Celebrating Our Youngest Learners


This past week, Parker’s PreK and Kindergarten classrooms celebrated The Week of the Young Child, a nationally honored event amongst early childhood educators and the young children in their care. This week of acknowledgement was started by the NAEYC, and is held as much to honor the very young as it is to raise awareness about the importance of early childhood education. Here at Parker, every single day is all about children – but this week, our teachers have turned it up to eleven for our youngest students.

Why is early childhood education so important? Our Kindergarten teacher and early childhood guru, Leigh Augustine, explains “Early childhood education sets the foundation for a love of learning that will last a lifetime. The experience of being in an early childhood classroom is also often the first experience a child has in a community outside of the immediate family. This is where social skills develop, as well as the ability to be a productive, contributing citizen. People are their most creative selves during the period of early childhood, and the early childhood environment does much to encourage creative thought and curiosity through play and exploration with materials.”

PreK teacher, and our long-standing expert on early childhood development, Michele Ridgeway, adds, “We are setting the foundation for families and children for a lifetime of curiosity and learning, wherein children are given permission to ask questions and seek answers, and they are rewarded for their spirit and wonder at the world. Parents are also empowered to see their children as having choices and agency in their own learning through our inquiry based approach to curriculum.”

Although our classrooms look very different this year, that did not stop our youngest learners from celebrating to their fullest this week. Leigh and Michele organized an entire week devoted to fun activities designed to help children explore and revel in the wonders of being young. Kindergarten began their week with Musical Monday. The entire class made a playlist using each student’s favorite song and then listened to it throughout the day. They also made and played their own shaker instruments, and they got to hear their student teacher Sara play the flute! Tasty Tuesday ushered in the eagerly anticipated Pancake Party, during which our students got to enjoy the fruits of their maple sugar project in science by dousing pancakes with their own homemade syrup! Wacky Wednesday saw a parade of colorful and crazy clothes, complete with a mixed up schedule (math in the morning!), silly stories, and a wild game of Would-You-Rather. Things calmed down considerably by Thoughtful Thursday, during which the students created and gifted descriptive word decorations to each faculty member and participated in a yoga workshop led by Katie Thornton. The week culminated today with Fun Friday — a final celebration of the week’s happenings complete with face-painting and games. Our Kindergarteners also spent part of Friday reflecting on their past week and working together to write a class newsletter, which we will be sure to share next week once it is published!
PreK, meanwhile, began their week of celebration by experimenting with mixing different paints and colors to celebrate Mixing Monday. Terrific Tuesday brought conversations surrounding identity and positive self-esteem by asking the children to think about what makes them each terrific. Wacky Wednesday saw custom crazy hats created by each child, which they then adorned for a costume parade. Thursday was Thoughtful, and gave children the opportunity to focus on being mindful and kind, with the class enjoying a special meditation session. The PreK week culminated today with Fun Food Friday, where the children made a special snack together and enjoyed a final fun art project.
In a year where so much about children’s lives has been upended, taking the time to honor the magic, wonder, and spirit of young children is more critical than ever. As Leigh explains, “This past year, children’s routines have been shaken. Aspects of their lives they took to be certain have changed or vanished, and it can be easy for them to feel helpless or out of control. Putting the spotlight on everything young children ARE capable of doing helps them feel a renewed sense of empowerment, while also highlighting the resiliency of this youngest group. It’s also important to note that the very aspects of humanity that children innately embody (joy, love, resiliency) are the things that our society needs most in order to make it through this time. My hope is that adults and older children can be inspired by the youngest in our community.”

 Please read on to hear more from our superhero team of early childhood educators about why they love working with young children, in their own words:

“It’s a pleasure to listen to the ideas and questions of young children, and an honor to help them find the answers to their big questions. Walking beside my students as they make discoveries and create a deeper understanding of their world is an act I will never tire of.” ~Leigh Augustine (Kindergarten Head Teacher)
“One of the most exciting things about working with young children is seeing how capable the children really are. As a society, we’ve created this idea that young children need an adult to do things for them because they can’t do it on their own. In my teaching, I have found this to be far from the truth. I watch children accomplish great things while in the classroom. Their resiliency shines through in their innate desire to do things on their own. I watch their faces light up when they learn to zip their coat. I hear them shout excitedly to me when they learn to climb a tree. I see children make elaborate structures as an architect would. I see children create art as beautiful as an artist would. I see children discover and wonder as a scientist would. I help them up when they’ve challenged themselves and fail, and I encourage them to try it again. The best part about teaching young children is that I get to see them accomplish great big things.” ~Sarah Notaro (PreK Assistant Teacher)
“What I love about working with young children, is their energy and drive and curiosity. My favorite time of the day in the classroom is when children are making choices and playing freely, building together, bickering, conversing, and creating. I love the way that children seek each other out. In my classroom, I am always trying to make space for the children to continue to be safely “together”. ~Michele Ridgeway (PreK Head Teacher)
“I love working with children because they see the world from a different perspective. They bring their imagination into the classroom, and their energy is incredible! Many people think we are the ones teaching them, but they are also teaching us! They are teaching us how to be care-free. They are teaching us how to enjoy the little moments in life. They are teaching us how to bring out our inner child everyday. There is never a dull moment. I love working with children because they bring so much joy and happiness into my life with their actions, drawings, words, energy, and imagination.” ~Sara Schomaker (PreK Assistant Teacher & Kindergarten Student Teacher)