By: Toni Dolshun, Butterflies Teacher, Santa Fe Centers
Preschool children at Santa Fe Centers in New Providence marvel at their “Rain in a Bag” experiment. The photo depicts their interest as they are watching “clouds” form and “rain” fall in the miniature ecosystem which they created. It was simply put together with soil and a little water in a zip lock bag; strategically placed in a warm, sunny spot. Our young learners explored the water cycle while using words such as evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. As they observed the states of matter change from liquid to gas and back to liquid again, their wonderment lead to various questions, answers, correlations, and predictions. (All leading to promoting increased cognitive and language skills)
This was just one of the many exploratory activities the Center’s children enjoy throughout the year. “Making Rain” happened to evolve from our Summer Fairy Tales Curriculum. After reading an African tale from Kenya entitled “Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain”, we explored geographically dry climate areas on a map and looked at pictures of deserts and other arid lands. We talked about what happened to the people and animals in the story when they experienced a lack of rain. Additionally, we used our senses to see, feel and smell dry patches of grass. We then compared the dry grass to lush, amply watered grass and decided to try to “create” rain. Today the zip lock bag still remains on display on our porch because the children still enjoy tapping the bag as they pass it by. With each tap the cloud is disturbed and drops of rain trickle down.
As summer progresses, our teachers will be reading more fables and fairy tales as well as singing and reciting nursery rhymes with our children. The carefully chosen stories (many of which originate from culturally diverse areas) will be followed by discussions regarding the moral of the story. Those discussions and the simple repetition of nursery rhymes increase language and critical thinking skills. Additionally, the story-related, hands-on activities which the children participate in are designed to impart a sense of curiosity and an authentic interest in science and in nature. We are fortunate to be surrounded by an abundance of beauty in nature. Why not utilize it as part of the classroom environment? Our out-door experiences have been truly enriching.
Our Center recognizes that children’s development is holistic. This means that development in each domain (physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and language) is closely related to and dependent on all the other domains. In turn, all of that is influenced by the quality and variety of opportunities that are made available to children. Play provides those opportunities for children to integrate their development across the various domains. What better way for our young learners to grow than through explorations and observation while at play? Whether we are parents, grandparents, or teachers of young children, let’s remember to make the time to provide the opportunities needed. It can be as simple as a walk in the woods, watering the plants, playing a game of catch, building a Lego house, or making it rain in a bag. Having doubts about the value and benefits of “just” child’s play? Come visit us.
Will those four year olds in the photo remember the big vocabulary words which we tossed out at them? Perhaps they won’t. Will they remember that they made it rain in a bag? My guess is probably yes. Let’s get out there and PLAY. The rewards are far-reaching.
This week many of you realize that Friday is Promotion Day at the Pre K center. This is a very special day for the children, you as families and us as teachers. The children from the Pre K room will be promoted to their next level either Pre-K 4 or Kindergarten. Some children will stay with us in September and some will go on to other schools. In September, we do have a full time Kindergarten and we are so happy that we are able to provide a certified teacher with experience – Meagan Mentor. We wish all of our promotion candidates a wonderful experience in the coming year. Your presence here at Santa Fe has only added to our enjoyment as professional teachers — may you continually be excited about learning.
On Friday, we will also be providing the children in the Pre K classroom with a barbecue lunch which they have planned. It will be held on Dudley and Jane’s deck overflowing into our back yard. This has become tradition and we do this to help them celebrate their special day. Tough time for those of us who go through this every year — we will miss your children and the many anecdotes through the year that have made us laugh and smile and make us proud to be a part of their lives.
I also wanted to mention the 5 K race that was organized by the Sharing Network held on June 8th. Marilyn, Cindy and I put up a booth to represent Santa Fe as members of the New Providence Business Association. We were so impressed by the numbers of people there and the stories of those who had donated and those who received a donation either from a relative or from a deceased donor. The gift of life and hope was the theme of the day. The courage of these people is a lesson in itself. We were honored to be a part of the day and several of our families either ran or walked in honor of these families. We saw the Giunta, De Groot, Pardo, Weiss, Rancier, Greenwald, Pagdanganan families as they participated in an incredible day. In discussing this the Monday after this race, a few of our families suggested that we put together a team to represent Santa Fe. Those of you who wish to get involved in this, start training now!!
