Monday, January 25, 2016

Stewards of Nature


 Life's most persistent and urgent question is, "What are you doing 

for others?"     Martin Luther King

This is the everyday work of being in a community.

We talk daily about the need for compassion for 

ourselves and each other.The essence of Dr. 

King's words are innate in each child. They are 

born wanting to connect to others. Navigating 

the feelings that arise each day is how we spend 

our time.

Martin Luther King is a really good person because he brought all

the white skin kids to the brown skin kids. 

As we prepared for MLK day, and developed a plan for outreach, the teachers asked the children to 

share what they knew to be true regarding Dr. King and his quest for equality. Many children had 

facts and some even had a sense of  what was happening during that period in history.  We shared 

stories of Dr. King as a child and then we talked about "outcluding". This is a feeling that the 

children can relate to at five and six. They are also beginning to compare themselves to others 

and identify similarities and differences (red hair, brown eyes, gender, quiet, loud, likes bugs, can 

climb trees, lost teeth). As we sit and share picture books and talk with the children 

watch their faces try to understand the implications of these stories. 

The children do realize however that it hurts to be outcluded and if Dr. King traveled around the 

country asking for all people to be included then he must be a "hero".

Martin Luther King is a hero because he brought white and black together. 

Martin Luther King marches with the people.

One day during project circle we developed a plan of service and outreach in honor of Martin Luther King. We launched the conversation by sharing our observations of the children stewarding the animals that live on our campus. 

Caroline: When I drop food outside animals eat it.

Charlie: We saw a turtle in the forest.

Scarlett: We could make a birdhouse with a big hole for a big bird like an owl. 

Caroline: We could pick some grass from our house for animals.

Zoey: We could put some bird seed out so we could open the windows and see them eating the birdseed…like on the other side of the window.

Shayna: Owls might need some homes in trees and birds might see more homes in trees so they could have some more children.

Cal: We could create a bird habitat outside of our window.

Shayna: One day we looked out the window and saw a whole bunch of crows in our cul-de-sac.

Cal: A peloton of crows,….ha ha ha

Penelope: Like a flock of birds.

Eve: Animals that don’t have homes and are really poor. We could make a little shelter out of wood. 

Charlie: We could make a hummingbird house.

Zoey:  We might want to plant flowers for animals to eat.

Cal: We need to make a plan for these houses.

Anna: I learned that bird houses needed different size holes depending how big that they are.

Zack: We need a habitat for animals that are hunted.

As plans for the day were developed by the children, Cal wrote a journal entry that tied our conversations about Martin Luther King and our intentions for service together.  

Animals are important to me. We are creatures like them.

Detailed plans for the bird sanctuary outside of our window.

"The time is always right to do what is right. " Martin Luther King

The children were most interested in helping the animals whose presence was seen each day. They decided to make a sanctuary for birds and squirrels and also to build a shelter for small animals and place it in the outdoor classroom with carrots. Our intention was to continue to observe the habitats that we create and study the animals who come.

We rolled pinecones in fat and then birdseed.  A. found most of these pinecones in her grandfather's backyard.

Maubry and Ross help P. and others string orange slices to hang in the sanctuary. Z. strings cranberries and cheerios. 

Cheri gathered materials from our Materials Resource Center (similar to Reggio children's Remida). Each bird feeder only uses materials found in the center. E. is always in the studio and likes to solve the problems that arise. 

Theresa and J. spend most of the morning supporting the effort to cut, thread and string orange slices.  B. is focused on his efforts to drill the holes to string a bird feeder.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, another group of children are baking cookies for the sanctuary. These cookies involve birdseed and gelatin. Leigh, Z's mother, suggests that we shake some pepper on our dough, so the squirrels do not binge on the cookies. She told us that squirrels do have the ability to taste but birds do not which is why  the pepper works as a deterrent to the squirrels.     

 A group of children decide to gather sticks from outside and natural materials from the  Center and begin to create large animal shelters to be placed in the outdoor classroom with carrots.

 Ross and Elizabeth head to the Forest with a few children to retrieve large branches for bird sanctuary. Z. uses his ever present scarf as a tool for carrying a branch that is twice his size.

After the death and burial of our two squirrel babies, we invited a squirrel rehabilitator friend of Cheri's to come into the classroom and share Punkin with us as well as her experiences and stories caring for hurt or sick animals.

MLK is the hero of the day but Punkin is the star (Kindergarten royalty). He is an Achondroplastic Dwarf squirrel (which is the genetic equivalent to Down's syndrome.  This occurs in all creatures but is fairly common in squirrels.

Pat was a compelling storyteller and captured her audience's attention and endearment for over an hour and a half. Let us never doubt again the attention span of these children or their intense love for animals.

