February 2016 archive

A Focus on Identity: What Makes You, You?

Diversity work is an important aspect of the mission at Packer. Not only do we strive to bring all types of diversity to our community, we actively engage the children in diversity work discussing varying aspects of identity, such as gender, socio-economics, language, race, ethnicity, ability, religion, learning style etc. While opportunities to discuss the diversity of our community and the world at large emerge on a daily basis, there are also times throughout the year where we more purposefully introduce and plan curriculum to engage children in anti-bias work. With our youngest learners, diversity work is both proactive and reactive, addressing themes that your children are naturally thinking about. Diversity work is not always easy. It is highly emotional, and can at times, generate feelings of discomfort and uncertainty. We believe it is social imperative to engage children in anti-bias work. As children process the world around them, whether we like it our not, they develop bias, have questions and draw conclusions. Planning thoughtful and meaningful diversity curriculum, allows us as educators the opportunity to equip your children with knowledge about the human experience. These discussions provide them language and facts, foster empathy and empower them to be social activist.

Every other year, Packer dedicates a week to school-wide diversity programming. This year’s theme is Intersectionality. By definition, “intersectionality is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination or discrimination.” This week we started discussing identity. With your children we defined identity as the different things that make all of us individuals. “The things that make you, you and me, me.”

As your children shared, identity is…

“Things that are a part of your body that you live with.” – Carmen

“You have stuff that makes you feel like you” – Jake

“Identity is when you see things, and you write your face, and do the things you do…” – Jalen

“What you do by yourself” – Lucia

“Identity is when people sometimes have different color skin.” – Alex

“When you say who you really are.” – Pearl

“Identity is what makes you, you.” – Charlie

We launched our discussions by reading the book, “Everybody is Different” by Todd Parr. When reading, we tried to unpack Parr’s language asking the children to share what they knew about the different identifiers that were being described. After the read aloud, we introduced the children to the idea of intersectionality, describing it as “the many different things that make us who we are and make up our identity.” The teachers then shared different aspects of their personal identity, specifically focusing on the following identifiers: socio-economics, race, ethnicity, language, food preference, gender and gender expression, family structure and religion. Below are very simple pictures of the visuals we used to make the concept more evident to your children.

Delving deeper into our identity work, over the past couple of days we have been discussing race. In both English and Spanish, Erica and Denisse read the book, “All the Colors We Are; Todos los Colores de Nuestra Piel,” by/de Katie Kissinger, Photographs by/Fotographias de Wernher Krutein. This book explains how people acquire their skin color, differentiating race from skin tone. We talked about how race is a categorization of people who share similar physical characteristics – specifically these grouping are: White, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American/Alaska Native and Mixed Race. We talked about how even though some people are referred to as white or black, white and black are not actually skin tones. In “All the Colors We Are,” the author explains how a person gets their specific skin color. 1. “from our parents and from relatives who lived long ago, called ancestors; 2. from the sun; 3. from something called melanin.” The Beavers learned that “if you have dark skin, the melanin in your body is very active, and if you have light skin, the melanin in your body is not very busy.” Throughout the read aloud, we asked the children to share some of their theories about how they got their skin color.  The following are some of their sound bytes during our conversation.

Alex: “Race is the color of your skin.”

Ruby: “[Race] means black but black is not a skin color, that’s why it’s called ‘race’.”

Jalen: “I think I have lots of busy melanins.”

Charlie: “I think mine are not very busy at all. I think my family from long ago must have lived somewhere without a lot of sunshine because my skin is so light.”

Vivian: “In the summer, I have more freckles from the sun.”

Pearl: “My dad is black and bald and my mom has light skin.”

Ezra: “My mommy has dark skin too.”

Asher: “My skin is from sunburns.”

Jake: “Puz you can’ t just be all white, your skin is not just pure dove all white like bones, your skin is half of white, but not really white, it’s a little more dark.”


During Choice Time, we then worked to mix paint to make a color that was just right for our specific skin tones.  We asked them first to find a color that most closely matched their skin. We painted their arm to see if we needed to do further color mixing. The children mixed and dabbed to make it lighter and darker. When they finally created a shade that was just right, they proudly announced, “This is the color of me!”

Over the next week or so, in conjunction with our Identity Study, we will be making “Paper Doll Self-Portraits.” As we explore varying physical identifiers (i.e. race, physical attributes, gender expression and clothing choices reflecting ethnicity and culture), we will add to our self-portraits to reflect our physical identity. Today, the Beavers used their personalized color to paint their paper doll. As the children worked, there was a distinct buzz and energy. When Alex invited Vivian over to the Paper Doll Self Portrait table, she excitedly announced, “Hey, Viv! Come make your YOU!” The celebration of their individuality was already evident.

