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Posts Tagged ‘preschool’

In Erie, Pennsylvania, one woman had an idea that led to something big. She was a folklorist who loved collecting and sharing songs of different cultures. One day she was thinking about the refugee women in her town when light bulbs started to go off.

The first light bulb involved curiosity about the songs the women brought with them. The second light bulb was about wondering if the women would share their songs with local children. The third light bulb was about how the women might be trained for preschool jobs incorporating music.

At PRI (Public Radio International), Erika Beras reports on Kelly Armor and what she accomplished through the Power of One. The story starts with Beras visiting a class run by Sudanese refugee Marta Sam.

“Marta Sam is surrounded by really energetic 4-year-olds. She’s at St. Martin’s Day Care in Erie, Pennsylvania, guiding the kids as they sing and dance.

“Sam sings in Arabic, then English. She takes the students through a Congolese song, followed by ‘Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed.’ The kids follow her cues, dancing and calling out their favorite songs. Sam is used to this.

“ ‘When they see me in the classroom they say, “Miss Marta can we do this? Miss Marta can we sing this? Miss Marta can we jump?” ‘ she says. ‘Yeah, I will jump with them and get silly like them — working with the kids you just get down in their level and just … mess with them.’

“Sam, 59, is a roving educator at St. Martin’s Day Care. She goes from room to room and sings lullabies from all over the world with the kids. Originally from South Sudan, she came to Erie 13 years ago as part of the first wave of thousands of refugees who have resettled in this small Rust Belt city.

“She worked at a plastics factory and started learning English. Then she heard she could get job training to work in day cares. In return she’d share the traditional songs she had sung to her children when they were young.

“It was just what she needed.

‘Oh, it changed my life very much. … I’m somebody now,’ she says.

“Sam works at St. Martin’s because of ‘Old Songs, New Opportunities,’ a program dreamed up by Kelly Armor, a folklorist and educator at the Erie Art Museum. Armor is from Erie, but spent time in the ’80s studying traditional song in Kenya and Tanzania. When she noticed refugees settling in Erie in recent years, she had an idea.

“ ‘Could it be that … there are refugee women [who] would love to work with small children? And could it be that they know lots of songs and they know how to use songs with kids?’ she wondered.

“It turned out they did, and in some cases the songs were all they bought to the US. That was the case for Victoria Angelo, who is also from South Sudan.

“ ‘I was not able to bring anything. No dishes, nothing, no [clothing],’ she says. ‘What I actually brought with me was the songs.’ …

More at PRI, here, where you also can listen to a lovely collection of songs.

Photo: Erika Beras
Marta Sam, who emigrated from South Sudan 13 years ago, sings with a classroom of four-year-olds.

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Do we praise the work of librarians enough? I started following the Ferguson Library on twitter and Facebook after reading how it was the calm eye of the storm in Ferguson, Missouri, amid the 2014 riots. As a result, I now get good leads about other libraries. Here is a report on Ohio librarians who go the distance — and beyond.

Katie Johnson at School Library Journal describes her experience with “Play, Learn and Grow, a pop-up storytime and early learning program created through a collaboration between Twinsburg (OH) Public Library and Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA). …

“I noticed that none of the children living in the housing development were coming to storytime at our library. I reached out to AMHA representatives, hoping they would be open to the idea of the library hosting a weekly program at the development. They were, partnering me with one of their employees, Kellie Morehouse, who was already working with families within the complex.

“We set up Play, Grow, and Learn in an unused room behind the apartment leasing office. Our initial goal was to get to know children age five and younger and their families through storytime, crafts, and free play. As the weeks went on, we saw everything that these families lacked: employment, education, transportation, healthy food, proper healthcare, access to preschool, even reliable phone service.”

They got involved in all those areas — helping children get vaccinations and nutritious food, for example, and arranging for isolated young mothers to address depression.

“Early experiences with storytime revealed a desire of the young mothers to interact with one another.  This led the AMHA representative to suggest teaming storytime with one of the organization’s programs for moms.  AMHA and a local behavioral health agency had been working together to provide maternal depression support groups to low-income women in other parts of the county. …

“Twice a month, the moms in our storytime are able to meet in a group setting with a professional to discuss their frustrations and worries. Mom-ME Time has become key, as so many of our moms are dealing with heavy pressures every day, and most do not have a strong support network. Being able to vent and get helpful parenting advice can be crucial to the choices they are making for their young children.”

It is worthy of applause when a librarian sees the whole child, not just a child in storytime, and tries to tackle the barriers to a better life. More here.

Photo: Katie Johnson/School Library Journal
Moms are included in programming for children.

