Where in the world is Loose Parts?

Spotted! Loose Parts series in Camden, Maine Public Library.

On a recent vacation Jim Handrigan, Redleaf Press’ art director, stopped in at Camden’s Public Library. What greeted him was an awesome display in their children’s section featuring the Loose Parts: Inspiring Play in Young Children and Loose Parts 2: Inspiring Play with Infants and Toddlers.

Check out the castle and dragons!

Camden Library hosts amazing recurring programs like:

Lego Club—Kids of all ages BYOLegos, or use the library’s, pick a spot and build.

Babbling Books for Busy Bodies—Stories for toddler and pre-school ages. This is an informal read-aloud program, wiggling and playing is just fine!

Book Time for Babies, Ages Birth-2—Join for songs, finger plays, read-alouds and more! A great opportunity for babies to interact with other babies of different ages.

Thursday – Saturday Story Times—Come join the magic and wonder of reading through books, rhymes, songs, flannel board stories, finger plays, puppets, dramatic play and thematic crafts.

They also hold individual events like the Midcoast Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, September 9 at 11:00 am – 3:00 pm. The Faire is a gathering of not only innovators and tinkerers, but also artists, do-it-yourselfers, craftspeople, and more. In short, any and all “makers” of all ages. Find out more here.

We love to see libraries thriving. They add so much to our communities, and to the lives of young children.

What is your favorite library program?

Jim’s son loves Loose Parts!

Want your library featured by Redleaf Press? Send photos to
e-marketing@redleafpress.org.

 

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3 summer books tackling hot topics in early childhood education

Three books out this summer from Redleaf Press take on hot topics in the field of early childhood education—reflective teaching strategies and play vs. standards, and supporting children going through disruptive change.

Learning Together with Young Children, Second Edition
By Deb Curtis and Margie Carter 

Product Code: 545226; $44.95

Kristie Norwood, education coordinator, Ounce of Prevention writes:
“After working with Margie and Deb for over 10 years I have often heard the phrase, ‘structure for openness.’ While I knew this statement applied to the provocations and invitations in the classroom, I now see how this statement lives in this latest edition. Reading through this book provides a framework, a canvas if you will, you can develop your program/painting to represent the richness and complexity of your staff, children and families. This book is foundational to the rich tapestry of our work.

This book is foundational to the rich tapestry of our work.

In my work, I am always looking for the meaningfulness of mandates. I want to see the quality that emerges from and surpasses compliance. This book provides real world examples and simple truths that make balance and excellence possible. This balance helps to restore the joy of our work and return the steering wheel of our profession back to the professionals; our teachers.”

Susan Stacey, author of Emergent Curriculum in Early Childhood Settings, praises: “Important questions appear at the very beginning of this thought-provoking book: What do we believe the purpose of education to be? What is quality? Who gets to decide?  In Carter and Curtis’ usual friendly, accessible, and encouraging style, this second edition of Learning Together with Young Children then leads us from big questions to our everyday challenges, to core principles, and then on to practical and vivid examples of how teachers have learned alongside and with children to ‘live fully and teach well.’”

In Carter and Curtis’ usual friendly, accessible, and encouraging style, this second edition of Learning Together with Young Children leads us from big questions to our everyday challenges.

Isauro M. Escamilla’s, NAEYC Governing Board member, full review can be read here, says, “Drawing from the latest discoveries on brain development, holistic education, anti-bias curricula, and teacher research this book is a must-have for new or experienced early childhood educators, coaches, administrators and policy makers. It offers inspirational stories from real classrooms where school communities have transformed not only their environments, but the way they envision the educational experience for young children and their families.”

This book is a must-have for new or experienced early childhood educators, coaches, administrators and policy makers.

 

Saving Play: Addressing Standards through Play-Based Learning in Preschool and Kindergarten
By Gaye Gronlund and Thomas Rendon

Product Code: 545301; $34.95

Saving Play show how play, academics, and standards can work together with the right strategies and support from educators. It empowers teachers to join play and standards, and learn how child-led, open-ended play addresses the seven domains and Common Core Standards.

