Child-led Literacy, Numeracy, & Projects

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been working on a few projects that were initiated by children, and that are great examples of how rich literacy & numeracy learning can emerge naturally from children's interests.

One of these projects involves the creation of a giant puzzle. Children have been showing interest in using the big space that we have available to us in lots of different ways, such as building a train track that stretches across all three rooms. After some of these explorations, one child came up with the idea of creating a puzzle that stretched all the way across the school. 

To start working on the puzzle, a group of children gathered together to share ideas about what it could look like. Several ideas were offered...all the children in the school at a party! The characters from PJ Masks! All the colors of the rainbow! An owl eating grass! We soon realized that we could combine these ideas into one cohesive whole by creating a party scenario with both human and animal guests. I sketched out a layout, and children chose sections of the party to begin working on. Later, other children joined in as well, excitedly drawing a self-portrait to add themselves to the party.


Projects such as this one benefit children for many reasons. As an activity that places their ideas as the centerpiece of a learning experience, it provides a sense of empowerment and the capacity to be an active agent in the world. The aspect of telling a story and representing ideas visually is a cornerstone of literacy development, as well as artistic expression. As the project evolves, opportunities for measurement, math concepts, and spatial awareness also come into play, as we try to figure out where exactly the puzzle will fit in our school. 

Another child-initiated project stemmed from the eternal and important questions of "Who's bringing snack today?" "When is it my turn to bring snack?" I shared with children that we have a snack calendar on the computer, and families write their name down on different days. We decided to make a calendar that we could have in our classroom that children could look at. Two children began working steadily on making calendar boxes and writing the numbers. Sometimes they got stuck, and weren't sure how to write the next number. When that happened, another child working on something else nearby would chime in to help them out. 


The intrinsic motivation that is evident in these activities makes them powerful learning experiences, and mean that the new information that children encountered in their work is more likely to be retained and integrated into the children's knowledge base. 

We are looking forward to showing you our work when it's finished!


Celebrating Pongal festival with Sita's family!

Last week the older group of children had a visit from one of our parents, Sowmya. Sowmya is Sita's mom. Sowmya came to tell us about a Festival they celebrate in the region of India were she and her family are from, Tamil Nadu. The name of the festival is Pongal festival: or harvest festival. Sowmya told us about  how this is a time when people thank the sun for a successful harvest. The children saw and touched some crops typical in India that are harvested during this time.  Sowmya brought with her some turmeric, tamarind, rice and raw sugar. Some children announced they knew what turmeric was, some had never heard of tamarind. Some were surprised to learn how sugar came from Sugar cane and how it was harvested by squeezing the juice out of the cane. They were also surprised to see sugar in a block:

Z: It smells sweet

K: It smells like maple syrup.



We imitated the growth cycle of these plant foods as Sowmya asked the children to lay down and become seeds, then with water and care and the sun, they grew until we got these beautiful "plants": :)



We learned how festivals are very popular in India and how there are many festivals throughout the year. How some festivals like Pongal last 4 days or more. Pongal happens every year from January 14th to January 17th. During those 4 days of the duration of the festival, people do different activities each day. 

We also heard how people decorate their homes with beautiful "Kolam" designs. Typically they make intricate beautiful paintings on the ground outside their doors. Usually these designs include sugar cane sticks, as seen in this precious one Sowmya made for us.  



Another friend who wasn't with us during this activity came into the nest later and was pleasantly surprised by it and said: "Wow, that is beautiful, who made that?"

The word Pongal means "overflowing". And on the second day of the festival, people boil a pot of milk to share and celebrate the bounty of the harvest. The pots they boiled the milk in, we learned, are also beautifully decorated. The children got a chance to recreate the experience of decorating the pot with construction paper. They loved the wonderful assortment of little things that Sowmya kindly brought for them to use. You can see some of the intricate patters children designed.  

Ronan really enjoyed making his pattern. And I caught his picture before he stacked his pot in the cubby to take home. :)

Ronan really enjoyed making his pattern. And I caught his picture before he stacked his pot in the cubby to take home. :)

We are really grateful to Sowmya and Sita for sharing some of their experiences with us and the children. Since Sita joined us, the children have been curious about her and her heritage and Sita has been happy to answer and share her culture with us. Tell us if you do, how do you share other people's experiences and cultures with your children? 

