Category Archives: Preschool

Tiny Camp

Posted August 8, 2017

by Sarah Sivright




This year’s Bird Art Camp was unusual due to our condensed time frame and smaller group. Because of time limitations, the “deliverables,” as they say in the business world, were more modest.  The children did an initial drawing of their birds, then a final, life-size study, and wrote a play about their birds. This summer’s focus was raptors, and we all learned just what a raptor was, along with the specific features of each others’ birds—their physical features and call, diet, habitat, range and migration patterns.

The children were All Seasons alums, either graduates this spring or a year ago.  And, as rich as the week was, I was struck by one major theme—what constitutes a school-ready child and how does one nurture such a child?  I’m certainly not a neutral observer, but for a week I watched these children show the qualities we all want to see in successful students and healthy human beings, generally.  Parents are the main players in this process, of course, but I do think All Seasons has shared a part in the great pleasure I had in being with these children.

Although I was the sole teacher with four students, there were actually five teachers in the classroom that week.  Every child asked thoughtful questions, offered information and ideas, and supported each other—all the things a good teacher does.  The children even showed evidence of “metacognition,” the ability to be aware of one’s own thinking process.  Comments like, “We’re figuring it out!” “Isaac and I have the same idea!” “We solved the problem!” were heard all week.

Resilience and focus were big.  Small disappointments were inevitable with our time constraints and their endless ideas and plans.  “We don’t have time,” they heard from me many times, when they wanted to play longer, devise complicated props for our play, even add more characters to the play the morning of!  We made play dough the first day, voting to make it blue, only to find just green food coloring in the cupboard.  Despite groans, a discussion quickly began about how to “make” blue, why we couldn’t, why we could make orange, purple and green, and why some colors are called “primary” and some “secondary.”  Quick recovery, and curiosity kicked in.  We even laughed at how having one choice wasn’t really a choice at all!


Field trip to observe Dodge’s raptors

One morning, while we looked through reference books on raptors and worked on our drawings, a full hour had passed, when one of the children put down her marker and said, “I need to stretch.”  Then, one after another, “We need a break,” and “It’s time to play.” I was as surprised as they were to find how much time had passed, and how intently focused they all had been on their work.

Group discussions were frequent and we tried to make group decisions as often as possible, listening, taking turns, building on each other’s ideas.  Creativity thrived in this environment, even if the day of the show, imaginative props were still being devised and the dreaded “We don’t have time” had to call a halt.

Senior time was limited, but even then, serendipitous meetings upstairs as we all trooped up to check the mail, put up signs for our play, were wonderful to witness.  Beloved grandmas and grandpas were spotted and hugged, even if they happened to walk by the classroom windows, and we all had to run out to greet them.

Watching these children show the very qualities they need in school and life gave me joy, and it was clear from their behavior and parents’ reports, that they were having as much fun as I was.  I do think we encourage these very behaviors at our school, as you parents do at home.  But the crucial piece here for young children, and one that they don’t let us forget, is the importance of play. They develop all these critical qualities—curiosity, resilience, kindness, love of stories, ability to focus, self-regulation, creativity, ability to collaborate—through play.  Hopefully, they got enough play at All Seasons, and will keep a place for it in their lives for good.

