Sunday, March 31, 2013

Aqus Concert

We enjoyed a concert to benefit the enrichment programs at Dunham at Aqus Cafe in Petaluma this afternoon. Aqus is a wonderful little café in the Foundry Wharf along the Petaluma River's western shore, just downstream from downtown. Its purpose is to serve quality locally-sourced foods and beverages in a setting where people get to know one another & build community. It works.

Mr. December opened the afternoon's entertainment with a set of music that began at 2:00. The bass player, Andy Tester, also  performs in kindergarten every Thursday morning with a somewhat less skillful (but no less enthusiastic) ukulele player. :-)

Jesse, Andy, & Jimmy aka Mr. December

Then Prisma Trova took the stage and played songs in English, French, and Spanish. The guitarist, Andrew DeVeny, is the music teacher at Dunham.

Andrew & Mimi of Prisma Trova
Not too many people from Dunham came, but if a spirit award were given for attendance at this Dine & Donate, kindergarten would have won it hands down.

Thank you to those who came and performed in this good cause.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hope to See You Sunday!

As you know, tomorrow is a staff workday. There is no school for the students tomorrow.

There IS, on Sunday, a Dunham School Dine & Donate event at Aqus Café at the Foundry Wharf in Petaluma. There is going to be some excellent music happening there.

I expect to arrive at about 1:00 on Easter Sunday afternoon. The Dine & Donate fundraiser is all day until they close at 4:00, so you can go there for breakfast or brunch or whatever. Please remember to bring the flyer—otherwise Dunham won't get the benefit from your visit. 

If you lost your flyer, you can print out another one from the school's website.


News from the Class:

We visited a "Wax Museum" put on by the fifth graders yesterday. Here is a photo from yesterday's event.

Today we got together with our buddies to do games, paint and garden. Some photos from this morning:

Be well, and see you Sunday, I hope.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In the Service of Having Fun

Sadly, most of the reforms intended to improve schools remove the most important ingredient to success in life: the ability to play. Kindergarten used to be the sacred center of play in schools.  Reforms in kindergarten have steadily eroded this sacred refuge.  Too many kindergartens today resemble the worst first grades of yesteryear.

 These reforms (however well-intentioned) are stealing the imaginations and the joy of discovery from a whole generation of young children—all in the pursuit of higher standardized test scores.

It is my personal and professional mission to protect and promote the holy grail of a good kindergarten experience: exploring our world playfully, imaginatively, and attentively in a place where safety, happiness, and kindness prevail. This is an idea older than kindergarten itself, but sadly forgotten.

These thoughts came to mind as I was reading this month's Atlantic Monthly article, "The Touch Screen Generation" by Hanna Rosin. Here's a short excerpt from that article:

In late 2010 Ovemar and Jeffrey began working on a new digital project for Bonnier, and they came up with the idea of entering the app market for kids. Ovemar began by looking into the apps available at the time. Most of them were disappointingly instructive, he found—"drag the butterfly into the net, that sort of thing. They were missing creativity and imagination." Hunting for inspiration, he came upon Frank and Theresa Caplan's book The Power of Play, a quote which he later emailed to me:
"What is it that often puts the B student ahead of the A student in adult life, especially in business and creative professions? Certainly it is more than verbal skill. To create, one must have a sense of adventure and playfulness. One needs toughness to experiment and hazard the risk of failure. One has to be strong enough to start all over again if need be and alert enough to learn from whatever happens. One needs a strong ego to be propelled forward in one's drive toward an untried goal. Above all, one has to possess the ability to play!"
Overmar and Jeffrey hunted down toy catalogs from as early as the 1950s, before the age of exploding brand tie-ins. They made a list of blockbusters over the decades—the first Tonka trucks, the Frisbee, the Hula-Hoop, the Rubik's cube. Then they made a list of what these toys had in common: None really involved winning or losing against an opponent. None were part of an effort to create a separate child world that adults were excluded from, and probably hostile toward; they were designed more for family fun. Also, they were not really meant to teach you something specific—they existed mostly in the service of having fun.
Okay, enough speechifying!

Tonight's Homework Helper:

Idea for drawing a crocodile:

Yes, you can draw!


And, oh, if the homework isn't fun, don't do it.

On Friday, we will compile the homework pages into a classroom book.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Library Visit/Special Treat

The kindergartners really enjoyed the story Mrs. Burger read during our visit to the library this morning. It was called "What Time Is It, Mr. Crocodile."

Here is a photo from one of the pages of the book.

You may wish to ask your child to tell you about the story. Tomorrow's homework will be related to it.

On Thursday there will be an egg hunt for the children in after care. Here is a note from Janelle Mitnick about it.

Another happy day in kindergarten.

