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Fire, Mirrors, and Windows

Posted March 22, 2023

Fires, Mirrors, and Windows

By Jen Andrews

A crackling fire may remind you of fall and winter’s chill, but I will always associate it with spring.

My father was a first-generation immigrant from Iran. Some of my favorite holidays are the spring holidays I learned to celebrate from my father and his side of the family. These occasions are not Muslim; rather, their roots are in ancient Persia, the solar calendar, and Zoroastrianism, and they are celebrated by people across religions in parts of Asia and the Iranian diaspora.

One of my very favorite celebrations occurs on the eve of the last Wednesday of the year. It is called Chaharshanbeh Suri, Red Wednesday. Families and friends gather to share yummy treats and jump over bonfires. Yes, that’s right. The young, the old, and everybody in between jump over three fires to cast off all the negatives of the previous year and gain strength, vitality, and energy from the fire. As we jump the fires, we chant, “Sorkhieh to as man, zardieh man as to,” meaning “Take my yellow, give me your red.” The way my Dad explained it to me, you are saying to the fire, “Take my regrets, my worries, cowardice, and weakness and give me your bravery, your courage, your wisdom, and your vitality.” My family in Los Angeles jumps the three bonfires every year, and all ages participate. My 90-year-old auntie might leap next to the fire; my cousin’s baby (in someone’s loving arms) has made the trip as well. Here, where the weather is far from spring-like yet, my family at home jumps over votive candles in our living room or on the driveway, weather permitting. I love this idea of casting off any negativity from the previous year as it winds down and exchanging it for all kinds of powerful positivity.

Growing up in Minnesota, I was quite alone in my celebration of Persian New Year. And really, in the eighties, being from a different culture wasn’t that cool. I didn’t really appreciate our “weird food,” and I was embarrassed by my Dad’s accent. But what I want to do now, as a teacher, is make sure that the children I teach feel valued, loved, and worthy not in spite of, but because of their heritage.

One of the concepts that really stuck with me from a recent professional development training was the idea of providing “mirrors and windows” in the classroom. Students need to see themselves in their environment: boys, girls, and families that look and sound like them, offering them “mirrors” and affirming who they are. But perhaps just as importantly, they need to see through “windows” into worlds that are different from theirs: boys and girls and families that look different, do things differently, and celebrate different things. Having the opportunity to encounter a variety of people in this way, with adults who are open to observing and exploring differences together, allows children to develop positive rather than negative or isolating mindsets around those differences.

That’s why I decided to bring Chaharshanbeh Suri to my classroom. For me, it’s a mirror, but for this group of toddlers in the Winter Room, it is a window not just into my family, but a celebration from across the globe important to millions of people. To do this with the toddlers in a school-setting, I crafted three small “fires” out of paper and I chanted as they jumped. They were so excited to join in the jumping! I was glad they all wanted to try. Their unique styles of jumping were on display, each one different and each one celebrated.

Will they remember this occasion, that one day that we jumped over tiny construction paper “fires” in the square? Perhaps not. But judging from the smiles and excited cries of “Me! Me!,” this was a positive experience of a tradition that isn’t theirs. I hope providing this window and other windows for our class this year helps create a foundation of approaching differences with a lens of curiosity rather than negativity or suspicion. I love the joy this holiday brings. And what is more life-affirming than joy?

The Joys of Project-Based Learning

Posted March 8, 2023
Pulling a rabbit out of her hat!

The Joys of Project-Based Learning

By Roxie Zeller

There are many different philosophies about how to teach preschoolers, which is why every preschool is a little different. Many preschools use a thematic curriculum, meaning the theme or topic that the group learns about is chosen by the teachers in advance and changes week to week. Although this approach introduces many topics to preschoolers, it doesn’t allow time for children to dig deeper into the topics, even those that interest them the most.

At All Seasons we take a more project-based approach to learning. We focus on overarching concepts or big ideas in which the children show interest. A project can last for a whole month or extend only for a few weeks. Regardless of whether it is a long-term or short-term project, we embrace digging deeper into interesting topics, working towards learning the answer to a big question, watching things change, or compiling knowledge and experiences that can be applied in a real way. One aspect of project-based learning is finding a way to demonstrate the knowledge learned from the group’s explorations.

The Tiny Crew at Eagan, who meet every Friday morning, experienced the project approach in a wonderful way recently. Over the course of a month, they dove deep into “magic.”

