebrate letter “O”. Calvin immediately said, “we should do a project with owls!” What a great idea! Fortunately, I braved the Seattle IKEA store yesterday, and came home with an owl cape for our class. I think owl masks will be in our future!

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Best wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: June 13-June 17

Dear Discoverer Families,

I made several attempts yesterday evening to get out this weekly update – but to no avail! There were several technical problems. I hope this one comes through ok!

Announcements:

More food! Several kids today ate everything in their lunch box and asked for more – we do have some snacks in the office, but these are for the occasional missing lunch. I encourage you to err on the side of too much food, to help these growing bodies have enough energy!

I’m planning a walking field trip to visit a local garden. My friends, Natalie and James, live near the corner of San Juan and F street. They have a beautiful garden, a coop of chickens, and a worm compost bin. They are happy to show us what they grow and how they grow it. I’m planning this for Wednesday, at 11:30. If you have time and would like to walk with us, you are welcome to join!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: We began our week with telling stories from our intercession adventures and welcoming Louisa into our classroom. After recess, we spent our circle time talking about patterns, and using geo blocks to play with patterns and shapes. I saw most of the older kids in our group making repeating patterns, up to 4 shapes in repetition. Others enjoyed manipulating the blocks into symbols. All of these explorations with geometric shapes is great practice for future math concepts, and for developing spatial reasoning. The first photo in the bunch shows Elliot and Ansel working with magnetic tiles – another great tool for learning about geometry, physics and magnetism.

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Tuesday: Our morning circle was, again, a story telling circle. It’s great to hear the kids describe their experiences after an intercession – it helps us build community. Later that day, I introduced the goop commonly known as Gak (made with glue, water and borax). It’s wonderful for sensory play, and it can also be used to make artwork. I showed the group how to draw on the surface with markers, and then make a print from the Gak onto paper. The kids also enjoyed the stretchy properties of the material, making it form long ribbons and drips as well as using it as a surface for color.
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Wednesday: Continuing with our alphabet study, we returned to the ever-popular, “Dr. Seuss’ ABC”, and read every page up to letter “L”. The kids have become so familiar with the book, they have some pages memorized. We also brainstormed words that begin with L, and noticed that three people in our class have names beginning with L. After recess, we took drawing boards with us to visit the sunflower garden.  The kids were excited to see how their sprouts were doing – I’m happy to say, it’s growing slowly but surely! The kids did some weeding and drawing, and we watched as the Navigators worked to harvest vegetables from their garden, adjacent to ours.
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Thursday: We used our morning circle time to read a story related to Father’s Day. We talked about celebrating the dads, grandpas and other father figures in our lives. After recess, I brought a potted sunflower into the classroom (it’s already blooming), and offered it as an option for a drawing. We talked about the different shapes that make up the bloom, stem and leaves (I did a little demo). These drawings became our Father’s Day notecards.
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Friday: We had an exciting Morning meeting on Friday – the student body met outside in a giant circle to prepare for an outdoor scavenger hunt. I prepared a list of colors for the kids to look for as they explored the playground. The idea was to find objects (natural and built) that corresponded to each color. The older kids did a lovely job searching for colors with their younger partners. Later that day, we did our alphabet brainstorming for letter “M”, and worked on an art project to celebrate that letter. Marble prints are a very dynamic form of art – the kids dipped marble in paint, and then rolled the marbles around in a shallow box, making prints across paper. They worked on this in pairs, and I enjoyed seeing their collaboration!
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I’m looking forward to exploring a “big idea” in the coming weeks…I’ve heard several kids using the word “transformation” lately. I’m thinking of ways we can talk about transformation as gardeners, artists, construction workers, and scientists…it’s an exciting theme to offer up, and I’m curious about how the kids will investigate this idea…Best Wishes,Dana

 Intercession: May 30- June 10

Weekly Update: May 23-May 27

Dear Discoverer Families,

After a busy weekend in Portland, I’m finally able to reflect on last week’s projects at school…I hope you are all having a restful day off today! I stopped by the sunflower garden and did some watering and weeding. We have a few strong little sprouts, and I’m expecting to see many more pop up soon.

Summary of the Week:

Monday: I have reading about the value of outdoor space as a learning environment, and with the weather warming, I’ve been planning projects to be outside more frequently. On Monday, instead of a typical circle time, we went outside to do another scavenger hunt for plants. This led to a game of I Spy, and everyone got a turn to lead the group in guessing.

After recess, I introduced a painting project that made use of “texture tools”. These are plastic wedges that each have a different cut along the edge. The kids have used them in play dough and in the sand table, but they are fun with paint as well. I showed the group some possibilities for making textures, and then they enjoyed time experimenting.

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Tuesday: We returned to our study of the alphabet on this day. At circle time, we practiced making each letter of the hand sign alphabet, up to letter “K”. We brainstormed some words that start with K, which is tricky, because hard “C” sounds so similar. The kids came up with a good list, though, and I announced that I had Kiwi fruit to share with everyone at snack time. About half the class loved the snack!I left early on this day, to lead the Explorers in their field trip to the art museum. Brynn offered an art project that proved very enticing to the group – using water colors on craft sticks. I had bought several bags of “Woodsies”, the thin wood pieces that come in various shapes and sizes. The kids were productive, and painted quite a bundle!
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Wednesday: I put out the paints and craft sticks again, for anyone who wanted to do the project again, and almost all 9 kids that day sat down to do more painting! They were very focused. At morning circle, I got out the plain sticks (and a few wooden beads) and invited the kids to make letter forms with the materials. Several children made their names out of sticks – some just created one letter, and others made a symbol or image, all of which were exciting! After recess, everyone had the opportunity to glue their colorful craft sticks to paper, making a collage.IMG_8613Thursday: Instead of a morning circle, we visited Karen’s class (the Navigators) to watch them perform the song, “Lean on Me”. I think our class will have to learn this song, too! It was one of my favorite summer camp songs.After recess, we had a short circle time, discussing photosynthesis. We are learning that plants create their own food, transforming sunlight into energy for growth. We also talked about chlorophyll, and I showed everyone how to make a “chlorophyll print”. This is also known as “flower pounding”, but I wanted to focus on the element of chlorophyll in this project. We went outside, and picked clover, dandelion, and a few wild rose petals. I gave everyone watercolor paper, folded in half, and a rubber mallet. We talked about hammering safely, and then the kids greatly enjoyed pounding the plants in the folded paper. The chlorophyll was transferred to the paper, and the kids got a good workout!

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Friday: We hosted morning meeting on Friday. I planned a partner activity called “Buddy Drawing”. Elsie helped me demonstrate to the crowd how to have a dialogue without talking – just taking turns drawing marks on paper. The teachers organized partners for everyone, and the kids got to work. Some of the artwork from this activity was amazing! And the collaboration was wonderful to see.

We didn’t have much time for a project after recess, so I turned on a short video that relates to our garden curriculum theme – “The Tiny Seed”, by Eric Carle. This video is really just the book read aloud, but it has a nice sound track, and the kids love looking for the tiny seed throughout the story. The life cycle of a plant is beautifully portrayed in each illustration.

I’m not planning any big trips for this intercession – I’m staying close to home! I hope to see you out and about in the next couple of weeks.

Best wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: May 16-May 20

Dear Discoverer Families,

This weekly update will include a few notes on May 16-18, based on my conversations with Brynn (and I hope no one else gets strep! It’s rotten.)…and I will give my typical summary for May 19 and 20. Looking over the photos, I am delighted by the few from the parade last Friday…I hope you all had a lovely Rhody weekend!

Reminders: We have another concert coming up soon – Thursday, the 26th! It will be at the Baptist Church on Lawrence again. The kids have been singing “Alphabet in Motion” and “I’ve been working on the railroad”. I’ll send another email with more details about the music.

Early release Friday – we are ending class at 12:30pm that day.

Summary of the Week:

Monday: During morning circle, Russ was a special guest. You may not know that Russ is a fine juggler, and he was invited to the classroom to show off his skills during our focus on letter “J”! Later that day, Brynn provided the kids with special paper to make paper airplanes. These papers were painted to beautify them before being folded and flown.

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Tuesday: Flying paper airplanes was the main event!

Wednesday: The group joined up with Loida’s class to practice our songs for the concert (and to enjoy some play time together). After recess, the class read a story and worked on self-directed drawings and paintings.

Thursday: At morning circle, we talked about how people get sick and how to avoid spreading germs. We discussed how germs are microscopic – you can only see them with a microscope – and that we need to be careful to wash our hands often. We all practiced using our “bat wing” or “bird wing” arms to cough and sneeze into.

After recess, we talked about growth, and how each student is constantly growing. I challenged the kids to measure their height using unifex cubes. This is a great activity for both fine and gross motor skills – the unifex cubes are a little challenging to put together, but all were capable of making long lines with their cubes. They discovered that laying the cubes down rather than holding them upright was a good way to make longer “chains”. Several kids surpassed their own height with the cubes and made extremely long chains. Others counted their cubes. These cubes became material for other construction projects later in the day.

Friday: Loida led morning meeting. She devoted the time to preparing the kids for the Kiddie Parade. We matched each preschooler with an older child, and discussed how the event would be organized. During recess, many of the Adventurers and Discoverers witnessed the release of the butterflies…Teacher Jen brought out her class’ butterfly habitat, and we watched the Painted Lady butterflies lift up into the sky. One butterfly was very weak, and several kids, including Elsie and Ansel, decided to make a little butterfly garden for it in a quiet place near the 24th Street door.

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Later that day, we discussed the transplanted sprouts in our sunflower garden…I explained that only a few survived the transplant. We speculated about what might have happened. We then read the book, “The Tiny Seed” by Eric Carle, to provide some more information about what conditions seeds need to grow (and what prevents them from growing). Then, we went out side to look at our sunflower garden. I assured the kids that I had planted more sunflower seeds, and that every child would have a sunflower growing soon. We weeded some of the grass sprouts before going back inside.

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I checked on the garden today – a new seed has sprouted! I think it will be a slow but wonderful process, watching our garden grow. I love going out there to weed and water after school.

Coming up this week, we will do another scavenger hunt outside (I will give each child a leaf to match to a shrub or tree), we will collect plants for a flower press art project, and we will eat kiwis in honor of letter “K”. We will also practice our songs for the concert!

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Best wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: May 9-May 13

Dear Discoverer Families,

I’m so sorry to be absent from school right now – I hope to recover soon! I went to urgent care yesterday, and am being treated for strep throat. Today, I’m clear-minded enough to work on the weekly update from last week.

Reminders and Announcements:

Update on the sunflower garden: we planted our sprouts last week..as of Friday, most of them looked very unhappy with being transplanted! I’m not sure exactly what caused the problem, but I can speculate. On Friday, I planted more seeds directly into the garden. We will grow our sunflowers, somehow! I just wanted to let you know, in case you look at the garden after school, and do not see any plants. The seeds should germinate very soon, and we will have new sprouts in the garden. When I come back to school, I will talk with the kids about challenges with transplanting sprouts. I’m disappointed that the transplanting didn’t work well, but it was great to have the seeds germinate in the classroom, so the kids could really see the process.

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Early release May 20th – we end at 12:30 pm that day. There will be a Swan School group in the Kiddie Parade – hope you can be there!Monday:  At our morning circle, we discussed how to respond in the even of an earthquake. I told my one and only earthquake story from 15 years ago, and the kids enjoyed hiding under the tables for a few minutes! After recess, we talked about how to make a flower out of clay (or salt dough, in this case). We recalled a video that we watched last week, showing the life cycle of a flower. The flower was created with play dough, and the video used stop-action to show the changing stages of the plant. Max volunteered to show us how to make a salt dough flower (he practiced this last week). The kids were totally absorbed in his demonstration! Then, they all went to work making salt dough sculptures.
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Tuesday: Our morning project was focused on painting the salt dough flowers from the day before. Some kids made new salt dough flowers. I’m enjoying how different they all are. Some kids made the roots, stems and leaves on their flowers!After recess, we visited Jen’s room to get a good look at the polywogs and the butterflies. Jen’s group is studying metamorphosis, and we were able to examine the butterflies in their chrysalis form, as well as the polywogs in various stages of growth.Wednesday: During our morning circle, we reviewed the process of germination, and discussed the meaning of photosynthesis. With these big, scientific concepts, we will keep using the vocabulary and exploring the ideas through art, literature and hands-on experiments. After recess, I did a demo on how to plant sprouts from our classroom cups to the garden outside. I took groups of 3 or 4 out to the garden. Everyone had a chance to decorate wooden stakes that will mark where their sprouts/seeds were planted.
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At lunch time, we had a picnic in the musical drama room, because we had two “big kids” performing a song on the piano. Shane and Henri (both in Jen’s class) played “Heart and Soul”, and discussed how they learned the song. It was exciting, and the older boys were so proud of their ability to perform!
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Thursday: We started out the day practicing the hand sign alphabet. We’ve gotten up to letter “I”. After brainstorming words that begin with “I”,  we looked at pictures of the Iris flower (I love to bring together garden and alphabet themes!). Some kids wanted to paint or color pictures of Iris flowers.After recess, I showed the group one method of making a flower print – yellow paint and handprints, in a circular pattern, looks a lot like a sunflower! Messy and fun.Friday: Unfortunately, I left my phone at home this day, but Beau loaned his to me for a few photos…we had morning meeting in Loida’s room, and the kids partnered up for Buddy Reading. There are some budding friendships happening with the oldest and youngest in our school…some of the older kids request to have the same preschool partner during these morning meetings. It’s wonderful to see these relationships develop!
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After recess, we continued making our sunflower prints come to life. Several kids wanted to add on sheets of paper to make the stems longer. We also experimented with various textures, painting brown seeds in the center of the print. At the end of the day, we had a very special visitor: one of Elsie’s chickens joined our closing circle! Elsie’s mom and brother brought  a sweet, young hen to our class, and everyone was able to interact with her and ask questions.That sums it up…I hope to back tomorrow!Best wishes,Dana

Weekly Update: May 2-May 6

Dear Discoverer Families,

It’s feeling more like summer right now than spring…on Saturday, my husband and I took advantage of the sun and headed west, seeking out a quiet beach along Clallam Bay. We found the beach, after some meandering, and it was very quiet! I also found many treasures from the sea, which will end up in the classroom, I’m sure!

