This Morning In Yellowstone

The nice thing about AM club is that we can pretty much do what I want. There’s no curriculum or expectation for learning – my job is just to keep the kids occupied and safe for the morning. The downside is that there’s no paid planning, so mostly I just keep on my toes.

I got a text from my mom this morning saying that they were on Geyser Hill in Yellowstone. Texting isn’t exactly forbidden at my job, in fact, Imageit’s how I communicate with my offsite supervisor. So I read it to the kids, and then we wrote back and asked for pictures. In the meantime, we talked about Yellowstone and geysers and watched some videos of geysers erupting and a quick clip on how they worked. My dad sent some nice photos and tomorrow I will bring in my laptop so we can watch a video he made of our trip to Yellowstone back in 1995.

The reality is that it’s 2012, and people have smartphones and no one wants to keep them locked in their closet or stowed away in their purses. There are too many ways they can enrich what we do as teachers and care providers, and if we don’t have them in our pockets, we will miss out on the best opportunities to use them.


Helicopter Tag

I just wanted to share a cool activity some girls and I came up with as an exercise in compromise. One really wanted helicopter during free play and another wanted to tag, so we came up with something for both of them.

Basically, it starts like tag, but first person who gets tagged picks up a rope and spins for helicopter. When somebody misses the jump, the rope gets dropped, and everybody scatters because the person who missed the jump is it. Play continues in this pattern, although a child who is dizzy can ask a rec leader to take their turn spinning the rope for them.

It was a nice example of a compromise where things turn out better than anyone originally thought.

Helicopter, for the uninformed, is basically a group jump rope game. One child spins the rope, low to the ground. The other kids stand in place and try to jump over it. It can be played with a short jump rope, but if you have a bigger group, the best thing to use for jump rope is the kind of clothesline that feels like a computer cable, but has no wires inside. They’ll have it at your local giant hardware store for cheap.

Teachable Moment: Graphs and Charts

A teachable moment: chart about our lunch beveragesAt the end of the school year, I started eating lunch on Wednesday with some of the older preschoolers who were staying for our afternoon “Reading Ready, Math Smart,” program. Basically we are our sack lunches, cleaned up, and sang some reading and math songs I had on my iPhone. A pretty exciting thing happened on one of those days, though. We were all talking about what flavor juice we had for lunch, and the kids were trying to keep track of how many of each kind of juice was represented.

It seemed like the perfect opportunity to teach them about making a chart, so I strode over to the pad, grabbed a marker and drew a chart, with a picture to indicate each flavor, and then a face for each kid who had a juice box. We talked about it. One of the other teachers came in with her pop, and we added that to the graph.

Without much thinking about it, we had just hit Illinois Early Learning standard 10.A.ECa. And that was way more interesting than fruit snacks.


We wanted to hand out medals at our end-of-year picnic, so we chose an Olympics theme for the last week or so of school. With the Summer Games happening in London this year, we thought it was a great time to get the twos (well, threes now) some background knowledge so that they could enjoy the games with their families this summer.

We’ve had a lot of sports books out from the library this year, and this was no exception. Petra filled up the book nook with titles on summer sports. I went online and found some nice clips from past Olympics and a video of this year’s torch-lighting ceremony in Athens.

Several of the little boys were fascinated with the freestyle wrestling and we had a lengthy if basic conversation about how this was stuff for watching, not doing. I explained that the Olympic athletes had special training to keep from getting hurt. Maybe I should have just skipped that sport altogether, but in my defense, those were some fascinated kids.

We did two craft projects relating to the Toddler-Made Olympic TorchesOlympics. I didn’t get a picture of the first one, but it was pretty basic. We took Styrofoam cups and dipped them in different colors of paint and made our own pictures of the Olympic Rings. I did this with one child at a time so that we could talk a little about the whole thing while we worked.

Petra came up with this amazing torch craft. Basically, it’s a Styrofoam cup with the bottom cut out and taped to a paper towel roll (masking tape). The kids wrapped the torch body in tinfoil and then glued in the tissue paper to be the flame.

When their parents came to pick them up, we sent them out of the door holding their torches while we sang the Olympic theme. “Dah DAH dah dah dah DAH dah.”

Catching Up

When I took the third job at Sylvan late last fall, I no longer had any time to write about what I was doing with the kids. I kept taking pictures and posting stuff on pinterest, because that was easy, but it started to feel like I could choose between eating and sleeping and having time to reflect on my lessons. With $260 a month in student loan payments (and that’s after I paid off more than half of my total debt), I didn’t have much choice about working more hours.

The school year is pretty much wound down though, and now I have time to go through the photos and start writing. It might seem a little strange to read about our Chinese New Year activities in June, but stick with me, and we’ll get through everything and have a lot of fun doing it.

I’ve made a list of things to write about, but the posts will not be chronological.