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Gratitude for Kids

Gratitude Attitude Website Campaign Banner –  Male hands  cradling female cupped hands on a wide warm dark multicolored background with a GRATITUDE word cloud

Leah Zabari

Cold weather creeps up, leaves begin to change, and pumpkin everything enters the stores. This is my favorite time of year when I get to decorate with pumpkins, cornstalks, and hay bales and when holidays like Sukkot and Thanksgiving leave my heart full of gratitude for friends and family. The Fall season always reminds me that all too often during the year I forget to stop, take a breath, and give thanks. As a parent and teacher, it’s my goal to model gratefulness in my daily life and teach my children how to express their gratitude throughout the year- not just remembering to do so around the holidays. Here are some ways I incorporated thankful spirits and grateful hearts in my classroom (and in my home):

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Birdwatching with Children

house finch m mine

By Angel Avery-Wright

One of my closest friends bought me a bird feeder for Christmas. I thought she was crazy. I do not watch birds, let alone feed them. It took me years to finally put it up. Something amazing happened. I discovered I have over 20 species of birds living in my neighborhood. I had no idea.

I now have 9 feeders between my porch and my back yard. I have three different species of woodpeckers visiting my feeders. I see cardinals and blue jays (easy to spot) but also grey catbirds, grosbeaks, chickadees, titmice and so many others. Some birds I see every day. Some I only see once a season. I had a hummingbird last year but only my husband got to see it.

I have seen baby woodpeckers being fed by their mother at my feeder. I have heard baby starlings yelling at their mom for more food. Nuthatches are the only bird that hang upside down when they eat. They are fascinating to watch.

Things to know and share:

  1. Not all birds migrate. Many of the birds local to the Lehigh Valley stay all year long. Titmice, chickadees, Juncos, Cardinals are just a few of the birds that stay. Robins, hummingbirds, and orioles migrate. Robins are one of the first signs of spring. And often people will say that the birds have returned. (Be careful, many birds never left).
  2. Where to start. Get a field guide that represents the birds in your area to use for identification. This way you will have an idea of what birds you may be able to attract. House finches and house sparrows are easy to find and look similar at first glance, but their markings are different.
  3. Where to see birds: Start with the backyard, playground, even city sidewalks, whatever is closest and available to observe birds.
  4. How to attract birds: Did you know that robins eat many other foods besides worms? Dried mealy worms are a good source of protein for birds in the winter. Different birds are attracted to different kinds of foods and some to different colors. Hibiscus plants are great for attracting hummingbirds and orange peels will attract orioles. Catbirds and woodpeckers love jelly. Sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, and many other types of seeds will bring different birds.
  5. Keep in mind that if you put up a feeder, the type of feeder as well as what is in it, will determine which birds will visit. So, if you are looking to attract a specific bird, investigate what type of feeders first. Finches like small perches and cardinals prefer black sunflower seeds.
  6. Bird feeding is a commitment. Feeders need to be kept clean and filled. Birds will regularly return to feeders that are kept full. If it is empty too long, they will look elsewhere.

Activities:

  • Clear plastic feeders that can be hung on the outside of windows will attract birds and make it very easy for children to observe.
  • Scavenger hunts give children the opportunity to listen to bird sounds, look for birds, and look for signs of birds such as nests, eggs, feathers, etc. Birds can be found anywhere and everywhere. Large birds such as herons and egrets will be near small streams. Hawks, vultures, and other raptors can be seen flying. These birds like to fly when it’s warmest.
  • Binoculars are a great way to search for and observe birds, but they are not easy for young children to use. I even found a wild turkey in my backyard and hawk hunting for small birds. You just never know what will show up.

Below are some additional resources for bird watching with children:
Easy Ways to Get Kids Birding
Birding with Children
Birdwatching With Children
Get to Know Birds

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Living a Lefty Life

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By Kelli Harris 

I am left-handed and according to my parents, I almost failed Kindergarten because of it. As a four-year-old in half day morning Kindergarten back in the mid 70’s, I was given those dreaded green handled scissors and I could not cut with them. (I still can’t to this day.) Apparently at my parent-teacher conference that year, the teacher explained that I was inept in cutting. My parents were confused as I could cut just fine at home. At home, I didn’t have special scissors. My parents were both right-handed and I cut with their scissors. Luckily, for me, I was re-tested, allowed to use the “regular” scissors, and passed Kindergarten. These days, left-handedness is more widely accepted, but still rare. Read more.

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Conversation is a Two-way Street

arrow on road

Michelle Long

Living with a teenager I sometimes forgot what a real conversation was like. I would ask, “How was your day?” I got, “Good.” I asked, “What are your plans?” I got, “I dunno.” I asked, “Will you help me with…?” I got, “Whatever.” All of my years of training and experience had taught me to ask the who, what, when, where, how, and why questions to get longer more complex answers. I used to have wonderful, in-depth, creative, imaginative conversations; however, I was not prepared for the hiatus that would occur during the teenage years. It takes two people to have a conversation. Although two people may be present and talking, a conversation does not occur unless there is a back and forth exchange in which information and ideas are shared.