Reminders and Announcements:

Many students have been bringing treasured items from home to share with the group at circle time. This excitement around sharing a precious object is great – but I find that several kids are wanting to share something every day. I told them that we will organize a sign up sheet. I will have this available Monday. We can really only have one sharing per day.

Early release dates coming up: May 20th and 27th. We will finish just half an hour early.

Summary of the week:

Monday: At our morning circle, I read a book called “Planting the Wild Garden”. It has gorgeous watercolor illustrations, and talks about the process of seed dispersion. After recess, we asked the kids if they knew what things are necessary for seeds to grow into plants. They volunteered ideas: sun, rain, and dirt! We looked at our “Imaginary Garden” mural, and noticed that it did not include these necessary things, so we got to work painting the sun and rain (soil will have to happen next week!).

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Tuesday: We started the day reading “Jack’s Garden”, a simple story with repeating phrases about the growth of Jack’s garden through the seasons. After recess, we talked about four of the essential things that most seeds need to develop into plants: sun, water, air, and nutrient-rich soil. I made a drawing of these four elements and of a growing plant. Most of the kids wanted to water color on my illustration, but a couple of them created their own paintings of what plants need! Even better!
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Wednesday: It will be a while before we can harvest sunflower seeds from our sunflower garden, so I brought in several types of seeds for the kids to taste. We sampled raw seeds (already shelled), roasted seeds and roasted with Tamari flavoring. The kids gobbled them up, and then voted on their favorites. Everyone voted for more than one seed, so the results don’t show a clear winner, but it was a good exercise!After recess, we took another trip out to the sunflower garden, to admire the new fence and gate around it. We are getting excited to make our sunflower garden a reality!
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Thursday: At our morning circle, we talked about all the work that a few volunteers have done to prepare our sunflower garden. To show our gratitude, everyone drew pictures on large thank you notes to Robyn’s family, Zadie’s family and Elliot’s family. You will find these pictures in your child’s file folder in the office!After recess, I organized a botanical scavenger hunt (inspired by teacher Marcy!). I had some samples of leaves from a few flowering plants on campus. I divided the kids into pairs, and gave each pair one leaf. Then, we headed outside to find the plant that matched the individual leaf.We still had some time before lunch, so we wandered over to the community garden to see the new growth. It’s such a beautiful garden – feel free to visit sometime after school (the gate is visible from the corner of Kuhn and 23rd).
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Friday: Our morning meeting was replaced with another musical drama performance – this time in the Navigator’s room (grades 2 and 3). This performance was relatively short, but very well done!
After recess, everyone worked on decorating their Mother’s Day cards. I enjoyed taking photos of each child with their flower paintings – I hope you enjoy the cards!
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Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, grandmas and maternal figures in your family! The last photo in the bunch shows all the Discoverers at recess, saying “Happy Mother’s Day” to the camera!
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Best Wishes,Dana

Weekly Update: April 25-April 29

Dear Discoverer Families,

Spring is a delightful time at school…I see so much growth taking place! Our flower mural, inspired by the book “The Imaginary Garden”, is almost complete. Our sunflower seeds have been planted indoors, and our garden awaits! I’m also seeing new friendships blooming and collaborative work happening throughout the day. It is a busy, rich season!

Announcements and Reminders: May 20th will be an early release (12:30pm) because of the Rhody Festival. There will be Swan School group marching in the Kiddie Parade – hope to see you there! Wear your Swan School shirt and/or hat.

Summary of the Week:

Monday: Some of you know the Johnny Appleseed song…”the earth is good to me, and so I thank the earth…” We’ve been adapting it to fit our sunflower focus in class: “I thank the earth for giving me the things I need, the sun and the rain and the sunflower seed…” During our morning circle, we discussed the idea of the sunflower house, and went out side to look at the garden bed. We took a few soil samples (bark mulch, compost soil and sandy soil), which will be put into slides for the microscope.
After recess, we continued work on our Imaginary Garden mural. Lila traced her flower design onto butcher paper, using the light projector to enlarge the image. Later, Zadie had the innovative thought to put slides from the microscope onto the light projector, to see the samples from a very different perspective.

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Tuesday: We’ve been learning a new vocabulary word as we begin our garden study: Germination! I invited everyone to act out the process of a seed germinating at circle time. I asked the kids to put on their coats for this – actual seeds have an exterior layer called a “coat”. Everyone curled up like a seed, under their coats, and they slowly began to “grow”, taking off their coats when the sun warmed the soil and the rain sprinkled down.
After recess, we took clear cups and organic soil outside to prepare for indoor sunflower sprouts. The kids were very careful with this project. We planted the seeds along the sides of the cups so we can see the germination process, the roots and shoots should be visible.
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Wednesday: Instead of our usual circle time, we joined the other classrooms in Jen’s room to see a dress rehearsal of a dramatic performance. The Adventurers were practicing for their big show (titled, “Cinderfella, a Modern Make-over”). It was very entertaining, and our students were very patient during the lengthy performance!
After recess, we reviewed the art projects we’ve done thus far related to the alphabet. Then, we brainstormed words starting with “H”, and practiced making the hand signs for all the letters up to “H”. Our art project for this letter was hand prints (we used tempera paint, but hand prints with stamp pads will be continue to be available).

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Thursday: I made a few sets of sequence cards to use at circle time – the images on the cards show the stages of growth for a bean vine. I had partners chosen for this activity, and I gave each pair a set of four sequence cards, out of order. The kids worked thoughtfully to arrange the images in order, and to tell the story of the bean plant germinating and growing.
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Friday: We hosted morning meeting in our room, and we performed courageously, in front of the crowd, a song called “Alphabet in Motion”. Each letter has a corresponding action (for example, A is for arch, B is for bend, C is for clap). It’s a jazzy tune, and the kids are getting really good at remembering the motions.
We did the song twice, and on the second time, the whole student body joined in! It was a hit!
After recess, a few kids finished painting their “Imaginary Garden” flowers and others worked on making hand prints with stamp pads. I also wanted to mention the creativity I’ve seen with some of the manipulative materials. In addition to robots and vehicles, the kids are coming up with some really innovative constructions: jellyfish, birds, and rescue vehicles, to name a few!
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Many thanks to those who have been volunteering time for our classroom projects and our fundraiser last weekend…I hear that Plant-a-palooza was a great success! And the fencing for the sunflower house is up! I hope you all have had time to experience the brilliant spring weather.Best Wishes,Dana

Weekly Update: April 18-April 22

 Dear Discoverer Families,

Our field trip, our garden art and science, and some spontaneous creativity made for a full week!

Reminders: This coming weekend we will have Plantapalooza happening on campus. It’s quite the event, and if you haven’t been there before, you should check it out! The playground is transformed into a nursery for ornamental plants, many of them exotic. Many sprouts and starts, but also gorgeous containers and potted plants for sale. Call the office for details.

Remember to check your file folder in the office for stuff to take home – I’ve been putting artwork in there (related to our study of the alphabet).

Summary of the week:

1. Caleb, Max and Lila showed that the block area continues to be a place for innovative architectural work! Cars, horses and dragons are all integral. It’s fun to see those spatial reasoning skills evolving…

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2. We have been working on our Imaginary Garden Mural…Ansel painted a giant flower, which was created using a transparency and the light projector. We will continue making giant versions of the original flower drawings this coming week.
3. Zadie Mae drew a family portrait. The white board has seen a lot of action lately!
4. G is for green…we have been doing artwork related to alphabet letters, and our G project involved using green pens, pencils, and paint. The kids have become skilled at brainstorming words that begin with a particular letter – they are noticing letter sounds, syllables and rhyming words with great excitement!
5. We gathered samples of petals, leaves and seeds from outdoors, and made some slides for the microscope. Elliot looked at every slide! Seeing the cellular structure of leaves is really incredible.
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6. The field trip to BIMA. She led us through the galleries, asking the kids to interpret the artwork as we went along. She also gave some info about the artists and materials we were examining. Everyone had a chance to draw a picture of a piece that captured their attention.
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7. Caleb and Elsie focused on stenciling…the stencils have also gotten a lot of attention this week. These are great tools for fine motor strengthening. And the basic shapes that are created often become symbolic drawings.
8. Ansel working on a thank you note to his museum partner, Shane. Some kids made thank you notes for the museum, and others made notes for family or teachers.

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9. We went to Marcy’s class on Thursday for about 30 min of “choosing time”. This included using “gak”, and introducing straws for making huge gak bubbles! So much fun.

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10. In honor of Earth Day, I asked the kids to imagine writing a thank you note to the Earth. I asked them what they would say “thank you ” for – I heard thoughtful answers such as trees, flowers, and food. We then made earth prints by putting glass over an outline of a globe and painting the glass with blue and green. The prints look beautiful! You will get to take them home soon.
11. We ended the week with a very engaged group of sidewalk chalk artists! A nice conclusion to a busy week.
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This coming week will be time for us to go in greater depth with our garden science. We will examine the site for our sunflower garden, collect soil samples, and study them under the microscope. We will start our sunflower seeds indoors and make some more garden art! I’m looking forward to all the blooms…
Best Wishes,
Dana

Weekly Update: April 11-April 15

Dear Discoverer Families,
I hope you all enjoyed the glorious weather today! I got my feet in the sand at Point Hudson…I’m expecting lots of sunshine this coming week!

Reminders:
Our field trip to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art is this Wednesday!

I will organize sunflower garden parties soon – let me know if you are interested in helping (and thanks to those who have already volunteered!).

Summary of the week:

1. We welcomed Zadie Mae into our class this week! Here she is, organizing the geometric pattern blocks with Max. This was Zadie’s idea – and Max volunteered eagerly!

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2. Max and Lila drew dinosaurs in the dirt outside – everything is a surface for art!
3. Continuing our alphabet inspired artwork – E is for eggshell, and eggshells are so much fun break apart and collage with! We also used our bodies to make a giant letter E on the rug (photo coming soon!).
4. We got new materials in the sand table – a dinosaur zoo!
5. Doing yoga at the end of the day. This was snake pose. The kids are becoming experts on a number of poses, including downward dog, cat pose, morning glory, bamboo, and child’s pose. You could ask them to teach you at home.
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6. Robyn, Lihroy and Elsie set up a feast, using the “new” play kitchen and dishes.
7. We studied the parts of the flower, and I gave the kids clip boards so they could do their own drawings of the roots, stems, leaves and blooms. The results are up on our bulletin board. A couple of kids have continued to draw flowers throughout the week.
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8. We gathered samples of leaves, petals, and seeds to prepare slides and look through the microscope. We will continue to explore the microscopic world in the weeks ahead.
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9. The duplo “table” has been a great tool for architectural creations, storytelling, and collaborative play.
10. We read a story called “The Imaginary Garden”, and it was captivating to all! The story features a little girl and her grandpa who collaborate on painting a large garden mural. We began painting our own imaginary garden, and it continues to grow…
11. On Friday, we went over to Loida’s class for morning meeting. I got a few photos of our kids working with older partners for “Buddy Building”. I always enjoy these opportunities for the “big kids” to get to know the “little kids”. I’m impressed with the mentorship the older kids offer, and the enjoyment they clearly experience.
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12. Max worked on a mandala-like design with Samara’s guidance during morning meeting. After morning meeting ended, the mandala kept going! It became a collaborative project for many.
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13. Elliot loved identifying the parts of the flower; he had to share his knowledge with Lihroy!

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14. I made a transparency of everyone’s flower drawings, and now we can project them up onto the wall! They trace their flower drawings onto butcher paper. These will be painted soon, and will be “planted” in our imaginary garden.

Best Wishes,

Dana


Intersession: March 28-April 8

Weekly Update: March 14-March 25

Dear Discoverer Families,I hope your spring break is off to a joyous start! Notes from these past two weeks:

I prepared some sequence cards (photo copied from the book, “Watch Them Grow”…each set shows the life cycle of a plant, insect or animal. The kids worked in pairs to put the cards in order. They could look at the photo narrative or the numerals. After this activity, everyone got to choose a photocopy from the book to color and cut out, making their own sequence cards.

A ray of light shone in the classroom, and Elliot asked if we could get out the prisms. I love prisms as much as the kids do, and it is a fun to experiment with them. The kids are learning the kind of light necessary for “making rainbows”.