We also read the book “Black is Brown is Tan” by Arnold Adoff, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully.  In this book, the author discusses a family whose skin reflects their unique race.  There is “Brown-skinned momma, the color of chocolate milk and coffee pumpkin pie, whose face gets ginger red when she puffs and yells the children into bed. White-skinned daddy, not white like milk or snow, lighter than brown, with pinks and tiny tans, whose face gets tomato red when he puffs and yells their children into bed.”  The story details the everyday happenings of this mixed-race family, in their house full of love.

Over the next couple of weeks we will continue to engage your children in what we hope will be rich, meaningful diversity work. As your children process these often lofty themes, we ask for you to continue the discussions at home. In our blog posts we will make an effort to share the “teacher language” we are using to support our explorations; as well as, provide you direct quotes from the students to share their thinking and questions. Your children have already shown immense empathy and openness. We are looking forward to continuing this empowering, inspiring work.

Since our focus this week was on race, we are providing the following articles as resources: Teaching Tolerance: How White Parents Should Talk to Their Young Kids About Race, To the White Parents of my Black Son’s Friends, and Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race. We know that as parents you also come with a wealth of knowledge and personal resources. We’d love for you to pass along any article or book that you have found helpful when processing these important discussions.




A Short Week, but a Busy One!

Although we only had three days in our classroom, we managed to have a week full of activity, fun, learning, and discovery.  Last week, the Beavers noticed that our puppetry had exceeded the boundaries of our (cardboard) puppet theater – we had too many puppets, too many stories, and too many friends interested in storytelling to fit behind the scenes!  With our shared love of woodworking, it seemed only natural that we try to build our very own puppet theater.  On Wednesday, some of our Maintenance staff – Patrick, Craig, and Craig’s two sons, Cole and Brody – came to our classroom to help with this very important project.

Since our woodworking abilities have a limited range (and we have a limited set of tools), we reached out to the talented Maintenance crew here at Packer to help us with some more advanced building.  Craig Kennedy and Patrick Sandiford brought in wood pieces, screws, screwdrivers, and a power drill to put the theater together.  The Beavers contributed their helping hands, hammers, and goggles.  Their hard work paid off and the Beavers took great pride in the process.  We completed the puppet theater with time for us to enjoy it for the remainder of the week. Throughout the week, we used our Anansi puppets, our paper bag puppets, and other props to create our own stories and revisit some of our favorite tales.

We also took a trip to the Shen Gallery to visit a new exhibition, showcasing artwork by members of our Visual Arts department here at Packer.  In this exhibit,  the artists used various mediums to express their love for special places in their life.  Using charcoal and watercolor, Risa Glickman paints scenes of Brooklyn.  With black and white photography, Liz Titone shares images of the woods.  Sticks, stones and string create sculptures indicative of Eric Baylin’s love for the countryside upstate.  Elizabeth Eagle creates mixed media collages of landscapes in Kenya.  And with fluorescent paints, Michael Miller expresses his love for the vibrancy of the ocean.  After a short gallery walk, the Beavers shared observations about the various artists’ works.

While visiting the gallery, Liz Titone, a lower school art teacher, had the children work in partners to “experience” the artwork.  To help us relate to the artist and their work more deeply, Liz had the children act out what they might be doing if they stepped inside the art.  The children were animated as they acted out We encourage you to stop by the Shen Gallery to visit the faculty art exhibition to appreciate the work of our talented Visual Arts department.  The Faculty Art Exhibit will be open until February 26. Stop by before it’s too late! Ask your Beaver to lead the way!

Milo- I think these here are from the 1990’s, I think she drawed it thinking of the 1990’s (re: Risa’s Art) and these look like traps (re: Eric’s art).

Arjun- I think these are Booby traps. (re: Eric’s art)

Carmen- why did “she” choose to make that? (re: Elizabeth’s art)

Tea- I liked that they used sparkly paint on that painting. (re: Michael’s art)

Pearl- I like that painting, because it’s sparkly. (re: Michael’s art)

Lucia- I like all of the art work, they make me feel happy.

Vivian- I’m not going to say anything, I just wanted to say my name.

Ezra- I really liked those paintings, they were really sparkly too. (re: Michael’s art)

Harper- I like that pink one, because of just the color. (re: Michael’s art)

Jalen- I like those pictures. (re: Liz’s art)

Ava- I liked how you created with the rocks. (re: Eric’s art)

Emerson- I really liked the paintings, with the stripes and the pink and purple. (re: Michael’s art)

Jake- I really like that puz, I wonder if you lift this up it will bump that stick and it will trap monsters and they will get tangled. (re: Eric’s art)

Harper- I really like the painting because they are so colorful. (re: Michael’s art)

Charlie- I am wondering what materials did the other artist use besides paint?