A Peek Inside the Afternoons of the Older Children

In the afternoon the older group carried out some projects that were peer led and facilitated. This has been a great way to develop leadership qualities as well as improve group dynamics. One day “I” set out many different items and asked if they could be used to create something as a group. We talked about the different items that could be used and ones that couldn’t and why.  I offered some other materials similar to the ones chosen and a project was born.  Once the other children arrived in the room I informed the children that “I” had thought of a project for us all to work on as a collective and let her take it from there. She was able to lead the group with teacher guidance when needed. It was beautiful to see the children work together, look to another child to lead, and encourage each other. While the project did not turn into the working helicopter that they had first imagined it was the process that was truly magical.

I: “Me and Z’s is the main part. My crayon will draw the thing we are going to head into. This part is the small finding place, like if we find a small pocket watch or a phone that still works! The stick part tells you when danger is coming. We put a bell right here and it will mean we’re in danger.”

K: “It’s a propeller for the side, like to spin on the side because “I” said that was a good idea.


Children were able to use their prior knowledge to offer ideas to better the project.

R: “I am going to make a gas tank. Actually I am going to make as many as I can so we can go really far.”

Z: “ Maybe that could be a computer P!” P: “Yeah!!”


Another peer led project began with K asking if I would learn how to make a specific origami flower she had made at home and teach the other children to make them.  She kept meaning to bring the one she created in so I could see what she had in her mind and she would keep forgetting. One day after about a week of her talking about it I set out a bunch of different types of origami paper and asked her to take the lead on teaching her friends how to make the flower.  K jumped right in to the leading role in such a gentle and kind way. She was comfortable sharing her ideas. Two other children, M and R, decided to join her.  It was beautiful to see the other children listening so intently and asking clarifying questions.


As the school year continues I plan to offer more opportunity for peer originated, led, and facilitated projects. There are so many wonderful benefits to this approach. The development of social skills, conflict resolution, teamwork, confidence, leadership, interdependence, and independence are abound here at Catskill Wheelhouse!


Our living world...

With warmer days upon us the children in the older Crickets group have been spending a great deal of their work time outside.  Some of the natural discoveries they've made have led us to further discussions and reading about our living world.   

One Turkey Vulture Egg found in the first week of May.  

One Turkey Vulture Egg found in the first week of May.  

Our first find was a Turkey Vulture nest with one egg in it, this was in the first week of May. We asked first; Who does this egg belong to? "Maybe a robin?" -K "No they have their nests in trees." -L  "Maybe a hawk?" -Z  "No, they have nests too."  We then shared with the children that something we knew, was that turkey vultures do make nests in fields and who happen to be circling above us that day...many turkey vultures!  I asked them if they would like to look for a picture of a turkey vulture egg and we could see if it looked like what we had here.  The reply was a definite "yes!"

 The following day during meeting I shared the picture of what looked like the identical egg.  "It's  a turkey vulture!" they all yelled.  We looked at pictures of turkey vultures and did some spotted while we were outside.  When we visited the nest a week later, the egg was gone.  "It hatched!"  They all agreed.  

Yesterday (some two weeks later), we were on a rain hike and we found what looked to be the same egg, on the other side of the forest.  Shell crumpled, the children responded quickly with; "Something ate it!"  "How do you know?"  We asked.  Their response; "..because the hawk probably carried it over here and then it fell out of it's claws." -Z  "Because birds don't hatch like that the shells are in half, like this.."-P (my friend shows their hands as if they are holding two egg shells)  "I just know something ate it, just look at the shell!" -LWe continue now with more questions and investigations- Who are the turkey vultures predators?  Would the mama vulture try to move the egg?  What does the shell look like after the baby vulture is born?

Observations and recordings in the forest

Observations and recordings in the forest

In the forest... the older Crickets have been eager to find living creatures and observe (love!) them closely.  Teachers work together to find the most respectful way to do this and work with the children, so that they continue to remember that this is a life in their hands.   We acquired some observation boxes and so far they've really helped children's loving fingers from not loving too hard and also allows for many children to observe one creature all together.  The salamander we found was identified by the children, using a field guide, they took notes, and drew pictures,  A few friends just needed to "gently" hold and kiss the salamander.  " Oh, I love you so much, you smell like Zion!" -B (Zion is their dog)  "It's a red-striped salamander!" -I

Planting the three sisters and of course, brother Nastursium

Planting the three sisters and of course, brother Nastursium

After hearing the story; The Three Sisters, children were invited to plant their own garden with the three sisters.  We decided together that we should also have brother nasturtium.   At the end of the planting we gathered hands and promised to water the sisters and brother.  "Power to the plants!"   

