Happy New Year! We enjoyed welcoming everyone back to school this week, and it was such fun to see so many smiling, happy faces coming through the doors at Paddington! We hope you enjoyed a restful and relaxing holiday break and had the opportunity to spend lots of time with family and friends. It is always nice to take some time to slow down and move at a different pace.
The faculty and staff at Paddington returned to school a day in advance of the children and spent some time cleaning and reorganizing classrooms, changing art on bulletin boards, setting up new and exciting dramatic play areas, and planning engaging curriculum units for the coming weeks.
We also gathered together as a staff for a presentation on social and emotional development from Anne Mairs, who in addition to teaching in the Benjamin Bunny classroom, serves as Paddington’s Social and Emotional Curriculum Writer. Anne has spent a great deal of time this year studying various theorists and reading the work of authors on early childhood social and emotional development. She has also attended many workshops and trainings in the Denver area on this important topic.
In addition, Anne has met with teachers in our monthly age level meetings to gather feedback, exchange ideas, and share classroom strategies for supporting the social and development of children at Paddington. Through Anne’s work and via staff collaboration, we plan to create our own social and emotional curriculum that will be implemented school-wide to support children in our classrooms. We greatly value the importance of providing strategies to help children identify feelings, regulate powerful emotions, problem solve, navigate a variety of social situations, and make friends.
Anne shared the following with us on Monday:
"What behaviors lead to friendship? Several discrete behaviors that young children engage in during play with each other are directly related to having friends (Tremblay, Strain, Hendrickson & Shores, 1981). That is, children who do more of these behaviors are more likely to have friends."
We look forward to observing the continued growth and development of your wonderful children over the next few months, and encouraging new friendships. We are grateful for the support of the Paddington community as we work together to instill a love of learning through play in children.
Opportunities for teacher leadership have been minimal at Paddington over the last few decades---the School has had a Head of School and a Director. In meeting with teachers over the past few years, we heard that our talented groups of educators wanted more opportunities to grow, learn and share their knowledge, in others words, to Cultivate, Collaborate and Inspire on a larger scale. Our teachers want to be viewed as professionals and are true advocates in the field of early childhood education and are tirelessly working to nudge the field forward.
To that end, this year we added three new positions for our gifted teachers to apply their talents in new ways. With the support of our Trustees, we further developed the Playground Ambassador position with the intention of building a scope and sequence for outdoor learning activities and a curriculum writer position to focus on a scope and sequence for social-emotional learning at Paddington.
Last year, Sheila Olson and Anne Mairs piloted the position of Playground Ambassador, paving the way for us to evaluate this need and to more fully expand and articulate this role.
In the spring of 2019, teachers were encouraged to apply for the specific position that might interest them, answer a variety of questions and then go through an interview process. Numerous teachers applied and the decision-making process was challenging as each applicant was passionate about the new opportunity.
Ashley G. and Megan Simmons collaborated and submitted a joint application for the Playground Ambassador position. Their proposal was so compelling that we decided to offer two positions for this important job. Both Ashley and Megan are passionate about outdoor education and play-based learning. They bring the theory of constructivism to their thinking, planning and implementation as they know first-hand that students are active participants in constructing their own learning by exploring the outdoor spaces. Ashley and Megan, along with Nea, attended a four-day workshop in Nebraska City, NE in July to learn more about outdoor education. Couple this training with a day-long workshop in October sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation and these two have hit the ground running. Shortly after the October workshop, Ashley and Megan completed the paperwork to certify our outdoor spaces as wildlife habitats through the National Wildlife Federation.
They have met with age-level faculty (teachers of 2s, 3s, and 4s and 5s) and listened to their ideas, questions, and dreams. Together they have designed a format for an Outdoor Learning Opportunity, a template with key learning skills and objectives along with directions, helpful hints and extensions. Each Outdoor Learning Opportunity comes in a box with a book to extend vocabulary and provide a good story. In addition, the box holds all the materials needed for the learning opportunity. Megan and Ashley share the goal of creating 20 such boxes by June 1, 2020.
Here is an example of a box and a class using this specific box, “Scribble Stones:”
Spend a day at Paddington Station Preschool and you’ll see it is 95% in the realm of social-emotional development. What an opportunity for us to teach life-long skills and habits in promoting healthy relationships, encouraging children to express feelings and solve social problems. It’s imperative that we work on this to give children the skills to thrive in a constantly changing and unpredictable world.
To build our social-emotional curriculum we invited teachers to apply for the role of curriculum writer. We had many applicants for this position, and, again, the decision-making process was challenging as each applicant was passionate about the new opportunity.
Anne Mairs was chosen for this position and has spent countless hours in professional development opportunities and reading various books on the topic. She has also met with age-level groups to gather to gather their ideas, comments, questions and a list of developmental skills they see as important within their own age-level. Anne has the task of blending this work with evidence-based research on social-emotional growth into a Paddington scope-and-sequence.
