Educating Young Students From The Inside Out

Educating Preschool students from the "Inside Out"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Harvesting our Basil Garden

 How often are children given the "direct experience" and opportunity of planting, taking care of plants during the summer, watering, harvesting then preparing a gourmet snack in a classroom setting? This weeks' photo montage came from our organic gardens at the Living Wisdom School in Shoreline, Washington.

These pictures tell this lovely story. .

Smelling the basil and having instructions on how to pick it carefully.

Receiving directions from our Master Gardener

Beautiful bounty of basil

Hands on learning
I began the cooking class
Fairies looked on in the garden
The garlic and nuts were finished. Now for the fresh basil

Memories that will last for a lifetime.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Parenting Handbook: Calm and Compasionate Children

Parenting Handbook: Calm and Compassionate Children

Are you interested in parenting information and how to uplift and inspire your child?

This week I wanted to pass along a book for parents. This was written by a dear friend. It will honor you as a parent and give you the tools that you need to enhance spiritual principals for your growing child.

 The book is Calm and Compassionate Children by :Susan Usha Dermond

Susan has featured many activities, rituals, stories and shares her insights from documented teaching with these concepts for the past 30 years. Susan Usha Dermond is the founder of the Portland Living Wisdom School.  She leads the online Education for Life teacher training. In 1984, she received a Master degree in Education and was a school college librarian. Susan has taught every grade from third through freshmen in college. You wont want to miss this on line class for educators, teachers and parents.
Susan will be teaching this Fall and I wanted to pass along the information on the upcoming Education for Life Webinar. 

Many Blessings until next week.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

“A Bread Baking Angel in Disguise”

“A Bread Baking Angel in Disguise”  

This week in our Preschool we started our first cooking project of the year, and for many in our class this was the first time they had ever made fresh homemade bread.  As a cooking teacher, it is my joy to create an easy experience in the kitchen.  Preschoolers are no exception to this rule.  We just have to make the experience real at their level of development, and something that they can easily relate to and understand.
The very first question I like to ask the students is:  “How many of you get to cook at home?” Most of the students love to answer this question.  They throw up their hands, calling,” I do, I do.”

 My next question is, “How many students do we have here today?”  This immediately sets the tone, for counting the numbers in the classroom creates a magnetism of excitement.  In the Education for Life philosophy and the flow learning created by, Joseph Cornell /Sharing Nature Foundation, this is the stage called “Awaken Enthusiasm.”
I begin to explain to the children that we are in a classroom setting, and though we are going to have fun, this is different from cooking at home.  I set the ground rules for washing hands:  Hands are washed every time the hands go to their mouths or any other parts of their bodies. I immediately sing a song about this topic, and we wash our hands. This starts off the good habits that all children need to be aware of while cooking.

This first day in the kitchen was about showing them how we were going to play what I call the cooking game.  This is the "Focused Attention" stage.  

 I pre-make small cards, drawing small pictures of the recipe steps, and have each child choose their own card. This works like magic. The children wait for their turn and their own step in the cooking process. 

As each child waits, I try to let them stir, say prayers, or bless the adventure as we begin.
I also love to make up a story about the process for young children.  Sometimes it is a fairy tale or just an event that they can grasp—whatever will move fast and keep their attention. 

Today’s story was about a young baby. We had to create the warm bath for the baby, which represented the water in the recipe. The bubbles were added to the water, a metaphor for the yeast. Then we mixed and played in the bath water.
We added some food, which was brown sugar and flour. We then had to have the baby rest from her bath and take a nap. The bread needed to rise.  So we gave it a blankie—a covering for the dough.
The day progressed along these lines, keeping their attention.   “Have you ever had your mother tell you that you needed to rest so that you would grow?” I asked as the bread dough rose and expanded. They all looked at me with an amazed twinkle in their eyes.
“As the baby wakes up from his nap, he has to exercise, just like we do,” I explained.  After kneading and “exercising” the bread, the dough-baby took another nap.  After two naps, it was ready to shape into small buns.
The children were very proud of their bread, and had many people they wanted to share it with.  Throughout the morning we sang the song, “All the World is my Friend.”