A Long Goodbye

Posted June 7, 2017

by Jenny Kleppe


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Ah Spring…the flowers are finally blooming, gardens we’ve worked so hard to plant are finally growing, and summer is on its way. The school year is wrapping up and special events abound for every family and everyone is BUSY! Busy making summer plans, organizing schedules for end of the year celebrations, and teachers are already planning for next fall.
In the midst of this busy time of year I was recently reminded of how lucky we are at All Seasons. Our community only seems to grow. It is made up of our current students and families as well as our alumni students and families. Parents and family members of past students are a vital part of our All Seasons family, even if we only interact occasionally. These are the people who advertise our school; they are our eyes and ears out in the neighborhoods and around the South Metro touting our program and recruiting new students. Word of mouth is our great ally and the reason for our nearly full fall enrollment. Families return, some year after year, for our Fall Campout, Inver Glen’s holiday party, and our Spring Earth Day, to visit teachers and beloved seniors. Many alumni come back just to spend time in the classroom, play outside, or to volunteer with tasks around the school.
A few weeks ago, some of our cherished alumni students returned for our annual Kindergarten Panel, where children currently in kindergarten answer questions about what kindergarten is like. Their audience? Children who will be attending kindergarten in the fall. The preschoolers listened attentively as the “big kids” described the differences and similarities between All Seasons and the BIG K:
“You don’t have lunch in the same room like here [All Seasons]. You go to the cafeteria.”
“You only have one teacher in your room. But you get to go to music, art, gym, and other specialists.”
“They don’t have a woods or a pines. But the playground is really cool and there are slides.”
Preschoolers had some of their own questions:
“Do you have rest?” “Do you have friends?” “What kinds of things do you learn in kindergarten?” “Is your teacher nice?”
While the question and answer session is the point of the panel, the true magic lies in watching our confident alums describe their new schools and seeing old friends connect. Parents who went through their preschool experience together get a chance to chat about how elementary school is going. When an alumni student walks into the room and is instantly greeted with hugs, smiles, and “I missed you’s!” teachers know that we have a true community.
There are now children I taught at All Seasons Preschool who will be in the 4th grade this fall. Some students who attended All Seasons are going into 7th grade, and are still coming back to visit. We never truly say goodbye…only “See you later!,” for which this teacher is extremely grateful. Thank you to everyone in our community for a wonderful school year! Come back to visit!

Spring Fever

Posted May 25, 2017

by Sarah Kern

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Merriam Webster defines Spring Fever as “a lazy or restless feeling often associated with the onset of spring.” It’s in the dictionary, but is it real? Based on my online research, any evidence of Spring Fever is purely anecdotal, yet it’s been written about by poets and great minds for centuries.

Mark Twain said, “It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”

To add to the wealth of anecdotal evidence, Spring Fever at All Seasons Preschool is very, very real, and it happens every year. In the last few weeks, parents have told me about their children’s recent sleep disturbances – “He was up at 4 am;” “She could not settle down and go to sleep;” “He refuses to nap!” Others report changes in appetites or attitudes. Spring Fever at All Seasons is multi-faceted; our soon-to-be graduates are, frankly, wired. Many struggle to sit still, no longer effortlessly engage in productive play, and dissolve into fits of silliness with friends. Is it the looming change of kindergarten that affects them? The changing weather? The need for a new challenge? We think it’s all of the above, and every spring, we discuss how to keep this group engaged for the last few weeks of school. Some seem to need outdoor time in spades; they are insatiably energized. Others prefer the challenge of a board game or a long-term project, like writing a multi-chapter story, or visiting a new grandma or grandpa upstairs.

We teachers, too, have our own version of Spring Fever. We’re scrambling to organize our year of notes and write year-end reports, our calendars are packed with special events, and we are all too aware of the ticking clock. Surely our Spring Fever affects our students, too. It really is as Mark Twain said, we don’t quite know what it is we want, but it makes our hearts ache, we want it so!

Yet this time of year is also rife with wonder. Our grounds are completely transformed, we can go without jackets, and we revel in the children’s confidence and comfort levels. They can push limits outdoors in ways they couldn’t in the fall, and their friendships are true. They problem-solve often without teacher intervention. The connections we’ve made run deep.

For some of our graduates, it seems their work at All Seasons is done; that is something we as teachers and parents can feel good about. We do our best to embrace these dwindling and precious days. They will go too quickly, as spring days always do.