Elizabeth Jones, faculty emerita, Pacific Oaks College, author of The Play’s the Thing and Playing to Get Smart recommends the book writing, “As an advocate for children’s play, do you face required standards?  If so, here’s a timely survival guide.  This wonderfully challenging, readable book invites us to sharpen our perceptions of a whole range of state and national standards and to share responsibility for explaining them to teachers and parents and the public.  It assures us that play and standards can go together and guides us in being active learners collaborating with the children.  While keeping play authentic, child-directed and open-ended, we can  recognize the standards embedded in play and use them – as guidelines for observing children’s growth, not as lesson plans.  As a standards-resister myself, I’ve just been won over.  Read this book.

This wonderfully challenging, readable book invites us to sharpen our perceptions of a whole range of state and national standards . . . As a standards-resister myself, I’ve just been won over.  Read this book.

You can read Elizabeth’s full review here.

Walter F. Drew, EdD, founder and executive director of the Institute for Self Active Education, board member for The Association for the Study of Play, and co-author of From Play to Practice: Connecting Teachers Play to Children’s Learning calls Saving Play,  “A brilliant piece of work! Best, most inspiring new thinking that makes the connection between play, research, and early learning standards clear and compelling. Powerful insights answer the question ‘How do I as a teacher use what children do best to help them gain essential concepts and skills needed to succeed in school and life?’ Tom Rendon and Gaye Gronlund have set the foundation for putting play right at the heart of the curriculum and high quality professional development like no other book I have read!”

A brilliant piece of work!

Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, PhD, University of Delaware and author of Becoming brilliant: What science tells us about raising successful children agrees, writing, “Saving Play is a delightful book – using research and written by an administrator and a practitioner – a great combination. Who says play is antithetical to learning?  Even learning based on standards. Rendon and Gronlund show us how play is integral to helping children learn, and not just an extra that gets thrown in for 10 minutes between ‘learning activities.’ Playful learning is essential to helping children think, learn, and remember. Bravo for bringing these important ideas to life!”

Bravo for bringing these important ideas to life!

A Fighting Chance: Supporting Young Children Experiencing Disruptive Change
By Jane Humphries and Kari Rains

Product Code: 545066; $29.95

Every day, many children have to cope with complicated and disruptive situations, and your classroom can become the most stable environment in their young lives. Learn how to address disruptive changes with an extensive toolbox of activities, ideas, and resources to help you find the best practical approach for each child.

Founder, McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, National Louis University, Paula Jorde Bloom, PhD, says, “A Fighting Chance should be required reading for every early childhood educator! The book provides a clear description of the different types of disruptive change that children experience along with concrete strategies and resources that classroom teachers, administrators, and support staff can use to nurture resiliency and healthy child development. Humphries and Rains draw on their repertoire of real-life stories gleaned from years of experience working with children experiencing trauma and toxic stress. Their book provides a wealth of ideas and practical advice that will help early childhood professionals address the challenges young children face.”

Should be required reading for every early childhood educator! 

Stacy Dykstra, PhD, writes, “Through snapshots of disruptive change, and its detrimental effects on our children, we’re reminded of the critical role early childhood teachers play. A Fighting Chance provides effective early care and education tools for professionals to integrate into their interactions, creating a safe, consistent place for children to learn and grow. This valuable resource will resonate with policymakers, early childhood professionals, and parents.”

This valuable resource will resonate with policymakers, early childhood professionals, and parents.

Deb Flis, Program Specialist, Connecticut Office of Early Childhood reflects on the authors personal experience working with children and a community struggling with trauma, “From the Introduction, the authors’ first-person account of their experience of the Oklahoma City bombing reveals their passion for guiding educators to help children and families deal with trauma and disruptive change.  Infused with the basic tenets of high quality early education, their strategies guide the reader to apply the principles of best practice, current research, and social-emotional support.   The case scenarios concretely illustrate the challenges for children and families brought on by disruptive change and the strategies adults can use in the classroom.”