Making happy potion with some of our harvested lemon balm

Making happy potion with some of our harvested lemon balm

Along with planting we've also been harvesting and exploring already harvested herbs.  With collected lemon balm, chamomile, lavender, lemon juice, and lemon zest we made...HAPPY POTION!  We bottled and labeled it.  "I'm so HAPPY!" -L declared.   We also carefully packed jars with dried calendula flowers and filled them with oil, so that we may use it in the weeks to come for other herbal recipes.   Hooray for all these gifts of life as they nourish us through body and mind.  Thank you, great earth...we love you so!  

Our Town

Since returning from our February break, the kids have been working on building a town. This has involved creating a road, as well as other buildings to add to our town. We've also been using pictures of familiar places in our block area. As children engage in this work, they have been working on representing their ideas symbolically. Their knowledge of themselves in relationship to their world is being refined and expanded as they think about the different locations in their town, and what people do there and how they work together. In addition, children have also been working on spatial concepts, measuring, and other math concepts as they create buildings. We are excited to continue to put together our town in the play room over the coming weeks. What locations do you like to visit in your town? We would love for you to send us pictures of some of your favorite places so that we can add them to our work!


Maple Forest Adventures...

It's difficult not to explore sugaring time when Forest Day turns into a discovery of blue pails and hoses running through the woods!

Finding buckets and hoses...."What are they!' Children call out as the run through the woods.

Finding buckets and hoses...."What are they!' Children call out as the run through the woods.

Once children found out that the buckets were collecting the sweet sap from the maple tree, they pleaded to be lifted up to see inside of them.  They quickly put little fingers under the drip, drip, drip of the sweet sap that dripped from the spout.   "mmm..." they sighed.  Others ran to find where the hoses led them.  

Hoses leading to the giant trough of sap and then it will be poured into....

Hoses leading to the giant trough of sap and then it will be poured into....

The Evaporator!

The Evaporator!

Our next visit to the woods I asked the children if they would be interested in helping to gather twigs for the fire that would burn under the evaporator and turn the maple sap into maple syrup!   

I had a handful of very dedicated helpers.

I had a handful of very dedicated helpers.

In just a short time we had filled the tarp with twigs.

In just a short time we had filled the tarp with twigs.

Delivering twig offerings to the evaporator for our friends (or Dad for some!) C & R to find.

Delivering twig offerings to the evaporator for our friends (or Dad for some!) C & R to find.

Tasting maple sap, palate cleansing....

Tasting maple sap, palate cleansing....

Our day ended with children taste testing maple sap and a story.  Some loved the maple sap and insisted, "it's better then maple syrup and french toast!"   Others were not fans and felt they might need to cleanse their palate with a maple leaf

and story time!

and story time!

After our taste testing children gathered to hear the story....Gluskabe Changes Maple Syrup.  An Abenaki legend about how Gluskabe helps his village appreciate the coming of maple syrup.   After our story we headed back to our school on a most delightful "spring like" day!  I'm now posting this blog entry just two days after...almost 30 degrees colder and 2 inches of snow!   What will our next Forest Day bring?

Food Fridays!

The process of making food together has been a big part of Catskill Wheelhouse since it was first imagined. We took a bit of a break from that this past fall, but began cooking together again last week. It's been so much fun to enjoy food together again. We started off by making banana chocolate milkshakes last week. Today, we squeezed lemons to make lemonade.

We love the sense of community and collaboration that cooking projects provide. Older children have been helping younger children, allowing them to feel knowledgeable and competent while the younger ones get to have the experience of a supportive older peer to learn from.


Opportunities for language and literacy development abound. Describing tastes and smells, reading recipes, understanding a sequence of events...all of these elements provide the foundational experiences that contribute to strong communication skills.

Mathematical understandings naturally make their way into our cooking activities. Counting ingredients supports quantitative understanding, cutting a banana into two pieces provides learning about fractions; measuring cups and spoons help children to learn about volume and measurement. 