True Grit

Posted May 11, 2017

By Sarah Sivright

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Last month, All Seasons held one of our Parent Forums. The topic was parenting—what factors affect the way we raise our children. Some relevant influences were outlined; how we ourselves were parented, the prevailing philosophies or trends, the effects of stress, the gender and temperament of our children, etc. The session was informative and lively. But the best part of the morning was the remarkable group of women present. They would probably be surprised to be called remarkable.
When we finished discussing the many factors that influenced our parenting, the conversation turned to more personal issues with children, family, schools, culture—the factors that support parenting and those that make it more difficult.
Listening to these women express their hopes and concerns, their triumphs and defeats, wisdom and eagerness to know more, made me see the courage and vulnerability mothers show to each other when they feel safe. It’s both a tribute to the women present and to the community we’ve all built, that this kind of frank and compassionate conversation could happen.
I heard a lecture recently by a child psychiatrist who was talking about the latest brain research related to early childhood development. He mentioned the current buzzword “grit,” and emphasized how important it is to encourage children to celebrate mistakes, try again, and learn from each attempt. I thought of these All Seasons mothers—and fathers—and how, in our less-than-family-friendly culture, we often judge rather than support parents. We should be encouraging grit in adults, too. We make plenty of mistakes raising children, and it is not often that we hear, “Well, that didn’t work, but you gave it a great effort, and let’s see what else you can try?” In parenting, we have maybe the most difficult challenge we will ever take on, and where are our cheerleaders? Right here! For that morning, those mothers were willing to be open and supportive, laugh with each other, share their hard-won wisdom, and cheer each other on.20170509_080905

The Arrogance of Success

Posted April 27, 2017

by Amy Lemieux


“The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
– William Pollard
I say it all the time; I got the kids I did because had they been born living up to my expectations, I would have been an insufferable know-it-all. Prior to parenthood, I had a clear vision of how my family would be. Having no siblings, my means of comparison were The Brady Bunch, the Von Trapp family and the fun family of ten across the street. Degrees in all things “child” and years of teaching experience followed by a first born who was an “easy” baby only added to my sense of power as a parent, imagining our future beautifully packaged and tied with a bright shiny bow.
My smugness was contagious and my husband caught it. We would pat each other on the back thinking, “We have nailed this parenting thing. If people just did it the RIGHT way…” For eighteen blissful months we were easily able to stick with those self-imposed “always” and “nevers” childless people tell themselves. “I will always meet his needs.” “I will never impose a rule without a reasonable explanation.” “I will never rely on a screen.” “I will never raise my voice.” We paraded around with our plump, freshly bathed baby, superior in our parental aptitude.
Clearly, our seamless transition into parenthood was attributable to our amazing skill and intuition combined with staying abreast of the latest research. And since we were so awesome at this, we plowed ahead with number two… Just when you think you have all the answers, the test questions change.
Eighteen months and one baby later, our lives were turned upside down. Baby two was colicky, lactose intolerant, and had reflux. We maintained our composure for about seventy-two hours. After three days sleep of deprivation for the entire family, failed attempts at feeding, vomit-soaked clothes and constant screaming (mostly, but not only the baby) things got real. Suddenly, my husband, who used to be “the perfect dad,” became an inept, drooling idiot who could not complete the simplest of baby-related tasks. My own parenting skills went out the window and tempers flared. My self-image as a mom was shattered, along with the idyllic family life we thought we had created.
I wish I could say that things quickly turned around and everything went back to normal, but the reality is that chaos, disorder and discord became our new normal for many months. Those months were awful, but my lesson was fairly immediate; I was delusional in attributing our son’s contented disposition to our fabulous parenting. Once we figured out our daughter’s medical issues, she stopped screaming and started sleeping. I was almost tricked into falling back into self-righteousness, but then our son quit napping and we began what was only our second of many rounds of ”survival parenting.”
Suddenly, I was a vehement defender of anyone whose kids virtually kicked them between the eyes, and will still go on the offensive with parents who are…just like I used to be. “Yes, Rachel. We have explained to him that he should wear clothes when we have company, but he’s two and loves to be naked. Maybe you’d be less uptight if you tried it his way.” I would not dismiss the importance of good parenting, but life has shown me that kids are born a certain way.
Thinking my second, third or fourth will be the same as my first is now funny. Thinking what worked last year will still work today is futile. Today it is the youngest who is our biggest challenge. My older kids frequently tell us that we aren’t strict enough with her.  They, too, are of the belief that parents hold the power.  And they haven’t tried to raise children yet.