Pat's stories of devotion to these defenseless animals inspired all of us to remain attuned to the needs of people, animals and all  living things that we so often overlook in our daily lives.  Pat quickly connected with the children in that her love and kindness for these creatures was sincere and profound.

The next day we spent hours with Pippin erecting the large tree branches from the forest in a way that would not interfere with the fire escape but allowed the Kindergarten to observe the animals visiting the sanctuary. 

Each Kindergartener had the opportunity to hang garlands, orange slices, bird feeders, cookies or pinecones on the sanctuary. The first customer was a squirrel who was both greedy and pesky. Eventually he had his fill of the smaorgasboard and in his absence many birds began to take note of the sanctuary.

Pippin texted this picture  of the sanctuary as the snow fell on Friday. Notice the four birds resting below it. It was erected at the perfect time. The Sabot at Stony Point birds and squirrels will host their own gratitude circle for the Kindergarteners, living Martin Luther King's message in their backyard.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Our Richmond: Kindergartners Consider a Crowd

A few months ago the Kindergarten spent time reenacting their experience as a spectator in the crowd watching and cheering an international bike race hosted by the city of Richmond. There were many people attending the race. In fact, during the reenactment of the race, a group of children played the part of the attending crowd.  

Digging deeper into the idea of a crowd was intriguing. We often explore buildings, maps, and the neighborhoods of a city but who are the people who live in a city. How do people gather in a city? We know that when many gather together for an event in the city it creates a crowd. What does a crowd feel like as a child in the city? 

We asked the children a question. 

How would you define a crowd?

Charlie: A crowd is a bunch of people. You can't see in a crowd.

Caroline: There was a crowd in my living room. It was kinda loud and it was just my family and cousins.

Julia: We were on the bench (at the beach) and it felt crowded.

Samuel: InLight at the VMFA was really crowded.

Annabel: Yeah, it was really funny, busy and loud.

Cal: There are lots of people waiting to make things.

Samuel: If you got lost in a crowd it would be very scary. 

Eve: When you are in a crowd policemen look in your purse for food, water or maybe knives. 

Samuel: Airplanes are very crowded.

Shayna: It is hard to find your own place in the crowd. 

Eve: I had to find my own space to play when all the family were together at Thanksgiving.

This conversation provided a window into the collective understanding of a crowd. A crowd can be seen, described and captured in a picture but being a part of a crowd is an experience. What emotions do you feel when you are in a crowd? What sounds to do you hear? When crowds form what actions do they precipitate? What are the sounds of a crowd? What math might we pursue in terms of a crowd? Can we draw a comparison between a crowd and the the volume of a cylinder?

The abstraction of a crowd is exactly what makes it a powerful study in our quest to explore the city of Richmond. 

What experiences do each child in the class have with a "crowd"? It was amazing both the similarities and the differences in their experiences of a crowd.  

At my third birthday there were so many people at my party it felt like 100 adults. It made me feel excited (because I was getting presents) but scared because there were so many grown ups.

Avery : At Thanksgiving we went to my cousin's house and there were eight of us. There is normally 4 of us for dinner so 8 felt like a alot.

Lorelai: Usually there are only four people in my house but at Christmas there were seven or more       people in our house.

Scarlett: At my sisters soccer games it was very crowded. It felt like there was a hundred thousand people. It made me feel scared that I might not be able to see my mom.

Cal: I went to DC to a stadium to see a football game. it was very crowed at least 1040 people. It made me feel smushed. At the end of the game, it was hard to get out.

Kate: When I go to a birthday parties and it is time for cake everyone rushes forward for the cake and when I get there I can't even see the cake and I get squished and have to wait until some people move.

Syd: I went to the bike race and there were 20 hundred people. I got frustrated because I couldn't see the race, There were people in front of me who were taller.

Charlie: When  I was at my friend's house for a party there was lots of people. There was so many people I got knocked down.

Caroline: My daddy's side of the family came over to my grandma and pops house and it was very crowded and then it got hot.  It made me happy to see my cousins.

Eve:At Thanksgiving we were to my aunt and uncles house and it was crowded because the other relatives came to visit. I had to step over people and walk sideways. I had to be very careful.

Kenny: Zach's birthday party was at Monkey Joe's and it was crowed because other people were in other birthday rooms having parties. The blow up pirate ship doesn't have a limit of how many people can be on it but when I was on it there were eight people.
Zack: I'm drawing about Christmas, because we have mom's dad, aunts, uncles and when they came they stay for the whole day. It feels like I have less space to play.

