November 2015 archive

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

On Monday, our 4th Grade Buddies came to our classroom to help create a Thanksgiving card for our families.  As we worked, the teachers asked the Beavers: What are you thankful for?  What do you love about your family?  What makes you feel grateful? As we illustrated our cards, the Buddies helped us record our words.



As Thanksgiving approaches, we take pause to think about all that we are thankful for.  As teachers, we would like to thank you for entrusting us with the care of your children and the opportunity to see them grow. They bring us laughter and love everyday, and we feel lucky to share so much joy with them.

We are truly fortunate to be surrounded by a community of parents and caregivers who are supportive, caring, and think deeply about the work we do.  We wish you all the best for a joyful and restful Thanksgiving break and we look forward to seeing you on Monday!

Farm Fresh in the Beaver Lodge!

After reading Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert, the Beavers discussed our upcoming trip to the Borough Hall Farmer’s Market. We discussed how Thanksgiving is right around the corner and during this time, many people gather to share food and spend time together. As a classroom family, we discussed many things for which we are thankful and decided to celebrate with the sharing of vegetable soup.

On Tuesday morning, we set out to visit the Borough Hall Farmer’s Market to shop for ingredients. There, the students had the opportunity to explore the market and learn about fresh produce. They were given $5 and a specific ingredient to purchase. Some ingredients included: parsley, turnip, carrots, kale, potatoes and butternut squash. We discussed that at a farmer’s market you can only buy fruits and vegetables that are grown locally and in season. We thought about how farmer’s markets differ from a supermarket, in that, the produce at the market depends on the farmer’s harvest. Upon arrival, the Beavers got to shopping. After tracking down their ingredient, they paid, waited for change and asked for a receipt. Opportunities for children to connect the real world to their learning, is a powerful experience. The Beavers could not have enjoyed their time at the market more! There were lots of smiles on some very proud shoppers! Thank you to all of parent volunteers, for joining us and making this experience a memorable one for our children.

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With a cornucopia of fresh farmer’s market vegetables, the Beavers were inspired to explore their bounty more. Before cooking our vegetable soup, one child was curious to measure the potato he had purchased. This inspired lots of interest in measurement. We discussed what it meant to measure and decided to use unifix cubes as our unit of measurement. Together in pairs, the children were given a vegetable to measure. As they worked, we heard lots of children discussing some of the things they know about measurement. Téa exclaimed, “I think the turnip is 9 feet long!” Milo mentioned that he and Steelo had measured their parsnip and found that it was “14 and a quarter.” Emerson and Jake found that their butternut squash was different lengths depending on which side they measured. Jake shared “Ours is seven puh-cause it’s like this,” and Emerson said, “But my other side is 8!” Arjun measured his collard green and said, “It’s 19 inches, trust me I know inches.” We discussed how there are lots of different units of measurement, but that depending on what you are using to measure with, the length of something will change. We then redirected them to notice that it wasn’t inches or feet that we were measuring by, but rather cubes. The children’s language then shifted and they began to share out their findings. Several students extended this activity at Choice Time and decided to record how long varying vegetables were. This extension was an example of authentic learning that emerges from the children’s interest.

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On Wednesday, we got to cooking! In half groups our Beaver chefs peeled, sliced and added ingredients into our soup pot. Through interactive writing, they wrote their recipe as we went. Here are the ingredients we used: garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsnip, turnip, butternut squash, potatoes, tomatoes, collard greens, spinach, kale, parsley, sage and thyme. After they had prepared the vegetables, they added in vegetable stock and pastina (pasta stars.) As we cooked, many of the children commented on the aromas in our room and how delicious it smelled! Enthusiastically, Ezra asked, “don’t Chefs always taste their food to make sure it is yummy?” He then proceeded to lick his plate clean! The results of our hard work were satisfying! All 21 Beavers were “brave tasters,” with over half the class enjoying the product.


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With lots of leftover vegetables, the Beavers thought it would be nice to make another batch of soup to share with various members of our school community. We discussed the words appreciation and gratitude, and all of the members of our community that they wanted to give thanks. They brainstormed a list of teachers and staff members to whom they wanted to deliver soup. We then set out and as Ruby put it “spread love around our school!” It was gratifying to see the children show their appreciation, proudly sharing the product of their hard work. Vegetable soup was a hit!

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Have a great weekend!

