Living in America

One of the many things I enjoy about being a part of our preschool community is deciding upon a unit for the upcoming school year. At the end of the 2010/11, Hilary made up a song about robots which caught on like wildfire--so choosing the unit for this year, Machines, Gizmos and Gadgets, was a no-brainer. I always select a subject that is child-centered and open-ended because a unit of study needs to have limitless interdisciplinary possibilities.

In 2004 when I was the head teacher/director of CHP, I decided to hold a Presidential election. Only the students could vote. During the lessons, I read SO YOU WANT TO BE THE PRESIDENT and shared some preschool election material produced by Scholastic. During a snack group I showed the group a Scholastic poster of the presidents and asked, "Who can tell me how many girls were ever the President of the United States?'' The children started to count every founding father wearing a wig! I explained that the wig-wearers were men and that there had never been a woman president. From that moment and throughout the school year, a student named Grace decided that she would be the president. If you are a children's book lover, GRACE FOR PRESIDENT might sound familiar to you as my teaching moment eventually became the part of a children's picture book. Although the "Grace" in the book version is older than my student Grace and most of the book is fiction, the book does begin with a teacher (me) showing that poster of the Presidents. I was given one of the first copies of the book which now sits on the shelf in my office--along with a photo of the "original" Grace.

As you know, 2012 is an election year. We often use the democratic process in the classroom. For example, the children suggested names for our classroom hermit crab pets (Caroline and Leaf), then the democratic process began. We are very democratic at CHP!  Even though our students are too young to vote for the President, they will surely be hearing news and seeing things related to the Presidential election in November.

Our unit for 2012/2013 will be "Living in America." Together, we will share what we know, what we want to know, and eventually what we have learned about living in New York City. How will we learn about the other parts of the US which are quite different from our urban environment? One way we will learn new things is by using "Flat Stanley." Shortly after the year begins, we will begin a project that has been quite successful in the past. We will be making little paper images of ourselves, "Flat Stanley" style! If you travel for work, bring your child's little handmade "flattie" along, photograph it near a landmark and tell us something you find interesting about that place. We just love grandparents, friends and relatives who can teach us something about life in the U.S. too, so start thinking about who you might like your little paper child to visit. Stay tuned. You will get more information about this project shortly after the school year begins.

We will also be learning American folk tales and songs, studying the varied natural environments and creatures indigenous to the U.S. We might invite some visitors, like our beloved FDNY firefighters, community members and even local politicians...the possibilities are endless!

It's going to be a great year!

The Observer’s Rankings of New York’s TOP 160 Schools of 2012

This past Monday morning, I arrived early at my desk to begin my regular, post-weekend ritual—putting my things away, checking the phone messages, reading my emails.  The first email I came upon was from a member of our school building’s condo board; some of you know that I have served on the Maritime’s condo board since CHP took ownership of our school space in 2004.  The email concluded with a congratulatory message—for being named the fifth-best preschool in New York City, as ranked by The New York Observer’s Scooter magazine.  I promptly emailed a thank-you and decided to find out what this news was all about!  Before logging off my email to start investigating, I received another another email message, saying that I could find a stack of the New York Observer Scooter magazines in the building’s lobby.

Magazine in hand, I found out that the New York Observer had ranked 160 of the top preschool, elementary, middle and high schools, both public and private, from the thousands of schools in New York City.  The Observer described its readership as based in Brooklyn and Manhattan, so the final list emphasizes these boroughs.  Schools were ranked on six dimensions:  buildings and facilities, faculty, culture and arts, curriculum, family involvement and athletics.  Rankings were compiled with the consultation of over 80 experts - school coaches, educational professionals and activist parents.  I was so proud to see that CHP was rated fifth overall on the list of preschools, with an “A” in all categories and an “A+” in Culture/Arts and Curriculum.

As an introduction to the list of preschool rankings, the title page read:

Preschools--They’re entrance points for the competitive world of NYC schools.  But for now, play-based, good times rule.  These are the schools you’ll want your littlest ones to attend to begin building the blocks towards higher education.

You can find the complete list of rankings here.

A big thank-you to the entire CHP community, past and present, for making our school what it is – a place where “play-based, good times rule!”

Carol’s Wall—Asking Questions to a REAL Author!

We have been enjoying a series of books by Kate and Jim McMullan.  Recently, I was lucky enough to make a connection with Kate.  I thought the children might like to send a letter to ask a real author about her book, I Stink.  Kate was kind enough to send a prompt reply, isn’t that just wonderful!  Here is the children’s letter and Kate’s reply.

