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Before our students set foot through the doors of Pre-K 108, a DonorsChoose.org project was funded to help kick off the start of the 2018-2019 school year. There hasn't been a day gone by where the material from this project has not been used. Although it isn't one of the fancier projects on the DonorsChoose.org website, it is an important one.
On the surface level, one may see a project that requests items to keep a class clean. Disinfectant wipes, paper towel, tissues, soap, soap dispenser, and a few dustpans may seem ordinary. But these items are way more than just what they are. On a deeper level, they are teaching our students how to maintain clean and healthy hands as well as teaching them the responsibilities of taking care of their own work space.
Research shows that giving children chores will help them learn about responsibility and allow them to become more independent. Our kids know that after using the restroom, before eating, and coming back from outdoor play, they must wash their hands. The materials have allowed us to create class jobs that switch up monthly and our kids know they each have an important job to do to maintain a clean and sanitary space for us to play, socialize, and learn.
The simple materials have gone above and beyond in impacting our children on a daily basis. I believe parents have certain expectations of what their child is learning in school. In our community, many have expressed how they want their children to learn their numbers, alphabet letters, reading and writing. For us as educators, we believe it is essential for our students to learn how to communicate with others, express their feelings, and become responsible and independent. Although some are not taught or learned formally through lessons on the carpet, it is obtained by the experience and expectations we set in the beginning of the year with rules and routines.
Almost every culture has some variant of dumplings; dough stuffed with delicious filling that can be baked, fried, or steamed. In our community, many kids grow up helping their parents make dumplings at home. It was something I did growing up as well as many of my friends who grew up in the same community.
Making dumplings at home with my mom is a memory I cherish but never recalled sharing the experience with my classmates and teachers when I went to school. When asked what I did over the weekend, I never felt comfortable sharing the experience. I don’t want that to be the case for my students and their families. I want them to feel welcomed in school and think of our classroom as a second home where all are accepted and embraced with loving arms.
Last year, one of my students was in the play dough center and she was happily molding play dough into a dumpling. When I asked her what she had made, she shied away, hesitant to tell me. I asked her if it was a dumpling and she confirmed it with a nod and a beautiful smile. She shared with me that she makes it with her mom at home. She had always been shy and reserved but this topic was something she felt very comfortable talking about. It was that moment that inspired my idea to bring the dumpling making experience into the classroom.
When the project was funded, we were quickly approaching the end of the school year. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to make dumplings with that group of pre-K students. Summer was around the corner and that would be the perfect opportunity to bring in the experience. Our incoming pre-K campers were excited and thrilled to hear that we would be making dumplings. We introduced the different ingredients needed and the appliances we would use to cook it. We read the books that introduced characters that looked familiar and topics that our kids are familiar with. Dumplings, Dim Sum or yum cha, Xiao long bao, all the different vocabulary that seemed to be only used when they were with their families were now a part of our language in school.
When it came time for our kids to get their hands on experience, something did not feel right. I needed that little girl who made this all possible to be here to share the experience. Luckily, she also attended the summer camp and I was able to pull her from her class to join in on the fun. Again, she was hesitant but once that dough hit her hand, the smile was back and she was excited to begin.
It was such a beautiful experience watching beginners, intermediate, and expert dumpling makers all get a chance to partake in an experience that is so unique in a school setting. Our summer teacher’s assistants helped our kids in the processes. Many shared their experience of a time when they were younger and also made dumplings at home with their parents.
After using up all the vegetarian filling and dough, we cooked the first batch in our air fryer and eagerly waited for it to be done. Once they were all cooked, it was time to eat what we made. Although different, they were delicious. They were proud of the result because they had such a major part in making it.
The initial excitement of the news that Ripple funded every project on DonorsChoose.org has settled. It’s Christmas in April as boxes are flooding schools and piling up in the office. We just got back from Spring break. Its ending is bittersweet as all teachers feel as if the break went by too quick but we look forward to the materials from our funded projects. In pre-K, rather than overwhelm our students coming back from a break with boxes and boxes of learning materials, we emptied out the boxes and left the cardboard on the carpet for our students to explore.
“What are you doing with that box?” Ask that question to our kids and they will instantly tell you that it’s not a box. For the children of pre-K 108, they are looking at things in a new light. What you may see as garbage, they see as potential. Potential to be any path their imagination leads them. Rather than breaking down the boxes and discarding them, our kids allow the boxes to get a second use. Sure, the materials we got are awesome. But the boxes they arrived in are awesome as well.