As we cook together, we learn about one another and our world. We learn about likes and dislikes, how we are all different, yet there are some things that we share. We learn about the process and effort that goes into creating the food that we consume. As the weather grows warmer, we will look forward to connecting with seasonal changes and the land around us through produce that we grow and prepare. As we cook and eat, we enjoy sensations, and one another's company.


What are some of your favorite cooking activities to do at home? Would you like to plan one of our Food Fridays?

Morning meeting!

Every morning after playing outside, we come together as a group for "meeting time". In our meeting we give time to check in with each other with a greeting song, a message from the teachers, and a provoking closing : a question for the children. Their answers to simple questions such as: What is your favorite forest animal?, What is your parents job?; can be not only amusing, but so informative of what children already know, what they would like to learn about and do, and influence where the curriculum and activities we present to them might be going.

Also, since the start of the school year we have been thinking about how to incorporate Spanish to our days. Naturally the children already notice my accent, and discussions about words pop up here and there. The children have always been wildly curious about how words are said in Spanish. Is wonderful to see their excitement as they hear and repeat words they want to learn or already know in Spanish.  As a response to their curiosity, we now have a Word Wall as inspiration with an Spanish side and an English side. 

Our greeting song offers the opportunity to learn feelings words in Spanish:

Hola como estas?

Hola como estas?

How are you today?

In the past few weeks, we have also been talking about Martin Luther King and many conversations have come up, some about big themes on how to be fair, and free and a good leader. 

As part of the explorations of fairness, leadership, social movements and Martin Luther King, we have asked the children big questions such as:

If you were in the place of Martin were you saw something you didn't agree with, what would you do?

B: I would make art.

Z: I would talk to them.

L: I would tell them is wrong.

As the fact that we have a new president in the country came up during meeting and how he is the leader of the USA, we asked children what makes a good leader? Their answers are inspiring and informative of how it is possible to have big conversations with small children. :)

A good leader...

P: They let you choose what you want to do.

B: They tell good words to people.

I: They let people go places they want to go.

Z: They lead the parade :).

Tell us if any of these conversations have come up at home.







Late December Morning...

It's Friday morning just before we break for Holidays.  The day is amazingly mild for late December.  The children work at a small patch of ice in the play yard.  I take my typical approach to free play and try and busy myself with adult work, putting toys back in their place, checking on the garden, the compost, and really anything that will keep me from disrupting their play.  I'm not ignoring the children, but rather giving them space to be their authentic selves.  I am listening all the while, but making sure not to interrupt their play.   This is truly my most favorite time with children, when they are just exploring the freedoms of life.

There is a large stump that's being used as a stovetop.  With a metal pot filled with melting ice and mud.  The cook is calling out. "I'm poor, can you give me anything?"


Two other children are sliding on the ice patch close by when they call out to me, "Cammy, come quick, we found a track, we found a track on the ice."  I come over and they show me a shape melted out in the ice.  "It's a rabbit foot print, no, it's a squash!  We can put it in the soup!"   They fall over laughing at the thought and then get to work trying to chop the shape out of the ice with their sticks.  

The cook continues to stir their soup, and calls out again, " I'm poor, do you have anything for me?"   I offer a chunk of ice I've freed from a container and they thank me for it.  

I go and check the branches on our mulberry bush.   Another child has joined the group on the ice patch.  There are five now, all within a few feet of each other.  I'm really enjoying this scene.  The past couple of weeks have been rough for these children, their caregivers, and most likely their parents too!   It's December and now late December and celebrations are in the air.  These celebrations making everyone a little, well, as one child put it best when they said, "everyone is bitza, bitza, bitza!"  They even demonstrated the "bitza, bitza," and lay on their back and rolled around shaking they're arms and legs.  "Yes, we all have been a little bitza, bitza! " I reply.  

Today though, was especially low-key, not that I don't love a little "bitza", but today had this lovely little hum to it and no “bitza”.  From the very beginning, to the very end of our day, children were so at ease, so very comfortable with what they were up to.  We continued inside with free play and again all these delightful Crickets settled into the playroom, amongst one another, but mostly working on their own.   The serenity in the room was tangible.   I wondered whether it came from the safety of the space, the bond the Crickets had with one another, or the pure happiness in their own self.  I knew It was something very present and it filled my heart.

