Welcome to my Blog!

Greetings and welcome to my page. My name is Rebbecca, I am a mom of two and a preschool teacher in southwestern Virginia. I have had the blessing of working in a Reggio Emilia inspired center for nearly 10 years, with the Greenies (my students) for 7 of the last 10 years. Our emergent curriculum and play based learning approach has changed the way I think about working with children. I am looking forward to sharing my inspirations, reflections and stories with you. So glad you're here!

“If you are a dreamer,come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!” Shel Silverstein

Thursday, August 23, 2012

One Wild! Summer...

I love inspiring children through nature. Earlier this year I attended a training for the program "Growing Up WILD." It is a wonderful program aimed toward early childhood educators. You might recognize its older brother Project Wild. The group of Greenies I was working with this past year exhibited a strong sense of being nature-smart. From digging worms to bird watching- I knew I had a perfect group to take the training I had received and run with it. I decided to take lessons from the materials and some of my own ideas and created what I called the Mini-Naturalists Summer Course.

We had about 9 weeks this summer and each week we focused on a different theme from the book. Here are some highlights from the summer.

 We began the week by getting an idea of where our understanding of the topic is in relation to what we want to learn as a group.

Amazing Ants Week. We place some tasty bits on a napkin near an ant colony and wait...

and wait, and wait. This Greenie kept vigil while all other decided to go play. A few ants came close but we never saw the gathering and returning to the colony in action.
Wiggling Worms week. We used realistic worm lures to paint with. We used three shades of brown that one Greenie explained must represent dirt, sand, and mud.
Later in the week we get up close and personal with real worms. We observe them, touch them, and try to decided which end is which. We come to the consensus that the end trying to get away from us must be the head.
What is Wild? Week. After some discussion we learn that wild means anything that must take care of itself while tame means it needs someone to take care of them. We take turns sorting out animal cards into Wild or Tame.
The finished data collection. But what if an animal was wild then it became tame? That needed a category of its own: Domesticated. We used beanie babies to show how that worked. We were surprised at how many animals could be both wild and tame.
Wildlife is Everywhere week. I decided to tweak this lesson a bit and focus on kinds of habitats and conservation. We created a desert in the media table. Notice the lizard living in the bone :) These are authentic bones and antler pieces.
The Greenies decorated "observation tubes" which were strung around necks as we went on a nature walk. It was quite a challenge to do so quietly but the rewards were worth it! Here we find a cricket to watch.
Fishing Fun Week. We used pretzels as rods and sun butter as bait for our goldfish. Fun with food, you can't go wrong!

We went for a walk around a local pond and talked about how fish might hide from predators like these hungry geese. We noticed a dock, cattails, rocks, and other foliage.

We made sure to take time and make notes in our field journals- 1 subject notebooks cut in half.

Hiding in Plain Sight Week. In order to study camouflage we visited the Entomology Department at Virginia Tech.

We saw many neat specimens under glass and impressed the students with our "Head, Thorax, Abdomen" song. The Greenie noted that many of the moths were the same color as the environment- and a few had big spots like eyes, sure to scare away any predators.

We get a turn to hold a living specimen- a giant cockroach! Cool!

Back in the classroom, one Greenie has hidden a few lizards- and herself- in a plant. can you find the Greenie?

Taken from the book, I hide 7 animals in our garden and challenge the Greenies to find as many as they can without giving away the locations. Most only found 4.

This guy was particularly sneaky! Nice use of light and shadow.

Our last week was Seed Need. We talked about where seeds come from, how they grow, and dispersal. Out last activity was to use a variety of seeds to make art. We bough pumpkin and sunflower seeds, soy nuts, and a variety of raisins. The Greenies decorated tortillas covered in soy butter then ate their tasty art.

I was most happy that the Greenie maintained their interests in the topics. We had a great time learning more about our local environment and hopefully lessons to last a lifetime.

