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 are 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 4 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.”

Our youngest learners celebrated to their fullest this week. In Kindergarten, Leigh 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 wild games. Things calmed down considerably by Thoughtful Thursday, during which the students created and gifted descriptive word decorations to each other 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 pajama-wearing, temporary tattoos, and games.

PreK, meanwhile, planned their celebration as a group, with children working together and compromising to set a theme for each day of the week. In PreK 4, students began their week of celebration with Hat Day, with each student wearing a different crazy hat. Tuesday brought a Wolf Party, allowing students to dive into their emergent curriculum of Wolves by dressing as wolves, practicing their Wolf Play, and enjoying Wolf Sundaes. On Wednesday the class had a pajama party and enjoyed a movie with their favorite stuffed animals and blankets. Thursday was Costume Day and brought lots of colorful and creative costumes and a parade! The PreK 4 culminated their week today with Silly Day, with each child deciding how celebrating “silly” looks to them.

Planning in PreK 3 took a different direction, with students choosing to celebrate Monday as Little Chefs! Together they made a fruit salad for snack, homemade pizza for lunch, and muffins to enjoy the next morning. Tuesday took the students outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather and a Woods Party; they built a fire and spent the entire morning in their outdoor play space. On Wednesday, our 3’s joined with the 4’s for their pajama party, enjoying a snack and movie together with their favorite lovies. Thursday was all about Fun and Games, with the children enjoying some of their classroom favorites like “Dog Dog, Who’s Got Your Bone?” and “Huckle-Buckle Beanstalk”. PreK 3 finished today with a costume and dance party, dressing as their favorite characters and capping off their week of celebration by dancing the day away!

At a time 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 3 Head 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 4 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 (Kindergarten Assistant Teacher)
“I love their smiles, their hugs, and how excited they get when they discover something new.” ~Charlene Hoffay (PreK 4 Assistant)”What I love about working with young children is you get to experience the world all over again through their eyes, watch them grow, and share special moments with them every day.” ~Hannah Rose (PreK 3 Assistant)“Our very young children, being their most honest and true selves, is the reason I fell in love with Early Childhood Education. These children, who have only been living for a few years, show us the world in the most indescribably ways. They are pure magic for being exactly who they are in this very moment.” ~Nari Gottlieb (PreK 3 Assistant)