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One of my grandchildren attends a small preschool with a teacher who has a big focus on how people treat each other, not just the usual numbers and letters and stories. She writes quite individualistic reports each week to the families. Here is how one such report began. I have changed the names.

“Paula’s first day of school!! I’m so happy Renzo and Paula shared a special day together for her first experience at the school. Renzo was very nurturing with her, always offering help when she needed it, and teaching her how the day goes. We began our day together by coloring with crayons and painting with watercolors … we painted flowers and leaves. Paula colored with purple, she said, ‘purple,’ very quietly. Renzo whispered to me, very excitedly, ‘She’s sayin’ purple!’ Then while using markers, Paula was having trouble opening her marker, Renzo noticed and opened it for her, Renzo said, ‘That was fun. I can help you!!’ Paula smiled big.

“Then Renzo wanted to introduce Paula to our ‘water break’ routine … someone says, ‘water break,’ then everyone stops what they’re doing and sips water together and sighs a refreshing relief and continues making whatever we were making before. So, Renzo yells, ‘water break!!’ He scoops up his water and drinks, I drink too, trying to explain to Paula what’s going on, inviting her to join in. Renzo then notices, ‘She didn’t take a water break.’ I explained to Renzo that she probably needed to see a ‘water break’ before giving it a try. Later in the day, Renzo announced another water break … this time, Paula reached for her water and we all took a big sip and sighed together. Renzo was absolutely delighted. I’m very proud of Renzo for taking it upon himself to teach this little tradition to Paula, making sure she’s included. I’m very proud of Paula for observing the little ritual and understanding it so quickly, then giving it a try!”

For more on the school, e-mail me at suzannesmom@lunaandstella.com.

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Everything old is new again. Here’s a story about a type of teaching that is coming back in vogue.

Peter Balonon-Rosen writes for WBUR radio, “Closing the gap between the achievements of low-income students and their peers is such a formidable challenge that some experts say it cannot be done without eliminating poverty itself. By the time children enter kindergarten, there is already a significant skills gap across socioeconomic lines that manifests in an income achievement gap that has widened dramatically over the past 25 years.

“In Revere [MA], a high-poverty school district, school officials have turned internally to raise outcomes for kids in poverty. Their notion is that school success can begin with a successful teaching model.

“ ‘What is this?’ kindergartner Thea Scata asks. She taps the picture of a rabbit with a wooden pointer and looks to the three other girls seated at her table.

“The group of four kindergartners at Revere’s A.C. Whelan Elementary School is learning about the letter ‘R’ — writing its shape and reviewing words that begin with the letter.

“ ‘Bunny!’ replies Bryanna Mccarthy.

“ ‘No, what’s the first sound? “R”— rabbit,’ Scata says to the group. …

“Whelan is one of 43 public elementary schools in the state that Bay State Reading Institute (BSRI), a Holliston-based education nonprofit organization, partners with to implement this teaching model into Massachusetts schools.”

Said “Kimberlee Clark, a first grade teacher at Whelan, ‘I’m really able to target those that need to be challenged and go above and beyond and I’m able to work with those students that need the extra support to get onto grade level.’ …

“Core to BSRI’s approach is independent student learning. As teachers work closely with small groups of students, the other students are expected to work by themselves on separate tasks.

“ ‘Students then own a piece of the learning,’ said Ed Moscovitch, chairman and co-founder of BSRI. ‘They learn how to learn from an independent perspective.’

“ ‘When they’re working together it’s not so much that students are teaching students, but they’re discovering and coming to the knowledge together,’ said Lenore Diliegro, a fifth grade teacher at Whelan.” More here.

Photo: Peter Balonon-Rosen/WBUR
Thea Scata, left, leads a group of kindergarten peers at A.C. Whelan Elementary School in Revere.

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Kids ages 3 to 5 seem to have a strong compulsion to check out trucks up close. So when organizations like Concord Recreation decide to do a little fundraising by providing the opportunity, parents of preschoolers know they just have to go.

I was walking back from the store when John’s wife and son pulled up and said they were on their way to Touch a Truck. I couldn’t resist. I said we’d meet them there.

I don’t know the names of all the trucks, but I can tell you the array included an ice cream truck, a fire engine, a police van, a front loader, and a truck for drilling telephone pole holes. There was one with a bucket for raising a person up high. My husband pointed out the rubber gloves you have to wear if you’re working around high-voltage lines. He explained how many times the gloves get dipped in rubber and carefully checked during the manufacturing process.

My grandson tried all the trucks. You can see that it’s fairly serious business.

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