Happy New Year everyone. I hope January is off to a good start for you. We had such a lovely first few days back from the break. The children were happy to be there and very interested in the new elements in the classroom (the medical/health center and the puppet theater). Coming in the next few weeks are the Clay Mountain, the Snow Shrine and crystal collection, faux snow in the water table followed by icebergs, and eventually the now (in)famous Wrecking Ball! I will be making these changes incrementally so the children can approach each new thing and explore without being totally overwhelmed by the scale of change.
Clay Mountain is the next addition and there are some basic guidelines and expectations that keep us all happy, if not clean! There will be 600lbs of clay on a palette in the back of the classroom. The children will be invited to remove their shoes and socks, come on the canvas and use their hands to explore, experience and mold the clay. Shoes and socks are off, BEFORE entering play on the mountain (many years of trying to wash the clay out of the treads of so many pairs of sneakers informed this expectation!). And when they are finished, we wipe/wash their little feet up and get them back into their shoes and socks.
I ask that the kids keep their feet on the floor as climbing on the clay can be slippery and jumping off the top never ends well. Other things are obvious such as not throwing chunks of clay, etc. Initially we put nothing out with the clay leaving the kids with just their built in sensory tools to use for explorations: hands, feet, noses, etc. It is heavy work digging into the pile and pulling our chunks, boring tunnels, squishing squishing squishing. This is so good for their brains and bodies. They will be working both their fine and gross motor systems.
After it has been out for a week or so, I begin to add in additional elements to extend their play: dinosaurs, sticks, treasures and perhaps some ice cream scoops for deeper digging. The clay is another type of dramatic and creative play opportunity. It really engages the kids creative sides, imagination and storytelling while giving their sensory systems a deep workout. It is one of my favorite elements to have in the classroom.
If your kiddo is likely to be one who wants to engage with the clay, make sure to send them to school in clothes that can take the mess. I get three different colors (connected to our anti-bias work reflecting differing skin tones): dark brown, reddish brown and a light creamy grey. The clay gets ground into the seats and knees of pants. Socks get dirty. The red usually washes out but it can sometimes stain delicate fabrics. Forewarned is forearmed!
ANNUAL FAMILY MARCH FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is coming up and leading into it, I will be doing a lot of work with primarily the older children delving deeper into some social justice issues, the story of Doctor King’s life and legacy, and we will be creating a wall of Social Justice Heroes. Last year, Sheila Hanson’s son Max was so worried about how things could get better in our world if Dr. King was dead. This really brings forward the need to learn about all the heroes who are working to bring positive change to our world. We will be posting photos and short stories and bios on the walls of the classroom. This is sure to prompt lots of conversation and discussion with the kids.
If your child brings up topics of equality and justice, remember to begin by asking them questions to find out what they know, think they know and how they might be feeling about things. Then as you talk with them, please be honest about the struggles for equality, but do it on their developmental level. Your children are very young and their cognitive capacity for reflection and analysis are just beginning to develop. Their ability to extrapolate is pretty limited right now as most of them are still in the phase of Concrete Operations. But finding the simple truths about fairness and what is right (all people should be treated equally and have equal rights) and about speaking up when they see injustice is something we can begin when they are young. And seeing modern day role models who can inspire us with their courage and strength is good for everyone. Feel free to join in by bringing us names and stories of people you think should go up on the wall of heroes.
And then on Martin Luther King Day (Monday, January 21st) meet me at 11am at DeWitt Park, across the street from the Hillsdale Library and we will take our annual March through the Hillsdale business district advocating for peace and justice. Our theme this year is Families Belong Together! The stories of the forced separation of children from their families at the border this year have been heart wrenching. Imagine if conditions in your home were so bad that you were driven to try to escape to protect your children, only to arrive and have your children stripped away from you. Think of your littles without you to care for them and protect them and help them feel safe. What is happening to these families is not right.
We invite you to make signs with your children that express positive messages about the world we want to work for. It can be related to our theme or about anything topical: protecting the environment and reversing climate change; access to health care; equal treatment under the law; protecting the rights of gay and lesbian families; creating safe space for all – including our trans brothers and sisters. Just try to keep the signs framed in a positive manner. This is a chance for you and your children to join with others in our community in making our values visible and being willing to stand up and speak out. Children learn from what they see and hear. Remember a couple of months back at a general meeting, I talked about teaching children about citizenship as an active process and responsibility? This is great chance to put this in action.
I will be posting on our Facebook page about the March. Please share it and invite friends and neighbors. We usually have a pretty decent turn out and the sense of fellowship and enthusiasm is uplifting and contagious. It never ceases to give me hope for the future.
So again, meet me at DeWitt at 11am on the 21st. When we have accumulated a good size crowd we will walk the sidewalks up and down Capitol Hwy – obeying all traffic signals and not blocking driveways! You are welcome to make the circuit once or ten times. We were supposed to tell PCPO when the march ends and all I could say is ‘when I look back and realize I am by myself’! I will be there are long as one of you is there as well.
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
RE-ENROLLMENT, OPEN HOUSE, ETC.
So, it is after the holidays and it is time to decide about school for next year. If you have a graduating pre-k student, your mind is on kindergarten. If you are in the 3’s or 4’s class you are assessing whether MPS continues to be the right fit for your family and which class would be best for your little one next year.
Your class reps will be reaching out to each of you to make sure we know who is and is not planning to re-enroll for next year. This information is critical for us AND for you. Our Open House is January 29th and we will begin offering new families spots for next year immediately afterwards. We do not want any confusion about how many vacancies we will have and accidentally give away your spot. Communication is of paramount importance here.
Please know that certainly hope you will all return but I also realize peoples lives and situations change and we cannot be the perfect fit for everyone. If you will not be re-enrolling, please let us know definitively. I promise to not have hurt feelings and I truly want the best for all of you and your children. If you need to speak with me to sort out your plan, let me know asap and we can set up a conference time.
PLEASE NOTE! We know that the holidays are just over and that perhaps that was a financial stressor for you. And now it time to re-enroll and pay the registration fees. And then auction tickets. That is a lot in a short period of time.Please do not let the fees keep you from taking action on enrollment. Let me know ASAP if paying the fees involved in registering is a hardship for your family right now. We are able to work out a plan to stretch the payments out.
On another note, I just want to remind you all that we have a scholarship fund to help families with tuition. If your financial situation has changed and making your tuition payments has become rough, please reach out to me and we will do everything we can to help you out.
Thanks everyone. I hope that this new year brings health, vitality and vision for each of you.
Always in my heart,