Caleb setting up a store – purses, scarves, and dress up clothes are all displayed for customers!

Elsie and Elliot played “I Spy” with the Charlie Harper bird cards (a gift from Max).

Ansel created a habitat for spiders, frogs and turtles with playdough.

Morning meeting activity below- Lego building with a partner. Max worked with Henri Bothell, and Lihroy worked with Shane Pollock to build vehicles. They were given a big scoop of Legos, and had to use just what was on their tray. Lihroy, Calvin and Robyn show off their creations.IMG_7827

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We are working on ABC themed artwork – a new project to illustrate each letter. For example we worked with corn, for C. I demonstrated painting the corn and rolling it to make a corn print. I also brought pop corn for them to snack on after lunch!

Lila made a map at home, and shared it with the group!

Drip, drop and drink: this science experiment was linked to our study of letter D. I poured a cup of canola oil, and then dripped a few drops of food coloring into it. The kids observed the food coloring separating from the oil. I then poured a cup of lemonade, and asked the kids what would happen when I dripped food coloring into the drink. They offered their predictions, and were delighted when the color mixed with the lemonade. I gave everyone a cup of lemonade (sugar free) and a bottle of food coloring to do their own science experiment, and then drink it!

Drips and drops of paint can make exciting artwork!

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We met in Loida’s class for a demonstration from Shea, Robyn’s mom, on how to build a terrarium. Garden science has been a sub-theme in the classroom, and we will do a lot more with this after the intercession.

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Lila, Lihroy, Elliot and Max worked all morning on the longest train track this classroom has ever seen!

We went outside to look for signs of spring! We brought magnifying glasses and clipboards with paper to aid our explorations.
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Looking ahead, I hope to work on planting a sunflower house (sunflowers planted next to morning glory, in a rectangular shape). If you are interested in helping, I plan to be a school April 7 and 8. More details coming soon!
Happy Spring to all!
Dana

Weekly Update: March 7-March 11

Dear Discoverer Families,

It’s so wet and windy! I expect the playground will be a muddy mess, so send those rain boots tomorrow, along with indoor shoes! Slippers, crocs, or something similar, are most welcome for indoor shoes.

Reminders: Conferences are just around the corner – sign up in the office! And let me know if the times we offer don’t fit your schedule – we can find a time that will work.

Summary of the Week:

Monday: Lila and Max were both in California for recent vacations, so we took a trip with Google Earth to look at Palm Springs (where Max visited). We noticed some features of that community that differ from our own – the terra cotta color of the roof tops, and the prevalence of swimming pools. We also spent some time discussing a new project that will unfold during the spring season: planting seeds, hoping to grow a few sprouts for our community garden. The kids brainstormed types of seeds to plant – carrots, cauliflower and corn were among the suggestions. I pointed out the letter sounds that all three start with – and the discussion of seeds turned into a little lesson on alliteration!

After recess, we visited the community garden for the first time in about two months. We noticed all the changes in this place that has become so familiar, and we found evidence the new life coming back after winter.

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Tuesday: Our morning circle seemed like a good time to begin planting seeds. We are using the garden pots that held our fairy gardens, transforming them into seed beds. I bought several packets of seeds, all beginning with letter “C”! We planted cauliflower and carrots in one garden pot, and cosmos flowers in the other. We sort of sprinkled the seeds into the soil – I plan to do another planting session with more intentional seed placement soon! This will be a good science experiment, as well. After recess, we had the pleasure of following some mysterious clues (thanks to Loida’s rich dream life!) and a map to find a pouch of “magic beans”…Loida shared her campus map with our class, and showed us the dotted line on the map that had “magically appeared overnight”! I watched the kids referring to the map, and then making suggestions about where the X on the map might lead us. With a little investigation, they found the beans and made the connection to the story “Jack and the Beanstalk”. It was great fun – I wish I had more photos.
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Wednesday: We spent some time during morning circle welcoming Lila back from her trip, and looking up Santa Barbara on Google Earth. We then discussed our walking field trip, and the expectations for behavior (staying together, road safety, etc). Our walk took place after recess, and we consulted a neighborhood map before embarking on the trip. Lila led the parade, and we walked to her Dad’s house, just a few blocks away. Many thanks to Jeremiah for his hospitality! The photo below shows us in a circle for lunch, with Phina Pippia playing a fantastic song that she wrote for us! It was really lovely.
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Thursday: No school! What a wild storm!
Friday: We had the rare occurrence of needing a sub for both Loida and Natasha quite suddenly, so Morgan and I spent a good part of the morning hosting all the kids in Loida’s class. Natasha was able to come before snack time, so the day went smoothly, and our students enjoyed playing in a different space.After recess, we returned to our room and began a literacy unit that we are calling “Eating the Alphabet”, inspired by the book of that name (by Lois Ehlert). Before eating apples, we looked at upper case and lower case letter A forms, and I introduced an apple-oriented art project. I gave the kids the option of drawing from observation, just looking at the apple and drawing what they see, or using an apple stencil to create a drawing. The kids did a great job making apple images, and then I brought out the soft pastels to add layers of dusty color. A good sensory experience, as well!During lunch, we talked about how the letter A can make several different sounds. I wrote my name on the white board, to illustrate the long and short letter sounds A can make. To my delight, the kids began suggesting words for me to write, some that began with A and others that did not, but I wrote them all down and we identified the letter A in each word, and the sound that it makes (“ay” vs. “ah”). What a productive lunch time!
That is all for now – good night, and see you soon!
Dana

Weekly Update: Feb 29-March 4

Dear Discoverer Families,

I’m catching up on things at school, including last week’s Weekly Update! Sorry for the late arrival of this newsletter. We have so much going on at school! Here are a few quick notes from the last week.

1. Collaborative art – Lila, Max and Robyn worked together to create an elaborate drawing. It was completely their idea, and all three of them contributed equally to the project!

2. I put up a world map on the light projector to give the kids a chance to play with light and shadow, and interact with a map in a unique way.

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3. Elliot did a great job presenting his map of home during a practice session. Later that day, Caleb showed the group his fascinating map of harbor seal habitat.

4. Painting the continents – here you see South America coming to life… The kids decided which bright colors to use for each continent, and they all participated in making this mural, leading up to the learner’s exhibition.

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5. Ansel explains his topographic map to the group – it revealed bullfrog habitat and mountain ranges – we all loved the 3-D quality!
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6. Lila and Max made a playdough cobra family.
7. Max used geo blocks to create a train and train track.
8. Caleb focused on drawing with metallic markers.

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9. The whole group entranced by Morgan’s story telling (Morgan was subbing for Brynn that day).

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10. My shots from the Learner’s Exhibition – apologies to those kids that I missed!

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11. Elsie, Taya and Robyn enjoy story telling with animals. We organized a student exchange with a few of Loida’s kids.

Other significant activities included: locating the six continents on various world maps, making our treasure boxes, hiding all the boxes outside, and visiting Loida’s class (Friday morning) to see her students present their mapping projects.

I hope you had a restful day, and that your power is on! Tomorrow we begin a literacy journey, and I have some edible (healthy) treats for celebrating the letter ‘A’. We will also begin a new ABC art installation!

Best Wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Feb 22-Feb 26

Dear Discoverer Families,

Looking through last week’s photos, I realize that a disproportionate number are showing block construction…it’s been an exciting sub-theme in the classroom; the kids have all been working with blocks at one time or another, and they often ask me to take photos. I love seeing how their buildings evolve over time, and how they inspire one another to build in new ways. And block building is a great activity to promote spatial reasoning!

Reminders:
Our spring Learner’s Exhibition is this Thursday, the 3rd. Come about 10 minutes before 5pm. We will meet in our room, and it will be a different set-up (Loida’s class will be in her room, so it will be less crowded).

Summary of the Week:
Monday: We began our week with another trip on Google Earth, and zoomed in to Caleb’s house. The kids often ask to see other places, such as the Space Needle. We’ve been on many journeys! I am so enchanted with the satellite imagery and the ability we have to “visit” places around the globe, and the kids seem to be as well. After recess, we worked on painting the salt dough topographic maps – these will be on display for the Learner’s Exhibition. Monday was also Brynn’s birthday, so we celebrated with a birthday card and some little sweets over in Loida’s room, with all the Discoverers.

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Tuesday: A friend of mine taught mapping to her students last fall, and she recommended a book called “Me on the Map”. It’s perfect for our class; it shows a little girl drawing a map of  her bedroom, her neighborhood, then studying maps of her city, her state, the United States and, finally, the world. A good example of zooming in and out with geography. The kids are starting to recognize Washington as a place on various maps. After recess, we did small group work. I helped several kids get started on their maps for the Learner’s Exhibition. The group that worked with Brynn invented porcupine sculptures!
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Wednesday: We revisited the book, “Me on the Map”, at our morning circle, noticing different details this time, and comparing the maps in the book to the maps around our classroom. We also used Google Earth to look up Calvin’s house, Brynn’s house, and both the North and South poles. After recess, our small group work continued. The porcupine/play dough sculpture took on new proportions, with every pencil in the room contributing to the creature’s spines!We are continuing to practice the Continents song, brought to us by Caleb and family. The kids are getting quite good at it! They are starting to recognize the continents on various world maps.
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Thursday: I introduced a wordless picture book at morning circle, simply titled “Zoom”. It’s a fascinating book about perspective, and definitely fits with our exploration of zooming in and out. The illustrations begin with a close-up view of a chicken, then zooming out to a view of the chicken’s farm yard, then a view of the entire farm, then a view of a little girl playing with farm toys, and you realize that the chicken was a tiny toy in the hands of the child. The book continues to zoom out, offering many surprising shifts in perspective.After recess, we used the light projector and a map printed on a transparency to explore the idea of using the cardinal directions to find a route through a neighborhood. Photo 12 shows the map projected onto paper. We worked with this map for a while, and then I removed the map and  allowed everyone to choose an object to place on the machine for some shadow play. I loved seeing their experimentation with this, and the way they all hovered around the light projector, but shared space. Ansel and Lihroy discovered they could use the spinner toys (small wooden tops) to make moving shadows.
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Friday: We hosted morning meeting in our room, and Loida brought a project to share with the entire group. She asked everyone to think of one or two things that they love about Swan School. Younger kids were matched with an older child to write down these ideas on red paper hearts. Loida collected all the hearts, counted them, and arranged them on a large sheet of paper- 100 things we love about Swan School! This is to celebrate school spirit, but also to acknowledge the 100th day of school (which is Feb. 29).After recess, I read a conceptual book about the cardinal directions. We practiced making weather vanes with our arms, and pointing to the four directions (which are labeled in our room). We had Morgan Hanna volunteering with us (she has a Kindergarten age child)  so that we could do small group work again. She’s wonderful as a teacher’s aide.
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Announcement:
You will be seeing Morgan in our classroom quite a bit in the next few weeks…Brynn is going to be gone for medical leave. She has to undergo surgery again (if you are new to Swan, Brynn had surgery last year for an endometrioid cyst). We hope this will be a relative easy surgery, and that she will have a swift recovery. We will miss her, but she plans to return after 3 weeks. And we have some wonderful substitutes ready to help.I rode my bike to school today – such a good feeling! I will be taking down “the castle”, and preparing to put up a giant world map. The kids will begin painting this new mural of the six continents tomorrow.
We’ve really got the whole world in our hands!
Best wishes,
Dana

Weekly Update: Feb 16-Feb 19

Dear Discoverer Families,

I hope you all had plenty of time in the sun today! My husband and I enjoyed the good weather, and went to the Seattle Asian Art Museum for his birthday. We found, among many intriguing exhibits, some Chinese artifacts that included a gold plated “treasure” box, etched with dragons. I know a few preschoolers who would have been thrilled to see it! It will be fun to tell them about our urban adventure tomorrow.

Reminders:

For those of you with kids going on to kindergarten in the fall, there is a parent meeting March 1st, 7 – 8 pm, that will focus on scholarship and financial aid questions. The parent meeting on March 8 is a general meeting, for all of Swan community members.

Summary of the Week:

Tuesday: We are giving a lot of attention to our mapping theme these days, building on our earlier projects with concepts such as zooming in and out (going from house to town to state to nation to continent), and learning about geographical forms (continents, mountains, volcanoes, valleys). At morning circle, we looked at Google Earth, and zoomed into Elsie’s house (we are doing this with each student’s address). We found how close her house was to school. We also did some body movement, pretending to zoom in and out by stretching arms wide, and then narrowing them down to “binoculars”.

After recess, I gave each child a map of Port Townsend with a red dot show the location of their home (fairly accurate – it’s an old map from my Thomas Guide). I demonstrated drawing lines on the map to show a route, going from a home, to downtown, to Hudson Point. Then, I invited everyone to paint their maps. It was great fun to hear them tell stories of their journeys during this project!

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Wednesday: I brought out a large, National Geographic map of the U.S., and we compared that map to a flat world map, the globe, and the image of earth on my computer (google Earth images). We started pin pointing places that the kids have traveled to. We will continue this project in the coming week. After recess, we talked about a bird’s eye view of our town, and how the buildings look like little blocks when seen from above. We then built imaginary towns out of little blocks, to practice using those spatial, organizational skills!

