Outdoor Fun Around Town!

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

Summer is the perfect time of year to enjoy all the fun places you can go in Minnesota with the kids! Listed below is a list of activities and places of interest around our state and town that you can do outdoors:

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
https://www.fws.gov/refuge/sherburne/
Free Family Event Schedule 2016
https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/2016%20Event%20Schedule(2).pdf
Wildlife and nature viewing from sandhill cranes, eagles, plants, butterflies and the smallest of the animal species.

Elm Creek Park Reserve
https://www.threeriversparks.org/parks/elm-creek-park.aspx
The park features more than 20 miles of paved hiking and biking trails, miles of turf hiking trails, a chlorinated swimming pond, children’s play area and more!

Downtown Elk River Riverfront Concerts
http://www.elkrivermn.gov/DocumentCenter/View/469
Check out the Thursday night live concerts at downtown Elk River’s Rivers Edge Commons Park all summer long.

Oliver Kelly Farm
http://sites.mnhs.org/historic-sites/oliver-h-kelley-farm
Meet the animals in the barn and help work on the farm by picking vegetables or churning butter in the kitchen.

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum
http://www.arboretum.umn.edu/
Over 1,100 acres of gardens, woods and trails.

Walker Arts Center Sculpture Garden
http://www.walkerart.org/calendar/2008/walker-on-the-green-artist-designed-mini-golf
There are many free events including Free First Saturdays.

Como Zoo and Conservatory
http://www.comozooconservatory.org/
Not only can you visit the animals and gardens, the zoo and conservatory offers many different activities, classes and programs. Blooming Butterflies opened on June 17th.

Minnehaha Regional Park
https://www.minneapolisparks.org/parks__destinations/parks__lakes/minnehaha_regional_park/
Minnehaha Regional Park covers 167 acres of nature, gardens and waterfalls.

Harriet Alexander Nature Center
http://www.ci.roseville.mn.us/index.aspx?nid=183
The boardwalk and trails circulate through 52 acres of marsh, prairie and forest habitats.

Woodland Trails Park – Elk River
http://www.elkrivermn.gov/facilities/Facility/Details/31
Bike, walk or hike the trails.

Lake Maria State Park – Monticello
http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/lake_maria/index.html
The marshes, potholes, and lakes provide excellent habitat for wildlife.

Things to do in Elk River with the kids!
http://www.familydaysout.com/kids-things-to-do-usa/elk-river/mn
Many activities and attractions listed with detailed information and directions to each location.

There are so many ways to explore Minnesota and there is so much that our state has to offer. For even more events and activities go to:
Explore Minnesota
http://www.exploreminnesota.com/things-to-do/

Time to put on the sunscreen and discover all that summer has to offer. See the sights and travel around! Minnesota summers sure fly by . . . so take pleasure in it while you can. We’ll be shoveling snow soon enough!

The love of Valentine’s Day through childrens’ eyes

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heartsBy Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

I remember as a child looking forward to Valentine’s Day.  I would prepare each valentine for my classmates with care and wake up every Valentine’s Day morning with a card and a yummy box of chocolates on my breakfast plate.  For months after, I would organize and sort through all those lovely cards.  Valentine’s Day has always had a special place in my heart . . . no pun intended!  On my daughter’s first Valentine’s Day in preschool we had so much fun making all her friends a special valentine.  She took such immense attention to detail in decorating each and every one.  I was relieved that we started weeks before the holiday or I don’t think we would have been done on time.  Each year since her first Valentine’s Day, we still make her Valentine’s.  This has become a tradition, one I enjoyed as a child that I can now share with my daughter.  In our preschool Discovery classrooms, the children decorate bags or boxes to prepare for their Valentine cards and treats.  It is so fun to see the Valentine’s they pick or make to pass out to their friends.  I especially enjoy the excitement they have opening their bags after being filled with cards and candies.  Looking and inspecting each valentine!

