Babies Making Hummus

The children had their first experience making things with real food. We were a bit unsure how it was going to go; eating, mouthing, drool, boogers, but then… The children were really excited about this new opportunity to explore food in a different way. They helped add each ingredient and even got a little taste! All of the elements provided a sensory experience.

Sound: the food processor
Sight: ingredients
Taste: nibble here & there
Feel: each ingredient in their little hands
Smell: the aroma of fresh garlic and cumin.

The added benefit of eating hummus that they created themselves is always a very rewarding experience as well!





Shadow Box Stories


At the beginning of the year, we began an exploration of light in all its forms. As we moved through the discovery of transparent, translucent, and opaque materials, experimenting with flashlights and overhead projectors, it wasn’t long before students were working with shadows.

To deepen their understanding of shadows and provide more rich material for their research, we began an author study of Ezra Jack Keats, whose illustrations often have many compelling uses of light. In several books, such as “Dreams” and “The Trip,” light and shadows are an explicit part of the story line.

We spent many weeks in our classroom creating shadow puppets. We played with several silhouettes of characters from the Ezra Jack Keats books and became more and more familiar with the vibrant, interconnected community at the center of many of his books. Students came to love characters like Peter, Susie, Louie, Archie, Amy, and Roberto.

Children collaborated to make five different shadow boxes after Louie built one in “The Trip.” At the same time, we started telling stories together, with each student adding a sentence. We have written many stories together about characters from Ezra Jack Keats books.

We are now preparing to present the culmination of all this learning with an original movie set in our shadow boxes.

Gabrielle Bills, Blue Preschool Teacher: curriculum, text

Rebecca Mack, Atelierista: photos




This year in the Green Preschool we have been reading biographies and writing autobiographies in the classroom. This group of children created the curriculum through their genuine interest in the true stories of remarkable people throughout history. As we all know, preschool aged children love telling stories about themselves, so the leap to writing their own autobiographies was natural.

We read biographies about artists and architects, dreamers and engineers, fighters and flyers. Each of them added something of substance to the world. Each of them had a story to tell and many of them overcame great obstacles and hardships to achieve their dreams. Through our studies we came to believe that if they could do it, so could we. And that’s what I hope the children would come to believe: why not me too?

We started writing our own autobiographies to recognize and celebrate the multitude of things that they have already accomplished in their young lives. I often start our one-on-one writing sessions by asking a child to recount a time when they felt proud of themselves or a time when they were brave. With these prompts, I intend to inspire the children to see their accomplishments as important and meaningful. If they can believe that they are capable of greatness now, there is no limit to what they can achieve in a lifetime. We have studied the humble beginnings of some of the world’s greatest leaders, who were all kids once, too. We have learned that even the most amazing people had to start somewhere. So in our class, instead of saying, “I can’t do it,” we say, “I’m learning how,” or “I am learning, but I still need help.” This slight change in the language of our classroom, accompanied by the tales of their accomplishments, helps build positive self-confidence and self-esteem. We assure each child that there is no limit to what they can achieve based on gender, physical characteristics, or their background. We are helping the children build a world around them where everyone has an equal opportunity to make something of themselves.

Why not me? Why not us?

While writing autobiographies we have also discovered the many similarities we all share. We have found so much joy in unearthing these parallels and talking about them together. For example, we learned that most of the kids in our class were born at the same hospital here in Vermont. We also learned that most of them had no hair when they were babies! And we have learned that every child loves telling stories about their families. Magnifying these shared human experiences has helped us create a feeling of cohesion as a classroom community and helped the children forge deeper feelings of connectedness to other people.

Even though the children may have similar experiences, each biography is a personal anthem that uniquely reflects the child who wrote it. I have learned so much about these children by engaging in this process with them. I learn about the places they visit, the people the love and the activities they enjoy. We are able to see our differences and what makes each person exceptional. With this knowledge, I can connect with each child on a deeper and more personal level. This is one of my favorite parts of my job and it is a vital part of my relationship with each child for both of us. The differences may lay in the way they remember something, or the way they felt about a certain experience or the way they choose to tell their story. I help them hone in on their voice by writing their words verbatim on the page and then reading it back to them. Together we edit the page to look and sound the way they envisioned. This methodical process helps the children develop their personal voice. Learning how to channel their inner voice will help them as they continue to develop as writers and storytellers. Every person, no matter how young, has a story to tell and can be celebrated for what they have in common but can also be appreciated for the things that make them different.

Each biography we read tells us the story of what made that person exceptional and we have attempted some of those talents as we go along. We sketched new inventions like Leonardo da Vinci. We challenged ourselves to stand up for what is right like Sonia Sotomayor. We learned to paint over photographs like Frida Kahlo. We attempted gymnastic feats like Nadia Comaneci. We talked about our dreams for the future like Martin Luther King Jr. We practiced drawing nature like Georgia O’Keefe. We measured our heights in comparison to Michael Jordan. We appreciated the tenacity of Muhammad Ali. We pushed for fairness and equality in our class like Annette Kellermann.