Weekly update 11.16-11.20

Last week we had many conversations about fairness, equality and self-expression. Off the heels of these discussions, on Monday morning, Elfie came to meeting perturbed by something she had overheard in our locker room. “Some friends were telling [someone] that they couldn’t be a white ninja because she was a girl and I don’t think that’s fair.” We praised Elfie for standing up for something that she thought was unfair and asked her if it would be alright with her if we discussed the topic at meeting. She agreed and a discussion about equality ensued. In our meeting, the Beavers agreed, “Of course girls can be white ninjas and boys can like any color they want including pink and purple.” We talked about how sometimes people will treat people unfairly and that just like Elfie did, it is always important to stand up for what you think is right. We then asked the Beavers if they had any ideas about how we could stand up for our beliefs. Jake said; “I think we should just make a sign and put it on the imagination station so that all the kids could see it and they know that they could just be what they want to be.”  Everyone loved this idea and decided to make flyers that read: “Anyone Can Be Who or What They Want to Be,” to post around our school. Before setting out to spread their important news, they spent time decorating their flyers, many friends thoughtfully depicting images of children “working out problems” and “being kind to one another.” The Beavers discovered the power of activism this week and we couldn’t have been prouder.

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Thanks to a large donation of wings (Thanks Masellas!), we made our first pair of imaginary creature wings. The children sorted shiny paper and collaged it to create their own unique design. Lots of play with the new addition to our Hollow Blocks area ensued.

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We paid a visit to our Buddies classroom this afternoon at the Colonial Fair. They shared various skits about life during colonial times and hosted job booths, to teach visitors about their apprenticeships.

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We had a Beaver Birthday this week! We celebrated with delicious pink cupcakes and a reading of Chris Van Dusen’s, Circus Ship. Thanks for joining us!

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Imaginary Creatures, Real World Talk

Emergent Curriculum is an evolving study that takes into account the interests, wonderings and revelations of its learners.  After watching your children play for nearly three months, we have noticed a binding curiosity around imaginary creatures.  Play ranging from dragons, werwolves, fairies, and mermaids, informed our initial open-ended discussions about their fascination with imaginary creatures.  We began this unit by asking your children what they knew about imaginary creatures.  Here were some of their initial thoughts and wonderings.

  • Téa: I bet that every imaginary creature is real, but no one has seen them before.  Or an imaginary animal is something that’s not real and it’s magical and like, what it would be in your dreams like a My Little Pony or a show
  • Jalen– Imaginary is to make an imaginary creature like if I make an imaginary body and I imagine he was eating me up
  • Emerson– Imaginary means that something is not real but you imagine its real.
  • Ruby – I have an imaginary friend named Akiyoko. He’s my friend that’s invisible.
  • Jake– Maginary is when you think of something in your brain and when it comes from your brain to your head you know what to do, like if I wanted to draw something there was an imaginary thing in my brain and when it came to my head then I knew what to drew
  • Steelo – Imaginary creatures are creatures that are not real and they don’t exist and they’re like, you don’t see them because maybe you have to draw them.
  • Alex – Pinkie Pie is an imaginary creature.
  • Milo– Maginary is when you think of something and if you didn’t then you wouldn’t have anything.
  • Elfie– Imaginary is if you think of something that is not true and the other person says it is.
  • VivianI wonder if dragons die, or unicorns or ponies?
  • Pearl – I wonder when unicorns die?
  • CarmenI wonder if horses die or maybe we can take them to the vet?
  • AvaI wonder if every single alive animal is pretend?
  • Arjun I wonder if dragons die if they kill people?
  • AsherI wonder if I’ll ever see a flying hand?
  • Charlie – I wonder why unicorns have horns on their heads?
  • EzraI wonder when… hmm..rescue bots die down?
  • HarperUnicorns die.
  • Lucia– I wonder if Beekle died?
  • Harry – I wonder if I ever saw a bat jump?
  • Cate – I wonder if bears are real and maybe if they like cold places?

After our initial conversations, we decided to make a class book about Imaginary Creatures.  The children agreed that anything can be an imaginary creature so long as it is something made up.  Here are some of the creatures they imagined…

Over the past two weeks, we have spent lots of time engaged in conversations and play about imaginary creatures.  As we gain momentum many themes are emerging. The Beavers are well versed in all types of pretend animals – zombies, mermaids, dragons, “jumping bats” and the list goes on.  One question that has emerged in our play and discussions, is who is entitled to play what imaginary creatures? For example, can only girls like unicorns? Are boys always Transformers or Rescuebots? What colors might we see on each imaginary creature?  In response to your children’s curiosity, we have been engaged in many conversations about gender stereotypes and gender expression. Gender expression is the way in which we express our masculinity or femininity.  For example, the way we wear our hair, the colors we choose to wear or the clothes we choose to wear. With your children we use inclusive language, stressing that there is “no one way all girls and boys can be.”  We encourage them to say, “boys and girls like” or “people like.”