Here is a direct link to the program:


Monday, July 9, 2012

Pay It Forward

The Greenies were very excited to be recipients of a 'Pay It Forward' from Ulaanbataar, Mongolia. Pay It Forward is a growing trend among teacher bloggers who want to share their classrooms with other classes across the world. Since we became recipients we will be paying it forward to three other classes (let me know if you are interested!)

We began by looking at a globe to find out where Mongolia is. The Greenies were surprised to find out that it is exactly half way around the world!

We read a letter written by Naomi, the teacher of a playgroup, which includes pictures of the groups children. The Greenies want to know all the children's names so we read them one by one.

We look at a woollen mat and postcards with wonderful narratives on the back of each one telling us more about their culture, home life, and more.


We display our new treasures on our classroom door including the letter, postcards...

... an example of their traditional writing....

... and a list of games played with bones from the ankles of sheep.

We loved our package and cannot wait to Pay It Forward! What a great way to learn more about other children around the world.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Where The Wild Things Rest

RIP Maurice Sendak 1928-2012

During this week we are celebrating the teachers of our center. One of the things were were asked to comment on was our favorite children's author. Mine is Maurice Sendak. With him on my mind I was saddened to hear of his passing today.

Maurice was an amazing artist. Sometimes beautiful-

Often melancholy-

His books are enduring-

I read these two books to my sons tonight- my milk man and my wild thing, tucked into my sides, enraptured.

"When you not only hear a treasured story, but also are pressed against the most important person in the world, a connection is made that cannot be severed."

Maurice was bright and brilliant, despite the pain of his childhood. He connected to the children of many generations, yet never tried to.

“I think it is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, white-clouded happy childhood for anybody. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving it. Because if one thing goes wrong or anything goes wrong, and usually something goes wrong, then you are compromised as a human being. You're going to trip over that for a good part of your life.” 

“You cannot write for children They're much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them.”

 “Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.” 
“And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming wild things.” 

Maurice, you will be missed dearly and your books will remain in a very important place on the shelf in my classroom. May your wild rumpus start. 

“Can you draw a picture on the blackboard when somebody doesn't want you to? asked the rooster promptly.
"Yes," answered Kenny," if you write them a very nice poem."
"What is an only goat?"
"A lonely goat," answered Kenny.
The rooster shut one eye and looked at Kenny.
"can you hear a horse on the roof?" he asked.
"If you know how to listen in the night," said Kenny.
"Can you fix a broken promise?"
"Yes," said Kenny,"if it only looks broken,but really isn't."
The rooster drew his head back into his feathers and whispered, "What is a very narrow escape?"
"When somebody almost stops loving you," Kenny whispered back.”
Maurice Sendak

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Living Classroom

One of the environmental inspirations from the schools of Reggio Emilia is how alive the classrooms are. Spring is a great time to bring nature and living things into the classroom. We already have a good collection of plants and a fish tank, but what else can bring a sense of wonder in the living outdoors to your indoor space?

Growing grass in the media table- it's been growing for about two weeks, we hope to add wild animal figurines but the Greenies have suggested live worms... I feel a worm hunt coming on...

I like all the different shades of green!

 Window gardening! I used small party favor bags as planters/micro-terrariums and had the Greenies add soil and two green bean seeds. The warm sunlight and moisture in the soil did most of the work for us! We got to see the growth well through the bags.

Tadpoles! Does it get any cooler? I think NOT! We have 4 tads and one has two legs and one arm so far. It's been exciting watching them grow and begin to change.

Things are always growing and changing in the Green Room. Happy May Day!  

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Kindergarten Crazies!

Ah, Spring! The flowers are blooming, the weather is warming, birds are returning from migrations- it can mean only one thing in the Green Room- the Kindergarten Crazies are eminent!

The Kindergarten Crazies is a strange phenomenon that happens every year about the end of March. Something happens to the oldest preschoolers in my room, they begin to change in weird ways. Emotions run high, kids that were calm and cool begin to lose their cool without a seconds warning, and teachers who are caught off guard run the risk of catching a case of the crazies themselves! What do you do???

