Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stormy Weather

This past week we had so much wind and rain and clouds and sunshine!  Autumn is a beautiful time to live in Oregon and have many opportunities to notice the beautiful leaves as they change and of course stomp in puddles.  We go outside twice every day, no matter the weather!  One day last week, we went outside directly in the middle of the storm.  The wind was gusting strongly and the rain was falling diagonally!  Some children put on their rain gear and dashed out into the thick of it.  Others felt less sure and stayed on the porch and talked about how the wind was blowing.  

After being outside for a while, some of the children found a puddle which was collecting water.  I had offered chalk for drawing, since chalk and water is such a lovely tactile experience.  A few children first dipped their chalk in, then began drawing at the bottom of the puddle!  They were amazed when they noticed the chalk beginning to change the water different colors.  Then people jumped through the puddle, and the colors mixed.  

We didn’t last too long in the heavy rain and by the end almost everyone was drenched.  Having these full body, sensory experiences in the weather of our world give children real experience of the qualities of rain and water, the effects it has on the world around them, as well as builds a natural appreciation. 

Grace's Spiral

Yesterday, I had an agenda:  Observe and document in the classrooms.  I had an intention, a wondering:  In what ways do we, as adults, affect a child's relationship to agency?  In what ways is that relationship connected to our practices around struggle and holding space for what IS?

I grabbed my camera.  I took some deep breaths.  And I began to document.  See with me:

Mary's children feel wary of me coming into their space. They probably wonder:  Is she here so that Mary can leave on a break? What does she want? 

Mary calmly explains to them that I'm there to take pictures.  She's available for connection and reassurance.  Can you sense how they know she's their person, their safe space? They know, already, as infants:  I can be seen by her. I can let her know what I'm feeling. She has space for me to be a whole version of me.  

And the feelings pass.  And they play again.  

Outside, my chest can hardly contain my heart as I watch more teachers who are masters of presence, connection, and holding space for whole selves.  

Slowly, as I feel the awe and joy wash over me in my observation, I realize something's coming up for me:  Sometimes, I'm afraid to be seen.  Sometimes, the idea of going into the classroom is overwhelming.  Sometimes, the process of being open for others AND showing up where I'm at and accepting that that's where I'm at... is a struggle.  Sometimes, I'm afraid that I'll let people down, that I'm not enough.  Sometimes, my fear tells me:  you might not be enough.

As I witness this understanding of my own fears, as I turn into them a bit and imagine hugging the part of me that fears, a few children come over to me. See with me, and feel this:

When face to face with these children, I feel truths deeper and stronger than any fear:

We are worthy of being seen.
We matter.
We are exactly where we should be right now. 
We are enough.

I am enough.

When I come back inside and head upstairs to start processing about the blog, I remember my wonderings:  In what ways do we, as adults, affect a child's relationship to agency?  In what ways is that relationship connected to our practices around struggle and holding space for what IS?   

I try to think about agency but am left vibrating with the feeling of seeing and being seen, of holding space for others and myself, of releasing into a peaceful trust in my own process. THIS is what Grace feels like.

I am struck by the realization that the powerful presence of Grace in the classroom made processing around agency (both itself and the relationship to it) feel like a stretch, an effort that would take away from a deeper resonating connection.  And BAM, it connects:  
My own agency--the grace I allow to myself to follow my inner guide, my own path--resonates with the grace I allow for others; back and forth, each connection with others spirals inward and outward, reinforcing deeper truths.  

Spiral with me.  

Friday, November 20, 2015

What Feels Fair?

One day this week, before children arrived at the school, I set out a provocation of buttons, beads, and stones, along with lidded jars and palettes.  Looking at this simple set up, I envisioned these materials inspiring sorting and matching work among the children who were soon to arrive in our classroom.  What I didn't know yet was that this work was going to be about what it means to share.

LT was the first child to enter the classroom.  LT loves to work with the screw-top jars I had set out, and is often drawn to this sort of work, so I had a feeling she might be interested in this provocation.  She sat right down and began her work of sorting and rearranging materials.  Beads were sorted by color in the palettes and stones and buttons were poured into jars and covered with lids.