Later, as I was cleaning my classroom, I walked over to my desk.  There, to my surprise, an “Angel” had left a beautiful bread book by; Ann Morris and photographed by Ken Heyman. This is a panoramic view about sharing bread and how many countries make bread throughout the world. 

As a teacher, you never know how you will be “connecting the dots,” as they say, but my angel seemed to deepen the experience of bread-making for my students.  She had a very close eye and open ear.

We do a ritual in our classroom at the closing of each day.  It is called “Shared Inspiration.”  By this point in the day, the students were feeling calmly exhilarated. We set a short time for each student to share their favorite activity of the day.  This morning activity led to a unanimous, response from all the children. The bread making warmed their hearts and their tummies. 
 As our first day of cooking came to a close, the room and hallways were filled with the smell of sweet warm bread. This sparked much sharing, and many conversations about happy bread-baking memories as the mothers picked up their children from Preschool.  Bread and bread-making are a part of many ancient traditions.  What an inspiring delight to share this age-old skill with our Living Wisdom community.  In deep gratitude, we all felt blessed by the angels all around us.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

" All The World Is My Friend"

At the beginning of each school year I have taken the words to one of the songs we sing and created our first unit " All the world is my friend". The next few posts will be on these activities in the first unit at the Living Wisdom School of Seattle.

To start the school year the children are focusing on new friendships. In the Education for Life classroom the teachers are creating these new fresh ideas while infusing them with an experience of friendship into their beings. Here is one of the activities from this past week.  Let's start with the song: All The World Is My Friend". Here is the link of that song to purchase. The children sing the song throughout the day during their experiential play and directed art activities.

These are clay beads that are being painted as earths. These beads will be used  to make all the world is my friend necklaces next week
He used the larger format to paint his beads and create his own picture
 I often have the children work on murals together. This process opens up harmony and first hand exploration with team work. They love to come up with little songs and expressions of what it is to work as a team.

Earlier in the week the children made their own individual bodies for this mural. We put it all together at the entrance of the school today. The banner reads:
All the world is my friend, when I learn how share my love"

Are you a teacher or parent? How do you infuse harmony, friendship and beauty into your children's environment? Please comment below.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"A little bit if heaven"

Come gather round,
With a friend on the left,
And a friend on the right,
Come gather round

This week’s story is a natural sequel to the story by Patrick McDonnell reviewed last week. I found this the same day as the previous story. I am hoping that you were able to read the first story to your child, or in your classroom setting.

This week’s story is Just Like Heaven, also about our two little friends, Mooch and Earl.

 One misty morning the fog had crept around Mooch's favorite tree. When he awoke, he didn't quite know where he was.  He looked left, and saw nothing. He looked right, and saw nothing. Everything that was familiar to him was covered in a dim fog. He wondered where he was—could it be heaven?  I must be in heaven, he thought, and that is where his journey in this tale begins.


About two weeks ago, I was reading this book to a group of children from the ages of 6 to 11. We were in a glorious setting in a forest glen, sitting above a ravine of Maple, Pine and Douglas Fir trees.  Each child was able to sit on a small tree stump and look over the panoramic view in this little haven of peace. As I read the story, it was easy to focus the children. This setting embodied the bit of heaven that is all around us at any moment or at any given time. How often we forget that there is beauty in the trees whispering, the flowers dancing, and the birds singing. In this natural setting I reminded the children that we can appreciate our friends, homes, families and even in the small disturbances in our lives. All of these lessons reflect to us, like a mirror, where our energy lies.

To return to the story, the most captivating page is when Mooch comes across a fierce dog tied to a chain. The dog lets out a big “BARK." Now, under normal conditions, Mooch would have gone all fuzzy with fear and run away. But this is not a normal day, since he may be in heaven.  Mooch asks himself, "Here and now, what should I do?"  Then he opens his arms and says......
Sorry, I don't want to give the story away. You’ll have to read it.  But I will give you this hint:  The children are so full of love for the story, they can't refrain from turning to the partner next to them and acting out exactly what Mooch does in the story.
It has never failed me yet.