 

Kate's Reply:

Hi Carol -
Happy to answer your kids' questions - I'll do it in caps below.
~K

 

The Children's Letter with Kate's Reply:

May 4, 2012

Dear Kate,

We love your book, I Stink.  It was stinky good! We have some questions and comments for you:

 

Comments about the book: (What the children wanted you to know)

" I have three garbage cans at my house."

 THREE! THAT MAKES THE STINKY TRUCK VERY HAPPY!

 

"A garbage truck comes to my house to pick up and it's not too stinky."

OH…THAT'S GOOD. YOU MUST BE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE ROUTE.

 

"When we are awake, there are garbage trucks on the other side of the world working."  (Isn't this an AMAZING comment from 4 year old!)

THAT IS SO TRUE, AND I'D NEVER THOUGHT OF IT LIKE THAT. THANK YOU!

 

"I loved this book and I liked it too."

I'M GLAD YOU LIKED IT AND LOVED IT!

 

Questions for Kate:

"Why does the garbage truck eat with his back, not with his mouth?  Kate, I know you know why garbage trucks eat this way."

THAT'S JUST HOW TRUCKS ARE SET UP, WITH THE HOPPER IN THE BACK.  IF THE TRUCK OPENED UP HIS MOUTH REALLY, REALLY WIDE, YOU WOULDN'T SEE HIS TONSILS, YOU'D SEE HIS ENGINE.

 

"Why is your book so yucky-poo-poo?  Your book was very ewwwww when I saw the dirty diaper!"

WELL, WHAT SORTS OF THINGS DO YOU THROW INTO THE GARBAGE? SOME OF THEM ARE SORT OF YUCKY, RIGHT?  I'LL TELL YOU A SECRET -- WHEN I SAW THE WAY JIM (Jim is Kate’s husband and the book’s illustrator) DREW THE DIRTY DIAPER, I THOUGHT, YUCK!

 

"Do you know Kate, why does trash stink?"

BECAUSE WHEN FOOD ROTS, IT GIVES OFF GAS AND THAT'S WHAT SMELLS. BILLY AND EARL, OUR SANITATION WORKERS (Kate followed real NYC sanitation workers before she wrote the book) , TOLD US THAT THE HUMAN NOSE CAN SMELL A BAD SMELL FOR A FEW MINUTES, AND THEN THE SMELL FADES AWAY. THEY ARE VERY GLAD THEIR NOSES WORK THIS WAY SO THAT THEY DON'T HAVE TO SMELL GARBAGE FOR VERY LONG.

 

"Why does the truck roar?"

THE ROARING IS THE ENGINE REVVING WHEN IT'S POWERING THE CRUSHER BLADE, WHICH COMPACTS THE TRASH.

 

"Why does the garbage truck say "STOP" at the end of the story?"

THE TRUCK SAYS 'STOP' WHEN ITS HOPPER IS FULL AND HE NEEDS THE CRUSHER BLADE TO COMPACT IT SO HE HAS ROOM FOR MORE.

 

"Why did the barge carry the garbage?  Where does it go?"

NEW YORK CITY GARBAGE IS SOMETIMES TAKEN BY BARGE TO UPSTATE OR TO NEW JERSEY OR OTHER PLACES. SOMETIMES IT IS TAKEN BY TRUCK TO A LANDFILL.

THERE IS TOO MUCH GARBAGE. WE ALL NEED TO CUT DOWN ON HOW MUCH WE THROW AWAY!

 

It's good and funny, we really love your book.

Love,

Your friends at the Cobble Hill Playschool

PS.   Please write back and write a bunch more books. 

 

THANK YOU! I LOVED YOUR QUESTIONS. THEY MADE ME THINK ABOUT THAT GARBAGE TRUCK.  OUR LATEST BOOK IS, I'M FAST!

IT’S ABOUT A RACE BETWEEN A FREIGHT TRAIN AND A RACE CAR. IT ISN'T YUCKY AT ALL AND NOW WE ARE WORKING ON A BOOK ABOUT A FIRE ENGINE.

IT'S GOING TO BE CALLED, I'M BRAVE!

YOUR FRIEND,
KATE MCMULLAN

 

Hi Kate,

Thank you so much for your prompt email reply.  My students will be so excited that you wrote them back!

One more thing--I have a little "Carol's Wall" on our school website where I post all kinds of classroom related things.  I would love the parents to see what the children wrote to you and what your responses were.  I would like to post the letters but I will not do that without your permission.  If it is alright with you to put your reply on our website, please let me know.

On a personal note, I am quite excited about your new projects and cannot wait to read your new books to my students!  We just LOVE race cars, trains and the FDNY!

With my kindest regards,

Carol


 

From Kate:

Carol, post away! (hope no typos!)

I had fun responding to such great questions!

~ K

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