Asher- that looks like New York City. (re: Risa’s Art)

Harry- that is form long long ago, because it looks like New York a long time ago. (re: Risa’s Art)

Steelo- I really like that thing, it seems that if you pull that down , then this come down and the rock comes down and they all get bunched up. (re: Eric’s art)

Elfie- I really like that pink and purple painting over there. I like that everything is dropping down. (re: Michael’s art)

As you can see from these dictations, they were particularly drawn to Michael Miller’s paintings, with their shimmery, neon qualities.  The Beavers were inspired to create their own, so later in the week, we set out florescent paints and paper, presented in a variety of sizes and let the inspiration guide our brushes.  Come up to the classroom and check out the new bulletin board to view some of their interpretations!

Our second round of Teacher of Day started this week, and the Beavers had some exciting shares for the class.  In this round, the Teacher of the Day also has the opportunity to choose the song for our Three-Minute Dance Party after the Share and before Read Aloud.  Here are some clips of this week’s “best moves”:

We also had a special visitor today – Sara’s Mom, Shelly!  Shelly worked as a teacher for many years and is now the Director of Admissions at another school here in Brooklyn.  She joined us for lunch and a Read Aloud of one of Sara’s favorite books as a child, Three by the Sea by Edward Marshall.


Lastly, here are some other “goings-on” from the week.  The Beavers sure do keep busy, even when we’re only in school for three days!

Have a restful weekend everyone, and we’ll see you Monday!

Beave My Valentine?!

There is a LOT of love in the Beaver classroom, and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we spent the week celebrating all of the love that we feel in our community. We asked our caring Beavers to share their thoughts on love and friendship. 

What is Love?

When you love someone so much and you really can’t stop hugging them and kissing them – Alex

Love is when you’re visiting somebody and you love them so much and you don’t even want to say goodbye – Charlie

Love is when you love somebody and say Happy Valentine’s Day – Jalen

When you really like somebody and you can’t stop thinking about them – Steelo

I think love is when you go somewhere and you love the person and you just don’t wanna leave – Cate

Love is when you like somebody so much that you don’t even want to say anything to them, you don’t want to say goodbye, and you don’t want to stop thinking about them – Emerson

Even if you yell at somebody you can still love them, like once I had a dream that I took some stuff down from my Mom and she was chasing me around for some reason and the more I scream, it’s still love – Milo

When you love somebody and you kiss em, kiss em, kiss em! – Asher

When your heart feels really good and they care about you so much and they really like what they gave you – Jake

Love is when like, when you’re going out to dinner with somebody and you don’t want to leave the restaurant, like waah, waah, I want to stay with her! – Ruby

When you love somebody and they’re special to you, and they mean a lot to you and you don’t want to go because you love them and they’re still in your heart if you go – Elfie

Love is when someone loves you so much that when they let go of how much they love someone that it can turn them into a big rage of really not happy – Téa

Love is when you really, really don’t want to leave but if your parents say you have to leave, you don’t want to leave – Pearl

Love is when you love somebody soooo much that you don’t want to leave

Love is when you wanna be with someone you love and kiss them all day and night – Harry

Love is when you don’t wanna let go of someone – Lucia

Love is when you love someone so much that you really don’t wanna leave and you wanna stay til the morning and then the next day you really don’t wanna leave – Vivian

Sometimes, when there is love they break up – Arjun

As preschoolers mature, they start to step away from their self-centered ideas of the world and begin to show empathy. With a developing understanding of others and their respective emotions and experiences, you see the value children place on pleasing and making others happy. They become very emotionally invested in friendships and work hard to take care of one another.

In our classroom, we feel lucky to have developed a community which feels like a tight knit family. Let’s put it this way: there are many “I love you”s, hugs and smiles exchanged everyday in our classroom. We can honestly say, without hesitation and great pride, that we the Beavers truly love one another.

Here are a few snaps of our Beavers creating, sharing and spreading their love throughout the week.

Enjoying our Friendship Fruit Salad made with lots of love.

Creating our Valentine’s Day mailboxes

-Thank you for the shoebox donations!

Beavers dropping in special Valentines messages for their friends.


Dance off, send off!

Practicing the Cupid Shuffle in Dance class:

Our last three Teachers of the Day had some wonderful shares!

Wishing you all a wonderful long weekend and a Happy Valentine’s Day!


Love, your Pre-K Teachers




Celebrating the Lunar New Year

This week we celebrated the Lunar New Year. As we learned about this celebration, we noticed many similarities and differences between various New Year celebrations. In many Asian cultures, Lunar New Year celebrations continue for two weeks. We learned that children and families prepare for weeks before the New Year celebrations begin. Some of their preparations include: cleaning their homes, preparing meals, having their hair cut, and rehearsing dances and songs – all to be shared during the Lunar New Year festivities.