Impromptu exploring of the ukulele was just what one Cricket had been hoping for and some wintry carol singing ensued as well.  All these blissful moments wrapped up together became clear to me as the gift of “us”.  Each one of us tangled together by our moments with each other, we seemed to have arrived at this spot of unspoken feelings of trust and support.

This day was special in so many ways; it also happened to be our winter solstice celebration and Crickets worked on decorations for the occasion. Threading needles ever so carefully they made edible garlands of popcorn and cranberries to hang outside for our bird friends.  

They also worked on decorating the school for the festivities that would come later in the day.   Snowflakes carefully cut out over the past couple of weeks, were hung for all to see.

At the end of our day, families joined us outside to decorate our mulberry bush with all the edible lovelies. 

Then it was back inside for a story, songs, and most definitely dancing!


We ended this day with gingerbread decorating (& eating!), a forest adventure, and a hot chocolate toast to an almost sunset. 


Many thanks for these delightful Crickets, their light radiating more bright than any sunset!  


Welcome back to school, everyone! As we move into the month of January, we are constantly noticing all of the ways in which our Crickets have grown since the fall. Every day provides new surprises and milestones. It is so exciting to see children grow and master things that they have been working on!




As this process of mastery occurs, children begin to set new challenges for themselves. With these new challenges, calls of "Help me!" echo across the play yard and classrooms. These calls of "Help!" provoke an interesting balancing act for us as teachers. We want the children in our care to always feel supported, comforted, and held by the adults in their lives. We want them to feel that we are always there for them when they need us. 

At the same time, we also want the children in our care to feel confident and independent. We want to send them the message that we believe in their abilities, that we believe them to be competent and capable individuals who can find their way through all kinds of challenges and overcome all sorts of obstacles. Experiences with setting one's own challenges, then figuring out a way to accomplish one's own goal foster resilience, creativity, and persistence. They are also a big part of the benefit of open-ended play. Motor challenges are a huge area of learning about problem-solving, particularly for our very youngest Crickets. The challenges that children set for themselves are not necessarily the same challenges that adults tend to value, and so observation and a shift in perspective can be necessary to really understand what a child is attempting to do, and to allow them the space to move through their process.

Success in the play yard!   Hard work to link together tunnel plus car, then climb all the way through!

Success in the play yard! 

Hard work to link together tunnel plus car, then climb all the way through!

Success with paint! "I made yellow!"

Success with paint! "I made yellow!"


What happens when they really can't do it? This may involve a joint judgment call between the teacher and child. Teachers attempt to provide just enough assistance for a child to accomplish the goal on their own. But sometimes, children decide that they are finished with that particular challenge, and move on to something else. At times, teachers might give a little push, but at other times, we choose to respect a child's decision to walk away from something that no longer feels important to them. Through self-determined challenges, children learn their own limits, and figure out how to work with them. For this reason, we do not always lift a child onto a swing, climber, or tree branch that they quite do on their own yet, even if other children are doing so. They learn to make choices, to decide what is worth spending their time on. They learn to be comfortable with who they are, where they are at, and to be ok with the fact that while some things come easy, others may require a lot of work and effort.

So the next time you see Wheelhouse teachers watching and smiling while your child cries "Help!" or grunts in frustration, please know that it's not out of cold-heartedness! It's because we have seen firsthand the pride that come from figuring something out on their own, we treasure those experiences for the children in our care, and we want to do everything we possibly can to provide opportunities for that joyful thrill. We wait, and are often rewarded by another cry echoing across the play yard... "Look! I did it!"

Making decisions together and future action project!

Teacher: Friends, we seem to have trouble getting outside together on time after lunch. I wanted to ask you for ideas on how we can get outside a bit quicker. (After children finish their food, they go to different stations in our studio to play with different materials while everyone else is done.)
Z raises his hand: Well, what if we clean up our lunch and go to the cubby room.
Teacher: So, you are saying we go from putting away lunches to the cubby room? Ok
 L: What if we clean our puzzles all together quickly and go get ready for outside. 
Teacher: And you are saying we clean together. What does everyone thinks of these options? 
Other voices: “Clean clean” “go outside.”
Teacher: So it sounds like we are all going to help each other clean up faster so we can go outside faster. 

Discussions like this one happen often at Wheelhouse, where we make decisions together with the children about how to solve problems that arise in the flow of our days. Adults take into account children's ideas and facilitate the road to making a desicion that affects all of us. 