LS was the next child to arrive, and after catching her teachers up on her morning and washing her hands, she joined LT at the platform.  LS watched LT for a bit and then gestured to the palette where LT had put the purple beads.  

LS: "I want that."
LT: "No, I'm using that, LS.  It's not available.  You can have these stones."

LS picked up the jar of stones and considered them.  She forcefully shook her head.

LS:  "No, LT.  I don't want the stones.  I want the purple beads."

Throughout this interaction, I sat nearby, actively listening but not intervening.  I offered support to both children by reiterating what they had told each other ("LS is hoping to use some of these materials, too."  "LT is offering you those stones."  "Hm, it sounds like the stones don't work for LS.").  I saw my role as being there to assist with communication as needed, to offer support to both girls as they maneuvered the tricky situation of both wanting the same things at the same time.  My role was not to offer solutions, but to be a supportive presence as the girls worked on finding a solution that worked for everyone.

The girls looked at each other from across the platform for a few moments.  Then LT got an idea.  She asked me to bring an additional palette to the platform and then announced:

LT:  "Okay LS, I will make a palette for you!"

Slowly and methodically, LT doled out each purple bead into a palette just for LS.  LS was delighted by the element of play that LT had brought into this exchange, and when LT handed the palette to LS a few minutes later, LS thanked her with a grin.  Both children returned to their play, pleased and satisfied with the outcome of their negotiations.

OP was the next child to arrive that morning.  He sat down next to LT, saw that the jar of stones was not being used, and immediately got to work sorting them between several small metal bowls.  Both LT and LS made space for OP when he sat down, slightly scooting and moving their own work so he could join them - a silent and maybe subconscious negotiation of space to welcome a friend to their work.

The events of that morning led me to thinking about my own adult interpretation of sharing, and especially the concept of fairness.  I could have intervened, dividing up each material between the LS and LT in a way that felt fair to me - each child ending up with an equal amount of beads, buttons, stones, and jars.  That would have interrupted their play, most likely left both children unsatisfied, and also imposed my own adult idea of what is fair onto them.  Although LT started out wanting all the purple beads to herself, given time and space she felt flexible about sharing them, in her own way and in her own time.  LS didn't change her mind about what she wanted, but she was patient and engaged in the process of finding a solution with LT.

Our practice at Tumbleweed of not enforcing rules about sharing or fairness asks children to look inside themselves to find ways to coexist in the same spaces, using the same materials, in ways that work for everyone.  While these skills of negotiation, listening, flexibility, empathy, and patience are built and honed in low-stakes interactions like this, they are lifelong skills which are applicable in so many other situations.  We hope to build a foundation of these skills that the children will take with them for years to come.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Snack Time

Over the last two weeks, we have started eating snack together at our table! Previously, we were sharing snack on the floor and then transitioned to a small table with space for just two infants to sit together. Now we each have a seat at our table and enjoy our snack together! Sharing snack is a great time for building meaningful relationships and I can tell that the infants already love our meals together!

            Other than building relationships, beginning mealtime during infancy is beneficial for developing table manners and positive social skills. I've noticed a lot of relationship building through our daily snack time. The infants usually pat the table together while waiting for their snack and love to watch each other enjoy their snack when it's served! If an infant is unsure about trying the food, they are usually more willing to once they see another friend take a bite!


What's Happening in the Garden?

We are extremely fortunate at Tumbleweed to have a beautiful, open yard with much to offer in the way of plant life and space for both fine and gross motor explorations.  This summer, our garden was a constant draw for us as we excitedly planted seeds, carefully tended them, and then watched in awe as the once-bare garden boxes turned into magical, wild spaces filled with flowers, berries, vegetables, and the tiny creatures living among them.

