October 2015 archive

Weekly Update 10.26 – 10.30

It was another busy week in the Beaver Lodge!  Our class really adopted the Halloween spirit with lots of different activities and plenty of talk about the upcoming festivities for Saturday.

On Monday, we made Mummy Pizzas – a new favorite class recipe.  Although simple, these mini pizzas were a spooky treat and a huge hit!  Find the recipe here.

On Wednesday, we carved a huge pumpkin to make our class jack o’lantern.  First, we voted on what kind of face the jack o’lantern should have: happy, silly, or scary.  After tallying the votes on our graph and noticing that the majority of the Beavers wanted a scary face, we got to work during Choice Time, digging out the pumpkin “guts” and picking apart the seeds.

During Choice Time, we were lucky enough to have another class visitor – Chris Natale, the Lower School Math Specialist.  Mr. Natale helped engage some of the Beavers in our math activity of estimating how many pumpkin seeds there were, and then devising a strategy to count the seeds.  With the suggestion of a few friends, we sorted the pumpkin seeds by putting every count of ten in a paper cup, and then creating “clusters” of 11 cups of 10 seeds each.  The Kindergarten Trains from Mrs. Montero’s room then lent some of their math expertise to help us skip count by 10’s and 100’s, arriving at final count of … 640 pumpkin seeds!  We roasted them up and enjoyed them for a tasty treat today at snack.

On Wednesday, we also created our Name Monsters, an activity that engages young readers and literary enthusiasts by prompting them to recognize the letters of their name.  As young children acquire literacy, they become increasingly aware of print in their world.  Some of the first letters that children learn to recognize are the letters in their own name.  To create a Name Monster, each child was given a piece of newspaper.  They were tasked with the mission of finding the letters of their name throughout the paper.  We provided them prompts as they worked, such as: “How many times can you find the letters of your name?  Can you find the letters of your last name?  Which letters are easiest to find?  Once they had completed their letter hunt, they connected their circled letters (much like a connect the dots) to create the body of the monster.  After we cut them out, they used scraps of paper, buttons, and eyes to give their Name Monster its unique look.

On Thursday we created a Leaf Wreath.  This project was exemplary of the ability that natural materials have to inspire children and adults alike.  One of the teachers had the idea to use the wet leaves from the rainfall to create a wreath.  This prompted the students to go on a hunt for a wire hanger (provided, in the end, by the Packer maintenance staff).  We then worked through Garden and Choice Time to string the leaves on the wire by piercing small holes in the leaves and moving them down the hanger.  By the end of the day, we had a beautiful decoration made of natural, recycled materials!

We met our Fourth Grade Buddies for the first time! Every year, the Preschool classrooms are paired up with another class from the Lower School.  We meet up with them once a month to share stories, read together, sing together, and work together.  This year we are paired up with Spring Kristiansen and Christian Francis’ 4th Grade class.

In dance, the children worked hard to learn a spooky Halloween dance.  They learned choreography and tapped into their spooky spirits.

To view our performance, check out the link below!

Here are some other photos from our week.  Hope everyone has a great Halloween weekend!

Have a safe and fun Halloween!

Fall Sing!

Thank you to everyone for coming to the Beavers’ Fall Sing!  Not only was it wonderful to see all of the families, but it meant a lot to the Beavers to have their families at the performance to support them.  The Beavers have been working tirelessly since the beginning of the school year, practicing the songs during Music as well as in the classroom.  So thank you to everyone for giving us the opportunity to present our hard work, and to have some fun as well!

A special thank you to Ehud, Brit, and Melina for recording the main event.  Ehud put together a beautiful video and we’re happy to be able to share it with you! Please use this link to view the video. Enjoy!

Music in Our Classroom

Music is a core aspect of our preschool program.  Not only do children love dancing and singing to music, music supports literacy and language development.  As children sing songs, they experiment with language and strengthen memory retention. Music promotes phonological awareness, specifically: sound discrimination, word identification, ability to rhyme and sound manipulation.  Music provides an opportunity for creative interpretation and expression.  Since the start of school, we have used music as a tool for community building, classroom management, and good ol’ fashioned fun!

This week your Beavers have been busy preparing for the Fall Sing.  Ms. Onne-Fong has worked with your children to perfect 10 songs, and they are very excited for their grownups to join us next Thursday, October 29th at 9am in the music room. Songs include: Hello Clap Your Hands, Beaver’s Song, 5Little Monkeys,Friends 123/Make new Friends, Hoot Owl Song, Aloutte, Arabella, Come Little Leaves, Spin Spider Spin, and a top secret surprise song. For a sneak peak and as an added confidence booster, ask your Beaver to sing some of these songs at home this weekend! You are going to be so proud, but be warned the songs are catchy and we know, you’ll be singing along! 🙂

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Here are some other pictures from the week:

Building with blocks.


