Monday, March 26, 2018

Welcome Spring!

     We are ecstatic that Spring is finally here! All at SMART START are ready to embrace all this beautiful season has to offer.  Our students are anxiously awaiting extended time in our outdoor classroom, as well as fun filled curriculum and activities galore! We hope you enjoy our introduction to Spring here at SMART START!

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     With temperatures on the rise and the smell of Spring in the air, the children are eager for sunnier days ahead. Young meteorologists have been using the thermometer to track the warmer weather. As educators, it is so refreshing to instill in our pupils a love for learning through nature and discovery while they reap endless educational, physical, social, emotional, health and wellness benefits in the great outdoors. The first five years of development are crucial!



     We commenced Spring with an outdoor picnic! SMART START friends gathered on a blanket, along with Pilot, for a healthy and delicious snack as they soaked up some fresh air and sun.


     It's officially bubble season!  Peers were thrilled to bring out the bubble containers and blow and pop together.  Even Pilot joined in the fun! Happy faces were on our pupils as they engaged in this staple activity. 


    Dramatic play is a class favorite here at school!  Students dressed up as beautiful butterflies.  They demonstrated a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis and flew around the classroom with delight.  The butterfly lifecycle as well as other insects will be a large component of our Spring curriculum. 


     Our school library is now showcasing Spring books! Circle time has been active with new questions and conversations about all things Spring.  Young learners have also been reading independently and with partners. Their letter identification, picture and word association, as well as recall and recognition skills are all vastly improving. 


     Blooming flowers are a sign of a new beginning!  Our budding botanists have been learning all about flowers, the parts of a plant and how the change in season affects them. Students studied three flowers in particular - the carnation, daisy and daffodil. We also learned a flower song and finger play that is sang to the tune of "Are You Sleeping."  Here are the lyrics so you can sing and play along at home:

Planting flowers, planting flowers,
(pretend to plant flowers into the ground)
In the ground, in the ground,
Water them and they will grow,
(pretend to water plants with a watering can)
Water them and they will grow
All around, all around.

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     Preschoolers worked on fine motor skills while playing with Spring magnets. They strategically placed magnets around the board and created a beautiful scene. These types of activities always strike up conversation based on the subject at hand.  We heard lots of chatter about flowers, colors and being outside.  


     Pilot is overjoyed with the return of Spring and is looking forward to a fun-filled and adventurous season!  Classroom helpers spent time introducing him to some fun new songs, stories and activities going on at SMART START.  


    Spring time is notorious for planting. SMART START gardeners got an early start and planted green beans.  Each child had their own Styrofoam cup that they added dirt, seeds and water into. They loved this hands-on experience and having an active role in their food preparation. Here's a song we sang while planting our green beans:

First (child) made the hole
Then he/she put the seed inside
Covered it up with dirt
(Child) planted green beans!



     In addition to green beans, our vegetable lovers also planted zucchini, peas and peppers. Each had their own half of an egg carton.  Using shovels, they filled the egg cartons with dirt, made a hole, added different seeds and covered the hole with dirt.  Lastly, pupils watered the plants using small watering cans. As with their green beans, our gardeners are anticipating initial harvest.  



     Young learners have been exhibiting green thumbs while tending to their vegetable plants. The added responsibilities of nourishing them with water and monitoring proper sunlight has provided a sense of pride and accomplishment. Questions and discussions are taking place during this time as all are in awe of this process.  Confidence levels have soared as plants have been growing!  SMART START scientists used binoculars and magnifying glasses to get a closer look. 




     "Let's Grow" is an educational game that teaches about four different life cycles: plant, chicken, frog and butterfly. The object of the game is to collect all stages such as, egg, tadpole, froglet and frog.  All, including Barny the Barn Owl, participated in moving pieces around the board, cheering each other on and spinning the spinner. Although this game is for ages 5+, our class has mastered many skills such as, turn taking, basic math, letter and color recognition and more. 


Click below to check out more Spring time fun at SMART START!