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Thursday: Russ loaned us some plastic topographical maps. One shows the U.S, and the other is of our region, with Mt. Rainer, Mt. Adams and Mt. Saint Helens showing. This led to a discussion of volcanoes, and I tried to find some good videos online to help give some explanation of what a volcano is, and how it erupts. I will keep looking – it’s a very exciting topic! We talked about topographic maps, and they are learning that word as we go.

After recess, we made our own topo maps with salt dough. We talked about the features of the map, the mountains and valleys, how you could create an island, and how you could show roads through the landscape. Of course, there was some extra dough for anyone who wanted to make a Sponge Bob character!

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Friday: We went to morning meeting in Jen’s room (on the West side of campus!). It was a different setting; usually we are in Loida’s room or our own room, but the kids adapted really well. We did collaborative puzzle building, which is also a spatial reasoning activity. After recess, we created a map of our classroom. I prepared the map the day before by cutting out pieces of colored paper that represented all of our classroom furniture. I had outlines of the furniture shapes on the map, and I labeled the doors in our room. The kids took turns finding where each piece of paper fit, like a puzzle. They did a great job, and then they enjoyed cutting and gluing paper pieces, making their own maps.

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I realized recently that I’ve always been known to have a “bad sense of direction”. I get lost easily in new places, and sometimes confuse left and right when interpreting directions. My parents thought I would never be able to navigate a big city, but I was able to adapt to city life in my early twenties, and I did construct a mental map of Portland, OR, that served me well. It’s interesting that I love maps so much as an adult, and I’m really enjoying the mapping activities we are working on in class!

Best wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Feb 8-Feb 12

Dear Discoverer Families,

Looking back at our photos from the week, I remembered a spontaneous project from last Monday… We had direct sun coming through the classroom windows, and we also had small, round mirrors out (for decorating the fairy gardens, of course!). Ansel began reflecting light with one of the mirrors, causing an oval reflection of light to dance around the room. I brought out prisms and a large, square mirror to take advantage of the sunlight, and to give the kids an experience with reflection and refraction (photos 2 -4). It was really delightful, and I hope we have more sun in our classroom soon!

Reminders:

Preschool Open House tomorrow, Tuesday the 16th, 4pm – 5:30pm. Spread the word!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: I found a book at the library that is well known for it’s story about friendly pirates (“How I Became a Pirate”). This book includes a treasure map, drawn by the young protagonist, and is perfect for our current classroom theme. I read this story at our morning circle, and we looked at several details on the illustrated map. After recess, we went on a treasure hunt around the campus. I brought out our school map (a collage of the school grounds that we made last fall), and I had a message to read to the kids from the resident “Swan School Fairies”. They thanked us for the fairy gardens we’ve been constructing, and they said they would gift us some “blue sapphire”, a.k.a. glass stones. There were blue dots that mysteriously appeared on the school map. We followed the map to each blue dot, and found the corresponding treasure.

Tuesday: I’ve been hanging onto a compass that was given to me from Gary, our school’s keyboarding teacher, for a long time. I am so happy to bring it out from the closet for use in our classroom! We looked at the compass, which came from a ship, and I showed everyone the way that it spins around, depending on which way we point it, to help us find the four directions. We identified N, S, E and W, and put up large labels around the room. We also looked at the globe, and talked about the north pole, the south pole, and the directions of east and west (relative to where we live). After recess, we all worked together to count how many footsteps it takes to walk across our room. We paced the room, North to South and West to East. We then took turns looking for hidden objects around the room. One at a time, I gave the kids verbal directions (5 steps to the North, 5 steps to the East, for example). I helped the kids find their way by pointing to each direction. To be continued!

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Wednesday: We had our first experience with Google Earth. I now have the application on my classroom computer, and we love using the mapping function to locate different places! There is another concept we are developing with this theme – the idea of zooming in and zooming out. Looking at Google Earth gives the kids a wonderful visual of the macro vs. micro perspective, and helps them build on this concept of small parts making up a greater whole. After recess, we took the compass and four more signs (N, S, E, and W) out to the playground. We located each of the four directions and stuck our signs up with tape. This was also a great activity for a cardio workout – the kids ran across the playground in all four directions!

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Thursday: At morning circle, we spent more time looking up specific locations on Google Earth. We are using the children’s home addresses to explore Google Earth (although there have been requests to go to France and China, so we may branch out!). After recess, I asked the kids if they knew what the word “legend” refers to. It was not a familiar word for them, and I explained that it has two meanings. It can refer to a story, like a fairy tale, or it can refer to the symbols on a map. We looked at a legend in the book “Maps and Globes” (a great resource for mapping with children). I showed them a simple legend that I drew, just a tree, wavy lines for water and a railroad track. The kids then drew their own legends (on large paper). After drawing the symbols, the kids were each given a sand tray to trace their symbols into the sand. This was a fun sensory experience, and helped to solidify the idea of mark making as symbolic. We also visited Marcy’s class on Thursday.

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Friday: We hosted morning meeting in our room on this day, and I read the book “My Map Book” to the whole group. We talked about all the different personal maps in these pages (map of the bedroom, map of the body, map of the heart). I noticed that the book didn’t include a map of thoughts, or a map of the mind, and I encouraged everyone to think about a visual picture of their consciousness, or a mental map. A bit abstract for preschoolers, but they jumped right into drawing, and created some really cool maps! I guess all of their artwork could be seen as a mental map…

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I hope you are enjoying some quiet time on this rainy day…we’ll see you soon!

Best  wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Feb 1- Feb 5

Dear Discoverer Families,

I may have mentioned that our next curriculum theme, which will lead up to our next Learner Exhibition, is mapping and geography. This theme excites me – I’ve been collecting maps for years, and I’ve always had a fascination with maps. I use them in my artwork. And I love thinking of ways to bring maps into the classroom. We’ve begun our mapping activities – and the projects have been integrated into our earlier theme of fairytales and castles.

Reminders:

No School on Feb. 15th for President’s Day.

Swan School’s Open House for Preschool Families is Feb. 16, at 4pm until 5:30pm. If you know of prospective families, share the news!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: I was on the couch most of the day with another terrible cold. I hate missing school – but Brynn took over, and thought up a wonderful paper collage project: she invited everyone to make paper dragons, which I’ve seen before from one student, but it was great to see the many various paper dragons when I came back to school on Tuesday. The first photo of this batch is from Brynn, of Max and Lila on Monday, drawing a bird and dragon outside!

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Tuesday: We started the conversation about maps at our morning circle. “Why do we have maps,” I asked, and “what do we use maps for?” The kids volunteered a lot of ideas, and surprised me with their understanding of maps and their uses! I typed up these comments, and you can read them in entryway of the classroom.

After circle time, I showed the kids some maps of gardens, and we talked about the various objects and symbols we could see on those maps. I demonstrated making a map of the objects in one of our classroom fairy gardens. The kids then drew their own maps. The variety in these drawings is wonderful, and the kids inspire each other as they talk about their drawings.

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Wednesday: I made some photo copies of simple treasure maps from a non-fiction book that talks about historical pirates and their legendary treasures. I showed everyone the maps, and we talked about the objects and symbols we noticed. I then talked about the compass rose, and held the globe for them to get an idea of north, south, east and west, relative to our location in Washington. We looked for the compass rose on each map, and I showed a simple way of drawing a compass rose.After recess, we made our own treasure maps! The children love imagining the quest for treasure, and some of them drew their own version of a compass rose. We tea dyed the paper, to make it look like aged parchment.
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Thursday: At morning circle, I read a book called “My Maps”, which is a picture book with a very creative approach to mapping. Each page shows a map illustrated from a child’s perspective. Some maps are of ordinary places, like the neighborhood and the child’s bedroom. Other maps are symbolic, like the map of the heart, which shows all the people and animals the child loves.After recess, we looked at a world map that showed the travels of various explorers. There were solid lines and dotted lines showing each route the explorers took. I invited everyone to draw a large map of the world (or any place), and then use the dot markers to show the paths that are traveled in that world. I labeled the places they told me about on their maps. I was impressed with the place names these kids know!
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We then went to visit Marcy’s class for Choosing Time.  Lots of good spatial reasoning activities were available!
Friday: Loida offered to host morning meeting, so we joined her class and all the other students for a partner activity. The Preschoolers  were matched with an older partner and each pair chose a card game or board game to play. I didn’t get any photos, but it was a fun morning meeting.We later returned to our treasure maps from Wednesday. The tea was dried, and most of the kids wanted to add color to their maps. Some chose to make new maps. This theme is very provocative for us!
I came across an interesting article on the website MindShift (I highly recommend this website for info on innovative ideas in education!) that is related to mapping with preschoolers. The title of the article is “Steps to Help Foster a Preschooler’s Spatial Reasoning Skills”, and it has some great tips for teachers and parents. The article explains that spatial reasoning skills help students develop skills in math, and science and technology.  I love teaching mapping because it is also highly creative – maps tell stories, and our students are captivated by the language and beauty of maps. The maps we have created will be on display all around our classroom in the weeks ahead!
Best Wishes,
Dana

Weekly Update: Jan 25-Jan 29

Dear Discoverer Families,

Loida and I were very proud of our Discoverers Friday night; the concert provided all students a place to give a musical performance in a safe and warm environment. They sang with joy and excitement – and I hope you all got a few photos! I did not get a chance to take photos, so send some my way!

Reminders:

K-1 open house on Monday! Visit Marcy’s class from 4 – 5:30 to get an inside look at her excellent program.

Early Release – Wednesday, Feb. 3rd. We end at 12:30 that day. Teachers will be working on our Self Study, to eventually earn another level of accreditation for the school.

Summary of the Week:

Monday: We began the week with a variety of pre-math games and puzzles. I set up stations around the room with several one-to-one correspondence games, using dice and toys to make them playful and attractive. For example, Dragon Math involved a toy dragon, sitting on a container of glass stones (treasure!). The children roll the dice, count the dots, and then remove that many stones from the Dragon’s lair. Photo 3 shows Lila with a similar seashell math activity. I also provided a numerical puzzle and geo blocks – all part of the math choice activities for this week.

After recess, I invited everyone to paint their cardboard crowns in preparation for our Royal Tea Party on Wednesday!

Tuesday: For morning circle, I retold the Three Billy Goats Gruff story to the kids, using props in the sand table. I found a troll figure in our storage space, and borrowed three goat (or sheep?) creatures from Loida. It was fun for all of us to build a simple bridge and use toys to act out the fable. I’ve noticed the kids choosing this story from the bookshelf quite often – they all can anticipate the script of the goats and the troll. At lunch one day, an intriguing question came up: “what happened to the troll after he is kicked off the bridge?” The story is unclear….the kids speculated about a number of different endings, or sequels to the tale. This kind of engagement with the story is exciting to see – It helps prepare these students for more complex literacy skills later on.

After recess, we went to visit Marcy’s class for “Choosing Time”. Marcy has this lovely open-ended explore time for her students, with instruments, play dough, manips and art supplies available. It’s a great opportunity for our preschoolers to get to know the older kids, and to enjoy different materials in a different space.
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Wednesday: This was a most exciting day – a reptile visitor and a tea party! My friend, Victoria Polling, brought her gecko into our class for a visit. Victoria was wonderful at introducing the lizard and asking the kids questions to prompt their thinking about reptiles. She even allowed the gecko to walk around on our rug and interact with the kids!

We then switched gears, and began preparing tea and scones for the Royal tea party. The kids all had a chance to put an ingredient into the bowl, and with some expert help from MB, we created scones for our party! I also brought a selection of herbs from the co-op (peppermint, lavender, chamomile, echinacea, and rose bud). The kids enjoyed scooping herbs into saches for a unique tea blend.

After recess, we had a crowning ceremony, and I set up a “fancy” table for our Royal Tea. It was great fun!

Thursday: We are now entering into another fantastical theme in our class – the fairy garden, and stories about fairy folk have inspired much of the dramatic play recently. I read a short poem about fairies at our morning circle, and then set up the fairy garden activities for after recess. The kids took turns playing with fairy figures, and organizing the gardens with glass stones, beach stones, shells and pinecones. I gave them two garden pots – one with living plants, and one with plastic plants that can be moved and manipulated. I saw each of the kids playing with the fairy gardens, and I, too, love setting them up!
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Friday: We attended morning meeting at Loida’s class, and we brought fairy tale books with us for Buddy Reading. After the collaborative reading time, we stayed in Loida’s for explore time. After recess, I took small groups over to my room, mixing Loida’s students with my students, and giving them time to explore our materials. We also practiced our song for the concert – as a whole group.

That about sums it up – Have a great weekend, and see you soon!

Dana


Weekly Update: Jan 19-Jan 22

Dear Discoverer Families,

Fewer photos in this update – it was a four day week, and by the end of the week, my phone had no available storage to allow for more photos! So, I will do my best to describe what I didn’t capture in photos.

Announcements:

Swan School will be participating in a preschool exposition at the Rec. center, this Wednesday, from 6-8 pm. We will set up a table, along with many other area preschools, to share information with prospective families.

Our Winter Concert is happening this Friday, at 6pm. It is at the American Baptist Church, next to the uptown library. I highly recommend getting there a little early to get a good seat!