The interest started when the small group started to make things in the room disappear by covering them with blankets. “Watch this!” they would yell out. “Abracadabra; make a puzzle appear!” They then quickly pulled the blanket back to reveal a completed puzzle underneath. This one simple trick became a focus of the morning, and led to conversations about magic tricks, magicians, and illusions.

Over the next week teachers added to the classroom many books depicting how to perform simple magic tricks. The children picked out the tricks that interested them the most, asking specifically how to make things disappear. Every Friday, time was set aside to learn and practice one or two new tricks. Eventually they were able to perform about eleven tricks with little to no help from an adult! Once they mastered a few tricks, it didn’t take long for the small Tiny Crew group to spread their excitement for magic tricks to the larger group. Many of the other preschoolers also expressed interest in the topic. The Tiny Crew group took it upon themselves to teach a few of their favorite tricks to the others who were interested, becoming the “experts” in the room, a much sought-after role among preschoolers.

As the interest in magic grew, the question of how to bring the project to a satisfying end loomed. How could we nicely wrap up the learning that the group had thrown itself into for the past month? Putting on a magic show was such a natural and fulfilling closure to the children’s study of magic tricks. And the seniors would be the perfect audience.

To prepare for the show, we created a poster with pictorial symbols of each trick we had learned. The preschoolers then used that poster to choose three tricks each that they wanted to perform at the show. Their choices were then drawn out on another paper so they could see who chose which tricks. They helped create a poster advertising their show and planned the order in which the tricks would be performed. Then the children practiced performing the tricks in order with another teacher as their audience. They had to make sure to clearly tell the audience what they were going to do as they performed the trick. (“Now I will make this coin disappear.”) It took some practice, but eventually they were ready to put on the show.

The morning of the performance the children were very excited to show off all their hard work. As we walked upstairs to the Community Room, they shared that they were excited and hoped a lot of seniors would come. After setting up the room with everything they needed, we went over the order of the show one last time. The preschoolers clearly explained to the audience what they were doing and each trick was met with a huge round of applause. It was such a loving and enthusiastic audience that they watched the same trick over and over, each time cheering as if it was the first time they had seen it. In the end the preschoolers took a bow and thanked the seniors for coming. On the walk back to the room, the children unanimously expressed how much they loved doing the show.

It’s learning experiences like these that highlight how wonderful project-based learning can be for everyone involved. The preschoolers learned new skills and gained confidence in themselves, all while learning about science, developing dexterity, and working on early literacy skills. The seniors supported our learning by being the best possible audience, and got the chance to break out of their typical Friday routine for a joy-filled show.

Pretend Animals

Posted February 21, 2023
Dogs in the classroom

Pretend Animals

By Ruby Kramer

The more we observe children’s play, the more we see a certain recurring theme: pretending to be animals. I remember this type of play fondly from my own childhood, and I’m delighted to see children playing the same way I did despite all the changes in society and technology. It’s a universally relatable subject; I suppose that children have been pretending to be animals since before language was invented. There are many reasons that this type of play is so universal. It allows children to be physical in the ways they want, practice seeing the world from another’s perspective, and work as a team. Animal play embodies the most important things children are learning in preschool: being part of a community, solving problems together, and practicing physical skills.

Animal play can engage any “level” of player. Children can simply copy another child pretending to be an animal and share joy in parallel play, or they can weave together something more complex. One group may negotiate the dynamics of a pack of wolves and solve a mystery as they prowl around the forest. It’s also possible for a child who wants only to “exist” as an animal to play alongside children who are engaging in a complex narrative, even though she doesn’t understand the narrative. She could be the baby wolf whose only job is to follow her mother and make little wolf cries! This makes animal play a reliable go-to if a group of friends can’t decide what to play. At its foundation it is straightforward and easy to dive into; you can start off just moving and sounding like an animal!

Developmentally, an important milestone children reach in preschool is called Theory of Mind. This is when a child understands that others have different opinions, feelings, and access to knowledge than the child themself. To pretend to be an animal, you need many of the skills that are foundational to Theory of Mind. Stepping into the shoes of another creature allows children to embody the idea that others have different experiences. Not only can they understand the idea, but they can also experiment with it – see how it plays out in conflict with someone else (another actor in their story) and in contrast with their own opinions and experiences.

It’s sometimes shocking to see how some children who seem quite the opposite in everyday life choose to be a small mouse or baby bird – an animal that is vulnerable and wants to spend its time cuddling. Often a very sweet, reserved child will opt to play the vicious tiger. The wide range of the animal kingdom means children can choose a role that makes them feel powerful and energetic, like a lion or tiger, sneaky like a snake, cuddly like a kitten or baby mouse, wise like an owl, etc. If a child has lots of energy to let out, being a hopping bunny or bounding cheetah is a way for her to communicate to her playmates and caregivers the ways in which she wants to move.

