The fall season was gradually approaching and some Tucker Room children were beginning to notice the changes. "It's falling," Lucia said watching a leaf slowly fall to the ground. The cool and crisp days leading up to autumn were presenting us with pleasantly comfortable conditions to be outside and a changing environmental context within which the children could discover evidence of a season in transition. Gathering dried leaves instead of flowers for their mulch and sand cakes, our observations of the children indicated an awareness, on their part, of the slight changes that were signifying an onset of fall. This, along with the impermanence and transformation of the seasons, gave rise to the intention to explore fall.
At this juncture, it just so happened that the autumnal equinox was less than a week away. So, we set an introductory plan in motion: Firstly, to introduce some mythology and narrative around the fall season beginning with the Greek story about Persephone and the Underworld. Secondly, to take a fall walk so that we could observe signs of fall, collect leaves, enjoy the weather, and further reconnect. Thirdly, to begin observing and tracking the changes of two trees visible to us at school - the beloved persimmon tree in the outdoor classroom and the symbolic ginkgo trees that line our familiar Potomac street.
Approaching Fall and Noticing Changes
"I saw some of my leaves changing at home.
Introducing the Greek Mythological Story of Persephone
A Fall Field Trip to Observe and Collect Leaves
Using the language of drawing as a tool for reflecting
Our Gallery of Ginkgo Drawings
Birthdays are incredibly special here at St. John's. Birthdays offer the opportunity to celebrate each child for who they are, what they love, and connect with their family. Each year, a gift is created for the birthday child by the Birthday Committee. These committees are typically 3-4 children who take time to share what they know about that child, interview the birthday child, and use this information to inform their committee work. While the teachers may guide the work with a chosen language or direction, it is the work of the committee to incorporate their working knowledge of materials with their knowledge of the birthday child. It's a beautiful display of thoughtfulness, empathy, and care for each other.
This year, the Tucker Room will be taking time to explore the language of paper in a deeper, more intentional way. This work will inform our birthday committee work, and each child will receive a gift that is unique to them, but it will be created using the language of paper.
Paper exploration in the atelier
To start our intentional work with paper, Jen and I invited a small group into the atelier; we also knew that this would be a wonderful opportunity to reintroduce the atelier, which hasn't been available in this way since Brown Room. On the tables we provided a variety of papers, all in shades/tints of white for the children to explore. There was variation of size, shape, texture, weight, color, etc. We invited the children to explore and think about the possibilities.
Much of their work was using the cardboard for a castle, exploring some of the paper under the microscope (noticing the fibers, texture up close, and other things that can only be seen up close), and learning to use the drawing compasses.
We concluded our time by thinking about all of the things we remembered/rediscovered that we can do with paper (e.g. paper can roll; it can be seen under the microscope; it can be crumpled and stuffed inside of things; it can be used in a structure).
“I cut the corrugated cardboard, and teared it.” - Lucia, 4.4 years
How did you get the triangle for your sculpture?
“I think they cut the corner.” - Giacomo, 4.10 years
“No, I just did like this. I had a long piece, and then I went like this [gestures in an arch], then decided to make the bridge.” - Lucia
Throughout the year, we will have many intentional paper experiences that will inform our committee work; this was only the beginning.
Nora's birthday committee included Jack, CC, and Audrey. We already knew that Nora likes unicorns by listening to stories she tells, knowing her song choice for sing-along, and she has shown us all of the fun stuffed unicorns she brings from home, but we wanted to know a bit more about Nora; things that might inspire us even more.
“I like pretty much colors. I’ll tell you which colors I like. Blue, pink, purple, and green. And white!” - Nora, 4.11 years
“White like pearl color.” - CC, 4.11 years
What is your favorite thing to do in the Tucker Room? Or do you have a favorite space in the Tucker Room? - Elyse
[Nora went to the atelier door to look around the Tucker Room]
“The microscope!” - Nora, 4.11 years
Once Nora left, there was some discussion about how to use this information.
“So, we could make a microscope or a paper airplane, or we can make a unicorn out of the cardboard paper.” - C.C., 4.11 years
I’m wondering how we can use the paper with the microscope? Did you know that you can take photos of it when it’s under the microscope?
This idea prompted the children collect colorful paper, and we brought in the white paper from the original paper exploration. We began to think about which papers might look beautiful under the microscope?
With the information that Nora gave us, and the children's enthusiasm for taking photos of the paper as seen under the microscope, I proposed to the children that we could make a book for Nora that would include our chosen paper samples with images from under the microscope. They seemed intrigued by this idea, and were eager to begin using the microscope.
For our first meeting, I selected a variety of paper textures, weights, colors (still within Nora's chosen color group), and some with designs while others were "plain". The children chose a few from each color to observe under the microscope.
Jack, C.C., and Audrey each self-assigned a role in the process of selecting papers, observing them, and photographing them. Jack took the role of taking photographs in Photo Booth; this requires patience and precision. Audrey demonstrated her knowledge of focusing the microscope so that we did not have a blurry photograph. C.C. took on the role of choosing the papers that Nora might like, and carefully placing it under the lens of the microscope.