I received a question about Valentines at school, and I thought I should mention our school’s approach to the holiday. We don’t have a Valentine’s celebration, and we don’t create Valentines at school. I love sending Valentines, personally, but the school tradition is to encourage families to celebrate Valentines after school. If your child is very excited about giving out Valentines, they can leave the notes in school file folders in the office. There is a paragraph about this in the Parent Handbook, if you would like more info.

Summary of the week:

Tuesday: I’ve been enjoying going to the public library and finding picture books that depict fairy tales, fables and legends…the book shelf is overflowing! I picked out a number of books that showed illustrations of forests. We looked at these pages, and had a discussion at circle time about what an “enchanted forest” might be. We talked about stories we know that have a forest setting. I enjoyed hearing their ideas about what they would like to find in their imaginary enchanted forests! After recess, I had a printmaking project set up. I provided an exotic-looking vegetable (not sure of its name) that is related to broccoli. It has a triangular shape, and when cut in half, resembles an evergreen tree. We experimented with printing using this veggie and a few rubber stamps…the prints were less forest-like than I expected, but there was a lot of enchantment at the art table!

Wednesday: At morning circle, I asked the kids to tell me all that they knew about castles. What are the parts of a castle? Who lives in a castle? What do they look like? We then looked through a number of castle books, and I asked the kids to choose their favorite image of a castle. I’ve been photo copying their chosen pictures, and hanging them up on the bulletin board. After recess, I shared a book with the kids that reveals how a castle is built, including a simple map of the parts of the castle. This will be the first of many maps we study in the upcoming weeks! We talked about the castle’s great hall, the towers with turrets, the stables where animals live, and so on. Then, I invited the kids to build their “Dream Castles” with a variety of wooden blocks. I was so impressed with their constructions! Several kids pointed to each part of their block structure and told me what function it had – bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms, etc.

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Thursday:  To provide the kids with some factual information about an actual castle, we watched a short video about Buckingham Palace. The kids were impressed with the idea that this is a castle that is still in use, and they like seeing footage of the Queen. We also looked at images of castle flags, and talked about why castles would always have a unique flag. After recess, we got to work drawing and painting our own castle flags. I talked to the kids about a “family flag”, or family crest, that each castle would have, to identify the kingdom. They spent a lot of time on this project, and some children made more than one flag!

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Friday: We hosted morning meeting on Friday. I was so inspired by the castle flags from Thursday, that I invited every child at Swan School to make a flag that represents our school. One of our Discoverers turned the flag upside down, and drew a dragon face! I hope to get these school flags on display in the office soon. After recess, I brought out our little puppet theater (perfect for finger puppets) and explained that puppet shows were very common forms of entertainment for people who lived in and around castles. I used the finger puppets available to tell a story to the kids that mimicked the “Paper Bag Princess” (using a shiny octopus instead of a dragon), and the kids quickly identified which story I was imitating. They took turns after my demo, doing their own puppet shows.

IMG_7416Have a good night,

Dana


Weekly Update: Jan 11-Jan 15

Dear Discoverer Families,

We had quite an adventurous week last week, with our spirits high, returning to class after winter break! I’m seeing wonderful engagement among the kids, with the materials and each other. We are fully immersed into the world of fairytales, dragon myth and treasure hunting!

Reminders: We have a concert coming up on Jan. 29th (Friday), in the evening. We are learning two new songs – one is titled, “Light a Candle for Peace”. We are learning sign language along with the lyrics. If you google the title of the song, you will find a lengthy list of resources for learning the song (I will provide a link to one particular youtube video later this week). We will also do a rhythm and movement song, from the Al Perkins book, “Hand Hand, Fingers, Thumb”. We will be making our own drums for this number!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: I’ve changed our schedule slightly to adjust to the needs of the students…we are having circle time about 15 min later, at 9:45. This allows the kids to have a longer time to explore the room and enter into dramatic play (which I’m seeing more and more often). The kids enjoyed finding dragon figures and “treasure” in the “dragon cave”, playing with the royal family in the little castle, and contributing to the castle wall mural that covers the back wall of the classroom. At our circle time on this first day back, we sang songs, looked at our calendar, and discussed the changes in the classroom. We walked around the room, discussing changes and expectations.

After recess, we discussed a few pages from the “Dragonology” book – we were looking at types of dragon treasure, and the ways that dragons might acquire this treasure. I suggested that dragons might be interested in the jewelry that royal ladies wore. Then, I offered everyone beads and cord to make their own jewelry. I demonstrated how to make a pattern with the beads, and some kids experimented with this while making their necklaces. We ended the day looking at a video of the “Light a Candle for Peace” song, which was lovely.

Tuesday: At our morning circle, we listened to stories from the winter break. Max and Elliot both had photos to share, and did a great job presenting the photos to the group.

After recess, the kids had chance to act out a dragon character with creative movement – I asked them to curl up like baby dragons in an egg, and then to hatch out of the egg, stretching their legs and learning how to balance. We did a few yoga poses, renaming them for our storytelling purposes. The kids all took a turn describing what they would look like as a dragon, and what kind of powers they would have. I recorded this conversation – and will document it for you to read soon!

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Wednesday: The kids have been constructing buildings, rocket ships and castles of all kinds using “castle blocks”, a vintage set of wooded blocks that Russ is letting us borrow. I love seeing their creativity with these architectural toys!

At morning circle, we read a story called “The Paper Bag Princess”. This feminist princess tale is one of my favorite stories! I’m sure we’ll return to it many times in the next few weeks.

After recess, we looked again at the illustrations in the Dragonology book, this time focusing on dragon eggs. The kids were quick to tell me that dragons are not mammals, and they had several good reasons for believing this! We then moved to the big tables where the kids could sculpt dragon eggs (and whatever they wanted to sculpt) with salt dough.

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Thursday: Our story at morning circle was a sweet contemporary tale about a princess in a castle who longs for a dragon friend. A lonely dragon longs for a child to befriend, and they eventually find one another. This is a great book for listening to rhyming words. After recess, the kids enjoyed painting the body parts of dragon puppets, which we will assemble this coming week.Friday: We all went to morning meeting in Loida’s class. She read a story about the “love bucket”, a metaphor for the need we all have for compassion from others, and the capacity we all have to act compassionately to others. When we are helpful and kind, we fill up the “love bucket” of our friends, family, and community members. We have our own “love buckets” filled up when others are helpful and kind to us. I was inspired by the story, and prepared a little activity for us…after recess, I had a literal bucket (labeled, the Love bucket) and a collection of gem stones. I asked the kids to think of things they could do to fill up the love bucket. They each put treasure into the bucket and we had a good discussion about how it feels to be helpful and kind, how it actually fills one’s own love bucket to offer love to others. We then went to work making thank you notes for Brenden, our custodian. Brenden will be leaving Port Townsend soon, to further his career and education. We are so sad to see him go, but happy for the many opportunities he will surely pursue.

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I hope you had a restful weekend – I seem to become more busy on these three day weekends, but I definitely enjoyed some extra time with friends and family!

Best Wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Dec 14-Dec 18

Dear Discoverer Families,

Our three week intercession is now underway, but the school will be open the first week of January (4th – 8th) if you need to get inside. I will be there for a couple of days, at least. There are some camps happening that week; they are open to kids ages 5 and up.

Summary of the week:

Monday: This is a good time of year to discuss family and cultural traditions. We feel it’s important to foster a spirit of curiosity and respect for various holiday traditions, and to honor the uniqueness of each family. I asked the kids if they did or did not have a Christmas tree – most replied, “yes!”, and then described their trees and ornaments. We also acknowledged that not all people have trees, and not all people celebrate the season in the same way. I recorded these conversations and will type them up for you. I also invited the kids to paint an evergreen tree on scrapbook paper. They worked carefully and created beautiful paintings! After recess, we glued on sequins for ornaments.IMG_7046
Tuesday: I was laying low at home, trying to recover from a cold, but Brynn led the class, continuing the theme we began Monday. Ansel’s family brought everyone salt dough ornaments (bats!), and the kids enjoyed painting them. I’ll be sure to distribute them in the new year. After recess, the kids worked on a group painting, with the idea of making wrapping paper. It is the large sheet of butcher paper hanging up in our easel area…I thought it was so beautiful, I couldn’t cut it up! They also read a Jan Brett winter tale – “The Mitten” – a favorite of mine!

Wednesday: During morning circle, I asked the kids why we give gifts to each other…this will be a good discussion to continue in the future. One student said, “because they make people happy and proud!” I asked the kids to remember that it’s important to say “thank you”, as we participate in gift giving and receiving this season. We then made the round, paper ornaments for all of you. After recess, we all worked together to mix a batch of chocolate chip cookies. This project is good for so many reasons – it helps introduce measurement and quantity, and it is a delightful sensory experience!

Thursday: We were invited to Karen’s class to listen to a poem/song performed by her students…it was “All Earth’s Critters”, and it’s one I’m very familiar with, from my childhood. I will get the lyrics from Karen, so we can learn it in our class (lots of mammals, and at least one reptile represented!). We decided to stay indoors for recess, and we joined up with both Marcy and Loida for a group experience. Our students were so respectful of the other kids and other spaces – I was proud of them! Afterwards, we returned to our room for another reading of “The Mitten”. This time, I had paper cut outs of all the animals in the story, and a paper mitten. During the story, everyone had the opportunity to slide an animal into the mitten, to dramatize the tale. And we had to add color to the bland paper animals after the story was over!

Friday: This was the long-expected Book Exchange. I noticed our students being patient and flexible throughout the long ceremony – I was so impressed! The books they received were beautiful and very fitting to each personality. We were able to go outside that day, which was a blessing. After recess, I had a small paper garland project ready for the kids…I wrote the word “Love” on my garland, and hid it behind me. I told the kids I had the greatest gift in the world behind my back…after several guesses, I brought out the garland, and we sounded out the word. Several students decided to make a Love garland, and others just enjoyed mixing paint to decorate the paper pieces. It was a good conclusion to the day.
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I want to thank you all for bringing your children to Swan School every week! I am grateful to get to know all of you, and to have such a wonderful group of students to work with. They help me grow, and bring me great joy!

Peace and joy to you, this season and always!

Dana


Weekly Update: Dec 7-Dec 11

Dear Discoverer Families,

The rain seems endless…it’s a good weekend for reading, cooking, resting
at home. I hope you all are feeling warm and cozy this evening!

Thanks to all of you for supporting your child in their efforts to learn and share knowledge at our Learner’s Exhibition! They did such a great job!

Reminders:

This Friday we will celebrate the season with our Book Exchange event. Please bring the book for this event Wednesday, the 16th.

Remember rain coats and rubber boots! We might do indoor recess, if it’s too nasty, but even if it stops raining tomorrow, the playground is very saturated.

Early release on Friday, at 12:30.

Here are a few snapshots of our amazing group at the Learner’s Exhibition, as well as of Elliot giving presentation to a group of older kids during Friday’s morning meeting. We opened up our room to the rest of the Swan students so they could see our murals and listen to the preschoolers present!
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Best wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Nov 30-Dec 4

Dear Discoverer Families,

I hope you are all warm and cozy on this blustery night! I’m working on preparing our room for the Learner’s Exhibition that is happening this Thursday at 5pm! It will be an exciting evening – all of the children in Swan School are presenting work from our recent study of the Animal Kingdom.

Reminders:

Book Exchange order forms due Monday! You can fill it out when you drop off your child, if you haven’t already. Or you can email me a list of three types of books your child would like to receive during our book exchange.

We are helping the kids prepare for the Learner’s Exhibition at school – they are practicing their presentations, making mammal art, and spending time with books on mammals. You can support their learning by having conversations at home about their mammal of choice. We also are continuing with our classification activities and mindful movement – acting out animal behaviors with charades and yoga. This is great fun! You can do many of these activities at home – let me know if you want more details!

Summary and Captions for Photos:

1. Spontaneous feather quill painting! Lila requested this project, and Robyn joined in.

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2. Ansel studiously draws a giant sunflower on the concrete.

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3. I set up a “science lab” in Marcy’s room on Tuesday while her class was on a field trip. I have a very nice microscope on loan, and the kids loved looking at samples of hair (mine), fur (my kitten’s), a butterfly wing and a feather. On Thursday, I added a slide with snake skin. What a great tool for science learning!

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4. The art table is always busy – Calvin and Caleb requested painting “with all the colors”!

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5. Calvin gives his presentation on mountain goats. Great job, Calvin!

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Goodnight, everyone!

Dana


Weekly Update: Nov 16-Nov 20; Nov 23-Nov 24

Dear Discoverer Families,

I hope you are all relaxing after the holiday festivities! I was fortunate to spend Thanksgiving with my husband, some close friends, and their families. Three other school teachers were at the gathering, and I loved sharing stories with them from school. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to teach at Swan, and for the experience of teaching your children!

With all the conference prep I did last weekend, I did not get this update out in a timely manner, but I wanted to share these photos, and provide some captions to each photo. I also wanted to thank you for your participation in the Harvest Festival, for those who could make it! It was fantastic feast, and wonderful way to celebrate our community in this season. We will do another preschool potluck event in the spring!

The previous week was full of big ideas – we began discussing the idea of classification, or animal groups, and defining the mammalian group. We read science books, watched a short video, and did a classification game. We also enjoyed a lot of free play time with animal toys and acted out animal behaviors with circle time Charades.