If each of these children continues to bravely tell their story and continues to courageously try new things, there is no limit to what they can achieve in a lifetime of hard work and perseverance. If all of those people could do it, so can we.

Why not me? Why not us?


Natalie and three of her students at the library for the book release party!

Finders, Keepers, Researchers, Creators.

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“If you’ve ever happened upon a forlorn object that seemed to invite a second chance, that refused to be ignored, you’ve been overcome by the urge to scavenge. And if you’ve perceived that thing, not for what it was but for what what it could be, you have known what it is to let your imagination roam. Artists and children are notorious scavengers. They look at rubble and rusty parts with a fresh pair of eyes, investigating the curious shapes, visualizing something far more wonderful than a lifeless log or a weather beaten can…. Found objects appeal to the artist and child in all of us; what may appear worthless may also be irresistible.”– Joseph Ruggiero, Found Objects, 1981.

Searching for objects; finding, collecting, organizing, and displaying objects; studying found objects and using them to create works of art: these are the underpinnings of art and science in museums and classrooms alike. Infants at Burlington Children’s Space are now building work habits common to curators, artists and scientists, based on a fundamental human trait: curiosity.

Our collecting of objects began with one child’s interest in gathering rocks, sticks and other items,  while out in our local community. As we explored Roosevelt Park, rocks caught a child’s eye and were picked up. Another day, it was the broken bits of a bright orange flying saucer that caught the child’s interest.  Soon, the collecting turned into a regular act. As teachers, we realized the value and commitment behind this process of collecting. The child continued to fill fists with rocks and other items holding onto them tightly as we made the journey in our strollers back to school.  We began embracing this interest by collecting with this child and engaging with this process of looking for items to collect. Other children in our classroom began to notice the collecting and joined in by picking up items from the ground. Items included:  sticks, rocks, broken watchbands, pebbles, a coffee stirrer, a ripped up baseball, bottle tops, zip ties, and the list continues to grow.



Collected displays of found objects, called Cabinets of Curiosity or Wunderkammer, have an important place in the history of museums as we know them today. “Wunderkammer or curiosity cabinets were collections of rare, valuable, historically important or unusual objects, which generally were compiled by a single person, normally a scholar or nobleman, for study and/or entertainment….As time passed and the wunderkammer evolved and grew in importance, the small private cabinets (which nearly all wunderkammer had begun as), were absorbed into larger ones. In turn, these larger cabinets were bought by gentlemen, noblemen and finally royalty for their amusement and edification and merged into cabinets so large that they took over entire rooms. After a time, these noble and royal collections were institutionalized and turned into public museums.”-

When we realized the depth of interest in collecting items out in the community, we knew that we needed a way to fully invest in this collecting. Children often did not want to leave their found items at the park when it was time to return to school. We decided to honor this by allowing the children to bring the items back with us. Children opted to grasp items in their hands or on their laps while we went back to school. We felt passionate about allowing the children to bring the objects they found back to school. This enabled the class to further explore them and to keep them for future research. Soon hands were not enough to hold all the findings. Cloth collecting bags were then made for the children. When we returned to school, the items were explored in the classroom. Some were put into clear containers allowing them to remain on display and accessible at all times.  Large amounts of rocks and sticks now line our shelves in glass jars. Other materials are left out in the classroom to be explored, used as tools, or as a means of story telling.



“Our ability to understand the natural world depends on the collection, preservation, and ongoing study of natural history specimens. These collections are the physical record of Earth’s life forms and processes.” -The Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections. This article on the importance of collecting specimens goes on the say, “Collections of objects often serve us in ways that could not have been imagined at the time when they were made. Sometimes these unanticipated uses can help solve today’s most pressing scientific problems.”

It’s important as well as empowering to allow children to collect and bring items of their choosing back to school.  The building and keeping of these collections supports social learning and scientific inquiry. As members of the Burlington community, children are making connections as they find, keep, and explore items that interest them. Bringing these items back to school allows them to not only remember the items and location but also to share their findings with peers, families, and other members of their school community.  The found objects are open-ended and often found in nature; they provide for open-ended learning which lends itself to many opportunities for deep, meaningful understanding of their world.   As researchers and scientists, the children are forming and strengthening their abilities to inquire about their world through theirs acts as collectors.  They observe, ask questions, predict, and investigate throughout this process of collecting and then furthering their research as they use dough with the found objects.

“A constructivist approach to science education in early childhood would focus first and foremost on the ways in which young children think as they interact with the physical and natural world. Everything that we offer children to interact with in the classroom must take into account their activities, materials, and environments in the broadest sense.” -Christine Chaillé and Lory Britain, The Young Child as Scientist, 3rd ed., 2003.