Though there is no known cure for the crazies (besides going off to Kindergarten which is months away) there is hope! First, why do they get the Crazies? Lots of different reasons but here are the top two.

1) They’re worried. They probably just figured out that the group of children they have been with for up to 2 years is not going to follow them to Kindergarten. Wow, mind blown? You bet! And not just the children they have been attached to, the teachers as well. It’s a heavy load to bear, put yourself in their place. What if you were asked to uproot and move from a place you’ve identified with for, essentially, half your life? That’s scary! It’s a big sense of loss and lack of control.

2) They're bored. No offense, but they're growing a bit listless of you. I happen to be a parent of one of these kids and can tell you from a home perspective and a teacher perspective that there are major behavior shifts when a child gets bored. They find new, often inappropriate ways to entertain themselves. They challenge their parents and teachers to a battle of control. Sometimes it looks like not listening (they’ve heard THAT line for two years now- what else you got?) These kids need some new attention and will come up with new ways to get attention- and you may not like what they have planned!

Okay, okay, don’t get me wrong, not all kids get the KC’s. In fact there are many that sail through, keep themselves occupied, and make a smooth transition into Kindergarten. Give yourself a pat on the back! But what about those who are beyond ready for Kindergarten? I have a few ideas:

1) Playdates! If you are in a district with several elementary schools, see if you can get a list of who is going to what schools. They may not be in the same class, but having playdates and building relationships with those they may still see on a regular basis after preschool can bring a sense of support.

2) Have open discussions about Kindergarten. What do you think it will be like? I know of one class that does field trips to the playgrounds of every elementary school in the area BEFORE kindergarten visits begin! You can also invite a kindergarten teacher to visit (if you can convince them to take a morning of spring break to do so) and answer questions of the kids directly. If the kids have already had their kindergarten visits, encourage them to share about their experiences with the other kids.  

3) Have heart to heart chats. Perhaps you will be able to figure out just what exactly is worrying our little friends. Maybe they are scared of the bus ride. Maybe they are worried they won’t know how to get to their classroom. Offering reassurance and affirmations can do a world of good.

4) For the bored friends, find some new responsibilities. I had one girl that I noticed enjoying time with the younger children and she had just learned how to read. I talked with the teachers of the toddler room and made time for her to visit and read to the toddlers. This sense of responsibility did wonders for her self esteem and kept her mind off her worries.  

Getting ready for Kindergarten is a great rite of passage for our students. They do need lots of love as they prepare for this huge leap into the world of “big kids.” I used to dread the KC’s, but now I have come to embrace them as it gives me one last chance to make a bond with my students and to help them realize how wonderful they are. Best of luck to the Greenies of 2012, you’re going to be AWESOME!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Pond in the Classroom

The recent addition of tadpoles to the Green Room has caused quite the amphibious buzz! The Greenies have been tracking the growth, drawing representations, and giving daily reports on their observations.

I could tell that if it were allowed the Greenies would hang out in the tank with our little friends. Hmm, how to extend this to other parts of our classroom? How about creating a pretend pond?

I started by using a piece of blue fabric and cut it into a general pond shape. I placed this on the floor and asked the Greenies what else we needed to make it a habitat for frogs? (BTW, the word habitat was introduced when we read the book Tadpole Trouble featuring Curious George.) The Greenies mentioned plants (represented by fish tank plants donated by a family,) water (represented by the fabric and the addition of glass rocks from the dollar store,) and rocks and logs. We had plenty of natural materials around our classroom, including a piece of log chewed by a beaver! 

With it all in place the pond was buzzing with excitement! There were reenactments of the 5 Green and Speckled Frogs as they placed the plastic frogs on a piece of bark and removed them one by one accordingly.

The next day a Greenie asked if we could add lily pads. We trekked into the art studio where we found some green shiny fabric I recently made capes with. They made perfect lily pads!