Infused with the basic tenets of high quality early education, their strategies guide the reader to apply the principles of best practice, current research, and social-emotional support. 

Dianne Juhnke, MS Child Development, Director of CDSA Child Care Resource and Referral, praises their inclusion of practical strategies, “Dr. Jane Humphries and Kari Rains provided an excellent theoretical framework for working with children experiencing disruptive change.  Their concrete and practical strategies for helping children to build essential life skills can be applied to many child care situations.  As a child care trainer and technical assistance specialist, I know that I will frequently refer to this book for ideas and resources.”

I know that I will frequently refer to this book for ideas and resources.

LaDonna Atkins, EdD, professor of child development, University of Central Oklahoma, calls A Fighting Chance, “a great addition to the trauma focused resources available for early childhood educators. By explaining the impact of trauma and stress, as well as providing practical ideas to support children in the classroom, this book provides guidance teachers need to restore function and build resiliency in children who suffer from challenging life experiences.”

A great addition to the trauma focused resources available for early childhood educators.

Leslie E. Katch, PhD, Professor of Early Childhood Education, National Louis University, calls A Fighting Chance,

A must-have for all ECE professionals!

“Using a mix of concrete examples and theoretical underpinnings, this book explores the real-life struggle of childhood and all the stress, trauma and change that comes along with it. The practical strategies offered are what early childhood teachers and administrators need when confronting difficult situations with children and their families. It’s refreshing to see a book that tackles the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of the messy, beautiful and complex world of early childhood care and education. A must-have for all ECE professionals!”

Visit www.RedleafPress.org for more information on all of these titles.

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Elizabeth Jones reviews Saving Play, “Read this book!”

Product Code: 545301; $34.95

As an advocate for children’s play, do you face required standards?  If so, here’s a timely survival guide.  This wonderfully challenging, readable book invites us to sharpen our perceptions of a whole range of state and national standards and to share responsibility for explaining them to teachers and parents and the public.  It assures us that play and standards can go together and guides us in being active learners collaborating with the children.  While keeping play authentic, child-directed and open-ended, we can  recognize the standards embedded in play and use them – as guidelines for observing children’s growth, not as lesson plans.  As a standards-resister myself, I’ve just been won over.  Read this book.

This wonderfully challenging, readable book invites us to sharpen our perceptions of a whole range of state and national standards.

Gaye Gronlund and Thomas Rendon, authors of this lively book, bring their extensive experience with the standards to explain their potential as tools for observing children at play. Faced with required standards? Don’t take them literally, as lessons.  Use them creatively, as guidelines for observing children’s growth during play.   Play isn’t time-out from learning; it’s multi-tasking.   In high-level, complex play children are learning how to learn.  They are practicing curiosity, interest, persistence, pleasure, friendship, creating challenging games—all essential factors in an intelligent life.  “It’s impossible to address only one standard at a time in play,” the authors assure us.  So see how many you can identify by play-watching—and use them in communicating to your staff and parents and the public that their children really are learning what they need to know.

Play isn’t time-out from learning; it’s multi-tasking.   In high-level, complex play children are learning how to learn. 

Authentic learning, for children and for adults, goes way beyond social (memorized) knowledge.  It needs to be acted out physically and verbally and co-constructed in social interaction.  Children learn through play and other forms of active storytelling, in interaction with other kids and attentive grownups.  Teachers get to storytell too – to observe and tell children’s stories (to them, to their parents and teachers), to stage-manage a playable environment of many things to do and choices to make.