Just two days of school this week, but we were very productive! We continued our discussions of traits that define mammals – they are vertebrates, they breathe air with lungs, they give birth, they nurse their young and they almost always have hair or fur (even whales have a few small hairs). We have been looking through science and art books, and asking some really great questions.

Here are the photo captions:

1. Robyn and Caleb again – Shark gloves!

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2. Elsie brought two tiny snails to school – one of them was lost! Here is the team of detectives on their search for the missing snail.
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3. Lila, Owyn Stark (from Loida’s class) and I were making shadow creatures!

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4. Morning meeting in our room – Loida was reading a story about generosity.
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5. Robyn on top of a rock that had many, many rainbow layers of sidewalk chalk dust on it! Ansel and Caleb were also busy with this project.

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6. Ansel, doing a solo chalk project.

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7. They named it “Pride Rock”! All lions welcome.
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Looking forward to seeing your mammal posters next week, and all the fascinating information you and your child discover!
Have a great weekend,
Dana

Weekly Update: Nov 9-Nov 13

Dear Discoverer families,

We had an exciting day last Friday, preparing for our Harvest Festival! All students in both classes had the opportunity to contribute to cooking the soup, making place mats and decorations, and acting out the Stone Soup folk tale…garlic and basil scent permeated the classroom, and we enjoyed the sensory experience, as well as the community building!

Reminders:

Tomorrow is our Harvest Festival. Come at 12:30, one and all, if your schedule allows! We will meet in Loida’s room.

Thanksgiving Week: We will have a short week next week, Nov. 23 – 25. Monday and Tuesday of that week are early dismissal (12:30pm), with conferences offered in the afternoon…No school Wednesday the 25th, but we will be offering conferences all day. Of course, no school Thursday and Friday, for the holiday. You can sign up for conferences on a sheet in the office.

Summary of the week:

Monday: At our morning circle, I introduced yet another version of Stone Soup – this is the third retelling of the tale that we have looked at. In this version, all of the characters are animals, and the wise protagonists are pigs! It was a fun story to read, and the kids offered up a lot of insightful comments about how this version differed from the other two stories. We talked about comparisons as well, particularly how the story concludes with a community feast that was made possible by the generosity of each person.

After recess, we visited the community garden, and noticed the changes that have taken place in recent weeks. We delivered coffee grounds to the compost bin and explored the 12 plots with excitement. Most of the beds have been put to rest, and are lying dormant, covered in hay, until next spring. Still, there was much life to discovered in the late autumn garden.

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Tuesday: We’ve had some bean sprouts growing in our classroom for a few weeks now…these were grown from bean pods found in Marcy’s plot in the community garden. We looked at both bean sprouts – one in a jar, and one in a more roomy garden pot. We noticed the one in the jar was not looking healthy. The kids suggested that the roots needed more room to grow. We took out these sprouts from their containers and transplanted the larger, healthier one to a larger pot. The kids enjoyed seeing the tiny roots and speculating about the growth of the bean vine.

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Wednesday: No school, in honor of Veterans Day.
Thursday: We love incorporating dramatic play into our circle time…I invited the kids to participate in another telling of Stone Soup. I acted as the narrator and the kids acted out the story by using simple props from the classroom. I’ve noticed that the housekeeping area in the classroom (where I’ve put some small logs and a sauce pan) is getting a lot of activity – and I’m hearing the kids tell their own versions of Stone Soup.After recess time, I asked the kids to look at a variety of different toy animals (all of them were part of our farm animal collection). I held up a bird and asked them where baby birds come from. “Eggs!” was the clear answer. We talked about what animals lay eggs, what kinds of animals hatch from eggs, and what animals give birth. We clapped out the syllables for “mammal”, and I told the kids we would be studying mammals in the weeks ahead. This experience of learning about farm animals will be a good segue-way into our mammals unit. We then looked at real bird nests from my rather large collection…each child carried a nest over to Teacher Jen’s room. We presented her class with the nests because her group is studying birds this term. All of the kids sat together for a short discussion on why birds build nests – and the Discoverers gave some very wise answers to that question! I was so happy to see the connections growing between the eldest and the youngest at our school.
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Friday: Our class hosted morning meeting on Friday, and it was lovely to have all the kids from Swan School squeeze into our space. We entertained them with a community sing-a-long of “Old McDonald”. All the preschoolers led the song, and we used Loida’s animal masks to add colorful characters to the performance!
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After morning meeting, the kids took turns (if they wished) chopping zucchini and cutting basil leaves for our harvest soup.At the end of the day, we had many ingredients ready to combine in the crock pot for our soup. We sat the kids around a little table, and I read the story once again. Every child was able to pour a vegetable or spice into the soup as I read the story. We took turns smelling the aromatic ingredients, and the kids we eagerly anticipating our Harvest Festival!Looking forward to the week ahead,
Dana

Weekly Update: Nov 2-Nov 6

Dear Discoverer Families,

What a busy week! Lots of photos for you to enjoy…I hope you had a chance to use your Elevated Ice Cream tokens. Many thanks to Robyn’s family (Shea and Tim) for collecting all of those pine cones for the pine cone challenge, and earning the ice cream for all!

Announcement:

Mark your calendars for Monday, Nov. 16, at 12:30pm! We are planning a harvest festival for the preschool students and the 6th grade families. This will be a celebratory potluck, with soup and dessert (the preschoolers are cooking!). We will invite everyone to bring either bread or a salad. Some of you received your invitations on Friday – the rest of the invites will be given out tomorrow.

Summary of the Week:

IMG_6549Monday: We spent our morning circle sharing stories from our Oct. intercession. The photos you provided were a wonderful prompt for the kids to remember some of their activities during the break!

After recess, a friend of mine, Libby Palmer, came over to share some Day of the Dead artwork with us. She talked about the practice of remembering those who have passed away, and the different ways Mexican people celebrate the Day of the Dead. The kids then decorated skull images -these were simple outlines of skulls, and the kids used all kinds of color (coloring pencils, marker and paint) as well as glitter to decorate their pictures. I was very impressed with the interest the kids had in this activity – and the beauty of their artwork is inspiring!

Tuesday: We continued hearing stories from the October intercession…this is such good practice for the kids, helping them to develop their story-telling abilities, their listening skills, and simply learning more about preferences and personalities of each classmate.

After recess, I read a book called “Farm Life”, which is a counting book, but also has a lovely way of illustrating farmers, farm animals, and the experience of life on the farm. The kids enjoyed making animal noises for almost every page!

Wednesday: A few more stories from the break for morning circle…tomorrow I will type up all their stories and display them with the photos you all provided.

After recess, we read one version of the story, “Stone Soup”. This tale takes place in China, with three wise monks traveling through the countryside. They teach a village of anxious, self-interested people how to come together as a community and create a shared meal. I helped the kids to act out this story with a few props. I loved hearing the thoughts the children offered as I paused during the story, asking them what they thought would happen…we will be doing a lot of this “embodied learning” this year!

We began painting our Harvest Festival invitations – some kids made multiples (I think the gold watercolor was a big hit!).

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Thursday: We used toys from the play kitchen to do a math activity at our morning circle. I brought out a bunch of different pretend food items, categorized in baskets. The categories were vegetables, fruit, grains and animal products. We talked about where each of these kinds of food come from. Then we dumped all the baskets out and sorted the food as a group. This process of categorization, comparing different types of objects, is a fun way of building essential pre-math skills.

After recess, we read another version of “Stone Soup”. Teacher Marcy provided us with this book (written in 1947!), and it is set in post-revolution France. I asked the kids to look at the pictures and let me know what was the same and what was different from the story we read on Wednesday. I was so impressed with their ability to notice subtle and not-so-subtle details that differentiated the two stories. We also talked about the common message of each book, the theme of generosity and sharing community resources.

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Friday: Loida’s class hosted morning meeting on this day, and all of us preschoolers brought books over to her room for Buddy Reading. Truly a multi-age experience! We stayed in Loida’s room after morning meeting, and she invited the kids to help chop apples for our apple crisp (we will get to eat this together on the 16th!). Loida also did a cooking demo, showing the kids how to heat butter, saute apples, and add sugar to the mix. It smelled wonderful, and the kids were a great audience!

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As the week continues, we will be talking more about farm animals, and learning about the differences between the animal kingdoms (comparing insect, reptile, fish and mammal kingdoms). This will be the theme we work with for our winter Learner’s Exhibition.

Best Wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Oct 12-Oct 16

Dear Discoverer Families,
I’m on my way to Vancouver Island for a few days…so I thought I would expedite this weekly update, before I’m on my adventure!Reminders: No school for two weeks. Classes resume Nov. 2. I will be on campus here and there, mostly the 2nd week of this intersession. If you have hours to fill and would like to help with a project at school, just let me know!

Monday: During the week of Sept. 21, we began our bean experiment. The beans used in the experiment were collected from the Community Garden, in Marcy’s plot. We placed beans in two jars – one jar had soil, and the other had moist paper towels. For several weeks we kept checking on the jars…and saw no changes. However, this week we saw the miraculous growth of a delicate white root system from one of the beans! The bean that rooted was from the jar that had no soil. So, at Monday’s morning circle, we all helped scoop soil into a pot to plant our precious bean. A few of us are hoping it will grow into a giant magic bean stalk!After recess, we began our farm mural project. We looked at several different kinds of farms – corn fields, potato farms, and apple orchards. There was a lot of interest in painting a corn field, so we got to work with paint rollers, brushes and sponges. We mixed yellow and blue to make the right shade of green, and we indulged in a little gold paint, to show sunlight on the field.IMG_5728

Tuesday: We love noticing the seasons change at Swan School, and fall is, perhaps, the most beautiful of all. At circle time, I showed the kids some leaves that I collected and pressed. We identified maple, oak, and birch leaves. With glee, everyone helped collect more leaves outside in front of the school. They are getting really good at leaf identification!

After recess, we began painting animals for our mural. We used watercolors to paint several horses, chickens, many spiders, and a few frogs. We need to paint the pond for those frogs, and some cat tails for the spiders!

Wednesday: We welcomed Calvin to our class on Wednesday! Our name game, Hikledee Pickldee Bumble Bee, helps new students to learn the names of classmates. It also allows students to hear and count the rhythm of syllables in each name. We also read a non-fiction book titled “Seasons on the Farm”. This book will help prepare us for our field trip to Collinwood on Friday.

We continued work on our farm mural after recess. The mural needed a barn and chicken coop, and a few more farm animals. The kids were so focused on this project – it is great fun to watch this mural come to life!

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Thursday: I was very disappointed to miss school on Thursday – my day was spent horizontal, on the couch. I talked with Loida afterwards, and she complimented the kids on being flexible, and being very responsive to her. She led them in an earthquake drill (we do these monthly) and more harvest-related artwork.

Friday: Field trip day! Our field trip to Collinwood was delightful. Gina, aka “Oliver’s mom”, led us around the property, through most of the green houses, and was very relaxed with our excited parade of preschoolers. We tasted cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and even had a chance to pick the last of the season’s raspberries. Because of the overflow of pumpkins at the farm, each child picked out one pumpkin to take home. Many thanks to our parent volunteers for joining us (and pulling those wagons full of pumpkins all the way back to school!).

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I hope you all have a happy harvest season, and I expect I will see many of you out and about in the coming weeks!

Best Wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Oct 5-Oct 8

Dear Discoverer Families,

My husband and I went to Lake Crescent today, to hike in the fall woods and enjoy the season… the hiking trail was closed, but we spent time along the shore, and I collected some delicate lichen and vibrant leaves to decorate the classroom. We will be spending a lot of time this week celebrating fall, collecting leaves, and learning about the harvest season.

Reminders:

We will be walking to Collinwood Farm on Friday, the 16th, at 10:00am! Loida’s class will be going on this field trip, as well. We hope every child can come, even if Friday isn’t a normal school day for you. Let me know if you have any questions or if you would like to walk with us to the farm.

We are almost to our first Intercession of the year! No school for two weeks, Oct. 19 – 30. We will be discussing this upcoming break in class, to help prepare the kids for the experience.

Summary of the Week:

Monday: Relying on our school map, we made our way to Jen Kingfisher’s class, and visited the 4th, 5th and 6th graders. They were great hosts, and allowed us to look at some impressive 3-D maps – several of the kids created models of their classrooms, complete with tiny tables and chairs, little book shelves and cubbies. They looked like doll house schools! Several of these “big kids” have gone out of their way to push our preschoolers on swings, help them with opening doors, and giving them a turn to kick the soccer ball. We have now visited each room in the school!

During recess, the teachers noticed quite a few kids laying belly down on the big tractor tire.
Their heads were inside the tire, and they were all hollering something into the depths…after we investigated, we learned that there was a rather large spider down there, and the kids decided to yell at it to scare it away! Not sure how effective that was, but they were quite happy with the collective screaming, and we got a great photo!

Tuesday: I introduced the book “Pumpkin, Pumpkin”,  a sweet and simple story about a child who plants a pumpkin seed and watches the pumpkin grow, through each stage of development. This book prompted a lot of fun stories about finding pumpkins, carving pumpkins, and prepartions for Halloween.