Penelope: It was very crowded at the bike race. I got very tired of standing but there wasn't much space to sit. My dad put a bag on the floor next to him so that could sit.

Annabel: I was a flower girl at my neighbor's wedding and it was very crowed, 80 people were there. It was at Sabot and there was more people in the garden than I've ever seen before. There was a dance floor.

Shayna: I am drawing when the whole pre-school went into the basement for a tornado drill. It felt crowded and loud, there wasn't much room to move especially  when we were leaving.

Julia: When I was at the beach it was very busy but everybody was smiling and happy. There was a bench at the beach and ten or eleven people were sat on it and I felt squished on my mommy's lap but not too squished because I was on her lap.

Bryce: I went to my Daddy's wedding and was the ring bearer. It was in a little church and there was 54 people. My stepmom wore a white dress and had high heels on . There were alot of relatives after we danced.

What do you think different people in a crowd might be saying?

What might you hear if you were in the midst of a crowd?
Samuel: Go squirrels, go squirrels

Julia: At a party…you might say….Happy Birthday to you.

Caroline: Hi. My name is Carolina. What is your name?

Anna: What would cats and dogs say?

Cats: Purr, hiss and meow.

Dogs: Pant, bark, howl, and growl, whine

Anna: If a big crowd of people  crossed the street what would you hear? 

Annabel: People might say excuse me. You are getting too close.

Charlie: Watch out, the car might hit you.

Julia: Can I pet your dog?

Caroline: Can I touch your cat please? I love cats.

Samuel: Stay in the cross walk.

Eve:Hold my hand.

Syd: The police might blow their whistle.

Caroline: Watch out! we have to go to an emergency.

Eve: Stop, no running! Stay safe. Adults might say this to stay safe.

One day we gathered and magic occurred (not to infer that this does not happen everyday but on this particular day it was electric).

Anna: So, I heard it might matter what size of a place they are in? It might matter what size the people or the animals are. 

Lorelai: They could be a thousand feet tall.  Like the size of the door.

Anna What if we were all big, huge giants? Would we be crowded in here (circle) if we were giants?


Cal and Syd: Yeah! Let’s crowd up in a bundle!  Yea yea Yea

Anna: What if we shrunk to the size of ants, like Cal said? Would this be crowded then?


Anna What kind of number of people would be a crowd in the city?

Eve:  A bunch, maybe one hundred and a thousand. Cause I can’t even count how big the city is.

Anna: It sounds like if you’re gonna make a crowd in the city,  it is important to know what kind of space they’d be in.

Cal: Inside in a small space and outside in… bigger people outside and smaller people inside? Because the smaller people don’t need as much room. People inside, you can’t see as much of their body, we make the smaller people inside so it won’t be as much of a crowd.

Cat , our math specialist, was with us on this particular day. That reminds me of what you were saying about the babies. Because you said babies are small so you can fit more in a space. Charlie, do you think it would be easy to make a crowd of babies? How many babies would you have to draw to make a crowd?

Charlie: 45
Annabel:  no, eighty-five, no, I would say 45. 
Samuel: My Dad’s age!

Mary B: So there’s 18 people in our circle right now. Does it feel crowded? But what if all 18 of you went into the bathroom?Would that feel crowded?

Caroline: Yeah, that would be really crowded!

Anna suggests that the Kindergarten try to fit into the pantry in the  kitchen.

Scarlett: But we have to be tiny tiny.

Eve: I love that place!

Anna:  Do you think you will turn into a crowd if you go in there? 

Wait a minute...what are Pippin and Cat doing in the pantry?

We visited Irene in her office. At first, it looked like she had space in her office but when the entire Kindergarten class entered her office it felt very crowded.

Later, we asked the children to describe the emotions they were feeling while in a crowded space. 

How did it feel to be in a crowded space?

Penelope: I felt mad when I was in the water room.

Eve: I couldn’t  even find a place to go and it was dark so I just got out. Dark and crowded places are sometimes scary to me. Sometimes when we did things in a crowd in preschool that I didn’t like it because I am afraid I might bump into someone or they might pull me.

We also visited Ann Reavey's office and more shenanigans occurred.
Charlie: When I was inside  Ann Reavey's table I felt really squished and then Shayna came in too and it was crowded.
Bryce: That was a really small crowd.

Syd: If there were two and another two and another two and another two that would be ten.
I felt squished. My brain said that it was too squished and I need to get out.
Kate;  Some of the places were squished and some of them were not. The big places felt  good because I could run around

Many of them liked feeling crowed but their reasons reflected the fun that they had in the spaces.

Cal: I felt cozy and warm.
Scarlett: Happiness. I have lots of stuffed animals in my bed and my dad put them in my drawer.