Anne recently attended a summit on Social-Emotional Learning at the University of Denver on December 2. Teacher Leadership at Paddington is thriving!
Wagon Train: A Cherished Paddington Tradition that Reminds Us All of the Importance of Kindness, Thankfulness and Helping Others
This week we had the opportunity to celebrate a cherished Paddington Station tradition, Wagon Train. This is an event that we look forward to each year as it reminds us of the importance of giving, sharing and what it means to be a part of a larger community. It is always wonderful to see the foyer at Paddington filled with cans and boxes of non-perishable food items that have been donated by our amazing Paddington families and staff! On Wednesday and Thursday, the children participated in the Wagon Train by loading the line of red wagons with the food that had been donate. They then delivered it across the street to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church to be later taken to the Aurora Interfaith Community Services.
In the classrooms at Paddington, Wagon Train provides an opportunity for teachers to have age appropriate conversations and discussions with children about important topics, like kindness, thankfulness, sharing, and helping others. It also provides opportunities for hands-on learning experiences in other areas. For example, the Peter Rabbit Kindergarten class took advantage of the opportunity to teach their children how to count and record data using tally marks as they counted the number of cans and boxes collected at Paddington for Wagon Train.
Supporting us with Wagon Train each year are members of our neighborhood community, including the staff and parishioners of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and our local fire and police stations who block off 13th Street so we can walk safely to the church and back. Thank you St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Denver Police and Fire Station #14 for supporting Wagon Train!
We are also incredibly grateful for the help and support of the Paddington Station community! From donating food items and wagons to helping children load wagons and walk to the church, the Paddington parent community is always ready and willing to lend a hand. Sharing in this tradition is a wonderful way to kick off the holiday season! We wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and know that our hearts are filled with gratitude for all that you do to support our faculty, staff, and children. We are truly thankful!
Through play children make discoveries, experience joy, and exert independence. At Paddington, we are committed to continue this work.
Admissions tours have started for the 2020-2021 school year. Eager parents and grandparents are joining us on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings for about an hour. The tour starts with a Parent Ambassador who kicks off the meeting and shares the current parent perspective of Paddington. Gracious and talented Therese Aleinikoff our Admissions Coordinator, then guides prospective families through the halls, classrooms and outdoor spaces. Lastly, I join the group in the foyer to answer lingering questions.
I love admissions tours. I love the connections made during the tours and opportunity for prospective families to see our talented teachers at work and watch children joyfully exploring the wonders of the world. The question and answer time allow me the chance to reflect on why I do what I do.
Questions from prospective parents can be challenging and insightful, “Why do your teachers stay at Paddington?” “What’s the favorite part of your job?” “Why do you stay at Paddington?” “How can children learn through play? Don’t you need to teach math and literacy?” “Do you do anything besides play?”
The questions remind me of the power of community and the power of play. Paddington is a caring and warm community that is committed to creating and sustaining a playful environment. The work is evolving, creative and worth it---for all children.
As shared with you at Back-to-School Night in mid-September, at Paddington we believe that Play isn’t a Luxury. It’s a Necessity!
The research is there--- in 2018, the World Bank’s World Development Report declared that “children’s brains are most efficient at incorporating new information through exploration, play, and interactions with caring adults or peers.”
Again in 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics, champions for play in children’s lives, stated, “Play is fundamentally important for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity, which require the executive functioning skills that are critical for adult success.”
Through play children make discoveries, experience joy, and exert independence. At Paddington, we are committed to continue this work. All faculty and staff are reading the newly released book, Let the Children Play by Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle. We will have a book club in early 2020 to talk about insights and the pedagogy behind play to enhance our daily work. If any of you are interested in joining us for a lively conversation, just let me know and we would welcome you. We purchased additional copies of the book and you can find them in the Parent Library located in our foyer.
On Tuesday October 8th, the faculty and staff gathered at Paddington for a day of professional development. We kicked off the day by sharing feedback, ideas, and successes related to the classroom blogs. Teachers have embraced this new method of sharing information with families about classroom events, sign-ups, wish lists and curriculum. In addition, families can find photographs and anecdotes describing what and how children are learning each day through a variety of engaging play-based experiences. We all agree the blogs are a wonderful way to communicate with families and to provide an answer to the question, “what did you do at school today?” Our hope is that families will read the blogs, perhaps even with your child, and use this as an opportunity to ask deeper questions and to find out more from your child about what is happening in the classroom on a daily basis and to discover what activities they most enjoy at school, what books they enjoyed reading as a class, and more! Library and science blogs are coming soon, so be on the lookout for these in the coming weeks.