Children’s senses are heightened when they are in an outdoor setting. This is the perfect book for taking outside; nature will expand your young listeners’ awareness to comprehend its deeper meaning. It’s perfect on a foggy morning, but any kind of morning, or any time of day, will do.

When I read this story to my class, we ended our time together by taking the love of beauty aroused in us and using it to do a creative visualization from Sharing Nature with Children  called "Expanded Mediation Circle."  This can be done with children ages 6-adult.

This story, read against the backdrop of nature, provides a perfect way to tap into the appreciation, love and harmony expressed in the joy of spirit in and around us.

Many blessings, until next week.
Joyful reading, friends. .......

Boxes, boxes and more boxes

This past weekend my husband and I moved from our home unit #3, after 16 years. Entertaining with family and friends has been our delight at the Ananda Community. Things are settling down now and we have moved upstairs to another remodeled unit. Please excuse me for the lapse in my writing. Time and memories will remain with us always in this joyful home.
Summer path in our herb and rose garden

My husband painting in the evening. View out our small kitchen window
Many Ananda guests came for tea at our home
Our summer gardens

Customary dessert houses at the Ananda Community
The Winter of 2008 in our garden
The Dale Chihuly ice sculpture in our front garden. My poor hydrangeas.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

"The Secret of Happiness"

Someone asked me recently to write a little something about how I came up with the name “Inside Out," and a simple explanation for the photos in the upper banner on this blog.

The name describes the special process that is the focus of this blog. Over this past year, I have been reading many early childhood blogs by many talented teachers from all over the world, but still something was missing in what I read. None of the internet sites had the one spark, the spiritual essence, which I practice and teach every day in our school.  I teach the process of finding joy and happiness on the inside, and expressing that happiness outside, to all whom we meet. 

Happiness is a choice that we can make at any time. J. Donald Walters writes in Affirmations for Self-Healing: "Happiness is an attitude of mind, born of the simple determination to be happy under all outward circumstances.  Happiness lies not in things, nor in outward attainments.  It is the gold of our inner nature, buried beneath the mud of outward sense-cravings."

This seems easy enough for adults to understand.  But how, you may be asking, do we teach young children the goal of inner happiness?

That is the question this blog tries to answer.  It deals with how to educate children from the "Inside Out" and teach them to search for happiness inside, rather than outside. Happiness is from the soul.  The goal of life is to find it, but all too often happiness is limited to a fleeting moment, with the pendulum soon swinging in the opposite direction to a delusional feeling of imbalance and unhappiness. Children need to learn how to bring themselves back into balance.  When children learn these principles, their happiness becomes an outward reflection of their inner state. 

 J Donald Walters wrote the book Secrets of Happiness for Children, which I have been using as a cornerstone of the curriculum at Living Wisdom School. These little “Secrets” books have unfortunately been out of print for some time, but I will be sharing their secrets often in this blog, along with photos, creative projects and tutorials about how I like to teach children from the "Inside Out." 
The photo was taken at my home in the courtyard at the Ananda Community in Lynnwood, Washington. It shows two of our students at the Living Wisdom School who were visiting this summer for one of my play dates.

The photo to the far left, of the little girl, was taken using a black and white filter on my camera.  It represents the inner joy that needs to be acknowledged through learning the secrets of happiness.
The second photo in the middle shows a small vision of color, located at the heart (visible just below where her brother is taking the sweater off).  Here, at the heart, is where children often first feel the inclination of love from the center of their beings as their hearts unfold.
The third photo, on the far right, shows the same little girl, now with her bright sweater turned inside out.  She is all in color as her love and happiness radiates out into the world, from "Inside Out."  
May I end simply today, with one of J. Donald Walters’ little secrets of happiness for children?

“The secret of happiness is keeping your heart open to others, and to life’s experiences. For the heart is like the door of a building. The sunlight can enter only when the door is open wide.”

Blessings all.