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Spring Delicious Nutritious Snacks for Kids

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Regina Wright

Plan Do Review: Spring has Sprung and during the springtime we like to enhance our ways of keeping children hydrated. Below are a few quick nutritious delicious snacks that can also include educational opportunities to talk about math concepts, shapes and colors, textures as well as familiar springtime themes like rainbows, insects and the weather.

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Happy Earth Day!

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Kelli Harris

What exactly is Earth Day? The first Earth Day occurred in 1970, after a U.S. Senator saw the impact of an oil spill in California. Earth Day is celebrated each year on April 22nd and this year marks the 50th Anniversary. It is about raising awareness of the importance of protecting our planet and taking action to do so, focusing on promoting clean living and healthy habitats for people and animals. Each year, more than a billion people observe Earth Day.

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Happy Birthday Mr. Rogers!

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Stefanie Camoni 

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood!” I’m sure most of you sing a little when hearing that phrase. On March 20th, we remember Mr. Rogers as he would have been celebrating his 92nd birthday. This extraordinary man was a pioneer in the field of early childhood and continues to be even after his passing, as his legacy continues. As a child, I remember watching Mr. Rogers put on his cardigan and sneakers and take me to the Land of Make Believe. The lessons learned at the time seemed so small, but I now realize he was focused on the bigger picture. As an adult, I still watch clips and attempt to embrace his words and apply them to my current situations.  

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Q-T Corner (Quality Tips Corner)

Schedule on board for planning

By: Pam Schaffner

The Program Quality Assessment team in PA is often asked if they have any tips to make meeting quality standards easier. Since they have experience visiting many programs in their professional careers, they have seen many programs employ strategies to make things easier, more efficient, and more effective. Implementing quality can be stressful and time consuming, but it is always worth it. So, this Q-T Corner moment aims at helping you along the way.

Installment #3
What should a preschool schedule look like?

First, a preschool schedule should be posted in a very visible place. Whether you use a picture schedule or a schedule on paper, it should be easily seen. Why? Because when someone comes into your room to take your place (if you are sick, on vacation, etc.), your schedule should be used as a guide for what they should be doing with your children throughout the day.

Once it is posted, there are some things to consider in making it the best schedule possible. To show you what a great schedule looks like, perhaps it is best to show you two that need a little work.

Pretend you are the substitute teacher in a room you have never been asked to cover before. The posted schedule was quickly located. As you read through, you should be able to think of some questions to ask about the schedule because you are unsure what something really means. Think you can do it? Jot the questions down as you think of them. Do this for both schedules below.

Our Day
6:00 Arrival
7:00-8:30 Breakfast
8:30-9:00 Circle time or special
9:00-12:00 Outside/free play
12:00 Lunch
12:30 Nap
3:00 Snack
3:30-6:00 Table/quiet activities

Questions you should have asked yourself:

  • What are the children doing between 6:00 and 7:00 am, once they have arrived?
  • Are the children sitting at the breakfast table from 7 to 8:30 am or is that just when breakfast is offered? What do children do after they finish eating?
  • What is a special? How do you decide if a special is happening or circle time?
  • From 9:00-12:00 am is 3 hours in length. Are all 3 hours spent outside OR indoors doing free play?  Or, is part of the time outside play and part of the time free play indoors? What do you do during this time if you can’t go outside?
  • What do you consider a table or quiet activity for the 3:30 until 6:00 pm time table? Which shelves of toys may be brought to the table? Can the quiet activity be done somewhere other than the table?

Our Day


Questions you should have asked yourself:

  • How long should each of these activities take?
  • What time do each of these activities start?
  • What time do children arrive and leave for the day?
  • What do they do at table time? Is it play or does the teacher do an activity with them?
  • Where does small group take place and how is it different from table time?

 

A substitute teacher will ask him or herself these questions. A Program Quality Assessor coming to assess for Keystone STARS will ask YOU these questions. You may look at your own schedule and ask yourself these and similar questions. So here are some tips for writing a posted schedule:

  1. A schedule should be posted and easily found.
  2. A schedule should reflect start and end times for activities.
  3. The times should reflect open to close hours so the whole day (not just the teacher’s working hours) is reflected.
  4. Avoid using large blocks of time to show multiple activities happening. Thus, avoid using the “/” symbol. For example, avoid free play/snack/outside time and instead show the start and end times to each of these separately.
  5. If there is an option in your schedule, use the word “or” instead of “/”. For example, outside or gym instead of outside/gym. Another example; outside or indoor play in centers instead of outside/free play.
  6. Avoid using terms such as table activities or quiet activities without some sort of answer key or further posting of what can and cannot be considered a table or quiet activity.
  7. State what the children are doing at that time of the day. For example, 3-6pm “Departure” does not help a substitute keep them busy waiting to be picked up without further clarification.

***Remember that children learn best through play and the bulk of the schedule should include lots of time for free play and less time for structured teacher-directed lessons. For a high-quality preschool program, 1/3 of the total program’s hours and 1 hour of every 3 hours in care should be spent playing.***

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