Another tool we use for making decisions is voting. Like at the beginning of the school year when we chose the name of Crickets for our class. The teachers brought some suggestions, and children used voting to determine what our class name would be. We had wooly bears, crickets, and dragonflies. We asked children to raise their hand for each name, counted together, and picked the name with the biggest number: Crickets.


Because you need a talking stick when you are having a discussion and everyone wants to be heard.. 

Because you need a talking stick when you are having a discussion and everyone wants to be heard.. 

We see that children can be active members of communities and society.  That is why we encourage and acknowledge their capacity to deal with problems. 

Coming up in January we are going to start working on an action project where we will identify an issue or a problem that the children care about, and use a multistep process to learn more about it, and to find potential ways of solving it. We would like to spend as much as it takes on this venture, allowing space and time for more learning together. 

 To do this, we might come up with a prompt such as: 

If you were in charge of the play yard at school, how would you make it better?

Or if you were in charge of the earth what would you do to make it a better place to be?

We are looking forward to starting this new journey with the children and see where it take us!!


Winter fun!

The colder weather over the past week has provided lots of opportunities to explore the science and art of ice and snow. Children have been busy building with colored ice blocks, creating "food in their dramatic play stories with colored ice cubes, and playing in the snow. Learning about these physical changes in states of matter has been entwined with aesthetic observations, as well as sensory delight. See below for some pictures of the Wheelhouse Winter Wonderland!


Conflict Resolution

Teachers have been working together to articulate our approach to conflict resolution at Catskill Wheelhouse. We’ve drafted this as a living document, as a starting point for conversation with families about how we as a school community want support conflict resolution.

Parents have been wondering about how we handle conflict resolution our school.  How do we handle hitting? What do we do when someone takes something that another child was using? We see conflict resolution as a big part of our classroom- learning the social skills needed to navigate the interactions that happen each and every day.  These skills are not something that is quickly learned, but learned through trial and error every day.  We as teachers will hold the space for children, to help them find the words to express what they need, and work through the moment together.  

Our first step in setting the scene for the development of conflict resolution skills is creating an everyday environment in which children feel respected, heard, and protected by clear boundaries. An underlying sense of safety and care helps children to be more receptive to teacher’s guidance and friends’ words when conflicts do arise.

When conflicts arise, ideally our goal is to have each child express their perspective, and to talk together to find a way that the needs of both parties can be met. In situations in which emotions are relatively calm, teachers help children to listen to one another, and encourage them to think of their own solutions to the issue that is arising. For example, if they were grabbing a shovel from another, we would ask them about why they needed that shovel, and then help them to figure out how to continue. Do they want to ask that child to have the next turn? Do they want to look for another shovel that they can use? Perhaps they come up with another solution as well, and we are careful to give them space to share their thoughts before we give them options, allowing for them to stretch and problem solve on their own. Often, children just need to feel heard, and conflicts sometimes vanish once children have listened to one another.

In other situations, emotions are very volatile, and children are not ready to listen to one another. Sometimes hitting happens. When this happens, we work together with all children, the one who has been hit, but also the one who was hitting.   A child who has been hit needs love and support in that moment, and we help guide the other child to help check in on them to see if they need anything.  We will also check in with the child who was hitting.  A child who has hit another is feeling that they need to protect themselves from another child, or needs to hit to make a child stop doing what they don't want them to do.  Often times, they need to feel supported, but also shown other ways that they can handle the situation.  But one thing is always stated, clearly, quietly, and seriously- it’s not okay to hurt kids.  If you don't like that, tell them.  If they won’t stop, ask a teacher to help. They both need help in this situation, and we make sure they know that we are there to help everyone when a problem happens. 

When a child is using an item, and another child grabs it, we intervene, and let that second child know it is not okay to take this from them.  We honor the child who is currently using the item, and then support the second child, helping them find another way to get what they need.  

When the same type of conflict recurs repeatedly, teachers seek to understand the underlying cause, and to address it. Is a child feeling isolated? Are they experiencing stress within a peer relationship? Are they experiencing things outside of school, such as a change from the normal routines, or an upcoming event such as a move to a new home or a new baby on the way? How can we best support them so that they don’t feel the need to hit? 

There is no one way to solve a conflict, but we embrace these moments as prime opportunities for problem solving, as well as for self expression of needs.  We support children in these moments, unconditionally.  Their actions to not change their innate value, or how much they are cared for and loved. We let them know this, and let them know that we are here to help them.  

