Friday, August 19, 2016

New Curriculum Specialists Combine Approaches

A new role
Heading into the new year the Little School created a new position which Laura Haslam and Sasha Harris have taken on, curriculum specialist. They will be working with the educators at both the Hillsborough and Duke campuses to create a framework for the emergent curriculum approaches of Reggio Emilia and Project-Based Learning. These approaches have been adapted and refined over the years by the visionary founders and teachers at the Little School who saw a need to elevate their endeavor to the next logical step: create a combined approach and focus more efforts toward instructional development. At the core of the Reggio and Project Approaches is a commitment to collaboration between students, teachers, and mentor teachers. In their new roles Laura and Sasha will be able to support faculty in crafting projects, documentation, and portfolios as well as collaborating to research new educational methods and topics. The dynamic duo of coaches will work with both campuses during the week and connect with the wider Little School community through this blog and through classroom newsletters. They are excited to share in the work of Little School students and educators this year!

Hi, everyone! My name is Laura, and I'm so looking forward to returning home to The Little School. After spending six years here, I took a leave of absence for the 2015-2016 school year to pursue a Master's degree in Education and Human Development through the teacher education program at Boulder Journey School in Boulder, Colorado. This process has been quite a whirlwind, and I am excited to share the things that I have learned with the educators and students at The Little School.
I earned my BA in English in 2005 from Faulkner University, and promptly started working with three year olds at a local preschool. Since then, I have learned so much about being an intentional, thoughtful teacher from the children and adults with whom I have worked, and I’m so excited to learn from and support such a community of like minded people! I live in Chapel Hill with my husband, Josh, and our cats, Junie, Jilly, and Leonard.

Hi, my name is Sasha Harris and I’m a well-traveled instructor with a Master's Degree in Education and twelve years of experience inside and outside of classrooms. For over three years now my family and I have loved living in Chapel Hill and for much of that time we were fortunate enough to have our daughter as a student in the Little School at Duke. Working with small children and teachers is an incredible privilege and I’m looking forward to all the opportunities to support teachers and grow alongside them. The Little School continues to be one of the best early childhood centers in North Carolina.  As a parent of a Little School alum I have been able to witness this school’s amazing philosophy at work in the development of my own child and my students. For the last two-and-a-half years I’ve become an experienced student and practitioner of this philosophy. I look forward to communicating my enthusiasm for the Reggio Emilia and Project Approaches to the staff at the Little School. I’m originally I’m from Western Massachusetts and as an undergrad I received my Bachelors in Film from the University of Rochester. Later, as a working professional, I completed my Masters at Brooklyn College.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

May 5th Culmination Day in the Otter Room

Last winter several faculty from The Little Schools in Hillsborough and Duke visited The Duke School in Durham, NC for intensive training in the project-based learning (PBL). The lessons learned at the "Deeper Dive" sessions were soon applied to classrooms in both Little School campuses. As the lead teacher in a pre-k class I worked with my co-teachers to integrate this new approach into a curriculum philosophy that already included Reggio influences. By March we began our PBL journey in earnest when we started canvasing our students for topics they would be interested in pursuing formally. PBL demands that topics of study must be real-world and concrete. We jettisoned proposals that included dinosaurs and supernatural creatures. Making the cut and eventually becoming the class topic was "house." Over the next several months we worked together to generate research questions, read books about the topic, learn about carpentry, participate with experts, draw and build models, and learn as much as we could through research and experiences.

The PBL approach is originally rooted in the educational writings of John Dewey. More recently, researchers Lilian Katz and Sylvia Chard have outlined PBL's tenets and promoted their use. As our investigation into houses began loosing some of its momentum, we arranged for an exposition of all the work we had amassed until that point. Also called the "Culmination Day," This event brings parents, other students, and teachers together to demonstrate their appreciation for student work. In the Otter room we held our Culmination Day on May 5th and decided to document the experience with a small flip camera.

The video below uses the footage gathered on that day:

Monday, April 4, 2016

TLS Garden Days are coming soon!!!

Spring is here!!!  Change is in the air.  As we teachers venture out onto the playgrounds at The Little School, we notice some things that could use some improvement.  The kids are getting bigger and are ready for some changes in their environment.  The gardens are beginning to awaken from their winter slumber and are ready to be planted.  And so, we plan for our annual TLS Garden Day.

What is Garden day?

Garden day is a TLS community work-day.  Parents, staff and kids all work together to make some improvements to the school grounds.  In years past, projects have included; creating a rock river bed for our playground, planting tomatoes and peppers in the garden, moving a playhouse from one playground to another, and planting bamboo in tires and making a roof-top garden.  It is an example of how "Many hands make light work."  And FUN is also definitely a part of the day.  Kids get to romp and play together or do creative projects, like helping to decorate the Fairy Garden or making stepping stones.  And at the end of the hard work comes the reward of a delicious lunch provided by our amazing chefs!!!

What's planned for this year?