After an activity where the children made magical wands to use in Dramatic Play and Hollow Blocks, we noticed that many children were making deliberate choices for their wands.  During their work, we asked them about the choices they were making and heard many responses that aligned with gender constructs.   Many girls made wands that were the “sparkliest,” and “prettiest”, while many boys made wands that were the “strongest,” and “most powerful.”  We wanted to probe further and explore some of these these gender constructs we had observed.

We stocked our library with books such as The Paperbag Princess, by Robert Munsch,  The Different Dragon by Jennifer Bryan, The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill, William’s Doll by Charlotte Zolotow, Not All Princess Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen, Princess Patty Meets her Match by Charise Mericle Harper, Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffmann, and Play Free by McNall Mason.  These books provide children with an alternate image of gender identity and gender expression, which is an important step in deconstructing gender stereotypes.  Inherent in a study of imaginary creatures, is the media portrayal of princes, princesses, unicorns, dragons and mermaids.  Our intention is to encourage your children to re-envision these stereotypes and to help them not feel limited in their self-expression.

On Wednesday, we read William’s Doll, by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by William Pène du Bois.  This classic story tells the tale of a little boy who wants a doll.  While the people around him try to discourage him from wanting the doll, his desires never change. In the end, his supportive grandmother comes to town and buys William his doll.  She teaches him that no matter what people think or people say, William should have a doll because William wants one.  Throughout this story your children shared their noticings about what was happening to William and their thoughts on why.  Milo shared, “They think he has to be a girl to get it, but they don’t, right?”  Vivian observed, “I think what happened is that the girls and boys are not nice that’s why they’re being bad to William.”  Elfie commented, “They’re making him uncomfortable.” Steelo stated, “They don’t want him to have a doll because they think dolls are for girls, but that’s not true!”  When William finally received his doll, Ezra burst with excitement, “He got one because he wants it!”  We then had a discussion about how we all agree there is no such thing as “girl stuff” or “boy stuff”.  The Beavers had some really enlightening things to say on the subject, sharing opinions that were grounded in experience and a true understanding of what it means to be an individual.  We prompted your children to share about themselves.  We learned that their interests are diverse and often defy gender stereotypes.

I really love Transformers – Pearl

I like to play with boys – Lucia

I really like the color pink – Milo

I like the colors black and red – Carmen

I really like dragons and monsters – Téa

I like cats AND I like dogs – Harper

I like playing basketball with Pearl and Vivian – Jalen

My favorite color is purple – Arjun

I like the color red – Vivian

I like playing basketball and volleyball and soccer – Elfie

I like to play toy dragons – Ruby

I really love to play with trains a lot and I like to paint them, even if it’s pink, I like the color pink – Harry

So, I heard Pearl say that she likes Transformers and I’ve heard that Steelo likes Transformers, so, what’s the big deal? Anyone can like anything they like. – Charlie

I like whatever color anyone makes for me, like if it’s pink I like it, and I also like red Rescuebots, like Heatwave, and he’s red and I like that color! – Jake

I like Barbie dolls and American girl dolls and horses – Ava

Star Wars is not only for boys, me and Pearl really like it – Emerson

I like Jem and the Holograms, my Dad used to think it was only for girls but that’s no such thing. I like the rainbow! – Steelo

I like the colors pink and purple – Asher

I love American Girl dolls but also basketball – Alex

I like the color black – Cate

Next week, we plan to read A Princess of Great Daring, written by Tobi Hill-Meyer, illustrated by Elenore Toczynski.  In this story, Jamie is a character who feels like she is really a girl inside.  When they tell her she should play the prince, she confidently disagrees and replies, “I can be, whoever I want to be!” She becomes a princess of “great daring”, playing a game of dragons and knights, gathering her courage along the way.  In our discussion throughout the book we will discuss how sometimes others think we should be one way when we actually want to be another.  In our emergent study, we want children to feel comfortable taking on any role they desire regardless of what others may tell them they should be doing.  The important lesson being that we can all be who we want to be.



Creation Station: Working with Recycled Materials

Creation Station

In the Reggio Emilia approach, found materials and objects are used in an effort to provide children open ended invitations to play, construct and explore. Engagement with open ended materials enables them to create the unknown, think outside of the box and problem solve. Creativity and collaboration are inherent aspects of these experiences.