The fifth graders are planning a very special treat for the kindergartners tomorrow. It's a secret for now, but you'll learn about it here tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Be well.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Back to School

Last Wednesday while we were away on spring break spring officially began as the sun began to shine north over the equator.

To start school we began by making ABC patterns with the linking cubes. We sang.

We talked a little bit about our time away from kindergarten. Many of you had some fine vacations. Mine was low-key—highlighted by a short camping "staycation" in nearby Duncans Mills on the Russian River. We rented a teardrop trailer and had too much fun!

Inside it's a teeny yacht cabin—just a mattress & cupboards.

The students seemed happy to be back at school among their friends. That's how it was for me, too. In my center I am taking a welcome break from assessments and helping to teach the kindergartners some ukulele playing skills. Janelle sent along these pictures she took this morning as our day began.

All photos courtesy of Janelle Petersen

Cornstarch and water makes one of the most interesting tactile substances I know. The mixture creates a  material that shares the qualities of liquids and solids. Once you get your hands in it, it's hard to stop.

Mrs. Everson is taking a break from the science centers to make spring lanterns which will decorate our classroom in the coming weeks.

Play dough is always fun.

And over at table one, Brook Tester helped with the tempera painting center.

We ended the day with some bike riding, bar climbing, and kick-back playing. It was a good day to be five or six years old and coming to Dunham School.

No School on Friday.
Dunham Dine and Donate (and special concert, too!!) at Aqus Cafe in Petaluma.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Buddies & Report Cards & Animal Art

We started out the day with a classroom band singing a fairly new song called, "All the Way Around the World." Our band featured Andy on the stand-up bass, moms Angela and Jennifer on the rhythm sticks, and me on the cajon & ukulele. We are working on getting the beat and stopping together. I'm pleased.

Thursdays are when we get to be with our fifth grade buddies. We split into three groups. In kindergarten we did kindergARTen—painting floral bouquets, in Ms. Schmidt's fifth grade room there was some reading, and out in the garden with Mr. Hansen the buddies worked with the school garden. The picture at the top of the post was done today with our fifth grade buddies. The colors were mixed from red, yellow, and blue.

Noah brought in a book everyone seemed to enjoy—Skippyjonjones.

Tomorrow look for the end-of-trimester progress reports coming home with your child together with a short letter from me that is meant to help interpret the information you see on it. I am very pleased with the progress of the class.

The letter and progress report will not be mailed as I may have said earlier.

Be well.


For those with an interest in art produced by animals, you may enjoy going over to my brother's blog, GurneyJourney. Fascinating stuff, really.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Robert's Birthday/Mary had a Yellow Dog/Skinnamarink

Another fine spring day outside with cheerful weather prevailing indoors as well.

Today was Robert's birthday. He brought his mom to stay with us all day—that was a treat right there—at least for Robert and me. I always feel better when there's more tall people around to help meet the needs of our five and six year olds. Robert brought strawberries dipped in DARK chocolate 60% cocoa, the good kind. It was probably the first time many of the kinders got to taste what I think of as real chocolate. Yum. Happy Birthday, Robert.

We finished a round of centers today and tomorrow we'll take one day off before launching the next set of centers. So, if you're a parent volunteer scheduled to lead a center tomorrow, you can take a day off if you wish.

The song, "Skinnamarink" seems to continue to buoy up our classroom mood, fending off the grumpiness that can so easily infect a kindergarten classroom in the first week after the change to "spring ahead" daylight savings time. Rachael continues to lead the way with the hand jive.

Rachael learned this song when she was in kindergarten (I think) at Cherry Valley. When a volunteer offers to lead the hand motions, I can play the ukulele. This is better all the way around.  I think kids ought to move when they sing, bring the whole body into the song. It's the ancient way, and our ancestors understood how music works deeply. I love the way Mary is pointing to her friend in the foreground here.

and underneath the moon..... oh,

Mary brought in Shasta, her yellow lab guide dog in training. She's grown since we saw her not long ago.

Shasta has her eye on the bag of kibble.
Curtis brought in a hefty sack of coins to drop into the collection box for the "Pennies for Patients" fundraiser that the student council is doing. Yeah, Curtis!

I'm working on a letter that will accompany the report cards which will be MAILED home on Friday. The letter will help interpret the marks on the report card. I have almost completed the assessments for the second trimester report card and I am very pleased with the progress that the class has made. It's been a fun year, yes, but more than that a year filled with significant progress in those early reading and number skills.

Off to another meeting!

Be well.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Crazy Sock Spirit Day Tomorrow

Got a meeting right after school, then another meeting tonight, so this will be short.

Main thing: remember tomorrow is Crazy Sock Spirit Day. So plan to put your child in mismatching socks. It's easy to do, so I expect pretty high participation. I hope I remember!