After recess, I asked the kids to guess what I had hidden in our toy barn. A lot of logical guesses, related to the farm, but no one guessed that there were toy tractors in there! I bought a few for us from True Value in Hadlock. They have some great farm toys. Anyway, we admired the tractors, and then I read a book about various farm machines. The kids were fascinated by the photos in the book, and the tractors are a nice addition to our toy farm animals in the sensory table.

Wednesday: During morning circle I shared a photo of my dinner table from the night before. I asked the kids what they noticed about my meal…the candle and spices on the table were much more interesting than the food! But we did talk about the sausage, zucchini and quinoa that made up my meal. I asked them where all that food came from…several people mentioned the store. I brought out some photos of the Food Co-op, and we looked carefully at them. Then I asked where the co-op gets food from, and someone shouted, “the farm!” We will be continuing this discussion in the week ahead, and you can talk with your child at home about where your food comes from.

After recess, we looked at some books that showed differnt types of farms…corn fields, chicken coops, and grazing cows all looked interesting. I told the kids that we were going to make a farm mural for our classroom, but I wanted to know what kind of farm they wanted to create. The answers included: a tulip farm, a horse farm, a rooster farm, and a farm with spiders, dragonflies and frogs! We decided we could have all of those things (afterall, a farm might have a pond, and the pond would have spiders, dragonflies and frogs!).

Thursday: We started work on our farm mural Thursday morning. The kids discussed what kind of sky they wanted – a sunny sky was universally desired! We had some very engaged kids painting clouds of all shapes and sizes. I enjoyed seeing the clouds come to life with paint rollers and paint brushes, and the children had wonderful commentary about the process of painting and the shapes they were creating. We will create the fields, barn, pond, and animals of the farm this coming week.

After recess, I read a story that has wonderful illlustrations of tractors working the fields (and various birds that benefit from the fields). The vocabulary used in the book is very technical, and helps us all to learn the vocabulary of the farm.

I realize the photos below are mixed up a bit – sorry about that! I had to use Beau’s phone one day when my phone had no storage for new photos.

We will savor this week to come, and explore the changes autumn brings to Swan School! Looking forward to seeing you soon,

Dana


Weekly Update: Sept 28-Oct 2

Dear Discoverer Families,

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I hope you are all enjoying the glorious fall weather! My husband and I were in Seattle for a night, and on the return trip I bought some orange and white mini pumpkins to decorate our classroom. I do love this time of year!

Announcements:

I just heard from Jesse, one of the owners of Collinwood, that we can come for a tour on Oct. 16! They only do tours on Fridays, and we do not have school on Oct. 9, so the 16th it is. This will be a wonderful inside look at the farm! We will put a sign up sheet in the office for parent volunteers who want to join us.

October 9th is a professional development day for us teachers. Teachers and administrators will all be at school, working on a “self study”, an extensive review of our school philosophy, program, methodology etc. This is all part of seeking accreditation with the North West Association of Independent Schools. If you have any questions, ask Russ!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: I introduced our school map on Sept. 24, and we have used it almost every day since then! On Monday, we studied it again, and then went into the front office to interview Beau. We asked him a few important questions (such as, “What is your job at Swan School?” and “Do you like flowers?”). He was very kind to let us look at EVERYTHING on his desk!

After recess, I shared some of my recent photos that I took on the Farm Tour. I visited a PT farm that featured llamas, sheep and rabbits. We talked about my photos, and talked about the process of shearing wool and transforming it into yarn. In the next few weeks, I will be collecting farm stories from all the kids who have one they want to share!

Tuesday: We took our map and found our way to the 24th street side of the school, where Bonnie has her “satellite office”! She was very accommodating of our curious students. We learned about Bonnie’s job, and the many interesting things on her desk that help her support everyone at Swan.

After recess, I read a book to the kids called “Sunflower House”. This simple story is written in an A-B-A-B rhyme, and describes the experience of a child who helps to plan a sunflower garden in his back yard. The family plants the sunflowers in a circle, and when the giant flowers bloom, they create a “house”. The pictures of the book follow the lifecycle of the flowers, from seeds to dying stalks, through the seasons of spring, summer, and fall. I now have a dream of creating a sunflower house for our students on the playground, and several kids have volunteered to help it come to life!

Wednesday: During Wednesday’s morning circle, I uncovered a mysterious new table that was new to our room, but not before asking the kids what they thought was inside. Some guesses included: marbles, popcorn, and sand…but this sensory table has potting soil inside of it, along with many farm animal figurines and some pretend plants. There are also some corn kernels for “planting”. Fortunately, no one seemed to mind that it was just dirt!IMG_5514

We took the opportunity to visit Marcy’s class in the late morning for “math choice”. She has a wonderful way of giving her students extra math activities – these are educational and playful projects, and she has invited our class to join her (we will try to do this once a week or so). You will see some photos of the kids doing geo boards (with rubber bands), and building with blocks, as examples of math choice activities.

After recess, we looked at Ansel’s recent Farm Tour photos. We saw Ansel and Nick hanging out with hens, a rooster and turkeys. I then read a story about a clever hen who trades some tail feathers for other valuable items from all the farm animals, and ends up helping out all her neighbors (and finding the perfect nest for her eggs in the process).

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Thursday: We were invited to visit Karen’s room (aka the Navigators, grades 2nd and 3rd) for a special performance. The Navigators recited a tongue-twister poem, with dramatic movements, and our Discoverers were a very attentive audience! Afterwards, we talked about what a “tongue twister” is, and I shared the only one I could think of: Butter made the bitter batter better!IMG_5321

After recess, we followed the school map again to the Navigator’s garden, which borders 23rd street on our school campus. We were given permission to each cut a sunflower from last spring’s crop. We LOVED doing this, and enjoyed looking at the other veggies still growing (carrots, kale, and chard). We might have to make a salad soon!

We had a special treat at the end of the day – we got an introduction to the electric piano from Gary, the keyboarding teacher. He played a few songs, and inspired some interpretive dancing! The kids each got to press a button, changing the settings, which was very exciting. Now, we know a lot more about what goes on in the keyboarding room.

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Friday: This is the preschooler’s day to host Morning Meeting, and we all gathered in Loida’s room this time. We matched each child with an older partner, and the pairs all chose books for Buddy Reading. This was so enjoyable for the kids that I plan to talk to Jen (teacher of the 4th, 5th and 6th graders) and ask for regular Buddy Reading sessions in our classroom.IMG_5346

We stayed in Loida’s room for the morning, and enjoyed exploring and playing in their space. At the end of the day, we returned to our room. Our closing circle included reading a post card from Max, who is traveling in Colorado. The kids were excited to see the post card, and we also had a few photos I printed out (sent via email from Mike). The kids studied these photos, which all included Max in front of a map of some kind. We tried to interpret the maps, and figure out where Max was visiting in each one. The kids are getting really familiar with the idea of reading maps!

That wraps up the week… I have one more quick announcement: while in Seattle this weekend, I went into a store that carries expensive but wonderful European toys. I took some photos, and I have an idea for a toy that I think could be build by a crafty parent…it involves ropes and pulleys (just small ones!) and some simple engineering, but I think it would be a fun project! If you want to put in some volunteer time doing this, just let me know!

Best Wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Sept 21-Sept 25

Dear Discoverer Families,

Looking back at our previous week in the classroom, I am so grateful for the growing sense of community in our group of preschoolers…they are expanding their school relationships, truly building that idea of a Swan School Family. During this weekend, I’ve been trying to learn how to send you all videos of your child presenting their Family Tree posters…I think I’m getting close to achieving this goal! I’m sorry it’s taking so long.

Announcements:

We are going to continue examining our Swan School campus and staff this week, but we are also studying gardening, and focusing on the meaning of “harvest”. Loida and I are in touch with a local farm, organizing a field trip. We want this to happen Oct. 5 or 6 – we will announce the date and time asap! If you are interested in joining us for this event, just let me know!

Summary of the Week:

Monday: At our morning circle, I reminded the kids of their family tree presentations, and I asked them to think about their family tree posters. “Do all families look the same?” I asked…there was a universal “no” to that question. We talked about some of the differences in the family photos and how they are represented on the family tree posters. I then told the kids that there is one thing that all or our families have in common – and the story “Mama, Do You Love Me?” would show us the thing that unifies all our families. The story is one of unconditional love between a mother and child, and this book offered a great prompt for me to talk to the kids about the love that defines all of our families.

After recess, we returned to the paper doll project (white paper dolls on green paper) from last week. We looked at numbers of children in each family, did some counting and drawing comparisons. We then took those posters to the big tables to add color and details.

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Tuesday: The story I introduced at our morning circle is one that has no text – it is entirely illustration. However, the book is an excellent way for children to practice visual discrimination – looking for details, comparing and contrasting images, and noticing opposites. The story is called “Inside, Outside”, and shows a child inside her house and outside her house, doing various activities, all through the changing seasons of the year. The pictures in this book inspired me to get some collage materials out for the kids to create their own “inside, outside” house pictures. We worked on the collages after recess. Some students wanted to draw family members and animals in and around the paper houses. These collages are hanging up near the girls’ bathroom.

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Wednesday: We worked on a collaborative building project during Wednesday’s morning circle…I asked the kids what kinds of things a school needs to have, and to imagine what they would want in a school, if they had the power to build their very own school. I recorded their wonderful ideas! Then, we got out the building blocks and got to work. I saw a lot of collaboration, and some very creative work!

After recess, we looked at some of the bean pods collected from Marcy’s plot in the community garden. I also had an experiment set up – one jar with soil, and another with wet paper towels. We opened up the bean pods – the beans were purple, very exciting! – and I asked the kids which jar they thought would be the best for growing beans into sprouts. We carefully placed two beans in each jar – we will keep checking on them daily to monitor the growth.

Thursday: At our morning circle, we welcomed a new student – Caleb! We sang, “I know a girl/boy who loves his/her school….” to help introduce everyone to Caleb. We also went on a mini field trip to the community garden. We delivered coffee grounds from the kitchen, and hunted for some worms. We toured the rows of veggies, flowers and fruit, noticing how the garden has changed from last week.

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After recess, I introduced the map of our school grounds that I created for us to get to know the geography of our campus. I had paper shapes cut out that labeled each structure and some features of the playground. I handed a paper shape to each student, and they figured out where that shape fit, matching it to the outline of that shape on the map. We then followed the map to get to Russ’ office. He graciously hosted us and we asked him some questions about his job at school. We also got to see Bonnie in her tiny office by the 24th street door. We really are resourceful here at Swan!

Friday: We had a very busy day on Friday! Our class hosted morning meeting – the gathering of all students into one room for a shared activity. We did buddy puzzles this time – and I was so glad to see the older students engaging in a collaborative and supportive way with our preschoolers!

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Later that morning, our group visited Marcy’s class for an open-ended, math oriented activity time. The kids loved using her geo boards, geometric shape blocks, and unifex cubes. These activities help the kids build pre-math skills, including counting, estimating, measuring, recognizing geometric shapes, finding patterns, and understanding symmetry.

We spent time in Loida’s room as well on Friday, joining with her students for free explore time, lunch and their closing circle. We love these weekly “play dates” between the two classrooms!

I hope you are enjoying the sun today, and staying warm, despite the chilly wind. I have to find my gloves  – it is truly fall!

Best wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Sept 14-Sept 18

Dear Discoverer Families,

Reminders:

Parent meeting this week – Tuesday, starting at 5pm. We will have a short Preschool Only meeting, then join everyone for dinner. After dinner there is an all-school meeting. The teachers are preparing to share a lot of important information – Hope you can make it!

Summary:

Monday: our morning circle began with a discussion of family relationships. What kinds of activities do we do with our families? How do we treat our family members? We reflected on how it feels to be with our family members: safe, happy and loved! I told the kids that they all had another family – their Swan School family – and this family is also loving and protective. We invited Loida’s class over to participate in placing tree leaves on our Swan Family Tree Mural (each child has a leaf with their name on it). The mural is now in the office, and looks lovely!

After recess, we were invited to Loida’s room to see two students present their family tree posters. Our students were such good audience members, and it was a great opportunity to get to know more about the “other Discoverers”.

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Tuesday: I photographed everyone’s hands over black paper, after we talked about how we use our hands at school. On this Tues, I showed the kids their hand photos and asked them if they could identify their photograph. It was tricky! We studied fingernails and skin tone very carefully. We finally got every photo matched to every student. This is a good project for visual discrimination, an important conceptual skill that includes detail-oriented thinking, and the ability to compare and contrast.

This was the first day that we had family tree presentations. We had four presenters – myself, Ansel, Elsie and Lila. They did a great job! This is such a great way for kids and teachers to share family stories! It helps us get to know each other. It also helps the kids develop skillful speaking and skillful listening. I have video of all these presentations, so you’ll be able to see them.

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Wednesday:

Our morning circle was a good time for more presentations of family tree posters.

We have the good fortune of having some teens from Jefferson Community School volunteering to assist in our classrooms at Swan this year. A young man named Rowan joined our class, and he was a wonderful addition to the community! He helped several kids make animal masks.