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💙 Mary and Francesca 💙

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Winter Friends and Animal Adventures Field Trip

     SMART START friends have been enjoying all things Winter throughout this snowy and cold season.  To further enhance their knowledge and expand upon our curriculum, forest animals were introduced into our repertoire.  Here is a closer look at what our preschoolers have been learning about during this intriguing unit of study.

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     The children absolutely love dramatic play! No matter the subject at hand, dressing up is always a class favorite. During our forest animal unit, pupils occupied the role of coyotes and played alongside other animals in the cozy and warm den that they created. All showcased sounds and mannerisms studied. While coyotes in the wild are not friendly, our SMART START coyotes were kind to all!  


     Busy readers and active listeners were engrossed through a variety of forest animal books.  Circle time became animated as puppets and props were included. They read independently while looking at pictures to assist their own rendition of a story with a puppet in hand.  Engaging in dramatic and pretend play illuminates the creative and imaginative talents of our young learners.  SMART START puppeteers looked adorable as raccoons while improvising their own show.  Bravo!   


     Our geography lesson included the use of forest animal scenes and stickers. After learning about the behavior and environment of each animal, students used their acquired knowledge to place the stickers appropriately. All had fun participating in this collaborative fine motor activity. Nice work, friends!


     Engineers diligently set out to create forest winter habitats. Sporting their nature hats and smocks, they used a variety of materials to design the perfect home for each animal. Materials included:  green and gray felt, brown paint, white model magic, green play dough, egg cartons, toilet paper tubes and cellophane for ice.  Each chose two animals to reside in the habitat. All did a marvelous job constructing and encouraging one another while challenging their artistic minds. 



     Enthusiastic preschoolers took part in two animal matching card games. As always, our group listened intently to the rules. Games are so beneficial for deep concentration, mastering skills through repetition, demonstration of knowledge, making connections, opportunity to think and reason, problem solve and more.  


     Nature and discovery lends itself to many hands-on experiments. Our little Einsteins wore their lab aprons and safety goggles as they set up Artic and forest friends on and near ice structures. Various tools such as, ice picks, hammers and magnifying glasses were used for exploration. All were enthralled with this experiment while chipping away and observing both the ice and creatures. Science is exciting! 




     Peers free played with small animal figurines in toy dens including the one they created. This activity provided classmates with the perfect opportunity to utilize the knowledge they attained during this unit through conversation and pretend play. Imagination at work!


     Forest rangers gathered around the table to paint either a mountain lion or porcupine paw. They used gray and brown paint and their artistic ability to decorate their paw print. Once dry, modge podge was used to add a shiny layer. All were very excited to bring home and display.  





A big task for our preschool team...paint and decorate a habitat to house our large toy figurines as well as our stuffed animals, Barny the barn owl and Pilot.  To build this natural like environment, we used cardboard boxes, white foam for snow, green and gray felt, brown paint, white model magic, green play dough, egg cartons, toilet paper tubes and cellophane for ice. In addition, a large branch was placed aside the den. Classmates worked together with ease on this group effort project. Taking turns while encouraging one another demonstrated patience and excellent communication skills. The realistically crafted domain served as a gathering place to participate in parallel and peer play. 


     Animal Adventure's outreach program came to visit SMART START for an on-site field trip! Ed is the owner of Animal Adventures, an animal rescue zoo located  in Bolton, MA. Ed is passionate about his career and sharing his message and knowledge of animals and rescue. Our students were excited to learn about and interact with the subject matter we have been studying.  All eyes and ears were on Ed as he spoke and introduced various animals.


     A rabbit, turtle, rat, guinea pig, hedge hog, dove, ferret, fennec fox, skunk and alligator were  visitors at our school. Ed taught about each animal and also gave the opportunity to pet and ask questions. Our pupils behaved extremely well while remembering to respect the animals. While this field trip provided a fulfilling hands-on experience, it boosted confidence levels as the children acted courageously during their positive encounters with the animals.  We were most proud of our students!



Click below to see more Winter Friends and Field Trip Fun!




     What a fun Winter it has been here at SMART START!  We are sad to say goodbye, but we are looking forward to all the fun things Spring has to offer.  Once again, thank you for continuing to support our on-site field trip program.  We truly believe that it enhances the education and development of our preschoolers.