Remember tomorrow is Children’s Day so in celebration of your children they have received a box of raisins with the saying —“Thanks for a great year. You’re our “raisin” for being at Santa Fe.”
Remember summer has started and sunscreen is a part of our routine. We have an article in the office from Consumer Reports (July 2014) entitled “The truth about sunscreen”. In this article it states that spray sunscreen should not be used for children for the following reasons:
• Lung irritation
• Titanium dioxide is a possible carcinogen
• Not cost effective as you need to spray yourself twice
• Air quality???
• FDA is in the process of verifying the above
Please rethink the use spray sunscreen as in order to ensure adequate coverage you need to spray then rub in onto the skin anyway.
Air quality is a concern especially for those families worried about RAD or reactive airway disease or asthma. So even though you are tempted to jump out of the car with the engine running as you would like to keep that air conditioner going strong, please think twice as one of our children with lung sensitivity may be walking by your car. And of course in April, we talked to all the children about our responsibility to the earth and the air we breathe. So let us set a good example.
Remember, fund raiser is finished tomorrow. Thank you so much for all your support. Molly and I are so happy with the results and we are appreciative of the time and effort all of you put in to make this a very successful opportunity to buy more for the children.
Last but not least, Alisha has been accepted into the nursing program at Bloomfield College. I am so excited and yet sad that we will lose her expertise here at Santa Fe but I am sure that she will be able to help us out occasionally. Please congratulate her on her persistence and hard work.
Well, I certainly cannot let this newsletter go by without letting you know that Memorial Day was so much fun. When Mr. Dudley and I were ending the day, we learned that the numbers at our house came close to 150. Needless to say, the picnic and the parade were so much fun and we thank all who walked, watched and came to our house to celebrate such a traditional American holiday.
At the end of this week, we will have enjoyed our farm animals and we take every class over to the PK Center as long as the weather holds out. The children love the animals and it makes for an exciting outing.
Next week, on Friday, those children from the Pre K room will be promoted.
Since the last newsletter, there is quite a garden growing at the PK center so please if you have not visited, please do. As the vegetables grow, Mr. Dudley will be handing samples out when he can. Here at the IT center, there are sunflower seeds that our growing compliments of Jess and our littlest children. Let’s see how tall they get — great place by the entrance so that you can watch with your children.
Not sure how our fund raiser will turn out but I do know that there have been many orders. The money from our last fundraiser was used to buy an axillary thermometer for the infant toddler center. For the PK center we bought a large piece for the children’s lunch bags and other equipment. Anyone who wants to see the story in pictures of how we got the piece up the staircase, just ask. It is on my phone.
During the summer you will see a few of our high school/college students who are joining us or returning to help with the summer programs. Ms. Lindsey, Ms. Kathryn, Ms. Jennifer are college students who will be helping primarily at the IT center. Ms. Rebecca, Ms. Annie, Ms. Kaitlyn, and Ms. Jes are high school students and will predominantly be working at the PK center. Ms. Amber and Ms. Dana worked with us last summer and will be back again to help with the older children. At the PK center you will also see Mr. Nick who has been with us the last couple of years as a CIT – counsellor in training. This year he is actually coming to work with us and he is great helping with the summer sport activities. You will also see three other young CITs who will be joining us — Christian, Christian and Madeline. All have been with us in our childcare program so we welcome them as they come to work with us.
At the PK center, we will be saying goodbye to Ms. Alex who has been great working in the afternoons at the PK center. She will be working at a camp this summer and we wish to thank her and wish her the best.
Ms. Dotti has decided to retire this year and will be sorely missed. Through thick and thin, Dottie had supported Santa Fe and my family as we embarked on this new business. Her loyalty has helped to support this growing and expanding business. She has worked in every room, every age group and probably just about every staff member who has walked through these doors. It is clearly evident that she loves these children and she prides herself on doing an incredible job. We hope that she will come and visit and feed a baby or two when she can find the time as she has a large group of grandchildren that she cares for as well.