We also recognize that there are times that a child just feels too upset to sort out the feelings behind hitting or grabbing toys from another friend and those very heated moments we offer the child time to take a break and check in with themselves and let us know when they are ready to talk about what has happened.  We frequently remind friends of their positive qualities during our discussions with them and never refer to their conflict as a “bad” thing, but more use the moment to introduce resolutions that promote positive social skills. They may be hitting or pushing, and we are not okay with actions that hurt one another, but that never affects our love.  We strive to make this clear in our actions and words- here you are supported, we care about what you feel, and here at Catskill Wheelhouse, you are loved.

Yard Time!

Our play yard provides us with rich opportunities to engage with concepts, explore self-generated questions, and bring ideas to fruition in a more physical, active way than is practical indoors. The whole body can be involved in learning, which is so beneficial to young children. Over the past month, we've been working on adding materials to the play yard to expand and enrich play. Here is some of what we've been up to!

Pumpkins and squashes taught us a lot about weight and did using our whole bodies!


The following week, we explored weight and balance in a new way by creating pulleys out of baskets and rope. After working with pulleys for a while, children then generated lots of other ideas for using ropes...they created their own swing, a tightrope, a spiderweb, and a tow truck!

Pumpkins, squash, sumac berries, sunflower heads, and corn have also provided inspiration for dramatic play. Children have been very engaged in creating restaurants and cooking in homes that they built using fabric and sunflower stalks.



In addition to the narratives created through this dramatic play, we have been engaging with literacy through writing in the yard. During the week of Halloween, children were invited to create spooky books outdoors. 

They have also had the opportunity to make marks and to create with paint on our outdoor easel using fall-inspired colors.


One of our favorite aspects of our work with the children is that they not only have the opportunity to engage in individual learning, but to work together to build their community. The yard is a site of many community projects. We've been working on gardening (with such wonderful leadership from families). We've also been very busy trying to figure out how to tune up the bike that we inherited. 


Problem-solving, working together, learning about tire pressure, writing stories...our yard has been a very active place. Next up:  exploring light and shadows on a plexiglass panel, creating the alphabet out of found materials, and textured painting!

What are your favorite activities to do outdoors with your children?

Play and everyday meaningful moments

Play is a big part of our days at wheelhouse. We as educators understand the great value of play. Through play children have the opportunity to act on their ideas, work through emotions, and learn problem solving. At play time, we are able to experience many wonder moments, and through our documentation we are able to revisit them, aid our curriculum planning and of course, now share with you. Here are some of those moments.
                                          I.M. was arranging the people carefully, when a teacher asked what she was doing. She answered: "They are getting ready for their family picture."

                                          I.M. was arranging the people carefully, when a teacher asked what she was doing. She answered: "They are getting ready for their family picture."

The presence of these wooden people are much loved in our block area. They are undefined people shapes that allow children to fill in the details with their imagination.  They are featured In the image to the left, where we are able to see them get in the slide and jump in the pool tambourine! These materials were brought together from various parts of the classroom to build a unique creative dramatic play opportunity.

In our studio there is a shelf with tubs of materials for children's autonomous use, which allows for open ended explorations of materials and creativity.
At this age,  autonomous hands on experiences are as important as caring loving guidance. When children have the space to make decisions and choices as simple as what color scissors to cut with, they feel empowered, confident and also connected to the adults around them.



The story below illustrates two of these moments.  B was at the creations table wanting to use scissors. She got her scissors and a piece of paper and cut it in two. With the teacher’s help she was able to practice a safe way to hold scissors (tips away from body) and improve her cutting technique.

After cutting the paper in two, B looked concerned. She said: “But, I want to put it back together. The teacher asked, what can you use from our  baskets that could help you do that?

B: “paper clips”. A friend near by helped: “You can also use tape”. B went with the tape idea and later, looking proud, asked to take her paper home. 

L, was near by holding a woolly bear that he had found in our bathroom. He was busy talking about taking the wooly bear home. He asked if maybe the woolly bear would be cold.  Right then he decided to use scissors, tape and paper to make a bed for the woolly bear.  He had available materials to create what him mind was envisioning. 

At home, have you seen other moments of creation unfold from play with opened ended materials? Has your children re-imagined new uses for common everyday things? SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!!!