The lessons keep coming and there is no end in sight. Kids throw curve balls and children growing up with the same parents are very different from each other and different than they were a few months ago. Parents are always many steps behind. Just last week, moments after telling my friends how well my kids were doing, the principal called.

Dipping Your Toes in Dandelion

Posted April 13, 2017

Amanda Janquart


Introducing wild edibles to children is a treasured part of nature education. Early spring is a lovely time to start nibbling, cooking, and creating with preschoolers. At this point in the year, the classroom has become a close-knit community with a high level of trust between teachers and children. They trust us when small risks are encouraged like tasting a “weed!” And we teachers trust children to ask an adult that what they find is safe.
The first dandelions of the season are a great beginning plant to jump into wild edibles. Dandelions are easily identified, all parts are non-toxic, and very versatile. While dandelions are often plentiful, lessons in conservation and respect need to be acknowledged before gathering. Bees and other pollinators rely on these first blossoms, so it is essential to save plenty for them! Collect far from roads, which can leave remnants of exhaust, and avoid areas that have been treated with herbicides.

Children don’t need much encouragement to start filling a pail with dandelion flowers. Sitting on a blanket, separating petals from stalks is a lovely way to take in the spring sun. Making dandelion jelly or “gelatin jigglers” are two of my favorite uses. A quick computer search will give you plenty of recipes to choose from. For both, start by making a dandelion tea. Simply fill a quart jar at least halfway with flowers and then add boiling water to the brim. For a more delicately colored yellow tea, remove the green base of the blossom by pinching and twisting or cutting it off first. After steeping eight hours, strain and use the liquid in a jelly recipe with pectin and sweetener (sugar or honey) to make jelly. Stir in plain gelatin, sweetener and lemon juice and let set in a shallow pan for jigglers. Both result in a sweet, vitamin-filled treat with hints of honey.
You may be enticed to keep experimenting and creating! Dandelion leaf pesto? Sautéed dandelion greens? Fermented stems? Dandelion root coffee? Wine? Or take it another direction and make lip balm, hair rinse or salve. Either way, save time to make at least one dandelion crown!


Find Your Own Special Place

Posted March 23, 2017

by Jenny Kleppe

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Richard Louv speaks in his book, Last Child in the Woods, of children taking ownership of a special place in nature. When our All Seasons Preschool staff heard Louv speak in February, he encouraged the audience to recall their own special child hood place. My own place was a “fort” I constructed in a space wedged between the wall of our rusty aluminum shed and some old railroad ties. I created a roof from plywood I “found” (in our next-door neighbors’ lumber pile) and procured tree branches and other items from nature to create the walls, furniture, and even a working door to my small enclosure.
I recall this place of my own construction with great fondness. I did not share it with my cousins or brother as I did our tree houses, our yards, or swing set. In fact, much effort was taken to ensure they did NOT spend time in my special place- I believe a “No Boys Allowed Sign” was even erected. I worked hard over time to complete it to my liking, and no one helped me with any part of it.
These memories got me thinking about how many children today are not allowed this same sense of a place over which they can claim complete ownership- not in their bedroom, not in a temporary fort made from pillows under the coffee table, but outdoors. Today’s children are rarely allowed to experience any outdoor time completely alone or the opportunity to create, build, and alter their environment. The outdoors has so much to offer children to teach building, experimenting, problem solving, and creating a special place in which to take ownership. These, of course, are just a few of the benefits children can reap from spending time in nature.

While times and outdoor spaces have changed, children’s need for a place to call their own has not. The need to manipulate one’s environment and to create a special little spot remains. This sense of place is something we foster at All Seasons. Our students are not exactly stealing 2×4’s or erecting tree houses with rusty rails, but they are allowed more freedoms than in other settings.
As we get to know our students, teachers can increasingly trust our children to venture further from adults. Teachers have the rule that children need to be within sight or sound of a teacher and you must be able to hear a teacher when they call you. Here, children can play with loose parts, including stumps, boards, sticks, and logs. Classes return to the same play spaces repeatedly to become comfortable with the area and to try new activities according to the season, but also to allow the children a sense of ownership. Teachers want the message to be: These are YOUR woods. This meadow belongs to YOU. Find a spot where you can be- where you can experiment, move, create forts, enlarge a puddle, or simply sit and listen to the world.
So much of the world is off limits to children. It can be vital to have control over a special place. This sense of ownership helps children develop logical and mathematical reasoning, impulse control, decision-making, imagination, and a sense of stewardship for the natural world. All Seasons is a place that can provide children their special place. Where was yours? Where can your child’s be?