There are so many benefits that come from of having a class pet. Children learn about the needs of taking care of a living animal as well as the responsibilities that come along with it. There are many lessons to be taught when you introduce a class pet to your students. One of the deeper lessons a class pet can teach kids is its final one…death.
Bossk the Bearded Dragon has been the mascot of pre-K 108 since 2013. Her home in the terrarium by the entrance of the classroom was a welcoming sight for families entering the class or just passing by. She caught the attention of many children and stunned adults who believed she wasn’t real when she moved. She guarded our classroom and warmed the hearts of our students.
Bossk passed away this week. She had become sick from impaction. When students entered the class, many immediately noticed our missing pet and inquired about her. After our morning greeting, I broke the news to our children and allowed our kids to reflect and ask questions. Many expressed how sad they felt. Some children knew about death while others took a bit longer to comprehend.
During centers, a few children wrote notes to Bossk. Some students from Ms. Esther’s third grade class also wrote letters to us expressing their condolences. Bossk's home has been cleaned, the letters from students have been posted on the terrarium and it will remain a memorial for the time being. Bossk was given a proper burial in the front of our school with our students present. If you wish to pay respects, the memorial is the front of the pre-K 108 classroom and her grave is by the Colden St. entrance gate.
We received Bossk from the Pets in the Classroom grant and her home was upgraded through DonorsChoose.org projects. Thank you all for supporting Bossk and our students.
A few responses from our students in regards to the news:
“We need to bury Bossk in the ground.” - T.E.
“Where’s Bossk?” - C.C.
“When will he be back?” – S.C.
“Can we get another pet? A frog?” - B.J.
“When he becomes bones, we need to give it to the museum.” - B.J.
“I miss Bossk.” – A.Z.
One of our past DonorsChoose.org projects requested video cameras so we could capture children playing and watch their ideas grow into something bigger. This past week, we captured BJ and VL playing at our blocks center. BJ had been building Dinorsaur City, Dinosaur World, and now this week, BJ and VL worked on Dinosaur Park. In block play, you can see children selecting blocks purposefully to add to their construction. They are able to problem solve and engage in higher order thinking to make their idea come to life.
A series of photos that capture our children in moments of play, reading, creating, and being happy. Along with the photo are quotes about children, childhood, and all things related. I hope to add more later on.
Besides being pumpkin spiced latte season, Fall is an amazing time for pre-K. All the rules and routines have been set and continue to be reinforced and a lot of the fun projects commence. We kick off our Fall unit studying the change we notice outside. From the drop in temperature, the clothes we begin to wear and the change we see in trees and leaves.
Our kids took a neighborhood walk to find fallen leaves. The children collected them during the walk and some even brought some in from their trek from school to home. The leaf collection had a purpose. In the classroom, Ms. Ashely read Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert and our students were really engaged by the beautiful illustrations and hidden animals they saw in the leaves. “A leaf man goes where the wind blows,” and the leaves blew right into our classroom and made the art center its home. They used the leaves along with materials we received from our Beautiful Stuff for Beautiful Learning project and created stunning works of art. Their creativity was unleashed during this time and they were introduced to using glue bottles and scissors. Please stop by to check out our Science Scene bulletin board and see if you can spot your child’s work!
The leaf art wasn’t the only activity that occupied the art center this month. Our students have been listening to many read aloud books about Halloween. During the autumn harvest season, we begin to see many pumpkins and gourds hit our neighborhood stores and they are also being as decorations in and outside many homes. Thanks to KH’s mom, our classroom has a pumpkin of its own! We’ve also obtained 20 gourds or mini pumpkins for our kids to turn into Jack-o-lanterns to take home at the end of the month.
We are mid way through the month and very excited to see what else October has in store for us! As the temperature drops and snow may soon be in the forecast we want to make sure all our children are warm and prepared to play outdoors.
Last year, through DonorsChoose.org, we were able to secure hats, scarves, and gloves for all of our students. Outdoor play is a crucial part of our day and the cold will not stop us from enjoy our playground. We were very fortunate this year to get our project “Warm and Toasty in the Cold and Snow!” funded.