Creating friendly, silly, nice monsters.



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Printing with Natural Materials:

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Special shout out to Elfie, for bringing in and sharing apples with everyone. They were delicious!

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A Friday Dance Party!


Have a wonderful weekend!


Your Pre-K Teachers

Cooking in the Classroom

Cooking in the Classroom

Cooking is an important experience for young children as it pulls together many cognitive concepts. It promotes higher level thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Cooking is an empowering experience for children in which the benefits are immense.  Through cooking, children…

  • Develop language skills as they “read” recipes and expand their vocabulary
  • Explore written and oral expression
  • Fulfill sensory needs as they touch, smell, and taste foods being prepared
  • Have opportunities for science exploration as they predict, classify, and observe
  • Strengthen fine motor skills as they chop, pour, and mix
  • Build self-confidence and sense of purpose
  • Expand their palettes as they try new foods
  • Build math skills such as counting, measuring, classifying, and number sense

Throughout the year, we will try to cook several times a month. Recipes will often correspond with curriculum, providing an opportunity for children to express their understandings about content.  Additionally, we will use cooking as a way for us to learn more about cultural traditions associated with members of our classroom community, as well as the global community.   As children work together to prepare food we are bonded in our efforts and almost always delighted with the results!

This week we made apple sauce. Using apples from both Erica and Harper’s weekend trips to apple orchards, the Beavers quickly set out to chop, cook, sweeten and mash their bounty.  Throughout the week, we created several graphs to collect data associated with our cooking project.  We discussed words like data, “less”, and “more.”  We learned an Apple Sauce song and had fun working together to cook a delicious fall treat!  In our final graph we asked, “Did you like the apple sauce we made?” Because all of the Beavers were proud “brave tasters,” all children were able to participate in this poll.  We were happy to see that the vast majority (18!) LOVED the apple sauce! We hope this inspires some cooking at home!

Young Authors!

It was a creative week in the Beaver Lodge!  Not only did we receive our *new* writer’s notebooks, but our young authors were buzzing around the classroom, exploring literacy activities during Choice Time as well as during open-ended play.

Thanks to a generous donation of 24 small pumpkins from the Masella family (thank you, Masellas!) we completed a project we came to know as: “Pumpkins with Personality!” After decorating our pumpkins with sequins, googly eyes, feathers, and pipe cleaners, we read The Monster’s Monster  by Patrick McDonnell to initiate a conversation about character (please check out the book if you haven’t already – it’s a goodie!).  Having an understanding of character is an important aspect of comprehension. We talked about how in books, readers can gather information about  characters by examining the actions of a character, and what other says about a character.   Before reading The Monster’s Monster, we asked the children to make predictions about what the Monster (Frankenstein’s doppelgänger!) might be like.  Children used descriptive language to share their predictions – “stompy”, “big”, “mean,” “loud.”  After reading the book, the children learned that the character in the book in fact was nothing like our initial predictions.  Instead, he was “kind”, “generous,” “friendly,” “nice,” and “sharing.”   We introduced the word personality. We talked about how you are not able to know someone by simply looking at them – you have to take time to learn about people in order to know who they really are. We then asked the Beavers to think about who their pumpkin is – what’s their personality? what makes them unique? The teaching team interviewed each student to learn more about their pumpkin character. As you can see below, the results were both thoughtful and entertaining.

The Beavers also continued to show interest in bookmaking.  To peak their interest, we set up a “Bookmaking Center.” Using needle and thread, the Beavers learned that you can create books by sewing the binding.  A great fine motor activity, children sewed their very own books and then got busy writing and illustrating in them.  There were alphabet books, mermaid books, a book about pumpkin picking, a gymnastics book, name books, and more.

To further motivate our engaged writers, we launched Writer’s Notebooks this week!  Writer’s Notebooks will be a writing tool we use all year to keep record of our ideas and stories. This week the children spent time decorating the cover of their notebooks.  Next week we’ll begin the storytelling! We are excited to hear your children’s stories and watch them grow as young authors. Stay tuned!


Weekly Update 10.13 to 10.16

The Weekly Update….

Here is the rundown on class happenings from the week.

It’s beginning to feel like fall!!!

Inspired by fall, It was apple activities galore this week! We created apple still lifes, printed with apples, and cooked with apples.

Arjun brought in a sunflower from his family’s home in Long Island.  The children were fascinated and naturally science inquisition took off. Friends wondered, “Have insects bitten lots of holes in it?” “What are those spiky things?” “We think it’s dead because too many bees stung it.” “It’s dead because my brother cut it off!”, “What would happened if we planted those seeds?” We decided we should conduct some experiments to find out more about the sunflower.  Arjun suggested that we see what happens if we “dry some seeds in the sun.”  Téa wondered, “Well, what happens if it is really shady?” We decided that perhaps we should set up a second experiment to “dry seeds in the darkness.” Looking around our room, the Beavers decided that inside a drawer would be the darkest place for us to store our seeds.  On Monday, we will check back in on our “drying” seeds to see if there were any changes. 🙂  We will also plan to plant some of the sunflower seeds to observe over the next couple of weeks. Thank you, Arjun, for bringing in such an interesting finding from your garden!