In preschool, animal play can follow the seasons and seasonal curriculum topics. When the flock of turkeys was visiting our grounds daily, the children in my afternoon group pretended to be turkeys almost every day. They experimented with how turkeys walked, talked, and even ate. At snack time, I watched them pick at small crumbs of food like turkeys do. We read so many stories about animals that there’s always a book to pick that relates to the current animal play. Or, sometimes, books inspire the play.

The next time you catch your preschooler crawling around the house like a dog or requesting your help carrying their food because their turkey arms are too short, smile! Your child is practicing empathy!

Animals have to pick up food with their mouths!
A bird perches briefly on a rock.

The Magic Of Story Acting

Posted February 7, 2023

The Magic of Story Acting
By Amber Scheibel

Children’s minds are bottomless vessels of creativity, full of adventure, wonderment, fears, wishes, and magic. This is easy to see in their questions, their play, the way they dress, and even their day-to-day activities. Putting on a simple hooded jacket transforms a child into a character from a movie. A headband with ears has them acting like a cat while walking into school. And getting ready for bed is so much more fun when you are pretending to be a dinosaur! Children love pretending and making up stories in their minds. We as teachers love to capture and nurture this magic through story writing and story acting.

Story acting is incorporated into our curriculum in a couple of ways. Sometimes we act out original stories that were created by the children and written in their journals. Each child has their own story journal – a blank book that is just for story dictation. The child dictates a story to a teacher who writes what they say down word for word, without worrying about story structure, context, or character development. Our goal is to simply capture the children’s ideas.

When it is time to act the child’s story out, everyone gathers on the rug. The author decides what character they would like to be in their story, and then each child is offered a role. There are no small parts and the children take all the roles seriously, whether they are being a unicorn, a monster in the woods, a river, or a rock. This practice is not only great fun; it also builds comprehension, instills pride in the author, and builds community among the children.

We also like to act out stories from published books we have read aloud. Once a month the classrooms prepare a short skit based on a book to perform upstairs in the Community Room for the senior residents. So far this year we have performed The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything, Caps For Sale, and The Gingerbread Man. The children come alive during these performances! They are enthusiastic and expressive in their facial and body movements, and if they have a speaking role, they speak into a microphone with articulation and emotion. Even if performing in front of a crowd is not something they are entirely confident doing, they are happy to play a smaller role- whether it is pretending to be an object such as a berry bush from which someone must pick fruit, or a sun that rises in the sky. A truly special thing to witness is when a child who has previously been uncomfortable acting in front of a crowd or speaking into a microphone gains the confidence to do so through watching their peers in previous performances. As you can imagine, because these are 3-to-5 year olds, these performances are not without hiccups. However, the goal is not a perfect performance. Instead, the plays are enjoyable experiences that help to build self-confidence while inspiring and celebrating the creativity of children.

Help Wanted

Posted January 24, 2023

Help Wanted
By Amanda Janquart

Building bridges between the preschoolers and the senior residents happens in a myriad of ways. Children act out storybook plays, build sugar cube castles, shake percussion instruments while singing, play seasonal BINGO, and decorate Valentine’s cookies alongside seniors who meet them in the community room at the scheduled times. Or senior readers will make their way into the classrooms, young ones already gathered on the rug in anticipation to listen to a book or learn about Grandpa Dick’s ostrich egg.

My favorite bridges though, are the unexpected and spontaneous ones: popping upstairs to hand out meringue cookies, dressing up as doctors to check seniors’ hearts, plastering stickers on whoever we bump into. We’ve surprised grandmas and grandpas while they were in exercise class and helped put away their hand weights. And although preschoolers in the past have grabbed their lunchboxes to join the “men’s table” for lunch, children have never before been invited to do so by the chef – all of them, at the same time!

Chef Cory is new to Inver Glen, and he already understands the value in connecting the generations. Wanting to bring smiles to his diners, he reached out to the teachers with an idea. Would the children come and “work” for him, help out during lunch? There was no question as to their interest! Cory provided name tags, signifying the importance of being a staff member. Preschoolers listened closely to the procedures from their “boss” as he pointed out the cart where the menus are collected and demonstrated how to ask seniors if they needed something.