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Nature-Based Education in the Era of Climate Change

Posted March 16, 2017

By Sarah Kern

This February was 10.3 degrees warmer than normal in the Twin Cities, making it the 7th warmest February ever recorded in Minnesota. Our snowfall total squeaked in at .3 inches, tying the 1894 record for the lowest February snowfall. Winter in Minnesota is truly not what it used to be, and it has affected the implementation of our curriculum.
This winter, we dealt with crippling ice and sloshy mud, sweaty gloved hands and soaked clothes; we wondered how to dress the children and ourselves amidst melting piles of snow and 60 degree temperatures. But above all, we wondered about our environment, and the place of our curriculum in a climate that is changing.
Winter has always been a favorite – if not the favorite – season at All Seasons. While other schools tuck their students away as temperatures drop, we rush out, joyful and eager in the winter wonderland. Students and teachers alike look forward to sledding on the golf course, a weekly occurrence most years. We made it twice this year. Building a quinzhee, a snow shelter originally made by Athapaskan Indians, outside the Autumn Room door then constructing an ice slide through the middle made for hours of delight. This year, our meager pile lasted just a few days. It was rare to identify and follow animal tracks, and animal burrows in the snow were non-existent. Favorite winter books, such as The Snowy Day and Over and Under The Snow, didn’t carry the same weight without the connection of firsthand experience in snow. Even simple pleasures, like shoveling snow and leaving water out to freeze, were not possible.
A few of the second or third year students remembered the things that we missed this winter, asking when we could visit the golf course or work on our quinzhee. Even our youngest students often asked, “Can we build a snowman?” at the sight of a snowflake. It was with disappointment that the teachers answered, “No, we can’t.” It was a difficult place to be, the funny place between seasons, too early for much of our spring curriculum but impossible to embrace our winter curriculum.
One aspect of our spring curriculum, tree tapping, found its place in early February. Children helped drill into trees and marveled as sap began to flow. We had several days that met the criteria for good sap collection – above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. Then the temperature pendulum swung in extremes, with some days being too cold for the sap to flow and some nights being too warm. Thankfully, we were eventually able to collect a bounty, and we will continue to collect sap until buds form on the trees.
One of our core tenets is to help children develop meaningful, respectful, and lasting relationships with the natural world. We teach our students to become stewards of the environment and marvel as they pick up trash they find outside and go out of their way not to step on an insect in their path.
We want them to wonder, just as we wonder, why there isn’t snow, what season it really is, and what our place in it all is.
As the wind whips outside and our days get longer, we wonder, too, what spring will bring. There is one thing we know for sure: We’ll be there, observing, experiencing, and surely filthy in the great outdoors.
Source: Trenda, Ron. “Cooler Thursday; February Extended Our Record Warm Streak.” Updraft. NPR, 01 Mar. 2017.