When the weather starts getting colder, we will give out the winter attire. We ask that your child bring them to school every day during the winter. They may use them outside of school whenever it is needed but please make sure they have it for outdoor play as well! After the winter, it is theirs to keep.
We do hope to get some healthy snacks for our kids through DonorsChoose.org. If you would like to spread the word or support it yourself, the link is below.
Every year during the PreK orientation, Ms. Chin and I suggested to parents to pack a healthy snack for their child in a daily basis. A handful of parents are consistent, others start off the school year remembering but will fizz out as the year progresses, and the rest will never have a snack from home. It's understandable. Snacks are expensive, especially if they're getting it every school day.
The children know the routine. They arrive, put their snack and water bottles in their respective bins, hang up their book bags and jackets, then they're off to play. When the chime rings, they clean up, wash their hands, and get ready for breakfast.
The teachers encourage the students to try new things such as different kinds of cereal, yogurt, granola bars, zucchini & banana yogurt muffins and much more. However, since some kids eat at home, there is often a lot of left overs. The juice and milk get stored in the refrigerator, the extra cereal gets put in a xerox box for the "just in case" moments, and the other left overs will find a place in the class to serve as snack for those who do not bring any.
It's a system we have in place to make sure those who don't have can get snack and to prevent food waste. Each child will have their go to cereal ranging from multi-grain Cheerios to Frosted Mini-Wheats. Left over juice and yogurt gets devoured. Granola bars are split up into bite sized bars to keep the classroom crumb-free.
Eventually, all the children that would rely on the left over breakfast for snack would get bored of the same thing. They would look towards their peers and their enticing snacks. Goldfish, seaweed, Cheezits, dragon fruit, strawberries, Asian crackers, and much more. Who could blame them for wanting what their peers had? Luckily for us this year, our group of pre-K kids are very generous and compassionate. They were willing to share with their friends. In some cases, they would share all of their snack and not have any for themselves.
I wanted to take this opportunity and show our pre-K friends that their generosity would not get unnoticed. DonorsChoose.org would be the outlet to show them just that. Utilizing the Life Essentials category, a wide variety of snacks were requested and we were fortunate enough to have that project funded!
When the snacks arrived via Amazon.com, the kids were intrigued by the three giant boxes. "What is it?" A few kids asked.
"A surprise!" I told them.
I explained to them about what I noticed and how caring they were when it came to sharing with their friends and taking care of those in need. They were very eager to try all the snacks, however, we would savor the moment and snacks for the following day.
Since it was the Friday before spring break, they would have to wait until after the break to try the rest of the snacks.
The gift of literacy is a gift that sparks a endless cycle of giving. It takes a village to raise a child and our school hopes to take the initiative to take an active role in helping, not only the families in our school, but the families all over Flushing, NY become readers.
Last year, our school purchased an outdoor lending library stand with the hope of filling it with books to lend out to the families in our school community.Our mission was a success as we were able to lend out hundreds of books to our school community. Children were able to take home books to read with their families.
There was a lot of skepticism about people who may potentially abuse this lending library system as it was a system built on trust and honesty. However if there was a family that did not have access to literature before and is now able to take home books for their child, then the lending library is a success.
Every year, there's always children who LOVE to read books and listen to stories during read aloud but do not have access to their own books at home. It's disheartening to know that a child who loves books, aren't exposed to them at home because their parents cannot afford to buy them books or have the time and commitment to take them to the library. Seeing these cases year after year made me realize there are other families in our own community that may experience the same dilemma.
The TALES Community Lending Library was established not too long ago to give the members of our community access to books to take home. We totally understand that many of the books we leave out there may never return. However, if the books that are left out are being used in homes that normally do not have access to books, then the purpose has been fulfilled. Over time, we would see new types of books that make its way to the lending library. These books come and go. We needed to find a way to keep the lending library full of awesome titles for the kids of the community to take home to enjoy.
Our teachers often bring in their own books to give away. This past month, I was able to attend Project Cicero, an annual non-profit book drive designed to create and supplement classroom libraries in under-resourced New York City public schools. Many of the books received would benefit our kids and over 80 books were brought into our classroom library. Our pre-K families were invited in to get first pick before they were brought over to the lending library.
I would like to thank all parents who attended and helped make their child's home library selection wider.
If you would like to contribute and donate books to our lending library, please feel free to reach out and we will find a way to get your books a new home!
Currently in my fifth year of teaching Pre-K at a early childhood elementary school.