After recess, I asked the kids to observe the seed experiment we started the previous week. We have been keeping a couple of tomatoes and a green bean soaking in water, an idea Ansel had to promote their growth. We looked carefully through the murky water, but did not see any growth. We also had a collection of beans and sunflower seeds from the community garden, so I asked everyone how else we could make seeds grow into plants, and they suggested putting the seeds in soil. we planted them in pots and gave them water. One child was concerned that there wasn’t enough sun in the classroom…we looked at the options for placing the pots, and decided on top of the tall bookshelves was best, because it is closest to the windows. Good scientific thinking, Discoverers!

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Thursday:
This was Picture Day, so our morning circle was a brief one, to explain our participation in the group photo. If you haven’t yet seen our goofy class photo, it is hanging up on the big bulletin board, and it is quite a hoot!

After recess, we enjoyed more presentations of family trees. The kids  have been noticing how unique each poster is. The children listening to the presentations have been doing a good job of raising their hands and offering questions or comments (lots of compliments!) to the presenter.

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Friday:
Friday is the preschooler’s day to host morning meeting. This time it was in Loida’s room, and she prepared us for our UGN Day of Caring by talking about collaboration. We discussed the benefits of working as partners on projects, and how much good we could do as collaborators. We then paired up the kids, so that an older child was working with a younger child, and the kids got to choose from a huge variety of blocks and manipulatives to do “buddy building”.

After morning meeting, our preschoolers and Loida’s class talked about our responsibility to our school campus, and how we could help by picking up trash on the playground. We had some help from Holden, a 5th grader, and Mike (Max’s Dad). We found a surprising amount of plastic and other trash around the campus, and the kids were so enthusiastic about hunting for it! It was a great experience.

After recess, we joined up with Loida’s class to practice our earthquake drill. I used some farm animal figures and a few blocks to do a little dramatization of going underneath tables in an earthquake. I also told my earthquake 2001 story, which is not very dramatic, but at least I can speak from experience! We will do these drills every other month.

Today I visited one farm on the Farm Tour: Amity Fiber Farm. I met two handsome llamas, a lamb named Sweet Pea, and a very happy sheep dog! I’m looking forward to any farm tour stories you might have from the weekend.

Best Wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Sept 8-Sept 11

Dear Discoverer Families,

I hope you’ve had a chance to visit the Wooden Boat Festival this year – I enjoyed sharing the experience with some friends from Portland and my dad, who is visiting from Vancouver, BC. I stopped by the Children’s Corner, where the kids were putting together their toy boats, and inquired about materials that could be donated to our classroom. I came away with two wooden boats, and dowels for masts. We will use these in the coming week to have our own mini-wooden boat fest!

Reminders: Please bring your Family Tree to school this week – Sept. 15 or 16.

As you may have seen in my previous email, Picture Day is Sept. 17!

Parent meeting coming up – Sept. 22nd. This is an event for all family members. Preschool families are invited to come at 5pm for the meeting portion (childcare provided), and then we will join all families for the community meal at 5:30.

Summary of the Week:

Tuesday:  Our morning circle began with a pre-math exercise: we counted all our fingers, and talked about the equation of 5 + 5 equalling 10. We then worked on counting with the abacus. The kids were being introduced to the concepts of adding, estimating, and one-to-one correspondence. It also tied in nicely to our theme last week, celebrating the use of hands. After this circle time, I took photos of the hands of each child. They could choose how to hold their hands over a black paper background. This week, we will look at these photos and try to identify whose hands are whose.

After recess, we looked at the calendar and talked about finding each person’s birthday in the pages of the calendar. I let each child choose a bird sticker to mark their birthday. This was a fun way to discuss the concept of weeks and months.

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Wednesday: I introduced the idea of the family tree project at our first circle. I showed the children the family tree example that I sent home with everyone, and talked about filling in my family’s names on my family tree. We also did some creative movement at this circle – I asked everyone to curl up into a tiny seed, and we acted out the process of a tree growing from a seed to a mature tree. The kids all told me what kind of tree they imagined they were – I wish I had written those comments down!

After recess, we took clip boards and pencils outside, in front of the school, to draw trees. The kids spent a relatively long time on this – I was impressed with their focus and ability to draw tree forms. I plan to do this once per season, to document the cycle of the seasons and to give the kids a chance to practice drawing from observation.

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Thursday: We are shifting our curriculum theme from individual to family…I talked to the kids about my family unit, and told them who lives with me in my house (they were excited to hear that I recently adopted two kittens!). I had simple paper dolls to represent each person in the household. One at a time, the kids told me who lived with them in their homes. We counted how many people lived in each home. This was a good exercise for graphing and counting, and it allowed the kids to share some information about their lives at home. Some children chose to color their paper dolls after circle time.

After recess, we visited the community garden. The kids are enjoying this weekly activity very much – delivering coffee grounds to the worm bin, and exploring all of the garden plots to see what has changed since our last visit. We saw a bird working at picking sunflower seeds from the head of a giant sunflower this week.

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Friday: This day was the first day that our class hosted Morning Meeting. Morning Meeting is an all-school gathering, usually about 20 minutes long, and each classroom takes turns hosting. Friday will be our regular day for hosting all the kids in the school. Loida and I will take turns having the meeting in our rooms. At this meeting, I revealed the Swan School Family Tree, which is a mural that the Adventurers class conceived and created. I handed out paper leaves for each child.  We wrote names and painted all of these leaves, which will be hung up on the mural. Look for it, next time you enter the office!

After Morning Meeting, our students visited Loida’s classroom for an all-preschool exploration time. We plan to do this each Friday. We celebrated Marina’s 4th birthday with the whole group! The photo of all the kids eating popsicles was part of her birthday celebration.

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P.S. Magnets continue to be a wonderful tool for studying the force of magnetism, for developing fine motor skill, and for storytelling. In the realm of dramatic play, I’m seeing animals of all kinds take center stage, with paper dragons adding to the mix, and rich story-telling emerging from all of our students.

Looking forward to more discovery! See you soon,

Dana


Weekly Update: Aug 31-Sept 4

Dear Discoverer Families,

Looking back on our first full week of school, we packed a lot into our days together! The children are exploring in so many ways – through sensory materials, dramatic play, structured activities and outdoor play…and they are building familiarity and community through all of these
experiences.

Reminders: This weekend, during the Wooden Boat Festival, Bonnie and Mr. Bonnie (I love calling him that!) will have their wedding reception, and all are invited! Check cubbies for your invitation. The event begins at 5:00pm, at Fort Worden, Sept. 12.
Also, Picture Day is coming up – Sept. 16. We will help prepare the kids for this event by talking to them and practicing gathering for photos.

Summary of the Week:

Monday: We continued talking about the amazing things our hands can do…we are continuing to focus on self-expression this week, and getting to know the interests and preferences of each child. After circle time, the kids were invited to make colorful hand-print place mats (that I will laminate). We have a wide selection of stamp pad colors, and the kids each made very unique designs for their place mats.

After recess, we talked about how to measure height, and got out the tape measure. I wrote down everyone’s height as best I could…I will have to fact check these measurements with all of you! I took a photo of the kids in order of tallest to shortest.

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Tuesday: Last week, I noticed the magnet marbles and other magnet toys were one of the most engaging projects to this group of children. I did some excavation in one of our storage areas, and found an entire magnet science kit. I introduced it at circle time, and we talked about the force of magnetism, what that feels like, and how opposite poles attract. The kids have thoroughly enjoyed having these magnets and metal pieces available for fine motor manipulation.  One student even posed a hypothesis – he thought a penny would “stick” to the magnets. We tested his idea, and discovered that the penny was not magnetic after all.

After recess, we borrowed Marcy’s unifex cubes and talked about measuring height by making a long line of connected unifex cubes. The kids enjoyed making their own measuring sticks and measuring themselves with this interesting unit of measurement.

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Wednesday: To continue the celebration of our hands at work, I got out the air dry clay, and gave a handful to each student. The kids were asked to make hand prints in the clay – these can be painted and preserved. You will get to take them home soon.

After recess, we looked carefully at a real robin’s nest, brought to us by our classmate, Robyn! We talked about the materials the mamma bird used, and the way the robin family would use the nest. I was impressed with the knowledge of the returning students – they retained a lot from our study of birds at the end of last year.

Thursday: We started the day with reading from a wonderful Richard Scarry book, that includes a chapter on “Friends and Neighbors”. It offers many colorful and funny examples of safe and kind behavior! After recess, we did a pre-math activity – charting the hair color and eye color of each child (and teacher). We will make sure to include all who weren’t available on Monday in our charting.

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Friday: We decided to host Loida’s class on Friday, and she read a story about celebrating birthdays, which included a little bit of history about the birthday celebration traditions we currently have. Very interesting! Natasha and Loida prepared a Birthday Chart, and each preschooler now has a cupcake sticker representing their birthday on the birthday chart. This was a good visual tool to use with the kids, helping them to see their relationships with the wider community of students. And, it is a good chart for comparing the numbers of birthdays in various months. (We discovered we had no April birthdays – surprising!). Also on Friday, we went to the community garden again, and delivered all the coffee grounds from the week. We harvested cherry tomatoes from Marcy’s plot, and observed the changes happening in many of the garden plants.

I hope you all had some time outside today – I made sure I had a brief beach walk before going indoors to work! It should be a glorious fall – I’m looking forward to the Wooden Boat Festival this coming weekend, and the Farm and Fiber Tour the following weekend. We will be expanding our curriculum theme to include family culture and community in the coming weeks – more on that coming soon!

Best Wishes,

Dana


Weekly Update: Aug 26-Aug 28

Dear Discoverer Families,

Welcome to a new year at Swan School! This is the first Weekly Update of the year…I will be composing these emails every weekend, to give you a glimpse into our experiences in the classroom. I love looking over my photos from the week, and writing up a summary of our curriculum theme, projects and activities is a good way for me to reflect on our recent experiences, as well as communicate with you about our adventures at school. It might be fun to look over the photos with your child! I will also give announcements and reminders in these messages. Always feel free to contact me through email or over the phone with questions or comments.

Reminders: We have many volunteer opportunities at Swan! Refinishing furniture, touch-up painting, making playdough, and making felt board pieces…to name a few!

No school on Monday, the 7th. If you are scheduled for Monday and want to do a make-up day, just let me know!

Summary of the Week:

Wednesday: We are welcoming three new students to our class this year, and we have four returning students…so our first circle time began with a name-recognition song: Hickledee Pickldee Bumblebee. The kids did a great job on this first day of school sitting and attending at circle time! We are focusing on our classroom culture these first couple of weeks – discussing our Classroom Promise (to be safe and kind), and thinking about ways to communicate and problem-solve.

During our closing circle, we typically sing songs and share stories. We worked on self-regulation and listening to rhythm with the Steady Beat song, and I was very impressed with the good listening skills these kids demonstrated!
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Thursday: We opened the morning circle with another name recognition song, to the tune of BINGO: “I know a girl (or boy) who loves her school, and ____ is her name-o”. This song also allows for expressive movement with the music. We then thought about examples of being safe and kind, brainstorming about how that looks in the classroom. The kids were then invited to go paint name tags that will label their cubbies. This led to some very intense color mixing!

After recess, I took the kids on a brief tour of the campus. We peeked into the Adventurer’s class (grades 4-6), and Teacher Jen invited us to come inside. We got to see the big kids working on their poetry project!
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Friday: We joined Loida’s class for her morning circle – and the kids enjoyed watching Loida, Natasha and I do a brief dramatic performance! We acted out several different scenarios that involved conflict, such as knocking down someone else’s block tower, and asked the kids to help us problem-solve. We noticed the returning students (from both classes) offering a lot of good ideas for pro-social solutions to these scenarios. After circle time, Loida invited us to stay and play until snack time. This was a great opportunity to connect with our other preschool community members and explore their classroom. I plan to make this a regular occurrence on Friday mornings (to be discussed with Loida!).

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After recess, we prepared newspaper strips and coffee grounds to deliver to the community garden (right across the street from our school). We talked about the work of composting worms before delivering our compost. The kids loved seeing the big worm bin, full of worms and many other creepy-crawly bugs doing valuable composting work! We toured the garden, noticing what plants were blooming, what fruits and veggies were ripe and what plants were at the end of their season. We will be visiting the garden often throughout the school year, and doing some garden science of our own.

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In the photos you will see many moments of child-led exploration…block construction, magnet wands, painting, and dramatic play with animals…it was a week of discovery, and many moments of joy!

Best Wishes,

Dana


Before School- Aug 20th

Hello Discoverer families!

I am back in the classroom this week, cleaning and organizing, getting new supplies ready, and enjoying the process of preparing for our return to school.
I am so excited to see you all again!

I will be in the classroom next Monday and Tuesday, 10 am until 4pm or so. I would love to have you stop by and say hello! We have several new students in our class who I will encourage to visit during those days. If you know what day and time you would like to drop by, let me know, and we could arrange a small class reunion!

Also, send a quick message letting me know the days of the week that you would like for your child. We prefer to have children come on consecutive days (Mon-Wed, or Tue-Th, for example), so that the children have a consistent group experience. On the first day of school, Aug. 26, we hope you all can be there, regardless of what your scheduled days are!

I hope your summer has been relaxing and provided you with plenty of adventure! I am happy to say that my husband and I went on a 9 day road trip through Oregon, down to Reno, west to the CA coast, and then up north, through the Redwoods. It was a great trip, but I’m glad to be home!

With joy,

Dana


The View from 2014-2015

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