Yesterday was Scarecrow Night at my school. This is a really special event where families come together to create a unique scarecrow using whichever materials they’d like. This way, each scarecrow has it’s own look and serves to represent the family who made it. These unique and beautiful scarecrows line the outside of the school for the following several weeks. It’s so much fun to create a scarecrow and add it to the collection. It’s just as fun to marvel at everyone else’s special scarecrow. This is a wonderful annual event that I felt lucky to experience as a parent this year. Shaun, Dylan, Stella, and I worked together to create our scarecrow. What a wonderful way to celebrate fall. I’m so glad that I brought my camera along to capture this special event. I will treasure these memories forever.
The Baby Nido Project is a really great project that we started up this year. We decided to begin this project because we wanted the Baby Nido class to be just as active within our school family as all the other classes. In my school we encourage collaboration between different grades and we value a sense of school family yet the Baby Nido class never seemed to be involved in active collaboration. This year, we decided to do something about that.
There are several children in the school that we knew really loved babies. Carolina (age 9) and Brianna (age 8) are two students that have been really vocal about their adoration of the babies. They admired them from the windows in our old campus and, once in a while, spent an afternoon helping the Baby Nido teachers. This year, we invited them to be part of this special project.
Carolina, I feel, is at the heart of this project. Her mother, who is the curriculum specialist of our school, recommended her for this project. She told me how passionate Carolina is about babies. From her first encounter in the Baby Nido class I noticed that she has this unwaivering confidence with the babies. She is not afraid to pick them up (and does so very carefully), she genuinely enjoys being with the babies, and, perhaps most importantly, she really sees them. During her visits with the babies, I can tell how much she is noticing them. Her observations of the babies are always spot on and, already, she shows an understanding of how to meet their needs. One of my favorite things about Carolina is how she can’t get enough of the babies. Whenever I bump into her in the hallways at school she asks when I will take her to the baby class and for how long will the visit be. On top of that, she regularly spends her after school time in the Baby Nido class! I love her passion!
Brianna also really loves babies. I have known Brianna for years. I was actually her teacher for kindergarten. She is bright, enjoys being helpful, and is very nurturing. Her mother, who is a fellow teacher at my school, recommended her for this project. She mentioned how much Brianna loves babies. From her first visit with the babies, I saw her love for them. She became very vocal about doing things to benefit the babies. For instance, on one of the days they wanted to read to the babies but got caught up in snuggling with them. Brianna kept to the goal. She was a constant reminder that their job is to mentor the babies. I noticed how much she wanted to honor the intent of this project and, when I watch her with the babies, I can feel her happiness in those moments. I so enjoy watching her interact with the babies because she really lights up when she’s with them. Her excitement becomes contagious and I find myself watching her and feeling genuinely happy that this project has emerged.
The first aspect of this project is simply bonding with the babies. In order to create this special school family, where everyone knows and cares for everyone, there has to be time spent together. Each week, we invite the girls to have at least one visit with the babies where they help facilitate something special. So, sometimes they read to the babies, sometimes they play instruments, sometimes they take the babies outside, etc.
Another aspect of this project is encouraging the older children to share their observations of the babies. We ask them open-ended questions all the time to encourage the older children to think deeply and to really get to know the babies. We have also invited the older children to create a portrait of each baby and to share their observations of the babies as well.
The babies in the Baby Nido class…
Chloe by Carolina
Dylan by Brianna
Lucas by Carolina
Stella by Brianna
Zuri by Carolina
Brianna: Lucas has dirty gold hair and he’s little. Lucas likes to play with leaves, he likes being outside, um, and he has little animal shoes.
Carolina: Lucas loves picking stuff up off the ground.
Carolina: Stella is very active and she likes going outside and she plays very happy when people talk to her and stuff. She’s a ball of joy because she’s very happy when she’s outside. Maybe she likes being outside more than inside.
Brianna: Dylan has chubby cheeks and she’s very cute. She’s happy a lot…she likes to be outside. Dylan likes to play with the sparkly white cloth in her class. She is a very fun baby to play with a lot.
Carolina: Zuri, she’s sometimes happy and sometimes sad. She likes doing what she wants. She’s very pretty with that little bow and everything. She’s very cute.
Brianna: Zuri sometimes likes to be outside.