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💙 Mary and Francesca 💙

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day

     St. Patrick's Day is a special holiday for people of Irish descent to celebrate their heritage.  It is filled with joy and fun traditions, that even those who are not Irish enjoy celebrating!

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     SMART START readers learned about St. Patrick's Day during circle time. We read many stories surrounding the holiday and the country of Ireland.  The children especially loved learning about leprechauns, rainbows and gold coins!  


     St. Patrick's Day is celebrated each year on March 17th.  Since we have incorporated Spanish into our preschool curriculum, SMART START amigos learned that March in Spanish is "Marzo" and seventeen is "diecisiete."  The perfect way to blend Spanish and Irish studies!


     Our star pupils were eager to learn about the country of Ireland.  During circle time, we read an interesting book about Ireland, the country's traditional foods and customs such as, Irish step dancing.  SMART START friends also enjoyed learning a twist on the classic song, "One Little, Two Little, Three Little Indians" and sang, "One Little, Two Little, Three Little Shamrocks." Lastly, the children learned about the map of Ireland and colored it in using green and orange markers.  


     A St. Patrick's celebration is not complete without shamrocks!  Shamrocks are the national emblem of Ireland. We incorporated shamrocks into our learning activities and games.  The children practiced opposites such as, big and small, up and down, left and right and high and low.  We also discussed four leaf clovers and how they are thought to bring luck according to Irish culture.  Estudiantes learned that good luck in Spanish is, "Buena suerte."


     SMART START engineers were ready to get to work and design a comfortable home for Leo the Leprechaun. They put on construction hats and aprons before they began the process.  Safety first! Busy builders used three large cardboard boxes, green/verde paint with paint brushes, glue, green/verde and gold/oro glitter, paper tubes, cut felt and metallic paper, ribbon, pipe cleaners, festive colors of crayons, markers and bonkers. Everyone worked well together on this collaborative project! 

     Upon completion of Leo the Leprechaun's house, the children were on the lookout for him.  They set out to the outdoor classroom with nets in hand. Leo was nowhere to be found. The children went back inside to search the school. All anxiously awaiting Leo's arrival!




     The children were super excited and surprised when they shined the flashlight inside Leo's house one morning and spotted something!  Leo the Leprechaun had visited and left a bag of treats for all to share. He was delighted with the cozy home that the students made for him! The festive treats were enjoyed during our St.Patrick's Day celebration.


     St. Patrick's Day is famous for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  To integrate this fun Irish theme into our unit, we gathered on our rainbow rug and played a game of musical pot of gold/oro. The children also enjoyed engaging in pretend play, acting as leprechauns searching for their pot of gold!  Luck of the Irish!


     SMART START mathematicians were excited to play a new game.  While enhancing their memory , counting and number recognition skills, pupils had fun finding the number card that corresponded with how many shamrocks they counted. 



Click below to check out more St. Patrick's Day fun at   SMART START!

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💚 Mary and Francesca 💚

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Winter Fun at SMART START

     SMART START has fully embraced one of New England's finest seasons...WINTER!  The children have enjoyed playing outdoors in the snow, as well as engaging in activities indoors. Here is a glimpse of all our exciting Winter happenings below!

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     Our young learners became quite animated while listening to the classic, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear by Eric Carle.  Miss Francesca read aloud to the children as they gathered around the table and felt board.  When she said the animal name, whoever was holding that animal placed it on the felt board. Pupils identified and acted out each animal and made corresponding sounds with ease....roaring, trumpeting, hissing, snarling!   This book invites preschoolers to join in and chant the rhythmic words while igniting their imaginations for pretend play. 



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     Winter and its cold temperatures here in New England lend itself to fun-filled learning for preschoolers. SMART START sensory explorers were eager to dive into this frigid hands-on activity.  They wore safety goggles and worked with small hand held tools to chip away at the ice. While engaging many senses,  students thoroughly experienced this cold, slippery texture. This activity served as a great method of bringing the elements of Winter indoors, as well as put a different variation on ice exploration! 


