Thursday, April 24, 2014

Garden Days 2014

TLS Duke:  Saturday, April 26  (9:00-3:00, lunch served from 11:00-1:00)

TLS Hillsborough:  Saturday, May 17  (9:00-3:00, lunch served from 11:00-1:00)

                                                                  Meet Liane Salgado

This Spring The Little School is putting a special focus on expanding the edibles we grow here on our grounds.  We are also moving towards choosing bushes, trees and other plants which are native to the area and attract birds and pollinators.  To help us design our gardens and grounds, we are working with permaculture designer and organic farmer, Liane Salgado.  Liane undertook doctoral  work and received her Masters in ecology and evolutionary biology, reflecting a deep interest she has had in ecology and systems thinking since her teenage years.  She serves as a teacher and leader at the Carrboro Community Gardens, turned her own yard into an organic farm to grow produce in a cooperative venture with Vimala’s Curryblossom CafĂ© in Chapel Hill, and now uses some of this space to cultivate a food forest.  She has studied permaculture design and shares this knowledge as a leader and teacher with Carrboro Greenspace, where she organizes and presents seminars on community-driven sustainability practices.

So, what is permaculture anyway?

Permaculture involves the integration of human activities into a living ecosystem.  It comes from the words “permanent culture” as it aims to create environments which are permanently sustainable.  As a permaculture designer, I would look at all of the processes occurring on a given site – such as food, water, energy, waste, teaching, learning, playing – and work towards integrating those processes into the surrounding natural and human environment to move towards more sustainable solutions.  For example, when we are choosing plants for the playgrounds of the school we would select plants that could be considered invasive in other settings because they just grow and grow and take over.  Kids running feet will keep these fast-growing plants in check, while they would kill less hardy plants.


Can you tell me a little bit about organic gardening practices?

Well, until the 40s and 50s all gardening was organic gardening.  It is a very recent phenomenon to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  Organic gardening uses natural sources of nutrition, such as compost, rather than chemical fertilizers.  To keep pests and disease at bay an organic gardener will use natural approaches such as mixing up the plants grown in an area and rotating them from year to year.  When you grow all of one type of plant in an area year after year the bugs and diseases that live off of those plants will discover this great habitat and eat all of your produce before you can harvest.


You have done a lot of community-based training in these areas.  How are you finding working with a preschool?

It’s very gratifying to me to think about young kids being exposed to gardening in the environment where they spend so much of their time.  There is quite a bit of research which shows that when young children are given the opportunity to grow plants, and then get to take care of them and sometimes even eat them, they develop a greater understanding and appreciation of nature and are more likely to eat and enjoy those vegetables.  On the permaculture side, I love the thought of creating ever denser and more intricate living systems on the school grounds.  Kids’ innate curiosity and attraction to all things living will turn these spaces into de facto outdoor classrooms with many and varied opportunities to teach about the vibrant ecosystem right here at The Little School.


Liane will be on hand at both Garden Days to direct activities, answer questions and provide guidance.  We invite all of our families to come out for as little or as long as you like. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

"The right to act like a robot"

By Jessica Larson

The Reggio approach is one of the 5 big ideas that powers The Little School. Over this past winter and into spring, many of us have had the opportunity to attend Reggio conferences and workshops. There we were treated to goose bump inducing lectures, tours of educationally rich Reggio centers, and opportunities to engage with other professionals in our field.  

The core of the Reggio pedagogy, as laid out by its first teacher Loris Malaguzzi, was that children are born citizens of the world, and therefore have the RIGHT to quality education from the moment of birth. It is our jobs as teachers, as parents, and as a community to establish these conditions of quality and opportunity to learn. The word RIGHT carries tremendous power. Reggio Emilia was a town reduced to physical, social and emotional rubble after WWII. Surveying the wreckage, the largely female based community chose to rebuild their early learning centers before anything else. Wading in the ruin of a country destroyed by war, the town sought a radical new way to educate their children at the youngest age to be free thinkers, so they would never again fall under the rule of fascism.