“The amassment and display of found objects for their aesthetic qualities dates back to at least the 16th century, when the collections of individual enthusiasts were displayed in private “cabinets of curiosities,” or what the Germans called “Wunderkammer.” But it wasn’t until the 1900s that artists began to incorporate found objects into sculptural works as an artistic gesture. The term “found object” is a literal translation from the French objet trouvé, meaning objects or products with non-art functions that are placed into an art context and made part of an artwork; what we now call “the readymade” is an updated version of that idea.”

Famous artists who have worked with found objects include Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Kurt Schwitters, Robert Rauschenburg, Tracey Emin, and Andy Goldsworthy, whose objects are found in nature. Currently, there is a popular resurgence in the use of found objects and materials among artists, inspired by the D.I.Y. and ecological art movements of the 2000’s. Assemblage is a type of three-dimensional collage which often incorporates found objects; this form has been used by many artists throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

Once the found object collections were displayed in the classroom, we wanted to further explore these open-ended objects with an open-ended medium. We have begun bringing out our found items when we work with dough as a way for the children to learn about both materials in an engaging, child-directed way.  Children rediscover their found items as they manipulate dough with the items and explore how dough and their items work together. It is exciting to watch the children’s ideas emerge from using these objects in dough. Using sticks as a means to poke, dig, and lift the dough, they create their own artworks out of their found objects. Where this creative impulse will go next is up to the children but our minds can’t help but wander… possibilities include sculptures, prints, three-dimensional collages. When working with children and found objects, ideas and opportunities are limitless.


This article was co-written by Rebecca Mack, atelierista, and infant/toddler teachers,Julie Montera and Miranda Paquette, at Burlington Children’s Space in 2016. Classroom testimonies are in italics. References and recommendations for further reading on found objects and constructivist curriculum can be found below and linked throughout the article.

Chaillé, Christine and Lory Britain, The Young Child as Scientist: A Constructivist Approach to Early Childhood Science Education, Third Edition. Allyn and Bacon Publishers, Boston, 2003.

Ruggiero, Joseph. Found Objects: A Style and Source Book. Clarkson N. Potter Publishers, New York, 1981.


Raw material, mature material.

How do infants use paper as a raw material? They use it for play, for tactile experience, for making sound, for hiding, for hugging, for sharing, for large movements and small ones too.


Infants enjoy exploring paper’s relationship to motion, to wind, and to other people.

The Burlington Children’s Space Infant Room has partnered with atelierista, Rebecca Mack, for a long-term paper arts residency exploring the ways infants use paper as a raw material. Our first work has focused on crumpling and creasing large sheets of white paper. Our process begins with a dry sheet of drawing paper and a lot of play.


Our play process marks with paper with creases over time, turning something crisp, smooth and loud into something soft, supple and quiet. The paper becomes a familiar part of the classroom as it changes from being a raw material to being a mature material.


Wave, Line, Dot

Wave, Line, Dot is a short film, drawn by Ruthie Vargas during a Sound and Light Studio teachers’ workshop. The soundtrack was created by Older Toddlers, by imagining what sounds ‘a wave’, ‘a line’, and ‘a dot’, would make and creating them with only their bodies and the room, but without other instruments. The formal limitations placed on this project built a scaffolding for the simple beauty you see in this collaboration. Enjoy.

Crocodile Teeth/ Sound and Light Studio

I am currently enjoying the privilege of revisiting the Sound and Light Studio project with a new group of students at Burlington Children’s Space. As a teaching artist, I support young children’s fluidity in sound- and light- based media. My first opportunity to do this work was over 3 years ago. Since then I have been lucky to develop the curriculum components as afternoon preschool teacher. In this residency, we will explore these media, their possible interactions, and the mindfulness opportunities embedded in sensory awareness with each of the classrooms at BCS.

Crocodile Teeth, February 2015

This story began with a set of homemade castanets (buttons, cardstock, glue) and preschoolers who heard their sound as crocodile teeth. One told me I needed to show the sound, in pictures on the wall. We made an appointment for later that day to catch his images. The other participants had their eyes on the nearby pile of cardstock in the studio. I edited the recording we’d made in the morning (of the button castanets) to match the number of crocodiles and hands shown in each shot.

A Long Story Short, February 2012

This moving picture was drawn on a strip of adding machine tape by a BCS preschooler in 2011. The video is shot in one take by projecting the lateral movement of the story strip, while the author narrates the action.

-Rebecca Mack

Graffiti Tuesdays, continued

We’re off to a strong start this fall, with many new preschoolers in our classroom and new energy for the graffiti curriculum started last spring. As with most curriculum threads, materials have been our entry point to a complex subject. We are working with two large graffiti boards attached to the walls of our classrooms, with permanent markers, chalk markers, and stickers. At the afternoon writing table we are working out letterforms and exploring positive and negative space with opaque chinese ink and various weights of white paper. Using these materials we can explore the relationship between graffiti and calligraphy, a discipline we have followed for three years in this classroom. Iraqi calligrapher,

Hassan Massody, has been an inspiration in bridging the traditional divide between these lettering arts.

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Happy Writing, everyone.

-Blue Preschool