Safe and Brave in the Wild Dark

Posted March 2, 2017

by Sarah Sivright

As families know well, nature education is part of our three-part mission at All Seasons, along with our intergenerational connection and art program. The evidence often comes home in the form of wet, muddy, or grass-stained outdoor gear, burs imbedded in clothing and hair, or the occasional wood tick that has escaped our daily examination. At least to our faces, parents are good sports about the messy children that get strapped into car seats at the end of the day.
Growing research supports what we environmental educators have known for a long time, that children’s knowledge and all developmental domains are expanded and deepened by time in nature. So it’s probably no surprise that all of our major school parties are focused on time outdoors—the Fall Campout, Kid’s Night In, and our Earth Day celebration. A week of discussion preceded Kid’s Night In, along with books related to the activity—Owl Moon, South, Over and Under the Snow, Owl Babies.   The day of the party, several owl pellets were found on a hike to The Swamp. (Owls swallow their prey whole and then cough up the indigestible fur and bones). A couple pellets were previously found in our own Pine Tree Forest, so we planned to check that out during our night hike, as quietly as we possibly could.
Each teacher had a small group entrusted to her for the evening. In my group, I had several of the younger children, which affected our itinerary in interesting ways. We headed out to The Pines, and even though it was till dusk, this familiar play destination looked spooky in the semi-darkness. Added to the diminishing light (and no Mom or Dad) was the notion of being quiet so we could listen for owl sounds. I was wishing I had four hands for all those who needed them. “Do owls eat people?” “When can we go back to the school?” “Where are the other kids?” The older children were excited to remember where we had pitched our tents for the Fall Camp-out and actually slept there all night. We could see the lights of our building and even the light from the pop machine on the golf course tee, offering comfort.
We looked for golf balls and checked inside the bluebird house. Hands gripped onto mine relaxed a little and even let go for a few seconds. The older children’s excitement at being outside in the dark seemed more comforting than my enthusiasm for the adventure.

We stopped at The Boulders to roast marshmallows and rejoin our friends. Then the fun really started for my little group. Once we moved to the playground all was well, even though by then it was truly dark. A familiar space with no wildlife and all their friends set them free, and off they went to run and dance, roll down the hill, shining flashlights*—a wild gathering of winter fireflies. I actually had a moment of anxiety as I stood in their midst, about some headlong collisions in the darkness, but none materialized. Even children I expected to hunker down in one place out of the fray, were swept up in the swirling fun.

So now they all have a memory of hiking in the dark at school, revisiting places that look very different in the night. They have images of firelight, the taste of marshmallows, the pleasure of reuniting with classmates whose voices they had heard somewhere out in the darkness, the power of making their own light and fun on the playground. And somewhere in there will be a memory of having been safe—and brave—in the wild dark.

*We had extra flashlights for those who hadn’t brought one.

Harriet, Kenny, Paul, Kay…We Remember

Posted February 16, 2017

by Amy Lemieux

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On day one at All Seasons Preschool, Grandma Harriet’s smile was one of the first we saw when entering Willow Cove (the memory care living area).  “Hi, honey,” was her standard greeting, along with a big grandma hug.  She was everything “grandma,” loving, warm, welcoming and totally present.  She was a favorite due to her joy for all things children love, relishing the pleasures as simple as the warm touch of a child’s hand or the enthusiasm of little singers who don’t know the words yet.

This morning our preschoolers headed to the community room to sing at a remembrance service for Harriet.  She was a beloved grandma to our alumni students, one of our original grandmas.

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“The Ants Go Marching” was Harriet’s favorite song and one we chose to sing for her family at the remembrance service today.  We told her children how she led the preschoolers up and down the hall, marching to the beat.

Like the children, Harriet had many favorite songs.  Whatever we were singing at that moment was Harriet’s favorite.  She would tear up during “Edelweiss”  and move along with the kids to “The Hokey Pokey”.  She also shared her love for sports with the children.  Whatever “sport” we played, Harriet was on board.



A natural question prospective parents ask when they visit our school is, “What happens when a grandma or grandpa dies?”  We remember them.  We remember how we spent our time with them, what they said, what they did, games we played, their favorite songs.


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Who doesn’t remember a grandma who will play Nerf softball with preschoolers and then “run” the bases through the living room?  (Harriet)

Who doesn’t remember a grandpa who starts a dough fight when kneading dough or won’t tattle when the kids sneak a lick of frosting off their fingers? (Kenny)


Who doesn’t remember a grandpa who painstakingly makes enough paper airplanes for the entire class and then takes everyone out to the playground to fly them? (Paul)

Who doesn’t remember the grandma who matches her sparkly jewelry to her clothes every day and always has time to read just one more story?  (Kay)

We remember all of them.