As an advocate for play you can use standards as strategies for justifying your program.   Link play and standards by keeping play authentic, child-directed and open-ended.  As you observe children at play, look for what was expected and what you didn’t expect to see.   This very readable book, addressed directly to teachers and clearly organized toward teachers’ questions, offers a survival guide.  Saving Play is a handbook, offering both theory and stories, drawing on its authors’ extensive experience with the standards to explain their potential as an analytic framework for observing children at play.

A handbook, offering both theory and stories, drawing on its authors’ extensive experience.

Use it to organize your goals and your awareness of active learning.  Observing play makes the standards come alive.  Study them. Pay attention to children learning—and explore the logic of the standards for your own learning.

Elizabeth Jones, Faculty emerita, Pacific Oaks College, author of The Play’s the Thing and Playing to Get Smart.

About the authors of Saving Play:

Gaye Gronlund, MA, is an early childhood consultant and trains educators, administrators, and policy makers across the country. She is a former preschool, kindergarten, and primary teacher of both regular and special education. Gaye holds a master’s degree in adult learning and early childhood education. Learn more at: www.gayegronlund.com.

 

 

Thomas Rendon is the coordinator of the Iowa Head Start State Collaboration Office and an active supporter of policy to promote play at a state level. He has an MBA from the University of Iowa and is currently working on a PhD in early childhood special education from Kent State University.

 

 

Product Code: 545301; $34.95

Saving Play: Addressing Standards through Play-Based Learning in Preschool and Kindergarten
Available now from Redleaf Press; $34.95; ISBN: 9781605545301
Age focus: 3-6; Softbound, 288 pgs

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Reflections on Self-Regulation

By Tamar Jacobson

“For children, intense emotions are like a dark forest at night. Trees rustle in the wind, bats circle above, and all manner of insects crawl along the ground, but in the darkness they are impossible to see, let alone understand. The brain starts making associations, and the child becomes overwhelmed with dark imaginings. When we use discipline methods like time-out, we essentially usher our kids into the woods and just leave them there in the darkness. More, we actually tell them to sit silently and not move no matter what they experience so that they can “reflect” on their actions” –Jacobson, 2014 , Time’s up for ‘time-out.’ The Atlantic

It is the very idea of self-regulation or self-soothing, that is at the source of our aversion to children needing our attention. In other words, “Kids, get on with it! … do not disrupt our routine. We have much more important issues to deal with right now: Reading, math, assessments, administrators stopping by to see how well I run my classroom. It must not seem messy or chaotic. I must look like I have control of my classroom. So – self-regulate – self-soothe, and please, whatever you do, do not need me! I have much more important things to deal with here.” And yet, in any society that includes different and unique human beings, relationships are going to be fraught with challenges, chaos, and yes, a lot of messiness.

In a democratic or what some might like to term a “civilized society,” we long for a sense of order and responsibility, where everyone knows their place and space, and people consider others responsibly. If we are self-regulated and abide by the rules of conduct, there will be no mess, infraction, disruption, or intrusion into personal space. What we forget is that societies of all descriptions are made up of human beings with different feelings and needs.

“Self-regulation becomes about pleasing people, and stifling emotions”

So, where do I begin to think about self-regulation? This is the latest buzz word for young children to learn some kind of self-control when it comes to classroom management. The intent behind the expression is admirable. In order to succeed academically and emotionally, young children need to learn how to live in society by understanding its norms and rules. We also want them to become contributing members of our society – our adult world. Somehow, however, it becomes punitive as teachers and parents take on a behaviorist approach using punishments and rewards to teach children how to learn to self-regulate. Instead, self-regulation becomes about pleasing people, and stifling emotions: “I will do anything, just please don’t ignore me.” What about empathy and compassion, or making a stand for social justice? How do we learn these characteristics by pleasing people?

For example, let’s say a child doesn’t get what we are telling her the first time. Perhaps she needs it repeated a few times. I know I am like that when something makes me anxious or insecure. I might need the other person to repeat for me so that I feel safe in that context. Saying to me, “How many times must I tell you that?” will only make me feel like I am burdening the other person – that there must be something wrong with me because I need it repeated. I would rather remain silent and please the teacher, than ask her to repeat it one more time, and appear a nag, a whiner, or, worse still, a burden on her time.