“That’s blurry.” - C.C., 4.11 years
“Okay, but just pause it [the paper under the microscope] somewhere.
I’ll take the photos.” - Jack, 5.3 years
nThe excitement grew with each piece of paper that was chosen. The details seen on the screen elicited many comments about what the paper could be, or what it looked like.
Finalizing our photo choices and naming the papers
Based on the conversations from the day before, we decided that each paper needed a name. This proved to be a very collaborative process, and while they each shared their own idea, they willingly combined titles so that everyone's idea could be used. This part of the process also required us to give thought to which photo to use because we had taken multiple images for some papers and some of them were blurry.
For our next two meetings, we spent some time writing the titles for each page, examining the cotton fiber paper that we would use for the book, arranging the paper samples/microscopic images/titles, and binding the book.
We took a trip to the copier "in the other church", and shrunk their titles so that they would fit on our book pages. Once the titles were shrunk, the children arranged the original paper samples with their microscopic image to create a beautiful display on each page.
The Paper Book, for Nora
Happy Birthday Nora!
tNora is our second 5-year-old, but our first birthday celebration for the year! It was a beautiful day on the front lawn. Nora's mom, Zeina, and her brother, Ramsey joined us! Zeina shared some wonderful photos from Nora's baby book and a family favorite book! Then, the birthday committee presented Nora with her gift before she walked her 5 turns around the candle, blew it out, and we sang! We hope that Nora had a lovely birthday this weekend, and felt all the love from her Tucker friends at her school celebration! Happy birthday Nora!
An Autumn Walk
It is officially fall, and we're heading into the month of October. The weather was crisp and cool today for an autumn walk. Thanks everyone for your interest in participating on our walk, or for joining, there will be more opportunities to come.
Tucker Room makes for good company.
Snack Time Variety Show!
Building empathy through making messages for our friends
If your children have any thoughtful remarks about autumn
as it relates to color, weather, temperature, change, or even caterpillars,
along with other possibilities, please feel free to share these with us!
Have a wonderful weekend!
This week, we brought the overhead projector into the black and white areas (literally in the middle). During the research for the black and white areas, the concept of light was strong. Bringing the overhead projector into the space gave the children an additional source of light (the window and classroom lights being our primary sources). Another consideration was that we wanted to incorporate familiar materials for the children, and we started on Tuesday by brining the Rainey Room A silhouettes to morning meeting.
"We cut them out in Rainey Room!" - C.C., 4.11 years
"It's my mom's light." - Lochie, 4.11 years
"[addressing the whole group] Your moms made them." - C.C
"Or your dads." - Lochie
When we asked the children about how we might use the shadow screen, which they gave a big hug to when they entered the classroom, they had quite a few ideas to share:
"It's like a movie theatre." - Violet, 4.5 years
"We could tell stories." - C.C., 4.11 years
"Put them [silhouettes] on the screen to do a shadow show." - Maxon, 4.6 years
"Put it on, and then the light would show on the big screen. It would show the shape and we would make a show about them." - Lochie, 4.11 years
"Paint them so that they can have colors." - Reed, 4.6 years
"They make shadows on the wall." - Elle, 4.10 years
"Or you could use your bodies to make shadows." - Maxon, 4.6 years
Enthusiasm was high, and the black and white areas were a first plan for many of the children.
The next day
Thursday - Arrangements and Drawing
Lochie started by drawing the tower made of small bed risers and the square grate. When I asked if he would like to add some of the other elements, he immediately added length to his drawing of the black platform in order to make space for the additional drawings.
"I want to help them [build]." - Lochie, 4.11 years
"This is hard work, Lochie; going back and forth [from building to drawing]." - Elle, 4.10 years
Lochie continued to add to the structure, but then he would immediately go to his drawing. If anything had been added, by him, Giacomo, Maxon, or Elle, he would add it to his work. Each time he would look up at the structure and then back down at what he had drawn as though contemplating something. It seemed to me, as the observer, that he was contemplating whether or not he needed to add new elements, or whether or not his drawing matched the current arrangement/structures.
He then stacked two bed risers on top of each other and said, "Now I'm going to draw it." He said that he did not want others to add to this smaller portion of the work, but Elle asked him after a few minutes and he agreed to let her add something. She put the object in front of a structure he had already drawn, and he laughed at trying to add it because it was in front of "his stuff".
"It [building and drawing] wasn't easy, but it was fun because I'm an artist. An artist thinks it's fun." - Lochie, 4.11 years
Creating a Readable Schedule
Literacy (letters, symbolic, and visual) are all integrated into the work of illustrating an idea and titling it to add meaning.
The conversation leading up to the Illustrations
There is more work ahead to finalize our schedule and we'll be sure to showcase it when the time comes!
"I want to sit next to you!": Making Place Cards
What does the mom look like?
Happy Friday everyone! It has been a wonderfully busy week in the Tucker Room.
