Posts Tagged ‘early childhood’

It might be getting a bit cold for the outdoor classroom, but this article by Melanie Plenda in the Boston Globe suggests that not even snow will stop these preschoolers from learning about nature.

“In the back of the farmhouse at Drumlin Farm Community Preschool in Lincoln sit five chickens surrounded by a gaggle of preschoolers — eyes wide, waiting. The teacher opens the egg box door, and the students, staying slow and small like they were taught, peer in.

“ ‘And when they find an egg there,’ says Paula Goodwin, director of the school, ‘we ask them to make a nest with their hand, and they very gently pass the egg from one to another. And it’s a very special time, because they don’t need a lot of special instructions except to look for a child whose hands are in the shape of a nest. … It’s one of the magical moments in the school year. They are so generous with sharing the egg, and they may not have even learned each other’s names yet.’

“Drumlin is a nature- and farm-based preschool, which means that rain or shine, maybe not sleet but definitely snow and temperatures down to 15 degrees, the 14 3- to 5-year-olds are outside learning math, science, language, and how to be curious. Visiting captive wildlife, doing farm chores, and taking part in planting activities provide opportunities for all kinds of learning.” More.

Judging from my three grandchildren, I’m pretty sure no kid needs to “learn how” to be curious (“Poppa, what is the sun for?”), but we all hope for schools that continually encourage their curiosity.

Photo: Porter Gifford

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Isy Mekler, 13, wanted to do a charitable deed in anticipation of his Bar Mitzvah. Because he has always loved reading, he decided that what would be ideal would be to raise money for the early literacy program Reach Out and Read, which gets books to kids who need them.

Isy “wrote to hundreds of artists across the country and asked them to create a work of art that could be auctioned to raise money for books. …

“He was inspired, he said, by a favorite children’s book, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, which has an underlying message about generosity. He e-mailed some 300 artists and illustrators and asked them to paint or illustrate a three-dimensional cardboard tree, which he had manufactured in Colombia.”

About 35 artists responded, throwing “themselves into the project with such enthusiasm that their trees will be exhibited at the Danforth Museum and School of Art’s Children’s Gallery in Framingham, [Massachusetts] beginning in May. The auction, held online, will run concurrently.

“Author-illustrator Grace Lin of Somerville, a Newbery Honor book winner who is enamored of large origami animals, painted a tree with tiny origami birds.

“ ‘Not only was it for a good cause, I thought it would be fun to do,’ said Lin.” (BTW, I wrote about reading her book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon here.)

Read more about Isy’s outreach to artists and the artists’ responses here, in the Boston Globe.

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Nicholas Kristof wrote recently about a new ” ‘poverty statement’ from the premier association of pediatricians, based on two decades of scientific research.” It ties early childhood stress to persistent poverty.

In his NY Times column “A Poverty Solution that Starts with a Hug,” Kristof says of stressed children, “Toxic stress might arise from parental abuse of alcohol or drugs. … It might derive from chronic neglect — a child cries without being cuddled. Affection seems to defuse toxic stress — keep those hugs and lullabies coming! — suggesting that the stress emerges when a child senses persistent threats but no protector. … The crucial period seems to be from conception through early childhood. After that, the brain is less pliable and has trouble being remolded.

“ ‘You can modify behavior later, but you can’t rewire disrupted brain circuits,’ notes Jack P. Shonkoff, a Harvard pediatrician who has been a leader in this field. ‘We’re beginning to get a pretty compelling biological model of why kids who have experienced adversity have trouble learning.’ ”

Lest this is striking too dark a note for Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog, I hasten to point out that identifying a problem is the first step to fixing it. As a proponent of both hugs and poverty alleviation, I was really happy to see this addressed! And Kristof’s mention of the stress hormone cortisol jumped out at me because I hadn’t heard about it until I saw the research in yesterday’s post, which suggested that a pleasant phone conversation with Mom can reduce cortisol more effectively than instant messaging with Mom. (Or whoever reduces your stress.)

Read more. And do leave comments.

(I must look up that article from a few years ago about the Indian woman who stood on a street corner in New York and gave free hugs to long lines of people craving hugs.)


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