Educating Young Students From The Inside Out

Educating Preschool students from the "Inside Out"
Showing posts with label Flow learning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Flow learning. Show all posts

Monday, October 10, 2011

Come gather round , its time for a story

Come gather round,
Come gather round.
With a friend on the left and a friend on the right,
Come gather round. 

Its a very special day, come gather round. 
On Monday mornings I have the most amazing schedule that anyone could ask for. In my classroom there are five little preschool girls on Mondays. We have so much fun cooking, exploring nature, gardening, creating beautiful art projects and telling imaginary stories.

Today's story is actually using a new story cards that I recently purchased at Eastwest Bookshop in Seattle.

Have you ever wanted to make up grand stories for children but you didnt know where to begin? I was able to purchase these beautiful cards by John and Catlin Mathews. These cards lead you into the land of make believe, wonder and endless possibilities  They are that gentle nudge or simple way to jump start your imagination for any story-time.

   The cards have beautiful illustrations that lead you to a beginning of your story. As you select the next card, the pictures weave the storyteller through a world of make believe and wonder. You can select one card or as many cards for your story as you like. One tip though, is to know the attention span of your children and how long the story should be to will remain fresh and enchanting. With my class, I wanted to create a direct experience for them and keep the story short for today.

 Our morning began with dressing up like princesses. We took an adventure to the secret garden outside where we would surely might find a faery hiding in our mint. There we picked fresh mint and lavender. We quietly tiptoed back into the classroom to make our "lavender mint tea".  

Washing our leaves
Steeping the Tea
Tea and a story. What could be better than that?

 Each time you open the box of cards there are more inspirational ideas. 
We made up this fairy game today with our story but the ideas are endless. 
These cards are wonderful for all ages.  This might also make a nice story for a birthday party.  Additional imaginary themes, crafts and games could go along with the story.

Until next time...We wish you sweet dreams from this castle over the hill in Ireland. The bunny and fairies will follow you into the garden as they wait patiently for your next cup of tea......

Joyful reading and storytelling. 

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.

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.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Once upon a time in a land far, far, away.....

 One main focus of this blog is to mention some favorite books I have found over the years.  I’ll write each Friday about the spiritual gems contained in them.

Often  I have been asked by educators and parents how to teach spiritual truths to young children. My background has brought a rich love of books, treasures and memories.  I find that reading is an easy place to begin to awaken the enthusiasm in a young child.  Reading to our children, students and grandchildren is a timeless experience.  Through reading we can explore and create imaginary worlds, and experience within the deepest part of ourselves that which creates an inner world of deep meaning, love and truth.

When working with children's literature there, are many ways to deeply look at the contents of a story.  I love large formatted picture books, but with our culture turning into more visual stimulus for children , I now lean towards not always showing the pictures, but weaning the children into closing their eyes and imagining what the story might look like. This can happen even at the early age of four. I also want to build children’s comprehension and hands on the literacy, an approach used today in alternative education.

The next stage after reading a story would be to act out the story through puppet shows, felt pieces or with a child’s whole being. These timeless stories have the children ask again and again for the opportunity to re-enact them in class.

Today's book review is Pinduli,  by Janell Cannon.

Janell Cannon  is famous for her illustrations. Her very familiar, award-winning book Stellaluna  has sold over 500,000 copies. It was on the bestseller list for more than two years.

Pindulu takes place in Africa savanna and is about a little hyena and his mother. An expression of love is shown throughout the story, as Pindulu’s mother assures her how beautiful she is. However, Pindulu finds out early that the animals in the savanna have a different view of her big ears, fuzzy mane, and wiggly stripes.  Through a chain of events, Pindulu finds that she just wants to hide and return home to the safety of her mother. She decides to cover her fur with pale dust.  On her way home the animals think she's an evil spirit, or a ghost who's come for revenge. This is my favorite part of the story: Pinduli convinces all the animals to make up for their harsh lashings.   The story reveals many spiritual truths about choosing your words carefully, friendship, anger and talking harshly to others.

I love this book, and have used it in many settings from kindergarten to sixth grade. As an educator, I will select this story if I need reinforcement to drive home lessons about circumstances that may have happened on the playground or the classroom.  I like to make up games to enhance the spiritual points in the story. This is also one of my favorite stories about teaching children the law of magnetism and the secrets of friendship. Loyalty, kindness, acceptance, and appreciation of others are all high ideals we want to instill in our children.  This story can help in that endeavor.

I have had the wonderful opportunity for the past 17 years to work with Eastwest Bookshop of Seattle, a spiritual, independent bookshop that is able to order books, make suggestions, and serve as a guiding light in selecting high quality spiritual books for children and families.  We are very fortunate to have such a quality store that is in tune with the principles of our Living Wisdom School. Eastwest Bookshop of Seattle will order any book that you might need in a timely fashion and offer you the opportunity to browse through books in their family section. It has a warm, nurturing environment that will welcome you home to the magnetism of spirit, beauty and truth.

Happy reading, friends…until next Friday. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lightly I fly when I live in laughter

Have you ever had the experience of being with a young child when they were able to witness a butterfly for the first time? For the young child a beautiful butterfly represents freedom, lightness, transformation and an exhilarating openness of spirit. Their whole body awareness changes and their body energies begin to match that of the butterfly. Their eyes light up and with their own beings they experience joy. Very often children will pretend to fly immediately, swooping to catch the butterfly barehanded or to watch where he may softly land. What is it about these small creatures that frees our children from any cares in the world to experience oneness with an insect’s spirit?
 Each summer I have the extreme pleasure of writing spiritual curriculum for the Ananda Yoga Day Camp sponsored by the Living Wisdom School of Seattle.  The Ananda Yoga Day camp is held on the grounds at the AnandaCommunity in Lynnwood, Washington. This year, my eleventh year of working at the camp, one of the residents at the Ananda Community asked me if I thought the children would like to have the opportunity of experiencing a labyrinth walk. We both had to think about how we could "playfully" provide a meaningful inner experience for them. Our minds resonated with transformations and butterflies. How then would we use the labyrinth to provide a direct experience of beauty and transformation—the theme for the day—based on the flow learning techniques taught through the Education for Life principles?
We opened the day with our daily yoga class, focusing on inner transformation. One of my favorite affirmations to share is, “I radiate love and good will to soul friends everywhere.” As we said this affirmations we focused on our friends from past, present and future. 
Another favorite is: "Strength and courage fill my body cells. Joy descends to me."
After our yoga class we heard a short story from a guest speaker. She told us about the history of labyrinths and the ancient methodology that people practiced while walking the labyrinths. We reverently took the children up to the spot where the labyrinth had been built.
Each child was asked to select something in nature that they could offer at the center altar as a symbol of energy, beauty and transformation. We selected three children at a time to walk the labyrinth.
At the altar, I carefully wrapped each of the children in their own cocoon. They then turned and walked back out the way they came. During this time we also had one of our camp counselors playing a brass singing bowl. All was still, peaceful, and extremely loving.
After each child walked the labyrinth, the children were also invited to make their own finger labyrinths. During our afternoon activities the children had the opportunity to take their cocoon and transform it into their own individual butterfly wings. The children and adults all dyed the cocoons.

Transformation, spirituality, and beauty take many forms. Our children were able to experience the playful spirit of the butterfly as they danced though the playgrounds in the woodland forests on that warm summer day.