TLS Hillsborough - 2 Saturdays April 9 and April 16 from 8 a.m.-Noon
This year we have split our garden day into 2 garden days so everyone can work hard in the morning, eat a yummy lunch, and then go home for a well-deserved nap.  Each classroom has come up with several projects.  The Infant classrooms, the 2- and 3-year-old rooms in the Purple Building, and the 3 year-old rooms in the Yellow building will be doing their projects on April 9th.   While the 1-year-old classrooms and the Pre-K classes will be doing their projects on April 16th.  Families are welcome to attend either or both Garden Days as we have additional school-wide projects as well.
Projects include:
Creating a stone labyrinth
Building a rock creek
Adding manipulation boards to a play-structure
Painting the library
Planting vegetables and flowers and herbs
Making painted rocks for the gardens
Making stepping stones
And general garden work and sprucing up

Note:  Please bring garden and work tools to share (wheel barrows are much needed) and label them so we can make sure to return them to you.  Also, plant donations are being requested by classroom this week and next week.

TLS Duke - Saturday, April 9 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Big plans have been made and parents have already been signing up and gearing up for the big day!
Projects include:
Building a trellis and car-port (for toy cars, of course)
Creating a block center
Making a Tire dome
Building a Tee-pee
Creating a gravel area for toy trucks
Improving play kitchen area, music areas and outdoor art spaces, and safe place
Lots of Gardening and planting

Looking forward to seeing everyone and working together!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What Team exploration at Hillsborough has been up to...

While classroom teachers are having some valuable meeting time, Team Exploration (Erin, Brandie, Amanda and Ali) have been busy offering the classes many exploration opportunities.  Here's what we've been up to lately...

Explorations - 
Team Exploration have been making Snow Dough concoctions with the kids with flour or cornstarch and baby oil.  It has been a great science experiment and of course most kids love the sensory/tactile experience.  We have also been feeding the birds in the Fairy Garden from the big bin of birdseed.  The kids also love this sensory experience, as they sift the seeds through their fingers, and have noticed several types of seeds they recognize, corn and sunflower.  We have practiced being still and quiet so we don't scare the birds.  The birds are now coming and perching in our trees and eating the seeds.  Feel free to let your kids throw more birdseed into the Fairy garden area!   We have also been offering Kindness Week art activities to help spread the LOVE and kindness. 

Yoga - 
We also have begun doing more yoga with the cold/ rainy weather limiting our long walks in the woods in the mornings.  Both Amanda and Erin are able to do yoga with the kids both in the classroom and in the yoga room.  

Gardening - 
We are starting to prepare for our Spring plantings in our Courtyard Gardens.  Compost has been ordered.  Seeds have been ordered.  And we have a new 4-wheeled dumping wagon for transporting big loads of dirt!!!  (Sorry, I am really excited about this cool garden vehicle).  Ali is planning on starting some seeds with the kids in the art space.  

Woods Explorations - 
On nice days, we try to get out into the woods as much as possible.  We do several safety exercises like the "Freeze" game as we cross the parking lot to keep the kids listening and aware.  We have made pinecone bird feeders and hung them from trees, picked up trash from the construction site, and followed a stream to see where it goes.  The kids are all seriously improving their tree-climbing skills and body awareness.  We have also practiced walking slowly and quietly, listening for bird calls.  Several groups have gotten to see an OWL fly from high in a tree!

Overall, we have started doing a lesson plan that we follow for 3-weeks, giving each small group an opportunity to participate in each activity.

Keep Exploring!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Protecting our (Baby Dolls') Bodies!

North Carolina certainly has an interesting weather system that fluctuates regularly so it is important for us to be constantly learning how to take care of our bodies. Last week it was quite cold, with the ice from the previous weekend melting, our activities in Team Woods centered around taking care of our bodies in cold weather. We read Under my Hood, I Have a Hat which goes through all the clothing one wears in winter with several classes including the Super Heroes, Eloquent Elephants, Rocketeers, and Magnificent Mini’s. Afterwards we delved into dressing our baby dolls for winter using fabric, string, pipe cleaners and scissors. The fun and adorableness quickly ensued, I will let the pictures and quotes speak for themselves about what happened:

Owen focused for a long time on cutting this very large piece of fabric
into smaller pieces to dress his baby doll.

"I'm a pink chef!"- Olivia

Ethan made sure to give a shirt to keep
his baby's tummy warm

"I need to cover all her knees"- Adelaide
Elise decided she would make beautiful summer clothes for her baby!
Lucy was excited to dress her bunny
for winter. And focused on keeping
the ears warm!
A few other fun quotes:
"I made a hole for my baby to fit its head through"- R
"I made a ninja baby"- W
"I am going to use a pipe cleaner by myself"- Hazel

All of the kids were proud about what they were able to make with their hands. There were moments of frustration and times when they asked for help but many of the children were happy and excited to do it by themselves, feeling empowered to help their dolls.

-Ali Huber