Now that summer is past, we begin the work of preparing our garden for cold months ahead; we have been removing plants whose seasons are over, cherishing the last couple of cucumbers and ripe tomatoes.  In the places where it was once difficult to even catch a glimpse of the soil underneath all of the summer growth, we now work the soil and begin planting from seed once again, this time focusing on cool weather crops, like carrots, parsnips, kale, and spinach.  As we work the wet soil, we are finding more and more of the earthworms and slugs that captured our interest all winter long as we tipped stumps and dug around in the garden hoping to find these creatures so we could observe and investigate them.  
I love this time of year and with the children of Cohort 7 & 9 now between the ages of two and three, I love noticing how strong their memories are of the late spring and summer stages in our garden.  We can now tell stories to remind ourselves of how we worked the soil in the spring, planting all sorts of seeds and writing on little wooden markers to remind ourselves of all the plants we could look forward to tending.  Together we remember our work party in May, when many of the Infant House families generously contributed plants for our early summer planting, which have thrived all summer long and have been important staples for us (this group loves basil!).  As we clear out dead tomato, cucumber, and zucchini plants, we recall how bountiful these were during their prime, allowing us to harvest, eat, and celebrate together.  And as we plant tiny seeds alongside plants that are still looming tall in our garden, like our cauliflower and broccoli, we talk about how amazing it is that these seeds will sprout and might one day be just as big.  

The fall season gives a sense of coming full circle, which feels bittersweet, but also incredibly satisfying after a summer of learning and growing together, working alongside each other to care for a space that we all love.  We feel sad that the green tomatoes left won't be ripening like the ones that came before them, but it helps us to appreciate the long, hot months of summer and encourages us to notice all sorts of other changes that come with the shifting seasons.  We look forward to fall and winter, knowing that the strong relationship we have with our garden will take on new meaning as the leaves keep falling, the rain starts, and eventually cold, icy days greet us when we step outside of the classroom.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Building in the Studio

In our evolving studio space, on the patio outside, the children are focusing on building skills.  We were gifted a stack of boards from a parent, and everyone quickly got to work stacking, arranging and balancing the pieces.  There was an air of excitement as everyone talked about where pieces should be going, and even some frustration as some wanted the same piece.  In the end the wood was used in many ways which fueled their creativity and imagination.
The Gymnastic Balance Field
C: This is where you have to walk.  It's pretty tricky, but if you're careful it works.  
LC: We need more boards!!
HR: I have some we could put one there.
C: But wait.  Will that work?  What if we make a teeter-totter?
LC: Oh yeah! I love doing that.
V: I can help you guys.
C: Ok.  We need more wood V.  Can you find some?
V: Sure!
C: But it needs to be for gymnastics.  That's why there is balancing and jumping.  Just follow me!
This game of building, balancing and negotiation materials and space continued until we went inside for the afternoon.  The motivation to find a way to all work together felt very strong as each child found their way, and talked with each other in a way that works!

The Biggest Drum Set Ever!
Briana: I'm noticing that everyone is really interested in banging the sticks on things.  I wonder what would be a safe choice?
Briana: I'm thinking about the drum game....
Everyone: Drums!!  
HM: I'm going to get some metal bowls
B: Yeah! Drums!
Soon everyone has found a way to set up the metal bowls, boards and wood pieces to create an area for drumming.  Smaller sticks become drum sticks and we test out how the different sounds can be made by hitting the wood and the bowls.
SC: Hey, I would like to do some drumming.
HM: you can!  There's some sticks here.
Q: I can do the drumming like this! Rawr Rawr Rawr!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Painting at the Preschool

Using tempra paint is always a loved activity for most children.  We have been finding more and more ways to offer the opportunity to paint, especially while outside!  The children have been mixing their own colors, telling stories as they paint, make observations about the colors changing and enjoying being together while working at the same piece of large paper or box. 
Art is offered in an experiential way at the Preschool House.  We focus on the process of sensorally engaging with the qualities of an art medium, then follow the children in their interests.  Sometimes this means a painting project quickly becomes hands on as the children feel the paint with their fingers and then experiment with what happens when their hands are art tools.  Over time we refine their explorations by talking about how artists use different mediums and tools, how to care for these things, and drawing attention to noticing different ways to use it.  This process of experiencing, then refining allows the child to practice that important combination of hand, finger and eye refinement while having a creative outlet.
Where shall our paint explorations lead us?