“If the children had legitimate rights, then they also should have opportunities to develop their intelligence and to be made ready for the success that would not, and should not, escape them”
-- Loris Malaguzzi

This plays out everyday at TLS as I see children exploring their world, examining cicada shells, crossing logs over a creek, finding safe places, asking questions and being allowed to try something new. Being allowed to think bigger than the classroom. When we validate their way of learning, the seemingly simple drawing becomes a story, an act of discovering a new way to make themselves understood. As Loris Malaguzzi writes: “The act of research already exists in the hands of children”

A right is defined as “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way”. That’s a hugely subjective and conceptual idea. Never the less, I decide to ask some of our students: 

What are your rights at The Little School? This is what they told me:

“I have the right to…..”
- … snuggle with your blankie at naptime
- … take the sand out of the sandbox
- … muddy puddles, milkshakes and to take care of the trees
- … ride our bikes all together and play with my friends
- … fly an airplane
- … lunch and snack
- … listen to “Frozen”
- … make cards and do a treasure hunt
- … play legos and read books
- … get sick
- … draw Mommy and Daddy getting married
- … blink my eyes
- … wear Barbie doll clothes or Batman clothes to school
- … listen to “Beat It”
- … act like a robot
- … to make sand and water
- … be with Ms. Jessica
- … stay in the beads (center) and make a jewelry shop
- … play legos; build the pieces into a robot
- … play animals and blocks
- … have fun
- … go home at the end of the day
- … to hold something soft in my hand
- … sit down when your ankle hurts, or whenever you want to sit down
- … do whatever I want
- … be mad
- … be happy

"The pleasure of learning and knowing, and of understanding, is one of the most important and basic feelings that every child expects from the experiences he confronts alone, with other children or with adults. It is a crucial feeling which must be reinforced so that the pleasure survives even when reality may prove that learning, knowing and understanding involve difficulty and effort" -- Loris Malaguzzi

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Our Emerging Conservation Curriculum

By Monica Pallett

“What we have loved, others will love, and we will teach them how”
                                                                                                                              William Wordsworth

At The Little School, we are continuously expanding and refining our outdoor and nature-based learning.  We start introducing TLS kids to the wonders of nature early on – letting our youngest explorers play in the dirt and seek out what is of interest to them as soon as they are able to crawl.  We know that regular time out in nature is good for people of all ages.  A growing body of research shows that we need to be in natural settings regularly to be optimally healthy – both mentally and physically.  There is ample evidence that time out in wild spaces significantly reduces stress levels in children and adults.  In fact, the denser the tree canopy the greater the drop in our cortisol levels.  Children are more cooperative, happy and engaged when out in natural environments; and children with behavioral or attentional challenges experience far fewer symptoms in natural settings. 

There is also another set of benefits from regular fun exposure to natural habitats.  Positive direct experience in the out-of-doors and being taken outdoors by someone close to the child—a parent, grandparent, or a trusted teacher or friend—are the two factors that most contribute to individuals choosing to take action to benefit the environment as adults.  At The Little School we do many things to ensure our children to develop a direct and positive relationship with nature.  Children are taken on hikes in the woods regularly where we climb trees and play in the creeks.  As they grow with us here at The Little School we will help them to understand how we can help care for the earth.  We have begun to partner with community groups to do engaging projects which teach core conservation principles in a child-friendly way.

Tom Driscoll, a retired EPA scientist and lifelong birder, came to both campuses and talked to all of our Pre-K classes about two kinds of birds we can help by putting up bird houses.  Through his leadership role with The Audubon Society, he was able to get us bird houses for brown-headed nuthatches and blue birds to put up in the woods nearby and around the school grounds.  In exchange for these birdhouses, our preschoolers are becoming citizen scientists as we go out and check the birdhouses for nesting and hatching activity and record this activity in a national database.  Our preschoolers learned that brown-headed nuthatches rely on the holes made in trees by woodpeckers, and if there aren’t enough of these holes they need us to help them out by putting up birdhouses on pine trees.

A Duke parent and environmental educator from The Nicholas School for the Environment organized a field trip to a nearby creek which has been restored by Duke.  She brought along an Enviroscape watershed model and a story book, All the Way to the Ocean, to demonstrate how things like litter, fertilizer, mud and motor oil find their way into our creeks.  From our creeks things flow to rivers and lakes and eventually all the way to the sea.  At both campuses once the weather warms up we will be measuring the health of the creeks by looking for macroinvertebrates (creek bugs) under rocks and on the water surface.  Our outdoor learning educators, Monica, Cole and Erin, recently attended a Project Wet two-day training class to learn all about this and other fun ways to teach our kids about the importance of our nearby creeks.

One of the main lessons we want to teach again and again is how interconnected natural systems are and that we are a part of these systems.  All of our pre-K classrooms now have worm bins which are a great way to teach this principle.  A group of 6 teachers all learned how to make a worm bin while making their classrooms worm bin at a recent workshop put on for us here at TLS by Murial Willman with Orange County Solid Waste Management.  The kids feed their worms leftover fruit from snack and then the worms make the best fertilizer known to man.  We will use this compost to grow seedlings for our very own gardens which place food on our lunch tables – the circle of life just keeps on turning here at TLS.