Thursday, February 16, 2017

In the Sea Otter Class...

The Sea Otter class is for children who are two, turning three. This is a really fun and dynamic age, and it has been exciting to watch these little people grow and develop since September. Toddlers are body driven. That means that they learn about their world with their whole bodies and all of their senses. They are also little scientists, observing, testing, experimenting, and doing things over as they try to understand how things work in this big world.
At preschool we provide lots of opportunities for the children to explore in a big way. How does the paint feel? What happens when I swish my brush on the paper, or poke the paper with my brush? How will I fill up this container- oops! Now it's spilling out! How can I get it in this tube? 
This is the age of autonomy, or the discovery that they are separate beings from their parents. This can create some challenges and conflicts as children assert themselves and choose differently than their parent. A part of this development is seeking their own power, and this is most easily seen by "Me do it myself!" So, we encourage self-help skills, times when children have the power to do things for themselves. This includes everything from hanging up their coats, to washing their hands, to helping with their snack, to cleaning up their messes.
Outside play is an important part of our experiences at ICP. Most parents will tell you that their child loves to go outside, so we try to build in big blocks of outdoor time.
This picture and the one above it, demonstrate the development of social skills. These boys enjoy playing together, but at this age, they are still involved in parallel play, or two children both playing the same thing, side-by-side, but not together.
Much of the social interaction with this age is directed to the adults. The children know that an adult will listen to them, and respond. That is not always the case with their peers. So, by having a high adult-child ratio in the Sea Otter class, the children are guaranteed people who know how to engage with them, to help them take their play to the next level. The Teaching Parent can help the children become aware of what another child is doing, and include others in the play, thereby modeling the next step of social development. And, because children this age are still learning that other children have feelings, and because their own feelings tend to overwhelm them and cause them to often react with fight or flight, the Teaching Parents are there to keep the children safe, and to model the language needed to solve problems. Thankfully we learn useful skills in the parent education classes we attend together!
The Sea Otter day is set up to support the interests of the children and to give them ample time to try many things. Not only can I paint, but I can match the blue cap to the dot painter and figure out which way to turn it to screw it on tight.
I can play with other children, and be big and strong,
or I can play alone and carefully, gently set up all of my playthings just the way I want. The Teaching Parents are there both to support this little boy's hard work, but also to protect it from curious friends. This teaches the children the basics of respect.
So, what's going on here? Math skills galore! Sorting, classifying, counting, observing, lining up... so much learning!
Children are given lots of opportunities to help in class, to take responsibility for caring for their school.
What looks like plain ol' mud play is actually much more: the science of mixing, of viscosity and texture; the role playing of someone cooking, replaying what the child sees in his everyday life; the social challenges of sharing space, resources, and materials.
Literacy and language are critical for children at this stage of their development. Children need to be surrounded by rich language, both in conversations, and descriptions of what children are seeing and doing, as well as many opportunities to hear stories. Teaching Parents get to read to small groups all through the day. This is a good beginning until the children are ready to listen in a group like Circle Time, which is much more difficult. 
There are books everywhere: at the snack table, and the building center, and in the loft, and next to Circle. Many children enjoy a quiet moment looking at books by themselves, practicing the skills they have seen modeled in their homes.
As stated earlier, children this age are still body driven, so we provide lots of opportunities inside and outside for them to use their whole bodies. Inside there is the rocking boat, and tunnels, and climbing up and down out of the loft, and dancing, and jumping, and twirling. Outside our amazing playground offers more choices than you can count.
Activities often are set up to naturally involve more than one child. With this steering wheel set, children can decide where they are going and play together or on their own. We encourage remembering safety rules, such as wearing your seatbelt in the car. We also practice red light stop and green light go. It's easier to learn and practice these skills in the context of our play.

Preschool provides lots of opportunities for playing with friends. Here a Teaching Parent has expanded the children's car play by helping them build a road with blocks. You can see how they watch each other to see what will happen. 
There is a lot of protecting the play, from, "No! My car," to "Stop! They have to go this way!" The Teaching Parent is nearby helping the children hear what their friend is saying and be respectful. See how the parents are learning right alongside the children?
The children learn to be comfortable and trust the different parents in class. This is an important part of their socialization.

One day there was a large blanket on the floor covered with beautiful fall leaves. We discovered that there were little wooden acorns hiding in the leaves! We gathered the acorns in our baskets, talking about how many we had. Then we got to hide them again.
The doll bed is popular in this class. The Teaching Parent is nearby to help the children take turns sleeping in the bed. Sometimes the adult can make suggestions to the waiting child, such as reminding them that it's time to fix breakfast, thereby avoiding a fight over the bed.

The social opportunities abound!
And so do opportunities to practice using one's small muscles, and important part of being ready to write. This also took a lot of persistence to put all of these pegs into the holes.
We have some great dancers in this class, and dancing is a wonderful way to learn about your body in space, especially when there are other children there.

In the fall we carved a pumpkin. This was an interesting sensory experience. Some children wanted nothing to do with it, while others were pretty interested. After taking the seeds and pulp out of the pumpkin, we separated the seeds. Then we got to wash them in warm water. That felt really good.
Then we used our hands to scoop them out of the water and put them on a pan. This was hard to do because the seeds were so slippery.
We put some oil on them, and then we salted them before roasting them in the oven.
The carved Jack-O-Lantern face made a fascinating puzzle as we took the pieces ut and put them back in.

There are many opportunities for children to do what interests them, and to do it on their own level. This boy was drawing amazing suns with the chalk and chalk boards. Some children this age can draw closed shapes, and some have not gotten to that point yet.
We learned about safety and visited the fire station. We even got to climb in the fire boat!
The most important thing we can learn at the fire station is what a fire fighter looks like in her or his gear, and that they are not someone to be afraid of. We took it slow while the firefighter put it all on.
We had time to touch everything,
look at everything. This firefighter did an amazing job.

We have a preschool garden, and last summer the children planted potatoes in the empty bags that compost had come in. Then we got to harvest the potatoes.
This was like a treasure hunt, digging through the dirt looking for the potatoes.
We found some! They were all different shapes and sizes.
After washing the potatoes, we cut them into little pieces.
This was a hard job, but one that made the children feel very proud of their work. Using a knife is a big deal. We fried up the potaotes, and everyone got to taste them. They were yummy!
We had a lot of fun on pajama day. This boy made lots of play dough cookies,
and this girl enjoyed breakfast in bed.
There were snuggles in the bog bed in circle,
as well as in the doll bed.
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star!"
Our grandparents came to visit on Grandparent's Day. They got to play with us,
and paint,
and even have cookies with frosting!
The people in our families are the most important people in our lives, and so we find ways to bring our family members into the preschool classroom to share in the fun we have.
The Sea Otter class provides children with rich experiences and opportunities to stretch themselves and grow.
We experiment.
and sort,
and make friends,
and learn that school is fun and that we are capable learners.