Using natural materials, the Beavers created stick mobiles and made fall leaf arrangements. Thanks to a big bag of acorns brought in by Asher, friends explored painting with this oak tree treasure.   Children were delighted as they watched their acorns roll across their page leaving a trail of color.

Block building took off this week.  Some Beavers set out to create a jail for bad guys, while others built a zoo! Check out their block structures and their master builders!

Choice Time was a buzz this week.  Check out more photos of the fun!

We had our first preschool assembly! The theme of the assembly was “Getting to Know You!”  We shared our Beavers Song which was a huge hit! To view some of the highlight from our first assembly, please see the video below.  Enjoy!




Weekly Update 10.5 to 10.9

This week we spent lots of time getting to know many members of the Packer community. We had lots of special guests and enjoyed having them to our Beaver lodge!

Thank you, Tené Howard for swinging by to visit our classroom! Tené is the Director of Global Outreach at Packer and we look forward to working with her to deepen our diversity efforts and community service projects.


Erin Gordon, one of Packer’s Literacy Coaches and learning specialists, also stopped in for Choice Time.  Her timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as this week, many Beavers began “writing” their own books! We hope she’ll visit our Beaver authors again soon!


Ramón Javier, the Director of Diversity, also came to visit.  As mentioned in our earlier post, he read Beautiful Hands by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten.  The book talked about all the ways our beautiful hands can help people.

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Today, we had our first preschool SING ALONG!!! The Puppies visited our classroom with drums and guitars in hand.  We sang lots of favorites including: Roller Coaster, 5 Little Pumpkins, Hokey Pokey, Boom Chicka Boom and more! Our hope is to see the Puppies for Sing Alongs at least once a month!

Thank you to all who sent in backpacks today! We obviously put them to good use.


Happy Friday!!!

Explorative Play: Fun With Colors and “Loose Parts”

The preschool curriculum often centers around open-ended activities.  Discoveries made during these experiences are intended to build upon current understandings and serve as a foundation for subsequent projects and lessons.  Encouraging young children to explore and create without the “model” of a desired outcome displaces the emphasis from product to process.  Furthermore, young children are required to think creatively and work intentionally.  As we observed from the following two activities, the  results are not only beautiful, but indicative of each child’s process.

This week, we introduced two activities that exemplify “open-ended” or “explorative” play: Color Mixing and a center called, “Loose Parts”.  At Loose Parts, children create non-permanent sculptures with reused and found materials, such as: CDs, wine corks, bottle caps, pebbles, sticks, and plastic parts.  Throughout the year, we will vary the materials presented at this table to provoke different explorations.  We also equipped the Loose Parts table with a large piece of dark cloth, which served as a blank canvas for their work.  To introduce this center we started with a whole class Guided Discovery. Each Beaver was given a “loose part,” which they added to a collaborative sculpture.  After each child had made their contribution, we took time as a community to reflect on our efforts.  The children were struck by how beautiful ordinary objects could become when thoughtfully displayed.  Téa mentioned, “I like how the CDs make the light look like rainbows.” Ava said, “We all worked together and and no one knew what it was going to be but now it is so pretty!” This experience motivated many children to visit our Loose Parts Center during Choice Time this week.

By engaging children in activities with a non-permanent outcome, we are highlighting the importance of process over product.  The teachers prompted the Beavers to think about what kind of “creations” or “structures” they were making, while also reminding them that every design did not have to be a “something”.  The result was intentional and explorative play which promotes creative thinking, problem solving and process-based learning.

The second open-ended activity we introduced this week was color mixing.  At the beginning of the year, we opened our easels presenting only primary colors.  As the Beavers painted they naturally noticed how they could mix colors to create a new color.  We later added white and black paint to encourage deeper coloring mixing exploration.   Over time, we observed your children becoming more intentional with the way they mixed color on their paintings.  As a result, we set up a color mixing provocation.

We set out jars of paints with primary colors and neutrals.  We provided ice cube trays for mixing, as well as spoons, popsicle sticks, and paintbrushes.  Children used the various materials to measure out the perfect amount of each color to create individual shades of pink, orange, green, grey, brown, purple and more.  Using sticks collected in the Garden (perhaps for future mobiles, or other nature-inspired decorations?), the children worked to mix “just right” colors. Inspired by the colors they had created, many children requested to carry their  palettes (the ice cube trays) to the easels to engage in more representational painting.  We continued to build upon their understandings of color, with a later painting experience using finger paints.  After our special guest, Ramón Javier, read Beautiful Hands by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten,  the Beavers were inspired to paint with their beautiful hands just like the illustrators had in the book.  Finger paint provided yet another context for children to explore color.