We had a couple of minutes to fill between snack and PE so the class made A-B color patterns with the linking cubes and then posed with the results:

Be well.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Silly Song & Deep Thinking

Last night Dave Hoffman, my grocer asked me, "Howz it going, Superdad?"

My response was less cheerful than usual.  "I'm okay, I had was a good weekend allowing for the fact that one day was doing my taxes. But I'm steeling myself for a tough day at work tomorrow."

Decades of experience in kindergarten have taught me that Daylight Savings Time (DST) in the spring wreaks havoc with young children's biological clocks. Setting the clocks one hour ahead sets us up for general grumpiness in kindergarten. Running on one hour of less sleep, the kids tend to be hungry, sleep-deprived, and edgy. Same goes for their teacher.

"Well, at least it won't be raining tomorrow." My grocer has an optimistic outlook.

I decided to shield myself from the grumpy vibes awaiting me at school by fending them off with a cheerful ditty, "Skinnamarink-a-dink," It's a silly, short song I first learned from my daughter when she returned from kindergarten one spring day in 1990.

Not much to fend off 25 biological clocks ticking like time bombs, but oh well. Things got quickly worse when the school receptionist came into my classroom with that smile that says, "I've got some bad news for you. Patrick is sick."

It took my sleep deprived mind a couple of syncopated tick-tocks to understand the implications of the three words "Patrick is sick."

Patrick who? Oh, Patrick, as in Patrick Everson, my aide's son. So what? He's in third grade. No wait! His mom is my aide. What she's saying to me is, I'll have no instructional aide today. The school receptionist went on, "I've put in calls to the substitute aides, but so far there's no one for you."


Luckily for everyone, I have a fantastic group of mother helpers who immediately sized up my predicament and offered to stay. (Thank you all, especially Janelle, Jennifer, and Rachael who stayed till recess.) I knew right then everything would be okay.

We did centers, and before the first hour was over, the aide returned to class to tell me Mrs. Everson would soon be here after all: Patrick's dad would take care of Patrick. (Thank you, Matt.)

By the time we got around to singing the silly song, our kindergarten was humming along harmoniously. I was singing with feeling,

Skinnamarink-a-dink with Rachael teaching the hand jive

"I love you in the morning and in the afternoon,
I love you in the evening and underneath the moon."

We even got some deep thinking going on this morning as Ryder, who has figured out the answer to "What is half of 17?" (He will tell you it's eight and a half) is now pondering what half of 7½ is.

He's got the idea that quarters are involved, but that's about as far as he can stretch his understanding of numbers.... for now. At this point, all he knows is that his teacher assures him that there IS an answer to this question and that even some third graders would have to think hard to come up with the answer to that one.

Meanwhile, try to get to bed early. Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and think good thoughts.

And singing Skinnamarink-a-dink couldn't hurt! We'll sing it tomorrow with the stand-up string bass for good measure.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Weekend & Coming Soon

This weekend marks the occasion of Daylight Savings time which means we set the clocks ahead 1 hour. We'll see you bright at early (well, actually, sleepy and not so bright since the sun will have barely come up) Monday morning.

Jennifer Chang brought in green eggs (colored green with kale, spinach & broccoli mostly) and ham along with some home-baked cheddar biscuits. There were even some pieces of waffles left from the morning cooking center. We have the best smelling classroom these days.

If your child wasn't too hungry at lunch rest assured that they got plenty of nourishment at snack time.

Last week and this week were night and day as far as the PE teacher, Mrs. Campbell is concerned. The class was wonderful for her today—which is how they usually are.

Please mark your calendars......

Hold on to this flyer and bring it along.

Finally, I hope to see you all at the Aqus Cafe on Easter Sunday afternoon. We'll be doing a Dine & Donate event there to benefit our enrichment programs through the Dunham PTO. We sent home a flyer today and there will be more of them available in the office and in the kindergarten room.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thursday Buddy Day

Last Thursday I decided that we needed to preempt our fifth grade buddy time in favor of more practice for the pasta night performance. I don't think the kindergartners were too happy about skipping their time with their fifth grade friends.

I was surprised how much the fifth graders missed their time with the kindergartners. Several times in the week since last Thursday fifth grade students came up to me to get my assurance that our buddy time would happen this week.

We did meet for buddies today. Now that spring has arrived, we've returned to the garden program with Mr. Hansen and that means that we can split up the two classes into three groups, one here in the kindergarten room, another in fifth grade, and the third group in the garden. It makes for smaller groups and a more manageable and more engaged time for the cross-age tutoring to occur.

Here in the kindergarten, we are reprising the art lesson done earlier this week. I love to see the kindergartners repeat an art lesson—the second time through is a whole new experience, informed by the first. Typically the resulting art is more creative and more skillfully done.

Taea and Kiyana work together.

