Container Gardening with Children-Even in the Winter!


Kelli Harris

As an avid gardener, I start thinking about next year’s spring planting while I’m harvesting my sweet potatoes and the last of my other fall vegetables in late October. Over the winter months, I peruse seed catalogs and develop a plan for what I want to plant the following spring. I am fortunate to have a large space to plant a variety of vegetables and flowers.

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Science in the Classroom


by Tracy Walter

Science is both a body of knowledge that represents current understanding of natural systems and the process whereby that body of knowledge has been established and is continually extended, refined, and revised (Worth,2005). Because it’s important to understand that both elements (natural systems and the process) are essential it is important that we look at science in the early childhood classrooms.

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POI, LTQ, PD and FPOI… So Many Abbreviations that Are Resources for You!


By Amy Hoffman

Have you heard the news? The Program Quality Assessment (PQA) team at the Pennsylvania Key has a lot to offer to programs. You may already know that we (usually) conduct external assessments to support early learning and school-age programs; this involves an assessor visiting your program and observing a wide range of practices including teacher-child interactions, classroom environments, and/or business practices. Because of COVID-19, we are offering programs support through an internal assessment process; program staff complete internal assessments of their practices, and we meet to discuss these practices and to partner with them in their continuous quality improvement journey.

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Imagine the Pastabilities! Celebrate World Pasta Day, October 25

vegetable soup with tomato in the background

Natalie Grebe

Pasta has been satisfying hungry stomachs all over the world for thousands of years. Athletes use it for carb loading. Restaurants feature it on menus. Parents use it as their go-to when they need a quick and easy meal that the whole family will enjoy. Luckily, pasta is usually a favorite of most children, and the many varieties as well as the different ways to serve it make it worth celebrating in your classroom. A few ideas to celebrate all this food has to offer:

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Keeping Young Learners Engaged


Natalie Grebe

Its 9:00am in a preschool classroom. Two teachers have successfully orchestrated their class of 17 children to clean up their morning centers. One of the teachers calls out 9 names and asks those children to join her on the reading rug. The other teacher tells the remaining eight children to sit at their table seats for an activity. As the children get into their appropriate groups, they clumsily sit down, chatting and laughing, some poking their friends, others complaining they wanted to play longer. The teacher on the reading rug holds up a silver bell and rings it a few times. Almost immediately, many of the children quiet down and settle into their chairs or their space on the rug. A few continue to talk, but a gentle hand on their shoulder and one last ring of the bell tells them it is time to listen. For a moment, it is quiet and each teacher can use a soft voice to briefly tell their group what task they will be doing for the next few minutes.

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National Friendship Day

Group of cute kids playing in forest

Kelli Harris

National Friendship Day was originally founded by Hallmark in 1919. It was intended to be a day for people to celebrate their friendships by sending each other cards. By 1940, the market had dried up and the holiday fizzled. It was first proposed in Paraguay in 1958. In 1998, Winnie the Pooh was named the world’s Ambassador of Friendship at the United Nations. In April 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations officially recognized July 30th as International Friendship Day, although most countries celebrate it on the first Sunday in August. This year, it will be celebrated on Sunday, August 1st. The exchange of small gifts like flowers, cards, and wristbands is a popular custom in some countries.

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Feeling All the Feelings


Amy Hoffman

A few weeks ago, a friend commented that her 5-year-old had been “feeling all the feelings” earlier in the day. He was reacting to those feelings by crying when she left his sight, yelling at his younger sister, and refusing to follow directions. And how did my friend react to this? She set aside her agenda and devoted time to him. She cuddled with him and gave him her undivided attention until he chose to leave her lap and resume his day. And guess what? He was able to cope with his feelings in a positive manner for the rest of the day.

Feelings can be huge and can be difficult to deal with – and not just the feelings that we consider to be “negative.” Young children often don’t have the vocabulary to talk about how they’re feeling, so they express those feelings in other ways. A huge part of an early childhood educator’s job is to show children how to manage their feelings in constructive ways. This can lead to positive experiences later in life including a strong sense of self, resiliency, and good relationships.

So, what can you do? How do you teach feelings? Here are a few ideas (and see the links below for more!):

  • Use words to name the feeling before, during, and after the child is experiencing it. This helps to develop an emotional vocabulary so children can talk about feelings. It also lets them know that it is okay to feel those emotions.
  • Identify feelings in others. Using books or pictures to guide children to discuss emotions will help them to learn empathy and to learn the names for feelings (see above).
  • Be a role model. Children learn a lot by how they see you responding when you’re dealing with strong emotions.
  • Acknowledge the legitimacy of children’s feelings instead of dismissing them or trying to make huge feelings go away. Encourage them to express how they’re feeling.

Here are some other strategies to use in your classroom to help children to release their emotions in positive ways:

  • Teach them to take deep breaths. This video from Mindful Schools includes a deep breathing practice (especially from 1:30 on).
  • Coach them to use the actual words for how they are feeling.
  • Provide a space for privacy so children can have a quiet place to calm down and escape the stress of the situation or the classroom. Encourage them to use it.
  • Encourage them to hug a teacher or to self-hug. Check out this video from Sesame Street about self-hugs.

What are some ways that you help children who are feeling all the feelings? Leave a note in the comment box.

And check out these links for more information:

CSEFEL Website (many great resources from the Center on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning)

Helping Kids Identify and Express Feelings (an article for parents that is relevant for teachers)

Lessons from Inside Out (for adults and older children about Pixar’s “Inside Out”)

NAEYC Resources


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Ask More Open-Ended Questions!

Five Ws and one H

Erin DelRegno

As teachers, you won’t learn anything about the children in your classroom or about their developmental needs if you are going to do all the talking. You are there to guide children’s learning, not to give them all the answers, or ask them questions that they already know the answer to. As assessors, we hear teachers ask more close-ended questions to children when we are observing in classrooms. There are times when the children have been asked what color or shape something was so many times in a 3-hour period, but nothing else was ever asked to them. Children are learning so much more than just these simple concepts.

So, what is the difference between close-ended and open-ended questions and how can you practice and expand how you talk to children on a regular basis?

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Our Visit to a School-Age Apprentice Room

Computer 1

Erin DelRegno and Angel Avery-Wright

With STEM careers on the rise, creating makerspaces/centers for children to explore in school-age spaces is a great idea. Pocono Services for Families and Children (PSFY) took this one step further and began focusing on career exploration with their school-age children and building needed skills for jobs; filling out timecards, how to tie a tie, etc. We had the opportunity to speak with Justin Ortiz from PSFY and were given a tour of their Youth Program. This program includes an Apprentice Room that provides children with exposure to a few different careers and gives them opportunities for concrete, hands-on experiences. This room was divided into four areas: cosmetology, woodworking, computer engineering, and fashion design. Below is the brief interview we had with Justin about this room:

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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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