So – as adults, teachers and parents, how do we determine when a child is emotionally capable of understanding the adult objectives of self-regulation? For example, I think of the five-year-old who had been moved from foster home to foster home – feeling he was to blame for each abandonment – arriving in a school classroom and finding it so very difficult to self-regulate – an emotional bundle of self-worthlessness. In the end, of course, not only was he expelled from the school, out of the teacher’s frustration that he would not conform to their strict rules, he was moved to yet another foster home. At which time in his life would a compassionate adult hold still long enough to give him enough attention that he craved for to break the cycle of abandonment? How does a young child express to us their fear of abandonment? Their longing for more of us? How do we gauge what is the right amount for each person? When will we understand that children will do anything to please us or get us to like them – for they need our affirmation for their emotional survival – and when that fails they will show us in all sorts of ways usually as evident as we care to admit – how deeply they hurt.

“I do not see them as a disruption to my plan.”

In all the books and articles that I have been reading lately with advice about classroom management, or discipline strategies, the term disruption is bandied about freely. Especially as something wrong, that has to be averted at all costs. The concept of “disruption,” is as fraught with negative connotation as could be. For, of course we do not want people “disrupting” our lives. But allow me to delve deeper into understanding what we mean by “disruption.” It means we have some sort of plan or world order that must take place without diversion. If we are led down a different path, what might happen? Danger? Loss of control? Often when I am giving a presentation about a certain topic, I find myself diverting to different ideas and associations along the way. I have an outline, a plan, and even a Power Point presentation to guide me. However, as I speak and others comment, interrupt, or share their ideas and emotions, I find I must go in different directions to accommodate and include them. I do not see them as a disruption to my plan. On the contrary, they enhance it, give it depth, and I learn new things about human emotion, the lives of others, and the human condition overall. I develop more and more compassion and acceptance of the diversity of humanity. It is enormously beneficial in the long run.

“We learn together, not only how to read or write, but how we communicate with one another, how we care about each other”

It is the same for teaching young children in a classroom. Of course, we have a plan, an agenda. But along the way, ideas and feelings of the children in this mini-society of human beings – the classroom – must disrupt our attention to something larger, more complex, and essential to a bigger picture of how people live together in community. We learn together, not only how to read or write, but how we communicate with one another, how we care about each other, and how we can all contribute to the whole community we are living in by stopping to listen to one another with empathy and compassion. At the end, we return to our original plan with newer, fresher ideas, feeling strengthened by our collective humanity. The word disruption should be banned from our understanding about discipline and learning how to live with one another in a compassionate and productive society. It is not a disruption. Rather it is an opportunity to widen our emotional understanding of one another – to learn something new about one another. We should seize the opportunity with excitement, even joy.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tamar Jacobson was born in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and traveled to Israel where she became a preschool teacher with the Israeli Ministry of Education. Jacobson completed a doctorate in early childhood education at the University at Buffalo (UB). As director of the University at Buffalo Child Care Center (UBCCC), she created a training site for early childhood students from area colleges, including UB. She was recipient of the 2013 National Association for Early Childhood Teacher Educators (NAECTE) Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher Educator Award, participated on the Consulting Editors Panel for NAEYC, and is a former fellow in the Child Trauma Academy. Tamar Jacobson presents at international, national, state, and regional levels. She is author of Don’t Get So Upset!” Help Young Children Manage Their Feelings By Understanding Your Own (Redleaf Press, 2008), editor of Perspectives on Gender in Early Childhood (Redleaf Press, 2010), and author of the forthcoming Everyone Needs Attention (Redleaf Press; available July 2018).
Learn more about Tamar here.