I was able to get away for a minute to see the activity in the garden. It was a bit chilly out there today, but there was plenty to do after a winter away.

Standing by the green chair is Mrs. Everson's fifth grade daughter

Jennifer stays to help Mr. Hansen.
Thursdays always go by as quickly as the rainbow over Dunham in yesterday morning's sky. And just as beautiful.

Be well.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Quick Post--Meetings!

Too many meetings! So a quick post today.

We started the new centers today. Rachael led the cooking center making Belgian waffles. Man, they smelled good.

Irresistible. Everyone wanted a taste so we made enough so everyone could have just a little. The students lined up.

The other day I discussed the popularity of activities in kindergarten that offer the students some choice about how they engage in the work. You can see that these activities (top line) are by far the most popular with the students. Teacher-directed activities (bottom line) not so much. Sadly, I think, schools tend to offer something like the inverse relationship.

At snack I saw some happy faces. Including this on Austin's plate:

And now, before I am late to my meeting.....

Be well.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Pictures for the Classroom

The warm sunny weather that we enjoyed in the past few weeks seems to have given way to some colder wetter days. That's good. I think California could benefit from some springtime rains.

In any event the earlier warm weather made the snowy scenes on the east wall of the classroom seem out of season. We took them down and sent them home last week.

Now we have some new more seasonal paintings on the wall. This is one of my favorite activities from the art curriculum we have. The students enjoyed it. And the room looks fresher.

The art project went much more smoothly thanks in large part to the generous assistance offered by kindergarten moms Janelle, Jennifer, and Rachael. Thank you all.

We will begin new centers tomorrow.

Until then,

Be well.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Choice & Outdoors

At the pasta night Saturday the silent auction included a gift basket from the kindergarten moms. They put together a very nice book* (see ordering information at the end of this post) written here in the classroom that surveyed the students with regard to their favorite activities in kindergarten.

I saw this as an opportunity to use numbers in a very practical way. I wanted to know—and reflect upon—the things kindergartners in this class enjoy most.

We read the book together and tallied the activities they mentioned in the book. That task alone helped to shape the data and the results. How do you decide to group the information? If one child mentions rings and another mentions bars, while a third mentions playing on the big park do we have three votes for the same basic activity or do we have one vote for each of three different activities? Deciding how to group these things is somewhat arbitrary and arguable.

In any event we tallied the data and ended up with this:

And while this tells the story somewhat clearly I thought it might be easier to see the results by making a table out of the tallies. We used linking cubes:

This afternoon I arranged those linking cubes like this:

And we can see that the kindergartners enjoy being outdoors. Activities outdoors received 18 mentions.

Bikes: 10
Parks:   4
Kickback: 3
Garden: 1

Indoor activities were mentioned 10  times:

Blocks: 3
Snack: 2
Drawing: 1
Legos: 1
Centers: 1
Dancing: 1
Play dough: 1

But most interesting to me is how activities that allow for choice or freedom compare to those that are mostly adult directed:

Choice: 33 mentions
Bikes: 10
Friends: 9
Parks: 4
Kickback: 3
Blocks: 3
Snack: 2
Legos: 1
Play dough: 1

Adult-directed: 1 mention
Centers: 1

Having mixed qualities of both freedom and adult direction: 5 mentions
Dance: 1
Drawing: 1
Garden: 1

Snack: 2

What do we conclude? Well, if you want a child to enjoy school, make sure you've got some choice and freedom, and let them play outside.

I was also interested in some of the things that weren't mentioned at all. Perhaps these things were for many students a top second choice, I don't know. But among the things we do a lot and yet not singled out for mention are:

cooking, singing, playing musical instruments, PE, story time, calendar routines, the quiet room, the doll house, and (don't tell him!) Archy.

Okay, enough reflecting.

Today we made lemonade with the help of room moms Janelle and Jennifer.

Juicing the lemons.

Tasting straight lemon juice

Ah, lemonade made fresh

When Mary's mom came by this afternoon she brought along Shasta. Too cute!

Tomorrow at centers time we'll do an art project to decorate the front of the room. If you're a center volunteer you may take the day off.

Be well.
*You can order a book for yourself by using an order form that will be included in the next Friday folder.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Pasta Night Information

The least you need to know:

Place: Petaluma Veterans Memorial Hall on South Petaluma Ave in Petaluma

Date: Saturday, March 2, 2013

Time: Arrive at 4:45 & leave your kindergartner with me. The show begins at 5:00 and the kindergartners are the first to perform. Be on time!

Dress: All students have been asked to wear blue jeans and a white shirt.

Bring: Your checkbook for the silent auction which may have something you'll want to bid on.

Tickets for dinner can be purchased via Pay pal at the Dunham School Website.

See you tomorrow at the Pasta Night Performance & Pasta Dinner.