Creating habitats in the classroom- real or pretend- can be great ways to extend and enhance learning and appreciation for the natural world.

Friday, March 16, 2012

"We are doing a show." Part 5

Okay, time to wrap this thing up! Sorry it has taken me so long to share the finished product, but here it is. Hope you like it.

SS works on the show poster.
I meet with the “actors” to discuss a name for the play, setting a date, and thinking about costumes. I ask them to consider a new name; the original name of the play is Cinderella. I explain that Cinderella is a title belonging to a story already created; they had created their very own story. They suggest other familiar names such as “Sleeping Beauty.” We go over the outline and talk about the important parts of the play. After some discussion the Greenies suggest, “The Princess and the Dance Off.” Next we went to the long tables. We break up into two groups- one group helps to make the poster; another larger group begins to make tickets. The poster group assists me in deciding what important information the poster needs- title, time, “and don’t forget the treats!”  SS paints the edges of the poster. OM, RL and CL begin to make the tickets. This captures the attention of many other Greenies. They draw on some tickets and write words on the others. They ask how to write family members names, personalizing the tickets. Next week we will work on the costumes.

Building writing skills!
I met with the actors to discuss their costumes. They had been exploring a box of fabric I brought into the classroom last week. I met with them, two at a time and asked what they were going to do about costumes.

LL- chooses to bring a costume from home.

OM- make two masks- angry face for a dragon. Requests scissors and string. Green fabric for dragon. Evil queen- different mask with a “wicked nose.”

JH- costume from home.

KW- borrow horse mask, blue plaid fabric for body.

RB- red fabric, “I need a white feather in my hair.” Green cape- “Hold it together with a clip.”

SS- Red fabric in a toga-like style. 

Later in the day OM is sketching out what she wants her masks to look like. We will begin to work on those tomorrow.

OM begins work on the masks. She has drawn two sketches- dragon and evil queen. I suggest paper plates as a base. We stop in the studio, OM is looking for something to represent “hair.” She spies some green corrugated cardboard and decides she wants this for the dragon mask. Sees some dark blue wool, for the evil queen hair. Back in the classroom she has drawn the shape of the dragon mask on the smooth side of the cardboard. Greenies begin to gather and watch as she struggles to cut the cardboard, KW, JH  Other actors are now interested in adding masks to their costumes as well as many other Greenies who want to make “one to take home.”

OM's Evil Witch Costume
Encouraging OM while she tries to cut corrugated cardboard. 

Our Magician! I love the power in this picture.

I sit down with our actors and begin to flesh out the script. We have agreed to do the play in the style of acting out what is read by a narrator, much like we have done in the past with our yearly summer productions. We begin with the generic, “once upon a time…” and work our way from there. I continue to ask leading questions, “What kind of woods? What did she do before…. What was that like?” Our script slowly begins to resemble a story, just as we imagined it should be!

In the weeks to come we practice many times. The Greenies begin to realize that we need to have everyone in the play! We change the script so all the Greenies are part of the "Dance Off." The Greenies use metallic paint on CD's to make medals because "everyone wins the dance off so no one feels sad." 

The Greenies are all dancing in the Dance Off!
 The set is complete, the script is finished, and everyone knows their parts. We invite our families to join us for the show. We make popcorn and juice. Nearly EVERY family joins us! 

Say cheese!

 It was an amazing experience working with the Greenies, listening to their ideas, and collaborating to make something very special and very memorable together. I know that what we made was more than a collection of words and paintings. It was a chance to show our respect for the children and their ideas and to make their valuable thoughts come to fruition. 

Vivian Paley said something at NAEYC 2011 that has stuck with me, "If we expect the children to follow our rules, we must be willing to follow theirs." What would have happened if I had dismissed the children's ideas? What if I refused to listen to their rules for the play? What if I chose to see them as just "playing" and ignored the value of their play? What if.....