One point of interest for the Beavers was the role that the dragon plays in many Lunar New Year celebrations. Specifically in Chinese culture, the dragon is a symbol of good luck, power and excellence. Likewise, the color red is central to this celebration as it represents good luck and prosperity. To honor this tradition, the Beavers created their own Chinese dragon to use in our classroom Lunar celebration. Today, we used our Chinese dragon and various homemade and classroom instruments to do our very own Lion Dance.

To all those celebrating, we wish you good luck, health and prosperity for the New Year!

Play with Puppets, Dumpling Making, and More…

Our experimentation and play with puppets has continued through the week, building on the Beavers’ interest in Japanese folklore and culture.  We finished our reading of The One Inch Fellow, a story about a one inch tall man who grows up and proves his tremendous courage and bravery.  Once again, the main character in this story encounters a wicked Oni, of which we later created a collaborative portrait using torn paper collage. Through this process, we compared and contrasted this image to the illustrations of Onis in other tales we have read.  What was similar?  What was different? All three Oni representations are now center stage on our classroom bulletin board, which is steadily exhibiting our progress, research, and hard work.

We continued to explore different puppet making techniques.  On Wednesday, we created paper bag puppets.  We used recycled paper, scrap fabric, and googly eyes to create characters from our Japanese folktales.  While they worked, the Beavers looked back on illustrations from the books we’ve read, observing the qualities and imagery of the characters.  Working with our collage and drawing materials, the Beavers created characters such as the Oni, the funny little woman, Uriko from Tasty Baby Belly Buttons, and the animal characters from any of the three stories.  Some students enjoyed the activity so much that they created more puppets during Choice Time the next day.  Keep an eye out for some paper bag puppets making their way home!

On Wednesday, Katharine Hill, a Packer Middle School teacher, came in to our classroom to share a bit about her family’s Norwegian and Scandinavian heritage.  She read us a story about trolls, explaining the presence of these imaginary creatures in many folktales from this part of Northern Europe.  According to Norwegian beliefs, many rocks and mountains are thought to be trolls who have turned to stone after being exposed to sunlight.  The Beavers had fun with this idea, imagining all of the places they might have seen a rock that once was a troll!

We introduced our Shadow Theater on Thursday.  Standing in the spotlight, the Beavers created shapes, animals, and movements using their bodies.  As you can see, it was a joyous activity that the Beavers are eager to further explore!  As we move forward in our study of storytelling, we hope to use the shadow theater as a new way of bringing stories to life.

To inspire our shadow play, we watched two videos of professional shadow theater players.  In one short movie, entitled Fireflies, the shadows were created by the actors.  The second clip we watched was a two minute selection of shadow puppetry depicting the Japanese folktale, Urashima Taro (we didn’t watch the entire movie, but we did watch a selection to exhibit the masterful puppetry).  Be sure to check out Urashima Taro here, and Fireflies here.

Another activity from the week was making gyoza.  As the Beavers have noted, dumplings  are ubiquitous throughout Japanese folklore.  When the Beavers suggested we make dumplings in our classroom, we set to work chopping cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, garlic, ginger, and cilantro.  We then folded and pressed the filling into gyoza wrappers and pan fried them for a delicious afternoon treat.  Although the gyoza making process was complicated and lengthy, the Beavers loved experiencing this aspect of Japanese culture and cuisine.  After enjoying the dumplings, we created a graph to survey their popularity.  With 17 Beavers polled, an overwhelming majority (14!!!) said the gyoza were a hit! We hope you’ll use the recipe sent home to recreate this Japanese favorite in your own kitchen.

With Groundhog Day reminding us that spring is just around the corner, we took time to reflect on winter and create abstract paintings of trees.  After observing the selection of winter trees in our Garden, the Beavers returned to our classroom to create illustrations of our observations.  Using masking tape and watercolors, the Beavers made the shape of the tree with the tape and then created a watercolor wash across the page.  By cutting the tape into long, short, and thin pieces, they were able to create complex imagery, truly reflecting the bendy, twisty nature of winter branches.  After filling the paper with color, they peeled away the tape for the “big reveal” – the combination of tape and color created negative space in the shape of a tree.

In other news…..

Arjun finally returned from his adventure in Brazil! Welcome back Arjun – you were missed dearly!  We had another birthday this week which we celebrated with pink frosted cupcakes and an Elephant and Piggie story!  We had a full week of Teacher of the Day, with 5 more friends presenting interesting and thoughtful shares! Thanks for another great week, Beavers!

We hope you have a wonderful weekend!