Friends Neighborhood Nursery School has been taking place almost excluslively outside on our large playground since September as our answer to the pandemic. FNNS has always been a school that values outdoor play. We are excited about this opportunity to incorporate nature more fully into our curriculum. This week we finished a Thankful tree project for our Thanksgiving table. Each child glued autumn colored felt to the outside of a tin can. Learning letters this week was incorporated into this craft by using glue and yarn to trace the dotted first letter of their last name. The wind helped us out by bringing the prefect branches to our play yard. In order to weigh down the can, the children found rocks on our playground and practiced their math skills by counting out 5 rocks each, dropping them in the can one at a time. Their statements of thankfulness were written on yellow leaves. In this way they can connect their spoken words with words that are written down. Some of the sentiments included "hugging my mommy", "playing puzzles with my daddy", "playing in my sister's room", "my friends at school" etc. Using their fine motor skills, they punched holes in the leaves with a hole puncher and strung a piece of yarn through the holes and hung them on the branches. The final result was a Thankful tree that they felt proud to bring home. Each day begins with "morning meeting". An active greeting game that requires listening and moving warms us up for the day. The teachers say "if your name begins with a B, hop 10 times" or "if you have an older sister skip around the table" etc. Everyone has several opportunities. We also sing songs about falling leaves and winter clothes. When we sing about the days of the week, we march in place and then stop when we get to the day it is today. On the playground, during free play, the teachers rake leaves into piles and the children have fun jumping in them. They also like to make piles of leaves at the bottom of the slide for each other to knock down when they slide down. We used our hay bales and leaves to create several large nests. This sparked the children's imaginations to become birds who collected worms (sticks), chirped and flew south to the other side of the play yard. Some of the children collected things from nature in their buckets. Their discoveries included a piece of an evergreen tree, leaves, and a flat rock. The mornings end with storytime in the sun. We sit in a circle in the sunniest part of the play yard. This week we shared two Thanksgiving stories. One is a picture book called Thank you Omu by Oge Mora. The main character is Omu which means queen in the Igbo language (the Igbo people are primarily from Nigeria). It is a lovely story in which the main character is making a delicious red lentil stew and everyone in the neighborhood smells it and knocks on the door. Eventually Omu gives away so much of her stew that she has none left for herself, but... later that night everyone who she gave soup to during the day gives her a different type of food and they have a festive meal together. The children enjoyed acting out this story by pretending to stir and scoop out the stew and they were intrugued by the real knocking on the wooden table for effect. They also listened to a story called Food For All based on an old legend. Instead of relying on pictures in a book, they imagined the pictures in their mind. In this story there was not enough food to eat and everyone was sad until one day a mother decided that something had to be done. She set out with her son to grind up a bit of grain announcing that she was going to make a loaf of bread and invite everyone for Thanksgiving. Ultimately, the fisherman who had stopped fishing, the artist who had stopped painting, the tree climber who had stopped picking apples and the grandmother who had stopped gardening changed their ways and came to the home of the mother and boy for Thankgiving with their gifts of fish, apples, eggs and cabbage and all was well in the world. These stories help us to connect to the theme of community. Many of the months of the school year are marked with a specific Quaker value that informs our curriculum (December- simplicity, January-peace, February-equality, March-, Integrity, April-stewardship). These stories and all of the themes are even more meaningful during the time that we are currently experiencing during the worldwide pandemic.
This week, the children learned that you can make art from tiles or stones and it is called a mosaic. They were impressed by photos of mosaics from ancient Rome which covered walls, ceilings and floors.
They made their own mosaics by gluing strips of tiny tiles on to wooden blocks. Some of the children cut specific colors from the strips to make patterns. Their mosaics are both beautiful and functional—you can use them as hot plates.
In the playground, the children enjoyed digging for worms, playing ball, going on the swings and running in the sprinkler. Next week, we will make a peace garden.
We began the week focusing on fireworks. Children were spellbound as they watched a short video of unusual fireworks on my computer. They then made their own versions of fireworks on paper. On our last day of camp, they made beaded bracelets using red, white and blue beads.
On Monday, when I asked them what holiday was coming up, they did not know. I told them that we were going to have a birthday for the United States and that the fireworks were like very big, sparkly candles on a cake. When I told them that we live in the United States, one child disagreed and explained, “I live in Glen Rock.”
On our last day, we had our own parade around the playground with musical instruments.
This coming week, the children will be making mosaics, inspired by ancient Roman ones.
During our first week, the children learned about various types of puppets, including marionettes, and shadow, hand, rod and junk puppets. Junk puppets are made with things that you don’t use anymore; for example, I showed them a puppet that is made from a toy bicycle wheel, a squeeze toy, a stop/go sign from a racetrack and a toy hammer.
I also performed a version of a puppet show, Razzmedoodle. Razzmedoodle is a brightly colored bird that does not fit in with her neighbors. One neighbor, a bluejay, is especially bothered by her. In the end, all the birds learn to appreciate their differences. The children made their own brightly colored birds or bluejays to keep Razzmedoodle company.
The children also learned the beginning of this song:
Oh, I’m Razzmedoodle
That’s what they call me
'Cause I fly in the air,
Oh so high and so free.