Valentine’s Day can be a wonderful occasion to express to others how much we care, love, and appreciate them!  It does not have to be a holiday where you need to buy cards or gifts, but instead an opportunity to make Valentines for others or spend quality time together as a family.  “It’s never too early to help children express love and friendship in ways that transcend materialism. Because young children are concrete thinkers, it’s hard for them to understand a concept that can’t be represented by objects.  However, by watching you give gifts of kindness, time, compassion, respect, and thoughtfulness to the people you love – not just on holidays but throughout the year – they will learn that “I love you” means so much more than three words inscribed on a candy heart” (Alvin Poussaint, M.D.).  Have fun this Valentine’s Day expressing your love to those that mean so much to you.  You don’t need to spend a cent, because love is free and is the best gift of all!

For some fun Valentine’s Day ideas for kids go to:

PBS KIDSValentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day: Valentine’s Day Crafts for Kids – Martha Stewart

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Kids | Holiday Games and Activities

The Importance of Play

By Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

peek a boo Play is one significant way that children learn and play is important for children’s healthy development.  Through play, children explore and use their imagination by trying out new skills and bonding with others.  Play is an essential and critical part of all children’s development.  “Play starts in the child’s infancy, and ideally, continues throughout his or her life.  Play is how children learn to socialize, to think, to solve problems, to mature, and most importantly, to have fun.  Play connects children with their imagination, their environment, their parents and family, and the world (Play, Montana State).”  As parents, we can support our children’s play by initiating play activities and simply playing with our children.  As early as infancy, parents are their child’s first playmate.  When you engage with your baby by making silly faces or playing peek-a-boo, this is the beginning stage of play.   When a caregiver plays with an infant, there is a connection and bond that helps him or her feel secure, safe, and loved.  It’s important to try to spend as much time connecting and playing with your infant or toddler.

As children grow older, play becomes their “work.”  They begin to use materials and toys in their play to assist with their imagination.  As a preschool teacher, at least 40 minutes of our class time is “Free-Choice” where children have an opportunity to play in all areas of the room from dramatic play, blocks, art, books, writing, water, sand, discovery, math, science, computer, and games.  During play, not only are children learning with the various materials, they are learning to communicate with other children and adults.  Play helps preschoolers learn how to share, play together, problem solve, and use critical thinking skills.  There are many cognitive activities that take place in a Discovery Preschool Classroom from learning letter names to numbers.  Even though academics are important, children’s social well-being and the development of social skills through play should never be overlooked or undervalued.  Play is not only enjoyable; it is the building blocks toward children’s knowledge and their experiences for the future!

I would like to share a quote by Anita Wadley, “When you asked me what I did in school today and I say, ‘I just played.’  Please don’t misunderstand me.  For you see, I am learning as I play.  I am learning to enjoy and be successful in my work.  Today I am a child and my work is play.”

The following websites promote creative play with ideas for activities you can do at home!

  • Public Broadcasting Service’s educational website for kids:

www.pbs.org/wholechild/parents/play.html

  • Art, science, architecture, history, ethnic studies, puzzles, games, activities

and much more, just for kids:   www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/home.htm

What are some ways you play with your child?

Hands-On Math for Preschoolers

By: Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

preschooler and mathThree years ago our Discovery Preschool Programs adopted a new math curriculum called, Real Math – Building Blocks.  Real Math is, “the first program to fully integrate all five strands of mathematical proficiency as defined by today’s research.”  The five key proficiencies that students need to achieve math stated by the Real Math curriculum are:

  1. Understanding: Comprehending mathematical concepts, operations, and relations – knowing what mathematical symbols, diagrams, and procedures mean.
  2. Computing: Carrying out mathematical procedures, such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing numbers flexibly, accurately, efficiently, and appropriately.
  3. Applying: Being able to formulate problems mathematically and devise strategies for solving them using concepts and procedures appropriately.
  4. Reasoning: Using logic to explain and justify a solution to a problem or to extend from something known to something not yet known.
  5. Engaging: Seeing mathematics as sensible, useful, and doable.