With Dottie leaving, Alisha will take her days and work full time through the summer for us. I have asked Maria to take the lead teacher position in the Cuddler’s room. I have been very impressed with Maria’s ease in working with others – staff as well as parents. She has a quite calm way about her and when all those babies are crying, she just meets their needs in a very comforting and calm fashion. She has shown a good understanding of developmental growth, good organizational skills and a willingness to continually work towards excellence in care. Her background and education are the foundation needed to work in an infant room:
• Degree in Psychology and on her way to doing her CDA as well
• Experience in developmental pediatrics working as a case manager
• Management experience having run a department of experts meeting the needs of developmentally challenged children and their families.
• Her recent contributions to the revamping of the Cuddler’s room to facilitate the motor development of all children
I would hope that everyone staff and parents offer her your congratulations but also recognize that she is a working partner in the care of your child. We are here to insure that your child is off to a good start which includes physical development but also includes social and emotional health.
You will see Ms. Selina in this room as one of the regular staff. Jess will be helping us with our transitions the next few months as so many of our children are so close in age. You will see Jess in either the Cuddler room or the Walkie- Talkie room depending on the needs of the children.
Please do not hesitate to stop in to tell me how your child/children are doing. I enjoy every story.
Our comprehensive and thoughtfully planned daily activities provide:
* Sensory stimulation for optimal brain development
* Connection with nature
* Artistic outlets for experiences, ideas, and emotions through drawing, painting, singing, movement and dramatic play
* Communication/language development and vocabulary expansion
* Emerging muscle development through whole body use during play
* Development of curiosity, creativity and initiative
* Scaffolding of self- and teacher-initiated activities
* Active intellectual stimulation and involvement of children of all ages and stages of development
* Opportunities to develop problem solving and critical thinking
* Respect for individual and family culture, values, preferences and opportunities to share their experiences
* Development and support of trusting relationships with adults and peers
* Joyful environment to connect with the fun of learning
* Development of the foundation for lifelong learning through basic pre-academic skills
* Opportunities to learn and practice positive social interaction skills with adults and peers
* A continuum of development of self-help and self-care skills leading to self-confidence, competence, self-reliance and resilience
* Flexibility to adapt the schedule to take advantage of changes in the school day, weather, or the interests of the children and their families
Did not think I would do a newsletter so soon but a few items needed to be discussed so here I am. I was hoping to find a few tennis players in the group as we have been using used tennis balls to save our vinyl flooring and a few of the classrooms could use a few more for the bottom of our chairs. If anybody has any you are no longer using or are not functioning as tennis balls, please send them our way.
It is the beginning of planting season and your children have been helping Mr. Dudley to start his wide variety of plants so you may hear some discussion about Mr. Dudley in the back yard. For those of you who do not know Mr. Dudley, he is my retired husband who is now having a lot of fun saying hello to our children or having them “help” him with his work. Your children bring a lot of joy to a lot of people not just the teachers but people like Mr. Dudley. There will be an area by the fence for all the children to prepare and plant their seedlings. When I asked one of the 2.5 year olds what the plants would need, I was told water, soil and sun in that order. Would you have known that at 2.5?? I am not sure that I would have and my father farmed here in Union County.
The men from the fire monitoring company had a great time stepping around the Walkie Talkies to get to our sprinkler system and with a lot of smiles and patience were able to complete their inspection of all of our equipment which is in tip top shape.
Our state inspector came by for a follow-up to our renewal of our licensure for the Pre K and as always just commented on the incredible back yard we have and how lucky these children are to spend so much time outdoors. Many of you know that the new regulations require much more outside time than in the past and this is great for all children as you know by hearing us talk about our philosophy and just the general need for all of us to commune with nature more.
Since many of us take this time to go through the winter clothes and check out the summer clothes for our families, any items that appear to be appropriate for dress up we would love to take off your hands. Please know that if we do not use them and I think others can, I donate to the New Providence United Methodist Church Thrift Sale or the clothing drive run by the high school. Do not forget us as you start your spring cleaning. It is like Christmas when we get these exciting items.
Please take a look at the Independent Press of May 7 as we have an article discussing “Movement and activity crucial for all infants and toddlers.” Some of you were present at our education meeting that was done by Eleanor Campbell, PT. We really love to learn as much as we can to help your children and your family as we want to share to help you as you enjoy your role as parents.
Enjoy the upcoming warm weather.
My neighbor’s child goes to a preschool and is always bringing home cute art – craft items and coloring pages. I think I know the answer to this but am asking anyway: Why doesn’t my child bring home lots of art?
