Back Together Again

Posted September 28, 2022

Back Together Again
By Sarah Kern

After over two years of Covid restrictions with the grandmas and grandpas at Inver Glen Senior Living, we are FINALLY back to a regular schedule of activities with the seniors. We began on the first day of school with a simple art project: each child found a senior partner, and together they colored in block letters of the child’s name. It sparked natural conversation: “What’s your name?” “What’s your favorite color?”, and it created a natural closeness between each senior and child pair as they worked together.

The next morning we were back upstairs for music time with Mr. Gregg. Sharing familiar songs together bridged generations as children danced to “rock and roll,” some while holding a senior’s hands. Other activities this month have included playing color and shape bingo, balloon ball soccer, and even rhythm band.

Some children felt apprehensive about visiting upstairs. Most have little to no experience with elderly seniors who are in their 80’s and 90’s, especially considering Covid. The teachers intentionally prepare the children for time with seniors, even going so far as to role play scenarios. Some teachers pretend they are a grandma or a grandpa so the children can practice shaking hands with them and looking into their eyes. One teacher pretended she couldn’t hear very well so the children could practice saying their names loudly. Another class role played standing between grandmas and grandpas, so when they arrived upstairs for balloon ball soccer, they knew just where to go.

Still, for some, nerves persist. At rhythm band, a child was hesitant to interact with her senior partner, despite encouragement from the teachers and the senior herself. As they shook their instruments side-by-side, teachers watched closely and thought perhaps next time the child would be ready to interact more. But then, something broke the ice. A teacher instructed the children to give their senior friend a high five. As soon as the child gave the senior a high five, the nerves disappeared. “I have a grandma, too!” the child announced. “Do you have a purple shaker?” It goes to show that when it comes to intergenerational relationships, simplicity is key. It is not performative, it is real. With authenticity, connection comes.


One Primary Focus

Posted September 15, 2022
“Will I have a friend?”

One Primary Focus
by Amy Lemieux

Young children are busy people so preschool is a busy place. You can feel it when you walk into the school: multiple activities are happening simultaneously; sometimes big feelings are being expressed. Most casual observers find this overwhelming. Thankfully, within this “organized chaos” is where our teachers shine the brightest.

While the activities at school change frequently, the teachers’ attentiveness to the children is constant. At All Seasons, our time is dedicated to three main targets (nature, art, and intergenerational programming), but the real focus and heart of our program is the children; they are at the center of everything we do. This attentiveness to individuals and the group is the very foundation of our school. The children are what our teachers keep in mind as they plan and then adjust their time with students.

Centering attention on the children means that rather than rushing through the days to accomplish adult-planned activities, our teachers intentionally slow down to recognize the needs of the individuals and the group. This slowing down sets the tone for a meaningful and productive year. People casually toss around the term “child-centered” but what does that actually look like from day to day?

It means playing name games again and again in the fall until every child is recognized and known. It means taking the time to visit the school pets to settle a child who cries at drop-off. It looks like a teacher holding a tiny hand during their first trip into the woods, sticking close to the building the first few days of school and then knowing when a group is feeling brave and physically strong enough to venture farther on a hike. Attending to children’s social needs means intentionally walking slowly in the upstairs hallways to greet every grandma who wants to say hello. Knowing what soothes young children means pulling the classroom water table outside at 8:30 to help calm children with separation anxiety, settling them on a swing, or snuggling up with a familiar book to ease the transition from home to school. It means that the happenings in the Autumn Room and the Winter Room and the Spring Room will be different because the children in each classroom are different. This practice of mindful attending is modeled and reinforced for the children as well, encouraging them to persist at something rather than mindlessly hopping from one activity to the next.

Not only do our teachers know young children in general, but they also already know or will know each child personally. The first day of school, we all celebrated a returning student who arrived with gusto to welcome new students, remembering how he cried every morning for weeks last fall when he was three. Knowing our students means recognizing that the child whose best friends have moved onto kindergarten is now faced with the challenge and opportunity to be the “big kid.” This meant intentionally connecting him with his new classmates as he demonstrated how to make a lever in the sand, to the amazement of many! A new student who asked his parents, “What if I don’t have a friend?” is given multiple opportunities each day to discover that he does, indeed, have some well-matched playmates in his class who will become true friends over time. Time with small groups in the art studio will be slightly different depending upon how familiar each child is with the materials, their fine motor strength, and their willingness to take risks. Knowing the children deeply is recognizing when someone is simply tired or is actually ill and needs Mom.

Sending children into the “big world” outside their cozy, familiar home can be overwhelming for them, but for parents, too. As we begin a new school year, know this: every scenario above and many more happened the first four days of school. Our teachers have a deep understanding of child development, but more importantly, they have a deep understanding of the children who are with them.

Building a “lever” to show friends