Then it was go-time. Children flocked to the diners, patiently waiting for them to circle their lunch choices on their menus. Some children called over a teacher to read the menu out loud for seniors with poor vision. They carefully delivered ice water and fruit cups. Preschoolers stood tall and spoke clearly, earnestly wanting to do a good job. When the first courses were all passed out, it was time for the children’s own lunch break. They found their lunch boxes and took seats where Cory had set aside a group of tables. “Whoa, this is like eating in a restaurant.” “Yeah, but a fancy one with chandeliers!” While they ate, the conversation was all about their first day of being servers. “I knew I had to hold the cup with both hands.” “I helped Grandpa Charlie get water.” “Grandma Lucy picked fruit. I like fruit too.”

Cory returned from the kitchen to thank everyone and let them know the diners were very pleased with their work. While he couldn’t pay them real money, he did happen to have a box of ice cream bars to share!

The Joy and Benefits of Coloring

Posted January 10, 2023

The Joy and Benefits of Coloring

By Tracy Riekenberg

In this day and age, when electronic entertainment is easily accessible, “best toys” lists are abundant, and families are busy running here and there, one of the best fine motor activities for children of all ages is often overlooked. That activity is COLORING.

Remember when you were a kid, lying on your stomach flipping through your brand-new Barbie (or He-Man or Disney or Transformers or …) coloring book trying to find the perfect page to start, looking for the best crayon to fit your hand, coloring with such concentration that your tongue would stick out of your mouth a little, and then tearing the page out to proudly display on your refrigerator? It was probably fun for you, and a bit of a reprieve for your parent, but while you were doing all that coloring, you were also learning.

Besides the obvious fine-motor-skill building, coloring exercises the brain. For young children, practicing sitting and working on a skill like coloring flexes their focus muscle and helps their bodies and brains prepare for more “academic” exercises like reading and writing. Coloring helps children develop a “stick-with-it” attitude as well, as they lengthen their attention span and recognize when the project is finished. In addition, when children are coloring, they are practicing making decisions, like choosing what color to make the cat.

Coloring also flexes children’s language. When very young children begin to color, the adult may narrate what they are doing, pointing out what colors they are choosing and naming the object that’s being colored. Children also learn descriptive words like bright, dark, light, warm, and cool, as well as art terms like shade, shadow, stripe, polka dot, and more.

And of course, coloring strengthens hand muscles, which are necessary for writing. Children can practice correct pencil/crayon grip, work on big strokes and small strokes, put light and heavy pressure on the paper, and draw different types of lines, squiggles, circles, and more that will be needed for writing letters and words.

In addition, coloring is relaxing and enjoyable for children. It is an affordable and portable activity, and it offers easy bonding time with adults. At All Seasons when children are coloring, a teacher is often near them, also coloring. The adults and children talk and share in a different way when the focus isn’t solely on the conversation. We teachers learn so much about children when we’re coloring with them. This is often the time children open up to teachers about what is important to them, like their family, pets, friends, toys, and so on.

We encourage you not to discredit or forget about the simple joy of coloring with your child. There are plenty of free coloring pages online if you can’t find a coloring book to your liking. Find one you and your child both love, print off a few copies, get a new box of crayons, and enjoy a bit of time together, relaxing, coloring, learning, and bonding.

Feedback From the Fish Tank

Posted December 21, 2022
The fish tank – our humorous classroom barometer of chaos

Feedback From the Fish Tank

By Jen Andrews

In the Winter Room at Inver Glen, with the toddlers, we have a fish tank. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve sometimes found toys at the bottom of it at the end of the day. We’ve jokingly measured the engagement in our class by the number of toys we find in the bottom of the tank. After a long series of no-toy-in-the-fish-tank days, we suddenly had a 3-toy-in-the-tank day. In addition, we were observing some play that wasn’t usual: dumping out toy baskets, running around the classroom, and tossing toys. Sometimes, as the running occurred, by-standing children were being bumped or runners were slipping in their socks. Not only was our play more disorganized than usual, but it was also getting to be unsafe.

I confess I was finding myself being drawn into what I’ve called, “correcting, not redirecting,” meaning I was spending more time than I like saying versions of “no,” and less time finding ways to engage the children in alternatives.

At this time of year, when social calendars fill, when obligations add up, and time feels short, it’s easy (and human) to fall into this pattern at home as well. At school, we have the opportunity to stop, reflect, and problem-solve. We know that when “boredom behaviors” increase, that is feedback; the children are showing us in their own way that something needs to change. We want to harness the power of working with the kids, rather than against them.