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NAEYC Governing Board member reviews new Deb Curtis & Margie Carter book

In the new, full-color, edition of Learning Together with Young Children: A Curriculum Framework for Reflective Teachers, Second Edition Deb Curtis and Margie Carter make visible the thought processes of teachers and children based on detailed observations and individual or collective reflections that result in taking action to change or improve existing teaching practices, the learning environment and the curriculum in public and private school settings. The authors excel in making connections between educational theories and teaching practice with a strong emphasis on teachers’ values, ideas and reflections as a driving force to support children’s dispositions to learning and co-constructing new knowledge. Learning Together with Young Children, Second Edition offers wonderful examples from a wide array of early childhood education programs where children’s voices are valued and teacher’s voices are recognized as integral to move the teaching profession forward.

“[Deb Curtis and Margie Carter] excel in making connections between educational theories and teaching practice.”

Drawing from the latest discoveries on brain development, holistic education, anti-bias curricula, and teacher research this book is a must-have for new or experienced early childhood educators, coaches, administrators and policy makers. It offers inspirational stories from real classrooms where school communities have transformed not only their environments, but the way they envision the educational experience for young children and their families. In many ways, the ideas in this book invite the reader to re-envision schools as early childhood hubs for collaborative learning and family engagement systems where children, parents, teachers, trainers, administrators, and community members undertake new leadership roles to ensure that all children are bound for success in their educational journey.

“A must-have for new or experienced early childhood educators, coaches, administrators and policy makers.”

In the current educational landscape, it is imperative we become reflective practitioners to unfold the values that guide our decision-making process towards creating sustainable school environments where children, teachers and families become agents of change. This beautifully illustrated book is a great resource for anyone looking for inspiration and ideas on how to become a reflective early childhood educator and advocate for memorable, educational experiences for young children based on meaningful observations, inquiry and action.

By Isauro M. Escamilla
Early Childhood Educator, San Francisco Unified School District

Lecturer, San Francisco State University
NAEYC Governing Board member

______________________________________________________________

Deb Curtis and Margie Carter are both internationally regarded ECE consultants, and bestselling co-authors of seven books including Designs for Living and Learning, The Visionary Director, and Reflecting in Communities of Practice. They are the co-founders of Harvest Resources Associates.

Deb has spent the past 35-years working with children and teachers in early childhood programs. She has observed and studied children along with the teaching and learning process in North America, New Zealand and Australia. She has continued as a teacher of young children along with working with adults.

Margie has been a preschool and kindergarten teacher, a child care director, college instructor, author and contributor to Child Care Exchange for several decades. With other Harvest Resources Associates, she co-leads study tours to Aotearoa New Zealand.

Learn more about Learning Together with Young Children, Second Edition here at RedleafPress.org.

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“I spent years gently reminding children that we don’t play that way inside.”

Guest Post: Embracing Rough-and-Tumble Play By Mike Huber

Click to watch a short video with author Mike Huber to see what rough-and-tumble play looks like, and read more below to learn to use it in your program!

Embracing rough and tumble play? Isn’t that the type of play I try to stop from happening in my classroom?

I spent years gently reminding children that we don’t play that way inside. I often talked about teaching to the whole child, meeting their needs in all learning domains: social-emotional, literacy, cognitive, and physical development. But looking back, I ignored many of the children’s needs for physical development by telling them to wait until we were outside. I was failing to see a vital part of who these children were.

Rough and tumble play, play that involves the whole body, whether it is running, spinning, falling, or roughhousing, is the purest form of what it means to be a child.

Rough and tumble play, play that involves the whole body, whether it is running, spinning, falling, or roughhousing, is the purest form of what it means to be a child. It is the two-year-old jumping up and down, waving their arms up and down yelling, “Mommy! Mommy!” at the end of a day at school. It is the four-year-old spinning and falling, and then getting up and spinning again. It is the time when children are so engrossed in the joys of movement that they lose all track of time. As we grow into adulthood, we see this same total immersion of the mind and body when a dancer executes a phrase with extreme focus and precision, or when a surgeon completes a complex procedure and saves a life. Sometimes this immersion in movement is as simple as tending to a garden or rocking a child to sleep.