The Real Math curriculum combines skill-building and problem-solving instruction that includes technology.  Each child is given access to mathematical games, which can be found on the real math website.  Since the children login to their own account, each child’s successes and progress can be monitored.  This technology resource helps take the classroom to the next level while giving parent’s a great alterative for their child’s computer use at home.  Every Discovery classroom has a computer available for the children to use during class time.  The children greatly enjoy playing these different math games on the computer, which has provided a variation to learning diverse math skills.  “Technology opens the door to mathematical understanding and application that will prepare students for the real world.”

Each day children engage in whole group math activities, small group math activities, and hands on learning in the math center.  Each week the children learn and practice a math concept from counting, learning about shapes, measuring, patterns, number recognition, sorting, classifying, adding and subtracting small numbers, and much, much more!  Overall, the children are learning through hands on activities and teacher directed instruction, while children’s progress is monitored.

As a preschool teacher, I have enjoyed using this math curriculum.  This program offers support and training for teachers.  The lessons are very thorough, nicely prepared, and can be easily implemented into any classroom setting.  I feel it is very important for children at a young age to develop and understand numerous math skills.  The children are often applying and learning math concepts without even realizing it.  The activities are engaging and very age appropriate.  I want children to feel confident in math and think of it as fun!  “Quality mathematics is a joy, not a pressure.  It emerges from children’s play, their curiosity, and their natural ability to think.”  For more information on the Real Math curriculum please go to:

www.realmath.com

How do you apply math concepts at home?

D.I.Y. For Kids

towelBy Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

Quite often parents will ask me what they can do at home to help prepare their child for school.  One suggestion I always mention is to have their child begin to help out at home and do more things on their own.  At home, children can start by cleaning up after themselves.  If they take something out, they can put it away right after they are done using it.  I know as a parent and teacher, I have found myself often putting away items I never used myself.  Even if it is easier for you to pick up the mess, it is better for children to learn this responsibility.  Children can also help out with many household chores.  Some suggestions are:

  • Folding small washcloths and towels when doing laundry.
  • Helping with setting the table for meals.
  • Helping with making their beds.
  • Cleaning up their place setting after a meal.
  • Helping with pets such as feeding them.
  • Getting a child-size broom or shovel so they can help with sweeping and shoveling.
  • Pour their own water for drinking while using child-size pitchers and cups.
  • Helping with putting away groceries or dishes.
  • Washing dishes (it is fun to wash by hand from time-to-time even though you may have a dishwasher and children will better understand the concept of how things get from dirty to clean).

Not only is it valuable to show children how to take care of their environment, it is equally as important to inform children as to how they can take care of themselves.  Taking care of themselves not only will help them to achieve independence, but helps to develop self-confidence and pride.  It is helpful for children to practice getting ready in the morning from getting dressed, helping to pick out their own clothes, and brushing their hair and teeth.  They may still need some assistance from an adult, but giving them the opportunities to practice and try it on their own will help them to become self-sufficient.

Some basic self-help skills are:

  • Carrying their backpack/book bag to school.
  • Washing their hands before meals or after using the bathroom.
  • Wiping their nose and washing their hands after.
  • Practicing with putting on their winter outdoor gear from snow pants, boots, to jackets.
  • Practicing with buttons and zippers.
  • Putting on their shoes and clothes.
  • Taking care of their own personal hygiene needs from combing their hair to washing their face.

I read a quote once that I often refer to as a teacher and mother, “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed” by Dr. Maria Montessori.  The key is showing children age-appropriate responsibilities for the environment and themselves by introducing new skills as they develop.  A great resource is an article titled, Teaching Your Child to Become Independent with Daily Routines, gives many suggestions and helpful tools in self-help skills for children.  You can download it at:

csefel.vanderbilt.edu/documents/teaching_routines.pdf.

What are some things you do at home to encourage your child’s independence?