As the teachers in the room, when something isn’t working, we take it upon ourselves to look and think again. Sometimes, a simple change to the environment can make a big difference in how the children engage in play. In this particular situation, we took one of the most problematic baskets of toys, the object of a frequent “dump and run” scenario, and modified it. Instead of numerous small vehicles in a basket, we placed about six larger construction vehicles on the low table with a few ramps.

High engagement with a new twist on an old favorite

The change led to even better results than we expected! There were hands on the trucks for almost the entire play session. They were used in concert and individually. There was experimentation with the ramps, and then the trucks began to tour the room in the most interesting ways. They went to the nearby playdough table and were loaded and unloaded a number of times with squishy hauls of dough. Then the vehicles were also driven over to the sensory table to shovel and carry snow. Eventually, they even made it into the loft, where a parking lot was designed. In short, it was a pretty big win! We went from children dumping, yet not playing with items to being engaged and creative for almost an entire hour with one kind of toy used across the entire classroom.

Creative play where there used to be fleeting interest

This was achieved not by instructing the children how they had to play with a certain toy, but by making some small, simple adjustments in what was provided to the children and how it was offered. We went from a “3-toy-in-the-tank-day” back to “no-toys-in-the-tank-days.” The kids and the fish are pretty happy again.

Toys on the outside looking in – to their and the fishes’ delight

Cooking in the Spring Room

Posted December 6, 2022
Cutting zucchini for taste-testing

Cooking in the Spring Room

By Calley Myrvold

Think about the last time you made a meal for someone. Hopefully the food you prepared was appreciated and enjoyed by the ones eating it. When serving that meal, did it make you feel a sense of pride and joy?

This year, the children in the Spring Room at Inver Glen have had many opportunities to cook both new and familiar dishes: baked zucchini, fresh applesauce, and breakfast cookies, to name a few. It’s clear that when children cook these meals and serve them to their peers and teachers, they feel that same sense of pride and joy.

As teachers, we want to give children experiences that they enjoy while at the same time supporting learning. Cooking is a great way for many learning opportunities to come up organically. Cooking offers fine motor practice while children are cutting, pouring and mixing. They practice thinking skills while organizing all of the materials and ingredients to execute the cooking project, and there are plenty of math and literacy opportunities embedded in food preparation.

Adding various toppings to mini-pizzas to enjoy later in the day

Cooking also builds community in the classroom. The children who work hard to organize, peel, chop, measure, pour, and mix also get the pleasure of serving their peers and seeing and hearing their reactions. Most of the time, the children respond with, “Wow! That’s really good. Can I have more?” Sometimes we hear that children don’t enjoy the food that was made, which is okay, but we thank them for trying something new. To further the activity, the teachers will ask the children what they notice about the food they are trying. Is it crunchy? Hard? Sweet or sour? We like to hear what they think of the flavor and texture of the sometimes-new foods they are trying. Using descriptive words expands their expressive language skills, too.

It’s always exhilarating for the teachers to announce that today will be a cooking day. When that announcement is made, the children’s eyes widen and they want to get right to the cooking activity. “Can I help cut food?” or “Can I mix the apples?” or “Can I pour the carrots into the pot?”

There are so many rich learning opportunities when we cook in our classroom. The children are always enthusiastic and curious about preparing and trying new foods. Most of all, cooking at school brings a sense of pride, joy and community for children and teachers alike.

Chopping carrots for “Stone Soup”

Keeping Our Footing In Nature

Posted November 23, 2022

Keeping Our Footing in Nature

By Ruby Kramer

Walking toward the muddy lake this month with the preschoolers, wrapped up in rain gear, I was struck by the physical immersiveness of playing in nature. That day we covered up everything but our faces so we could dive into the cold, wet mud by the lake. And dive we did. After sinking in the muck and losing their balance, some children began to laugh and purposefully roll around in the mud. The preschoolers monitored their bodies in space, preparing their muscles to catch themselves when the mud trapped their feet in place. I began to think of all the “body management” that playing outside requires. Climbing hills, dodging fallen branches and rocks, walking through dense grass, and staying upright on an icy lake all require an intuitive knowledge of where the body is in space and in relation to other objects. This knowledge is what allows us to adjust our muscles so that our bodies can move how we want them to.

Keeping our bodies stable is the job of the vestibular system. Housed in the inner ear, the vestibular organs work together to sense angular motion and linear acceleration of the head. The system then outputs to the eyes and larger muscles, informing movement and smooth vision. It is the interface of our bodies with our environment through sensation.