This week we launched our Creation Station.  The Creation Station is an area of our classroom devoted to upcycling.  By definition, to upcycle is to reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.  After reading the book My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks by Hanoch Piven and studying the work of this famous upcycler, we discussed the reasons why we might stock our Creation Station with recycled and found materials.  We then read the book Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts. We discussed what it is to be an architect and  used this as a segue to discuss the process that the children will undergo when signing up to work at the Creation Station.  Inspired by the engineering design process, we follow these steps when working at the Creation Station:

  1. Ask – What will I build and why?
  2. Imagine – Imagine the possibilities for my design
  3. Plan – What is my plan for my creation; What materials will I need?
  4. Create – Begin the building process
  5. Improve – Evaluate my design as I go; Make my design stronger and change anything that is not working


Our Process

When the Beavers visit the Creation Station they are asked to first imagine what they would like to create.  Next we ask them to plan their design.  For four and five year olds, the notion of “planning” before creating is not always a natural one.  To encourage more thoughtful creations, they use special “planning paper” (wide gauge graph paper), to create a blueprint for their design.  When they deem it finished they then seek approval by the Design Planning Committee (the teachers).  At this stage, we reflect with them on their plan, discussing possible next steps or additional details they might add.  Once it has been given the green-light, we give them a signed sticker of approval, and the children begin to build.  At the Creation Station, there are an array of recycled materials for building, as well as, a bin full of  “Connectors” for attaching materials togethers. Available to them as connectors are  masking tape, wire and pipe cleaners.  We have chosen these specific connectors as they encourage the children to problem solve as they fasten things together.  As they work, they experience moments of frustration, followed by moments of immense pride.  The following is a list of some of the cognitive and social-emotional benefits involved in working at the Creation Station.

  • The value of process over product
  • Creativity and Problem Solving Skills
  • Collaboration
  • Spatial planning
  • Engineering
  • Resiliency
  • Stamina
  • Fine Motor Development
  • Frustration Tolerance

We have been so inspired watching your children at the Creation Station this week.  Their process is busy, purposeful and focused.  Please be warned, the pile of trash you may see your child bringing home, is no trash at all! It’s their hard work and most imaginative creation.  We look forward to watching your children develop as young engineers.



The opening of the Creation Station marks the official launch of our Recycled Arts Program. In order for our recycled arts program to be successful, we will need your help! Below, please find a list of materials that would be great additions.  Please note, all materials must be clean and free of food particles.  Please bring donations to school in bags, and we will store and sort them in our classroom.  We will begin accepting donations this Monday, so please start saving! We look forward to using your “trash” to create new “treasures!”

 Donation List

Toys & Supplies:

  • Puzzles: missing pieces, wooden boards
  • Balls: golf, tennis, ping-pong and marbles
  • Scrabble tiles, boggle cubes and board game pieces

Stuff Around the House:

  • Baskets, wooden trays and clear containers
  • Corks: from wine & champagne bottles
  • Bottle caps: juice, beer, colorful and shiny
  • Bottles: shampoo & conditioner bottles, soap bottles, dish soap bottles etc.
  • Cardboard tubes: from paper towel and toilet paper rolls
  • Paper: maps, graph paper, stationery, stamps, handmade, stickers, labels, envelopes and note cards
  • Glass jars with lids: mason, baby food, pickle jars, jam jars, NO jars from Nuts
  • Bicycle wheels or anything with repeated openings for weaving: grind shelving
  • Old cell phones, iPods, remote controls, keyboards, typewriters, telephones, watch, and clock parts
  • Coils, light switch boards, wires, springs, pipe pieces
  • Cellophane, acrylic & plexiglass
  • Boxes: film, cigar, accessory, sturdy and various shapes
  • Metal: keys, rings, wire, nuts, bolts and rings
  • Small baking tins, cookie cutters and molds
  • Spools: from thread, wire and ribbon
  • Beads & Buttons
  • Old cd, dvd, floppy disc
  • Carpet, tile, paint and fabric samples
  • Yarn, ribbon, trimming, string, thread, rope, neckties and scarves
  • Clear plastic: tubing, beakers, egg carton holders and squeeze bottles
  • Packing materials

From Nature

  • Coral, shells and sea glass
  • Driftwood, bark pieces, branches, twigs, sticks, acorns, pine cones and leaves
  • Abandoned birds nest, snakeskin, starfish, fossils
  • Gourds, seeds, seedpods and chestnuts
  • Pebbles, rocks and gravel
  • Flowers: fresh, dried, moss, grasses and vines