I fly in the air…
Look at me, look at me.
I’m so bright, I’m like the sun.
And so they say
I have too much fun
'Cause I’m too bright,
Who cares what they think!
'Cause I’m Razzmedoodle,
That’s what they call me…
The children enjoyed watching Laura perform with finger puppets and read stories. They played outside at our water tables, sandbox, swings, and slides. On one particularly hot day, they had ice pops.
The children have planted sprouts into biodegradable pots and will soon put them into our school garden. Cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, peas, and tomatoes will soon fill the garden box.
Most of the birds that the children made have flown home. The children are also making bird feeders from pine cones that we are hanging from tree branches. We hope the children will see birds eating from them.
Many of the children have been searching for ladybugs, beetles, and ants when they’ve been outside. Laura has taught them a song about not squashing bugs and letting them go.
As we are in the final two weeks of school, we are going to give our future kindergarteners practice in opening their own lunch boxes (a skill that they will need next school year). This means that if your child is graduating, you should pack lunches that are easy to open. If you have questions about this, please email me. We want to help them be ready for the many changes yet to come.
Duck has finally returned from Florida, with a freshly polished beak and some new feathers. Despite having had a relaxing holiday, he has been remiss at work. Auntie Numero has taken the number four and has an appetite for more digits.
Our kindness tree now has eleven leaves. Each day, we talk about the previous day's acts of kindness.
Thanks to all the families who came to the art show. It was wonderful to see children show their families their artistic creations. Some of the children are giving voices to the people they made in the Dream City.
We are moving on from learning about modern art to studying birds, butterflies and the earth. All five of our caterpillars have become butterflies. Today, we released three of them. Two butterflies had just emerged from their chrysalises and their wings are still drying.
The children are germinating seeds and have learned that plants need air, water and sunlight. Soon (we hope!) they will plant sprouts into biodegradable pots. Many children are fascinated by worms, beetles and other insects and have delivered worms to our raised garden beds.
Children have also been making trips to Mars and other planets in a rocket ship created by Jenna.
Auntie Numero, a snake that likes numbers, has taken 0 and 1. Duck’s sister, Duckalina, is guarding the number line and gives the children updates about the estimated arrival of her brother, Duck.
This week, the children will begin exploring techniques that Jackson Pollock used when he created his paintings. Some of the older children will also work on self-portraits, inspired by Frida Kahlo. (Want to see Kahlo’s paintings? They are on exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum until May 12.)
We have been talking about things that the children want in our Dream City. They agreed that it should have a playground and a swimming pool, and a couple of children mentioned a hot tub!
James Rose was a landscape architect who lived in Ridgewood. His house is now the James Rose Center, located at 506 East Ridgewood Avenue. The Center gives guided tours and can be reached at (201) 446-6017. The house is built around a tree and might give the children ideas about constructing buildings.
The children enjoyed listening to Juliet, Eleanor’s older sister, read a book to the them. Ellie, Kate’s sister and Ruhi also visited us.
Last week, the older children were asking for Sally Snake’s father. Stanley Snake made a one-time appearance, taking the lettery. On Monday, Sally is coming back for the letter z. Later in the week, she will take the whole lower-case alphabet and the children will write new letters.
On warmer days, we opened the sandbox. Many children dug for treasure and created sand castles and cakes. The children have also been busy digging in the earth for worms, beetles, and other insects.
This week, we will move on from art inspired by Juan Miro and Paul Klee to making a dream city inspired by Bodys Isek Kingelez. Each child will design a building and a small area around it.
The children have been enjoying playing outside as the weather has shown signs of warming. They have been making mud ice cream and cake, looking at ants under rocks, and discovering the joy of earth without the covering of snow.
Sally Snake has taken the lower-case letters r and s. Before she finishes the alphabet, her mother, Sneaky Snake, will return, as will another member of her family.
The children are putting their final touches on their passports, which will come home this week.
They are now working on surrealistic landscapes, inspired by the artwork of Joan Miro. We will also look at paintings by the surrealist Paul Klee.
When we move on from Surrealism, we will make a dream city inspired by works by the Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez. We will use recycled materials and cardboard. If you have candy/gum wrappers, small bottles or other packages that you think could decorate or be a building, please clean them and bring them to school. (Please don’t bring packaging that contained peanuts.) They will go into a collection for everyone to use to create a small city.
Sally Snake has taken lower case l and m. The children have been asking about Duck, who is still vacationing in Florida. As the weather gets warmer, he will be returning to guard the rest of the alphabet.
Welcome to Orion, who started school this month.
In our world travels, the children “visited” Germany and Greece. They enjoyed presentations by Sebastian’s and Amalia’s parents, which included looking at photos, dancing, listening to music, and learning how to say “hello, friend” in German and Greek. The children were interested in counting and how to say certain words in German and Greek. They also made Greek worry beads, which absorb worries. Next, the children will learn about Turkey.
On Thursday, a dentist visited the class and taught them that they have 20 teeth and should brush them for two minutes. Each child got to brush giant teeth and also put magnetic representations of food on a picture of a tooth. If it was candy, ice cream, soda or a germ, it stuck on the tooth. Fruit and vegetables slipped off, showing that when you eat sugary things, you’ll need to brush your teeth very well.