I embrace rough and tumble play because it is literally a type of embrace. It is a way for children to show affection for another while also testing the limits of their own physical abilities. Children need tender affection such as cuddling and hugs, but children also need to be physical in a more vigorous way. Both types of contact can strengthen social bonds.

Children may chase each other or roughhouse to show they are friends.  They may stomp their feet and roar to prove they are powerful.  We can choose to celebrate this expression or choose to restrict it, but children will continue moving.

I also embrace children’s boundless energy and their need to move almost constantly. Movement is the basis for all exploration and expression. Children explore who they are by physically challenging themselves.  Maybe they will try climbing a little higher or running a little faster.  They also explore the world around them.  They may roll on the grass, hit a stick against a tree to see if it breaks, or see how close they can get to a bird before it flies away.  Young children express themselves through movement as much as they do with words.  Children may chase each other or roughhouse to show they are friends.  They may stomp their feet and roar to prove they are powerful.  We can choose to celebrate this expression or choose to restrict it, but children will continue moving.

The term rough-and-tumble play can refer to a variety of activities.  All of the activities involve children physically moving their whole body, but not all are necessarily rough.  Here are a few examples:

  • Chase
  • Playing with balls
  • Spinning
  • Rolling
  • Running
  • Roughhousing (wrestling, horseplay)

While there is recognition that children like to run, climb and generally play physically, it is often shrugged off as simply a way for children to “get their wiggles out,” rather than a function of being a child as much as asking questions or even breathing. I think we are turning a blind eye toward the children in our care.  Children let us know when they need to move every time we tell them to sit down or to wait until outside time.  We need to start seeing and hearing what the children are telling us.

Many of us have been teaching with the mistaken notion that children are listening–and thus learning—when they are sitting still and looking at us.  In reality children may be learning more when they are engaged with materials or moving their bodies.  If children are interested in the activity they are doing, it presents an opportunity for rich conversation with teachers or other children.  For many children, pretending involves vigorous movement, perhaps even chasing or running.  Too often I hear teachers say that these boisterous children never settle into play, but rather spread chaos through the room.  If we find a way to stop interrupting and allow for this play (yes, even inside), we may see even the most active children involved in rich, complex pretend play.

There are many ways to incorporate movement into the teacher-led portions of a preschool or kindergarten day.  Children develop literacy skills by acting out a story, as well as by having a book read to them.  They can learn number concepts playing a game throwing or kicking balls into a goal, just as easily as sitting at a table with small counters.  Running provides plenty of opportunities for learning the basics of potential and kinetic energy (think of running uphill vs. downhill) or momentum (what’s the difference between crashing into something light and something heavy?).

 

Rather than viewing rough and tumble play as a disruption to your teaching, try seeing it as a vehicle for you to reach more children in your teaching.

______________________________________________________________

Mike Huber has dedicated his life to serving children, families, and the field of early childhood. He has been an early childhood teacher since 1992 and currently teaches at Seward Child Care Center in Minneapolis. Mike has also worked as a trainer and consultant for the Minnesota Department of Education, the Child Care Resource and Referral Network, and the Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children (MnAEYC). Mike served on MnAEYC’s board from 2007 to 2011, presents at local and national early childhood conferences, and has written for Teaching Young Children and a number of stories, songs, and puppet shows for children. He is the winner of the 2012 Kate Davidson Tanner Award from MnAEYC, the Scholastic Early Childhood Professional Award Honorable Mention in 2006, and Teacher Leadership from Hamline University’s Master of Arts Education Program in 2006. Mike holds a master’s degree in education from Hamline University. Visit Mike’s blog: mikehuberchildrensbooks.wordpress.com.