The vestibular system works together with the sensory organs and perceiving / conscious brain to create the “sensorium,” or the apparatus which allows us to experience, perceive, and interpret the environment in which we live. Without outdoor nature play, supporting the vestibular system and its interface with perception would require contrived situations and special equipment. The developing vestibular system must be challenged by a diversity of inputs, with which nature is brimming. Indoors, the terrain is flat, the floor is solid, and the wind doesn’t blow. We easily become habituated to our indoor spaces since very little of their geology and sensory landscape ever change. The woods and fields and hills, however, provide an ever-changing and immersive landscape.

The following are some examples of preschoolers exercising their vestibular systems as they navigate mud, grass, uneven terrain, rocks, trees, inclines, snow, and ice. The smiles and looks of intense concentration remind us that this is fun work!

Mud sucks our boots into the earth. We must twist our bodies, use our muscles to pull up our trunks as momentum throws them forward. The feedback of our bodies on the mud feels different than bodies on a hard surface. It’s almost as if we are walking on a foamy surface. when our feet or bodies land, there is a cushion that slows us down before we stop.

As we navigate around fallen trees, under sticks, and along deer paths, our bodies have to change direction suddenly and repeatedly without losing balance.

Long grasses entangle our feet and threaten to trip us!

Climbing rocks not only gives children a sense of accomplishment and grandeur but offers lots of input to the vestibular system. Children must push their bodies up using their muscles without throwing off their balance. Then they must stay steady on the uneven surface of the rock. Looking down at the world from such an angle inspires stories of birds or queens.

What a balance challenge! Walking along fallen branches has been irresistible this year for Autumn Room preschoolers. Recently, a huge fallen limb on a hill was a make-believe train for many days.

Rolling down a hill provides huge amounts of vestibular input, which can have an organizing effect and provide relief to confused vestibular systems. Intense vestibular input is often used in occupational therapy for children with vestibular dysfunction.

These children’s entire game had to be played at an angle! Our vestibular systems keep us upright in opposition to gravity. These children’s bodies are not perpendicular to the tilted ground, but they still feel stable, upright, and move normally.

As they trudge through deep snow, preschoolers have to stay upright even as their legs are taking more muscle than usual to move!

Thankfully, a blanket of snow provides a soft landing, so children can practice huge jumps! The vestibular system allows them to feel that they are flying and to land safely on the ground again.

Snow and ice can make all our surroundings slippery! The vestibular system must account for this slipperiness in each movement.

From Student Teacher to Cooperating Teacher

Posted November 9, 2022

From Student Teacher to Cooperating Teacher

By Roxie Zeller

This fall All Seasons Preschool of Eagan has its first student teacher! We are all very excited to welcome a teacher-in-training, Lexis Rodriguez, to show her the magic that is All Seasons.

Technically she is a “methods” student who is still early on in her early childhood education program. Most of her time here will be spent seeing how what she is learning in her college classes translates into an actual preschool classroom. She will set up a few activity areas around the room and lead a few group times, but mostly she is here to watch.

There is a lot that student teachers learn when they are in a placement. They notice things they hope to bring into their future classrooms, get an idea of what kind of school they want to teach in, and note how the teachers interact with each other and the children. Having Lexis in our room is especially special to me, as I graduated from the same college, and many of the professors I once had are now hers. Because of this I have spent some time looking back on my own practicum hours (hours spent observing in various classrooms) from when I was in college. For me, what stood out the most was how honored I was that a teacher would open their room for a stranger to learn from them.

During my training, I had many amazing placements where I saw the importance of trusting young children, having personable relationships with families and children, and the beauty of child-led learning. Of course, my time student teaching at All Seasons stands out among all the placements I had, as it opened the door for the job I have now. I saw the mutual trust that the teachers developed with their students as children climbed trees, played with sticks, used real tools, and mixed paints in glass jars; these are all things many preschools would not allow. I saw how important it is for all the teachers in a school to stand by each other and brainstorm together ways to solve tricky situations. Most of all when I was at All Seasons, I saw the loving relationships that the children had developed with the seniors in memory care. I walked away from that placement knowing that working in a nature-based program was where I wanted to be.

Now that it is my turn to open my classroom to potential new teachers, I hope we can be a placement site where they will walk away with a positive view of what early learning can be. Hopefully, our student teacher sees the respect and trust we have for our preschoolers, the benefits of going outside in all weather, and all the growth and learning that can happen both in the classroom and out when you follow the children’s lead.