Would love to put some art up at home
Dear Art at Home,
First it will help to define some terms. Art is freeform, full of interpretations and flows from a child’s creativity using the materials they choose with results linked to the child’s satisfaction. Crafts are activities using prepared pieces with prescribed steps and a single desired outcome. Which do you want your child to do at school?
I once worked in a preschool where there was parental pressure for the children to come home each day with a product (craft or worksheet) to show that learning had taken place. At the outset I, too, was asked to cut out a myriad of pieces that the children put together within 3 minutes in a prescribed way resulting in 15 identical “works of art.” There was nothing artful about them; merely a challenging time for my 4 year-old class to comply before returning to their play. Within a year, the frustrated staff had evolved to provide developmentally appropriate hands-on activities that did not focus on an end product. The children were happier enjoying the process of creating and became more able to talk about their work and what it meant to them rather than repeating the assembly steps. The parents soon understood that learning was taking place despite the lack of identical daily products.
Early childhood programs following current research offer self-initiated and open-ended activities with an array of interesting materials for the children to use in their creative process. The columns below show what we do – and do not do.
| Santa Fe Teachers Will:
|Santa Fe Teachers Will Not:|
Demonstrate use of Materials
“Try going back and forth with the brush.
Make a sample to follow
“Make it look like this, please.”
|Ask open-ended questions ideas
“What can you do with that paper?”
|Give step by step instructions
“This part goes first then that one.”
|Offer a choice
“Would you like to try painting now, Mabry?”
“Mabry, it’s your turn now. Come on.”
|Stay nearby to encourage/extend their vision
What color do you need for that?”
|Choose materials for a child
“All the pieces you need are in that pile.”
“You’ve worked a long time on that.
I can see how proud you are of your work.”
|Ask them continue or alter their work
“Keep working. You’re not done. You still
Have pieces left. I’ll help you finish it.”
|Acknowledgment of their unique perspective
“That’s interesting. Please tell me about it.”
|Judge against the sample
“That looks perfect. They match. Good.”
I understand your feelings: it is nice to have something to hang on your refrigerator as your child paints, cuts or draws. Their work is meaningful to them and it needs to be shared with their families. For winter holidays and Mother’s and Father’s Day we try to provide a keepsake picture or item to take home for gift giving. We also keep some of their work as documentation of their progress in an individual portfolio. You may ask to see it at any time and some teachers share it with families during scheduled conference times. We also understand that sometimes children prefer to take something home rather than display it.
Oddly enough, we have had the opposite problem, too: parents throwing out “free” art in the classroom, in front of their child. This deflates and devalues a child’s budding skills and artistic abilities when they see it go unappreciated by their families. Each sliver of paper and stroke of the paintbrush has a story – and it is our job to encourage them to tell it.
Parent/Staff Newsletter-Spring 2014
Spring is finally upon us and I can just feel the excitement. My house is always bustling in the mornings and afternoons with the children going up and down the driveway and up and down the hill. The activity sheets that go home with you monthly, and weekly for the Pre-K room, are intended to give you a sense of what we do all day. Asking your children about the various activities will give you the opportunity to open up conservation about their day. Please ask your children what is happening. Yes, even the Cuddlers room as it is so important for you and the teachers to constantly talk to the children.
Since we are so lucky to have an acre of land across the street, we decided we needed to share this land with the children from the IT center. Periodically we will be taking the children on field trips to visit the PK center where they can run and run and run. With the infants they will have the opportunity to sit on a quilt on the grass so that they can watch the other children if they are not moving that much themselves. Several of our Pre K children have been digging up the earth in preparation for the planting season, which is just around the corner. When they find an earthworm, everyone gets a chance to look and see.
Celebrating our children is what we get to do everyday but not everyone in the world is so blessed. I really want to thank all of you for your generous contributions of books to the Hillside Food Bank. This is a great opportunity to help your children recognize the joy of giving. I will be gathering the donated books for delivery Easter week. These books were gathered to acknowledge the Week of the Young Child, which was last week. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has been making this an annual celebration for several years. The purpose is to educate the community about the need and the importance of early childhood education.
This week on Wednesday, we will have an education session with Eleanor Campbell, PT, who will discuss the need for babies to move. Her presentation starts at 6 pm and she will encourage questions.