 

RTI for Kindergarten Readiness-Helping Children Early in the Classroom

rti_pyramidBy: Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer/Discovery Learning Teacher

RTI stands for Response to Intervention and is used to reach the needs of all children by providing early instructional interventions.  In Discovery Learning, when children need extra support the teaching team (lead teacher, ECSE teacher, MRC Representative and Classroom Assistant) in the classroom works together with the child in more explicit and purposeful teaching.  One way we administer our interventions is to begin with individual assessments.  By assessing children quarterly and when needed, we’re able to keep track of children’s progress and see areas of need and growth.  One example is in our literacy assessments.  Children are tested or bench marked on letter names, letter sounds, alliteration, rhyming, and picture naming in the fall, winter, and spring.  With the help of the Minnesota Reading Corps, children are progress monitored throughout the school year.  After the very first assessment in the fall, children who need some extra help will begin working with the classroom teacher or MRC representative to provide extra literacy support in small groups or one-on-one.  After each literacy goal is achieved, a new goal is implemented until the child is at benchmark in each area of literacy.

Another form of RTI in the Discovery Learning classrooms is the Response to Intervention and the Pyramid Model.  “The Pyramid Model provides a tiered intervention framework of evidence-based interventions for promoting the social, emotional, and behavioral development of young children” (Fox et al., 2003; Hemmeter, Ostrosky, & Fox, 2006).  The model describes three tiers of intervention practice:

  • Tier 1:  universal promotion for all children
  • Tier 2:  secondary preventions to address the intervention needs for children at risk of social emotional delays
  • Tier 3:  tertiary interventions needed for children with persistent challenges

One of the great advantages of working with RTI in our ECFE/SR program is the resources that are available to us.  With the Pyramid Model (formally TACSEI) and High Five (ISD 728) a team is available to guide the staff and families in RTI interventions from behavior specialists, parent educators, coaches, and a school psychologist.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in a description of RTI in our Discovery Classrooms.  There is so much being done daily in our environments for the achievement of every child’s academic and social-emotional success.  With the implementation of RTI:  early identification of children’s challenges is recognized, student’s are provided with instructional support, and children’s progress is monitored and assessed regularly.  I hope it is reassuring to know that our program will do what is needed to ensure that every child will be successful and prepared for kindergarten.

For more information on RTI go to the Center for RTI in Early Childhood website at: www.crtiec.org   To find information on Tier 2 and Tier 3 social emotional/behavior interventions, go to the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/ and for information on the Minnesota Reading Corps go to: www.minnesotareadingcorps.org

What are your thoughts on RTI interventions in preschool?

Discovery Learning Extra – “An Extra Helping of Learning”

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By: Ms. Becca – DLX Teacher

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Discovery Learning Extra is a Pilot program that was launched in the Fall of 2012 in hopes of adding to the District 728’s mission to educate, inspire, and empower all learners starting at the very beginning.

Many surrounding districts, especially in the metro area have had similar programs in place, and were getting great results, so it was important for ISD 728 to give it a try. We have already had so much success in our existing Discovery Learning Preschool Programs, so we wanted to broaden our outreach.

Discovery Learning Extra is intended to give the children and families that are enrolled “an extra helping” of school readiness time and instruction before they enter Kindergarten.

Families and children were referred from Early Childhood Screening, ECFE home visitors, school social workers, principals, early childhood special education, and those identified as English Language Learners, siblings of Title I students, families with income or behavior challenges, or other circumstances.

Three classes were created, two at Handke Family Center in Elk River, and one in Zimmerman. The families were offered transportation to class five mornings, or four afternoons a week. (In comparison to a two or three day a week class for most Discovery Learning classes).  They also attended once a month family nights, participated in a family reading program, and were required to volunteer in class at least once throughout the school year.

Formal literacy assessments, and social-emotional growth tracking were completed three times throughout the school year. The amount of progress was incredible. Most of the students started behind peers in other classes, and ended on target or beyond in Spring time testing. Four and Five day a week classes helped kids to have consistency in their learning and lives, but also gain independence and grow in essential skills to be successful in the future. Skills including children’s ability to form relationships and interact with others and to attend and engage at group learning times.

In our second year, we hope to empower more children and families, and to get the word out about the idea of intensive early childhood education. It is our hope that the district will expand funding and space for early childhood throughout the entire district. We hope to have our preschool programs as a permanent and serious fixture in ISD 728. We hope to give more children the “extra helping” that all young kids deserve.