Later in the morning, teachers participated in both an online and a remote training on another piece of technology, Kaymbu, which is our new family engagement and documentation tool. The Squirrel Nutkin classroom piloted this tool last year and it received positive reviews from teachers and parents! Kaymbu will provide a platform for teachers to document individual student growth and development throughout the school year as well as allow them to share their observations with parents. Shortly you will begin receiving digests from your child’s teachers containing photographs and anecdotes of your child that have been captured during the school day. This will provide you with yet another opportunity to discover more about how your child enjoys their time at Paddington. You will also learn more about the individual growth and development milestones and skills that your child is practicing and achieving through play. Kaymbu contains a messaging system, so you may receive important classroom announcements, updates, and reminders via Kaymbu. You will be learning more about this new tool from your child’s classroom teachers as we continue to integrate this new piece of technology into our daily routines. If you have any questions about Kaymbu, please feel free to reach out to me anytime!
We wrapped up our professional development day with an update from Ashley and Megan, our outdoor classroom ambassadors, a group clean-up of the toddler and preschool outdoor spaces and time in classrooms for curriculum planning and preparing for the week ahead. It was an action-packed day, and we all enjoyed the time together as a staff to continue our own journeys as joyful life-long learners!
I was asked to share my talk from Back-to-School Night with you and I am happy to…
In the fall of 2005, I was out at recess at my former school, Vail Mountain School, it was a beautiful autumn day. The kindergarten and first grade children were running with great force, bumping into one another and yelling, “Hurry. Get away…run!” I watched closer and saw them twirling and hitting each other with such force that they fell to the ground. “What are you playing?” I ask. “Katrina,” they reply.
I was immediately reminded of the power of play and the opportunity it allows children to work through complex concepts and, as often, their fears, emotions, and the troubling images they are exposed to in contemporary society. By ‘playing Katrina’ the children were able to make at least some sense of the them by their new friends: several displaced children from New Orleans who, with their families has been taken in by the school and wider Vail Valley community.
As an educator, a huge part of my day is spent paying attention.
Also, in Vail I was becoming more and more aware of the rising divorce rate within the school. This phenomenon led me to collaborate with our consulting school psychologist to plan and implement a support group for children experiencing divorce. After a few sessions of our group meetings, I observed the children on the playground. A brother and sister from the divorce group were playing with a half dozen other children. I was keenly aware that all were involved in a heated discussion. As I listened in, I heard the young girl assigning roles by saying, “You are the judge, and you are the mom, and you are the dad, and you are the brother, and you are the sister. Don’t cry too much because you only have one week to make your final decision.”
Does make believe play help children understand, and even navigate reality? Many researchers support this notion by expressing that play is a window through which we can see how children develop and represent meaning.
Fast forward to September 2019….
So, why Paddington? Why are we all here?
We believe in PLAY—We believe in an environment that encourages creativity, caring, collaboration, vocabulary building, joy, kindness, books, appropriate risk taking, questioning, working together, blocks, childhood, building resilience, perspective taking, reflection, discovery, singing, being curious, sharing, laughing, imagining, learning how to be a friend, helping, empathy, life-long learning, taking turns, celebrating likenesses and differences, and pretending.
We believe in teachers---their warmth, understanding of child development, their role of facilitator in play, and their daily inspiration.
We believe in families---all types of families and families that partner with the school to celebrate childhood.
We believe PLAY isn’t a luxury---it’s a necessity .
In the months to come, you will receive our new strategic plan, Invest in Play, that will guide the work at Paddington for the next five years. We are so happy you are on this journey with us and together we can, ---- Invest in Play --- for all future generations of children, families, staff and teachers at Paddington.
We are off to an amazing start at Paddington! Our friends are making new friends, children are discovering the fun of our ever-changing choice tables and exploring the outdoor classroom.
A big focus at Paddington throughout the year is the strength of our community. This is especially true at the beginning of the school year as each classroom establishes their community within their classroom and then to the school as a whole. The Peter Rabbit classroom shared the following which we know is true, at an age appropriate level, for each classroom:
"Building friendships and creating our classroom community will be our focus for the first few weeks of the year. We do this by spending a lot of our time sharing about ourselves, reading stories, singing, and creating art that reflects who we are. As we get to know each other better, we can begin to understand who our classmates are and where our classmates come from. The more we learn about one another, the more empathy, compassion, and understanding will be present in our classroom community. We then work to establish what matters to us as a group and how we want to treat each other when we are together in our classroom space. No two classes are the same and our environment and rules should reflect our unique group."
We encourage you to share classroom blogs with your children. We've already seen and heard that with the aid of the blog pictures, children have a great tool to spark more conversations about school, new friends and what is going on in the classroom. We look forward to all the fun, learning and PLAY that will be happening this year!