At the annual Advisory Committee of the Junior League, a monumental need for the City of Summit and our surrounding area is the need for Latino children to be part of a Pre school/ Pre K. Because of the cost, transportation difficulties, language barriers many are not able to participate. Being a part of the Junior League has shown me how powerful and influential a group of woman can be. They ask for a report from me with respect to the Catch activities that they helped to bring to our school at Santa Fe.
Please remember that we as a school march in the New Providence Memorial Day Parade and we then enjoy a barbecue in my backyard. We ask those who are participating to come in a red or blue shirt to celebrate the holiday. Each family brings brings either an appetizer, salad or dessert and you just relax and enjoy the day. Tickles the clown will be there and she has been the center of our entertainment for years with her animals and various tricks. It is a great opportunity for parents to meet others who have been with us for years and to meet parents from the other center. The parents of the Cuddlers do not get a chance to talk to parents of children who are in the older classes. Dudley, my husband, will man the barbecue and frequently makes one of his Philippine dishes which he is known for here in New Providence and elsewhere.
You will also see us on Sunday, June 8th, at the 5 K walk run in support of the Sharing Network here in New Providence. More details to follow.
I have read the minutes from the Parent/Staff meeting and appreciate that Santa Fe has made an effort to increase the educational level of its staff. I feel you are more engaged with my child as a result and I appreciate that you see yourself as educators interested in continually growing – just as public school teachers are required to do. Please clarify the staff’s education and its impact on my child.
Pleased with a Growing Staff
We feel that through knowledge we have the opportunity to make a long term difference in the lives of our children, whether through suggesting food items to prevent constipation or noticing developmental delays, addressing them with parents and helping to find appropriate services. We are forward-thinking child care specialists who must meet the needs of our well-educated families and their children with an eye to rapidly developing research, state requirements and long-term impact of our developmentally appropriate practices, known as DAP.
Starting at the top, we are fortunate to have a pediatric nurse as our director. Whenever there is a question of child health, we have Jane on call to triage each situation proactively. We have reassured many families and saved many hours of our parent’s productive work time by determining the severity of an illness or injury on site before calling families in non-emergency situations.
Within our classroom staff we have college students in Early Childhood Education, staff holding CDAs, AAs in Early Childhood Education, BAs in Early Childhood Education, BAs in P-3 (Preschool – 3rd) and K-5 (Kindergarten – 5th), BSs in Psychology and a certified CDA Professional Development Specialist. At the end of the first year of employment, we ask those planning a career with us, not holding a BA as above, to begin the CDA course, the nationally recognized entry level credential for child care staff. Two staff have chosen to begin the CDA self- paced coursework. We are well on our way to meeting the 2015 minimum educational requirement for all staff.
Staff is required by the state to have 10 – 20 hours of continuing education yearly, depending on the position held. The center provides 8 hours of on site training in March and staff is expected to find center-paid workshops or materials to make up the remainder of their required hours. Completing a CDA in a given year more than supports this requirement. For those attending workshops, it is exciting to see staff return to their center, apply what they have learned, and share it with those unable to attend or exchange information with those who attended different workshops.
In addition, some teachers actively look for new information based on the issues they face with their age groups. Current hot button issues in early childhood are brain development in the zero to three years through all 7 senses to assure optimal development of the core (for sitting in classroom settings later), reduction in the use of restrictive equipment for infants (bouncy seats, car seats, etc.) for motor development, nutritional foods, play, and the important developmental rewards of exposure to nature and regular outdoor exercise/play.
We appreciate the support of our families who see the correlation between teachers who are self-motivated in further developing their own level of skill and care to motivate and inspire your children to be lifelong learners in turn.
My child’s skin is naturally dry and becomes more dry in the winter. What can I do to avoid their becoming red and cracked, inviting the germs in – which is not my intention?
All Cracked Up
Dear All Cracked Up,
At this time of year, we all get dry. Heating systems take more out of us than we realize during the winter months so the place to start is hydration – through drink and food throughout the day and night. Providing water at each child’s request at school is essential along with moist food items from home such as fruits, veggies and soups. Water is evaporating from our bodies continually.