We've got a few threads of work happening among all of our spaces. There's a lot of construction happening in the black and white areas (and also a lot of "the family game"). We've been discussing families (structure, where they live, what they look like, who is essential in a family, etc.), and continuing to explore our ideas about the lack of a mom in the Anansi family. We spent some time attaching our bag tags today, which was very exciting and the children were chatting with each other about their drawings. We've also started working on photos for the cubbies, and today at morning meeting we began discussing work for our portfolio drawers.
In the outdoor classroom
Working in the classroom
The Atelier, Post Office, and Greeting Hallway
And that's a wrap for the week!
Have a great weekend!
A well loved story for some, a familiar story for others, and a new story for a few, the mythology of Anansi has been given meaningful relevance to the Tucker Room children. The book was read during our first week of school and a question was raised at the end of the reading: "Why is there no mom?" Giacomo inquired. Naturally this prompted commentary and further pondering from other children. At this age, and at every age in most cases, moms have primary relevance in a person's life. So the question became a node from which we have begun to entertain theories explaining about where the mom in the Anansi spider family might be and exploring and discussing family structure and its various social dynamics.
“But what’s the mom’s name?” - Reed
Creating Cubby Bag Tags
In interest of our obvious reconnection we wanted to embrace our symbols as a means of getting reacquainted. We also knew that identification for our cubby bags would be needed. So we put forth the intention to revisit our symbols and their meaning by drawing the image of our symbol or illustrating something that connects us to our symbols related to why we chose it, why we like it, why we care about it, or what it makes us think about. We look forward to attaching our cubby tags to our cubby bags very soon!
"Because I love swimming and turtles live in water." -Sylvie
"Because when I was in BR I choosed a pelican, and then I wanted to have a pelican,
What should we call these areas?
Over the past week, we've been exploring these unique areas of the Tucker Room. As you know, many of our areas in the classroom have specific names that we use to identify them as we make our plans for the day, communicate where we are working, etc. For as long as these areas have "been in the works" (since last spring), they've yet to have defined names. We wanted to open this up to our observations of the children and their ideas once they were able to engage with the spaces and materials. Over the course of the past week, we've had a few conversations about these areas of the classroom, and we seem to have settled on "The Black Area" and "The White Area".
How they came to be...
An ongoing conversation here at St. John's is continually working to increase the complexity and uniqueness of what we offer the children in terms of environment and materials. I was inspired by classrooms, experiences, and materials displays set up in the schools and at the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre in Reggio Emilia, Italy in 2013 and 2018.
As a team, we've been discussing this idea, researching, and collecting materials since the spring of last school year.
Searching for materials was a wonderful journey as well. Based on the materials inspiration from Reggio Emilia, and the research (some of it seen above), we intended to fill the spaces with a variety of textures, materials (plastic, fabric, metal, wood, cardboard, paper, foam, stone, tile, etc.), shapes, and shades of white/black (white, off white, cream, etc.). We collected materials from Upcycle, thrift stores, Community Forklift, 3D printers, home, Tucker closet, and more. One unique experience was collecting pipes from an active construction site where a kind man named Keith cut custom shapes for our classroom (photos below); videos will be shared with the children soon.
When it came time to set it up in the classroom, we intentionally placed the white area by the window for additional lighting, and the black area across from it. This provided contrast and potential for cross "contamination" of the materials. Our original intention was also to have the dark space enclosed, but due to logistics and a desire to more easily observe the children's work, we have decided to wait. We also wanted to give the children an opportunity experience the spaces and make suggestions and additions as a group; perhaps they will suggest the idea to enclose it!
While the space has already changed a bit over the first week, here are the photos of our initial setup. We anticipate that this will evolve and change as our work progresses.
The most important component: The Children
We have been so excited for the children to see and experience this area. Though the initial research, materials collection, and set up came from us, the teachers, the children and families give it meaning and life. Their words, thoughts, structures, actions, etc. breathe life into the spaces and materials and propel our work forward.
Last Tuesday, as the children entered the classroom, the majority of them gravitated towards the black area while Violet went to the white area to investigate the white balls in the glass jar. After morning meeting, many of them took time to explore and build. Within minutes, white materials had been mixed with the white, and the complex structure and ideas were already in motion.
"There's so much black." - Lochie
"I think this [black, metal, circular object with a handle] might have been part of a bike once."- Jack
"I think this [circular bed riser] was a flower pot." - Lochie
"I see dancing rainbows." - Elle
How else has it been utilized so far?
“That isn’t just the power thing (tower). All of tis is powered by lightening. Then this whole thing has energy in it. The energy comes from here (pipe with tubes connected). It goes from here to here, and then that makes this get power (tower made of foam roller and grates). All the power gets into that , and comes from there (the white area).” - Giacomo
More to come soon!
Snack in the Tucker Room
Snack is such a wonderful gathering time for our children. We have been having some rich, meaningful, joyful conversations while enjoying some delicious foods. Some children have tried new things (e.g. purple carrots), and we've also discovered that we have some favorite foods!