     Not all ice activities have to be cold and slippery!  SMART START friends enjoyed playing a classic game, "Don't Break The Ice." Children paired together as they hammered away with their ice picks.  The ultimate goal is to knock out only one ice cube at a time until the penguin falls. A great deal of strategizing while working on hand eye coordination, fine motor skills and more.  A fun way to squeeze in learning and development!


     Friends took part in another timeless game, "Tic Tac Toe."  SMART START's Winter version consisted of wooden bears and trees.  The object is to get three of your pieces in a row, whether it be horizontally, vertically or diagonally!  "Tic Tac Toe" reinforces strategizing, spatial awareness, fine motor skills and more. When the children play together they are also developing sportsmanship.  We encourage supportive phrases such as, "good game" and "nice job". Although SMART START provides a strong academic foundation for your child, it is just as important that we instill in them our S.M.A.R.T character building blocks: Service, Mindfulness, Achievement, Respect and Trust.


     Winter themed books have been read throughout the season. Whether they are listening to a story during circle time, reading independently or with a friend, reading is a favorite subject here at school.  It is always a special treat when we can bring reading into our outdoor classroom-even all bundled up! Students are always captivated by the content, ask intelligent and age appropriate questions and use their imaginations.

 
     SMART START meteorologists have been learning about and studying our chilly temperatures and weather patterns here in Massachusetts.  We have a large thermometer here at school that the students can manually use to move the temperature up and down each day. Our pupils have acquired knowledge and skills during our weather unit and have used them accordingly.


     Winter friends love to play in our outdoor classroom! Running free in our winter wonderland while exploring nature is exhilarating and so beneficial for their health and wellness. Children are always excited to make snow angels, snowmen, snowballs, go sledding and more. Charlotte and Caroline enjoyed much of the fun. We are thankful that we have willing helpers when it comes to shoveling the snow.  It is important that our walkways and steps are cleared for everyone's safety! Thank you SMART START shovelers!




 
     SMART START bakers took to the kitchen to make the most delicious treat.  With their chef hats and aprons on and hands washed, they were ready to make sugar cookies!  Once the cookies were baked and cooled, it was time for decorating. Each used their own tray filled with ingredients to create.  Ingredients included: frosting, coconut, snowflake sprinkles and blue crystal sprinkles. The tasty cookies looked beautiful!


     A snowman is a quintessential part of the Winter season. SMART START artists created their very own snowman using felt, stickers, bonkers, glitter, snowman eyes, mouth, nose and hat!  They proudly held up their colorful and smiley snowmen for a quick snapshot to display their hard work. All enjoyed building a snowman tower out of wooden pieces, playing with snowman puppets and other related activities.


     When the weather is too cold to go outside, we take our preschool energy and gross motor activities into our gym. We decided to have an indoor snowball toss as a special way to work on hand-eye coordination, gross motor, cooperative skills and more!


     Another game we played in our gym was "Snowball Says.", a spin on the classic game, "Simon Says." The children had a blast and did exceptionally well following directions. We also brought out a parachute and created our own winter storm: shaking for wind, tossing snowballs for snow.  We love incorporating new activities to challenge our students as their listening skills and all areas of development are vastly improving.


     Miss Francesca did an entertaining rendition of The Hat by Jan Brett.  Our attentive audience  was fascinated by the story and loved the interactive aspect! A hat was passed around during the story and students filled the hat with the animals along the way.  Just like the book, our hat here at SMART START helped to keep the animals cozy and warm!



     Artic animals was one of our larger learning units this Winter. We discussed where artic animals live in the world, their habitats, diet, characteristics and more. Each SMART START engineer designed and built a home for two artic animals that they chose from an assortment of figurines. Supplies used to construct the habitats included: blue paper plates to resemble water, white plates for snow, Styrofoam cups for igloos and added on foam snowflakes, doilies, molded clay, blue yarn, mini foam cubes for ice, glue and more. As educators, it was amazing that with little assistance, the children transformed every day products into their own unique artic habitat. Creative hands-on learning at its finest!


Click below to see more Winter fun at SMART START!







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💙 Mary and Francesca 💙