A child’s hands are the most used parts of their bodies in early childhood and keeping them comfortable will encourage the children to engage and learn. Lotion overnight is a great idea if your child is past putting their fingers in their mouth, although many children age 4 and beyond still do. We want to make sure that things touching their hands during play, inside and out, will be an interesting rather than a painful experience for their cracked hands. Providing the protection of a warm coat, hat, snowsuit, and scarf along with 2 pairs of waterproof, insulated MITTENS to warm and protect their hands during outdoor play is essential.
As early childhood practitioners, we wash our hands more frequently than most adults – anywhere from 20 – 50 times a day depending on how many noses we blow, diapers we change or tables we wash – as this is the best way to prevent the spread of germs in our classrooms. We care about our hands, too.
Below are items we support, some with the supplies you provide:
(* with the appropriate prescription/nonprescription form).
Preventative Activities Provided
- water bottle availability
- mild soap
- rinsing hands thoroughly
- drying hands thoroughly
- applying hand lotion* after washing
- waterproof mittens to hold in heat/moisture
- lip balm*/lotion* on lips/cheeks
- scarves for neck and cheeks
Potential Contributing Factors
- limited liquid
- antibacterial soaps
- hand sanitizers
- picking at dry/cracked skin/hangnails
- alcohol based lotion that stings
- thin, knitted gloves that get wet/cold
- mouth breathing
- lack of scarf
Most lotions work well when applied 2-3 times a day, making the routine similar to that of sunscreen application for school: your family applies in the morning, we apply as needed during the day with your family reapplying for the overnight hours. Some families swear by oatmeal baths or a particular brand of lotion that passes their child’s “no sting” test. Whatever works for your child and family is well worth the effort when they are able to play and rest comfortably.
Its gift giving time and as usual, I’m torn. Every year we decide not to buy a lot of poorly made toys and stick to learning toys. As I go over the list, I try to ask myself, will this toy be more fun to play with than the box it comes in? I’m tired of donating toys that are barely used. How do I know what to buy?
Having No Fun at TOYSRUS
Dear No Fun,
Who better to know what to buy your child than you? You know what types of things they like, what they already have and how they spend their time. From a safety standpoint, use manufacturer’s age guidelines and limit small parts. Keep some “baby” toys for a while that use skills they have already mastered. As they grow and are challenged to learn new skills, it is comforting for them to return to familiar toys and feel a sense of accomplishment. Recognizing how much they have grown through their toys is self-esteem building. Play is your child’s work. Through play they learn and grow emotionally, socially, physically and intellectually. Toys offer unique opportunities to learn new skills, practice at current skill levels or exercise their imagination or muscles. Artistic materials (paper, paints, crayons, chalk, markers, scissors, glue, and stapler) expose their creative potential by developing their sense of color and balance, small motor skills, and self-expression and self-confidence. Puzzles help to develop spatial awareness, shape and object recognition, small motor abilities, eye-hand coordination, perseverance and problem solving. Card and board games help to develop patience, the ability to set and/or follow rules, and higher level thinking to develop strategies. Vehicles are good for dramatic play, measuring and estimating, and small or large motor development depending on the size. Dolls, stuffed animals and puppets are good for dramatic play along with language development, role playing, and imagination and can often serve as an emotional outlet to resolve issues. Building toys/blocks/marble runs are great for mathematic concept development, problem solving and dramatic play. Athletic equipment is always a favorite as young children love motion. Balls, hoops, and riding/peddle toys help to develop a child’s balance, gross motor skills and self-confidence. Children learn best when they have a large block of time to use their entire bodies, several senses and open ended materials. This type of play develops their overall body, too, as a child in motion is apt to build more muscle, develop a better appetite and sleep better at night than one who is sedentary. You’ll notice no mention electronic learning games which are best used with parental guidance on a limited basis with this age group. All toys can be used by your child alone, of course, but of the best gift you will ever give your child is the time you spend alongside them using your senses with the gifts they unwrap. Time to share a new book from their grandparents. Time to watch the puppet show they just created on the spot. Time to build with them using their new blocks. Time to teach them how to button, zip, snap, or tie using the new outfit for themselves or their favorite doll. Time to listen as they play the Mommy or Daddy with a new doll or truck. Time to hear your child singing G rated lyrics to their new kiddie CD as you drive around town. Playing with boxes will always be a fun bonus, too. They make great building blocks, space ships, and whatever else your child can imagine.