Sensory Play and Literacy Development in the Classroom

This week was filled with new discoveries and extensions of existing discoveries. Children continued to build on the Beaver lodge and habitat, come visit our classroom soon and you will see the results of their collaboration!

We introduced Moon Sand, this week. To provoke open-ended investigation, we presented this sensory material along side various loose parts, such as: sticks (collected by the children), medium and large gem-stones, and translucent colored squares.   This play experience fosters something different for every child. For some it creates a space for imaginative and collaborative play. For others, it simply fulfills a sensory need. These loose parts allowed students to create something meaningful and creative. Students built castles, volcanoes, and birthday cakes, tiny eggs containing surprises and many simply ran their hands through discovering the different forms Moon Sand could become. Our students come out of this experience feeling in control of their own actions, eager to explore something new and confident in sharing their ideas with others.

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Sensory play is important in the preschool classroom because it stimulates exploration that naturally develops our children’s cognitive, social, and emotional growth. The purpose of a sensory space within our classroom is to foster a learning environment where students create, investigate and explore. Thinking about hands-on experiences, consider the difference between sensory play with water and sensory play with sand. Both mediums offer a sensory input that is satisfying and soothing for a child, however, each offers a distinct kinesthetic experience, with varying cause and effect benefits. To quote your children, here are some examples of the learning that occurs when engaged in sensory play. Expressive language is rich; “this sand is smooth and squishable!” Mathematical explorations naturally ensue; “I’m pouring 10 cups of water into my potion!” Scientific investigations emerge; “I wonder if all of this cup of water will fit in that cup of water?” And imaginative play almost always spontaneously occurs; “Let’s make a dragon castle and all of the gems are the treasure boxes.” Throughout the year, we will set up various sensory provocations using an array of materials and mediums.

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We also launched our Messages Center this week.  This area proved to be a very popular choice from the very first day it opened. Whether it’s experimental letter formation on a page or carefully formed letters, perception of oneself as a writer is an important stage of literacy acquisition. This center is intended to provoke the writing process. Included at this table are name labels with student pictures, sight words and phrases such as, “Mommy”, “Daddy”, “I Love You”, and “I Miss You”. There is also basic stationary and writing supplies, such as staplers, pens, paper, scissors, and tape. Open-ended work with writing allows children to experience the written word as a tool of expression and communication. The experimental and unstructured quality of the Messages Center is especially important at this developmental stage, as each student can progress at a rate that is appropriate for the individual. An additional feature of our Messages Center is the student mailboxes, which add a social element to the writing process. Many students work hard to write messages to their peers, proudly dropping them in their mailboxes. We are excited to continue to build on this center, to develop and foster a positive writing environment in our classroom.

One of the ways we maintain interest in this area of the classroom is by rotating the materials presented to your children.  As such, we are looking for your help! If you have any old stationary, envelopes, notepads, stamps etc. at home or in your office, we would love your donations! Please send them to school and we will gladly put them to use!

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In other classroom news….

We began our week with a visit from a very special guest, Ms. Jansen Po! She surprised us by sharing Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas, a book about dust bunnies that love to rhyme. The Beavers jumped right in and even came up with some rhyming words themselves. It was so much fun! Thank you Ms. Po for reading to us, we really enjoyed your visit and hope to see you back in our Beaver lodge very soon!


Arjun brought in caterpillars to share during Choice Time at the Science Table. The Beavers made many hypotheses as to what will become of the very large and colorful caterpillars. Many children shared their background knowledge about caterpillars using words like chrysalis, caterpillar, cocoon, moth, and butterfly. Friends were very gentle as they observed. They had conversations about what types of food caterpillars ate and shared that after caterpillars enter the chrysalis stage they sleep for a very long time. Thank you, Arjun, for sharing the treasures from your vegetable garden!

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We wrapped up the All About Me shares this week! Our presenters included Steelo, Harper, Arjun, Ava, Elfie, Cate, Milo, Ezra, Harry, Ruby and Téa. We loved learning about the children, deepening our overall sense of classroom community. We appreciate the time and energy you spent on these books, and we know they will be cherished throughout the year.

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Emerson was very excited to bring the class apples, which we shared during snack time. She told the class “I hand picked the honey crisp apples in the orchard.” After this share, many friends were eager to share apple-picking experiences they had in the past. Thank you Emerson for sharing those delicious healthy snacks 🙂

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This afternoon, we had another special guest come and visit our classroom – Mr. McCauley!  He brought  in his guitar and helped us close out the day with some rainy day blues.  The Beavers loved having him visit our classroom, and we hope he visits again soon!

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We look forward to more fun on Monday! Enjoy the weekend!