Carolina: Chloe is adorable and she loves to play outside and she loves her mom and stuff. She’s very happy outside.
Brianna: Chloe is a very cute baby; she is very fun. She likes to be outside a lot…she loves the grass.
The last aspect of this project is the creation of books and toys for the babies. Carolina is an aspiring designer and knows how to use a sewing machine. Brianna is also very creative and is eager to learn how to use the sewing machine. Carolina and Brianna are working towards the creation of a soft book titled Nature Story for the Baby Nido class. The reason for the subject of the book is that the girls came to the conclusion that the babies really enjoy being outside and, perhaps, they can learn more about nature through this book. They intend to create a series of soft books that they feel will be beneficial to the babies. Eventually, they’d also like to create toys, pillows, and even a mobile for the Baby Nido class.
Stella takes part in so many wonderful experiences while in class at school. She has two wonderful teachers named Ms. Michelle and Ms. Maria . They are dedicated, nurturing, and seem to really enjoy watching as the children explore many new and interesting materials. I, as atelierista, plan with one of her teachers every week. Ms. Michelle and I work closely together to plan special experiences, reflect upon the experiences that have gone on in the classroom, and discuss ideas for the future. Over the past few weeks, Stella has taken part in several amazing experiences. She absolutely loves every new encounter she has. Whenever her teachers place her near a new material, she smiles, moves her arms and legs in excitement, and screams with joy. It’s really special to watch…
The block of ice is super easy to create. You just take a wipe container, fill it 1/2 way with water, add plants to it, and freeze it.
The sensory bag is also really easy to create. You just place oil and water along with a few drops of watercolor in a ziplock bag. You can also duct tape the ziplock bag to a surface so that it stays stable during the exploration if you’d like.
I am the atelierista of a very special Reggio-inspired school in Miami, FL. The school I am a part of is also a “Green School”that emphasizes long term project work. Most of the projects that go on in my school have a focus on the environment. Before I became atelierista, I was the lead teacher of a group of children that led a project we named The Chicken Project.
The Chicken Project is an ongoing project that began in 2014. Back then, the children in the class of the 2’s formed an attachment to the rooster that lived in our park, Co Co Co. They thought of many ways to earn the rooster’s trust including feeding it every day, making it bowls for food and water, thinking of a playground for the rooster, and more. Unfortunately, the rooster died only a few months after we embarked on that project.
Since then, a new student, seeing that the children were mourning the rooster, offered to give us two chickens from her farm. Over the next several months, the children worked on designing a coop for chickens. They sent recorded summaries of the aspects they wanted for their coop along with their designs to my husband who is an electrician and carpenter. He watched their videos and looked over their designs. Then, he created a draft based on their designs and recorded his own message to the students.
Once everyone was in agreement over the coop. The children fundraised for the materials, wrote a letter to Shaun which included the money they raised, and then Shaun began building the coop. It took around 4 months to complete the coop. Shaun worked on it during the weekends and after work on some weekdays. I have to tell you it was completely a labor of love. Shaun went above and beyond with the coop. He is definitely a craftsman
This year, the coop has been built and we were given two very sweet and special chickens, Milk and Chocolate. Some of the students in the pre-k 4 class have been a part of this project from the beginning. The children in this class are in charge of the chickens and have been engaged in many meaningful experiences with the chickens this school year. I will continue to update this post with pictures as the children continue to care for these new chickens.
Today I decided to offer my daughter a special provocation. I prepared some of the noodles that my family made earlier this week and placed them in a plastic tub. Then, I placed Stella in the tub! She was completely engaged as she moved her hands through the ocean of noodles, spreading her fingers to catch a few at a time. She explored the noodles with he hands, with her feet, and with her mouth. She was captivated.
Through this experience she was able to work on her gross motor skills (sitting up), her fine motor skills (grabbing at and picking up noodles), her problem-solving skills (thinking about the properties of the noodles, what they’re for, why they stick to her, and how to get them off), and more. There are so many meaningful connections that this experience helped to facilitate, all while being fun, creative, and messy.
I should mention that she has these types of encounters daily at her school (which is the school I am a part of). Her teachers constantly tell me how much she loves these types of sensory, open-ended experiences. I, being atelierista, have helped to facilitate special encounters like the one above at school.
Here are a few of the experiences we facilitated at school this month (all featuring my beautiful daughter, of course).