Letter from Kat, Infant Teacher

Dear Becca Mack,

It is so good to be back at BCS! Words can barely do justice to how good it feels. I am especially excited to be starting back in the baby room ­ it seems fitting, back at the beginning. Learning about, and from, a whole new group of children ­ it makes it that much more exciting. Since I have been in the baby room almost two months our afternoon curriculum is very open. Of course I get excited thinking of all the things I want to bring to the classroom, my love of baking, the outdoors ­ especially exploring the community, gardening, painting, and gross motor skills ­ however I realize that right now what is most important is to get know who each and every one of these children are. Creating relationships through play is the focus of the afternoon curriculum right now. It seems basic yet is the building block for all interactions, a key part of development and a big part of one’s ability to have healthy relationships in general. This curriculum thread lends itself to evolution, and as the children grow, so will their relationships, with themselves, their peers, the teachers, the school and the greater community.

We are constantly engaging in play and from this I am learning so much about these people. What their favorite games are ­ throwing the ball and racing to see who gets it, or wondering where it is and laughing when we find it. How each plays as an individual and how each engages with friends in the classroom. What they are working on whether it is negotiating physical space around others or negotiating with friends in play. A big part of the classroom culture and therapeutic curriculum is community ­ which blends seamlessly with the afternoon curriculum. Not only am I learning about each child, they are learning about me, and through this dance we are constantly in stages of learning. Our classroom is active in so many ways right now. It is exciting to see these soon­-to­-be-­tots pushing their boundaries and growing together.

At the end of every day I try to reflect on what happened during the afternoon ­ as it can feel and go by like a whirlwind at times. I write down documentation that could not happen in the moment, or things I want to be aware of in the classroom, and what exciting things happened that day. I find the Infant room really lends space to focus and close attention, whether it be snuggling one of these sweet babes for rest, or making them laugh while changing diapers, and I try to bring this attention full circle by creating an afternoon curriculum that will engage and foster creativity, exploration and healthy development. They are communicating in so many ways and I want to validate them by showing them I am listening.

Cheers,

Kat

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Dear Kat,

We are so lucky to have you return to Burlington Children’s Space.  I feel, as you said in your letter, that building relationships is the foundation of all the work we do, and that play and community-building are the basis, even the medium, for all the cognitive and intellectual learning that follows.  So, we are lucky to have you back in the community to continue building on the relationship, and therefore the learning, that began years ago!

I like that BCS uses the term, “therapeutic curriculum”, calling attention to the emotional skills that are used by all BCS teachers to work with the whole student. Especially with the youngest of students, the intellect can not function separately from the physical and emotional spheres.

Your letter reminds me that we, as adults, also learn immensely from engaging in play. My mind opens to lots of unexpected learning when I am working with art materials, or playing soccer or marbles. You mentioned that engaging in play with the infants in the afternoon gives you the chance to learn about them as individuals, which puts everyone in an open space to build the therapeutic curriculum we value here at BCS.

“It seems basic yet is the building block for all interactions, a key part of development and a big part of one’s ability to have healthy relationships in general.”

I also appreciate how you highlight the skills children use in pre-verbal communication. It’s so important that we recognize their hard work, and yours as teachers, in the growth of language, which comes so far ahead of the development of words!

Thank you for writing.

In work and play,
Becca Mack

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Microscope Mondays

For three years, Samantha has been cultivating preschoolers’ curiosity about the natural world with her Microscope Mondays curriculum. The process activates children’s awareness of the beauty of natural objects, both in the hand and under the lens. Samantha takes their discoveries one step further by encouraging students to document their own observations graphically. Here’s how they do it:

Step 1: Collect beautiful things.

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Step 2: Explore.

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Step 3: Create slide.

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Step 4: Describe while under microscope.

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Step 5: Draw what you see.

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(Repeat!)

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Graffiti Tuesdays

Across the span of human history, making marks and signs through scratching or inking surfaces has put individuals into context in their environments. For many young people, their own names are the first words they learn to write. We spent Tuesday afternoons this summer marking surfaces and inscribing names in an exploration of the art of graffiti.

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Graffiti, in the contexts of contemporary street art and hip-hop culture, exhibits the necessity of human expression, the sharing of ideas against all odds, and the immense creativity and artistic skill used to wield materials in the street. In that it is impermanent and can be dangerous or even illegal, it reminds us of the lengths to which humans will go to express themselves, to claim a place as their own.

There were obvious challenges to creating hands-on experiences with traditional graffiti methods and materials, but with a focus on inscribing names on surfaces, we made our marks. Using books and documentary photographs from my own archive, we broadened the context to consider some of those off-limits materials and venues. I hope to have shared the deep inspiration I take from this art-against-all-odds and perhaps to have fueled the future of claiming space with names and beautiful letters.

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