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Using nature to teach math in early childhood

MATH

Perhaps the only domain that gets less love from early childhood educators than science is math. How many people have said at one time or another, “I’m not a math person” or “I don’t have the math gene”? It’s a sad truth that many early educators tend to avoid math. And if you’re one of them, you are not alone! A reported 30 percent of Americans have stated that they’d rather clean the bathroom than do a math problem! (changetheequation.org 2016). In early childhood, comfort with math and fluency with the subject can be stronger predictors of later academic success than even literacy. There are studies that show that children who enter kindergarten with a certain comfort with math go on to be high achievers through their middle and high school years (Claessens and Engel 2013). Researchers have observed children at play and noted that mathematical thinking shows up frequently in play settings (Ginsburg 2000). For example, children’s play involves pattern and shapes, comparisons, and numbers. This tells us that young children have an innate curiosity about math and a natural tendency to “think math.” As educators, our job is to help support that curiosity through experience and opportunities for them to engage in math learning and playing. Young children are naturally driven to make sense of things, create representations of things, and solve simple mathematical problems. If asked, they can usually reason and explain their mathematical activities.

NATURE-BASED MATH TOOLS

Loose parts can be wonderful math tools. They can be sorted, organized, arranged in patterns, used as measuring tools, and more. Children are also interested in shapes and spatial sense, measurement, and patterns. Loose parts are wonderful for making patterns and can be used in infinite ways. When children design with loose parts, they often naturally try to create symmetry and balance in their creations. They also use loose parts to create shapes, designs and patterns. 

This tendency indicates the beginning of algebraic thinking, as patterns are at the heart of algebra. Identifying shapes and describing spatial relationships are processes at the core of geometry.

Natural materials and nature-based settings, with their unending variety and diversity, offer children a lot of ways to investigate shapes, spatial relationships, and symmetry. They also embody a variety of attributes. In mathematics, attribute is a characteristic used to describe an object. The attribute usually describes the object’s shape, size, or color—something that can be measured; for example, the “big red ball” is a description of an object that is identified by its attributes: its size color and shape. You can help children develop their understanding of attributes by asking questions that encourage them to measure, count, compare, and contrast:

How many legs does the grasshopper have?”

What’s the pattern you see on this caterpillar?”

Can you tell me what’s alike and what’s different about these things?”

“What’s different about these things?” or “How are they alike?”

By attending to attributes, children are also engaging in form of measuring (“This rock has four spots; this rock has two spots . . .”) because they are quantifying, or identifying measurable attributes and comparing objects by using these attributes. They are also comparing objects in search of similarities and differences. While most early education classrooms include many objects with clearly defined attributes (such as pattern blocks), natural materials are especially well-suited to this purpose because they require young children to identify variations in attributes and thus to be more thoughtful about how certain objects or groups of objects may be alike or different. They require young children to identify and attend to the attributes that matter to them, to create their own systems for sorting and organizing. Also, because of their endless variation, natural materials can be sorted and organized again and again in a variety of ways. For example, Children may sort leaves based on color, then on size, then on shape, texture, or other attributes that they identify.

There are commonalities in the way that children practice and engage with each of the disciplines and many interconnected ideas. When you can identify and recognize children’s tendency to demonstrate the practices in their nature play, you can help deepen their learning in STEM.

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This excerpt was adapted from Teaching STEM Outdoors: Activities for Young Children by Patty Born Selly (Redleaf Press)

Patty Born Selly is  the author of three books for those who work with young children, including Early Childhood Activities for a Greener Earth and Connecting Animals and Young Children—both from Redleaf Press.  She currently teaches environmental and STEM education for preservice and practicing educators. Patty has worked in the science and nature education field for over 20 years in classrooms, museums, nature centers, and parks. She has worked with students in preschool through adulthood, with a particular focus on early learning. She currently serves as Assistant Professor of Environmental and STEM education at Hamline University in St Paul MN. She  is the former Director of the National Center for STEM Elementary Education.

Her passion is connecting teachers and children to nature. Patty lives in Minneapolis with her family.

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