Nature Play On Vancouver Island

Nature Kindergarten On Vancouver Island

November 19th Newsletter

Good afternoon,

One area of focus in my classroom is on strengthening the social emotional aspect of learning. A child who is not emotionally ready is not ready to learn. We learn about emotions and how they make us feel and can affect our learning. We practice strategies to get our minds and bodies ready to learn. We also learn to respect the emotions of others and in the process understand how we can help others in our classroom community. We focus on this daily, so that it becomes a part of our day and so your child develops a deep understanding of who they are, how to regulate their emotions so that they can be the best they can be!

The children have been introduced to the WITS program and are practicing using the strategies in the classroom to solve problems, promote kindness, develop empathy and manage peaceful peer interactions. Children choose one of four strategies throughout the day as needed.  By teaching strategies, modelling use of the strategies, asking children to practice them instead of doing it for them, providing guided practice and having consistent conversations about the problems, children will benefit and become peacekeepers and in the long run enjoy school much more.

Although most of the problems can be resolved by using the first 3 strategies: ignore, walk awau and talk it out, children almost all ask me to solve the problem. However solving a problem on your own is an opportunity for personal growth and empowerment . When your child is able to make a decision and solve a problem Hitting is always dealt with and we try our best to talk with both children about the incident. Sometimes a recess incident requires a office referral with Mrs. Noble modelling the talk it out strategy with the children and sometimes sending home a form to inform both families.

Recently we have begun to revisit one or two recess problems to help children understand the choices they make and the impact of the solutions they choose. I pull a paper from our jar with a real recess problem and two children sit at the front of the group to describe the problem. Then children in the audience suggest which strategy would be the best to use and why. The most common strategy being discussed this week is talk it out. It really comes as a surprise to them when they hear the reason for the aggression. This is not a quick fix but over time we will see real emotional growth, an increase in empathy and a decrease in hurt feelings and hitting.

Here is a recent example--- on Thursday a child took a peer's hat at recess and would not return it. Chasing ensued and both children were upset at the end of recess. But why take his hat? No one knew and participating children named it as bullying.  However, through the talk it out strategy, the children discovered the reason was because the child had been turned down when asked if he could join the game and his feelings were hurt. It turns out that some of the children thought that kids have to say yes when you want to join their recess game but actually that is not true and an unrealistic expectation of five year olds. 

A child has the right at recess to say no. the common chant "sharing is caring" is actually more effective when a child chooses to share rather than forced. We want children to know that their feelings are authentic and important. In the classroom we are learning to use language that respects all children "Can I have some? and the response may be "I can give it to you when I am finished"  or "sure" communicating that both children's feelings are heard and expressed.

We read a lot of books about friendship, social problems, kindness, empowerment and knowing one's self. It is the class current guided Identity inquiry that the children are taking part in. Already I can see a little growth in social skills, an improvement in understanding and most exciting a class community starting to develop. For example, on Thursday morning about 8 children were playing together in the block area building an amazing marble run. All working peacefully side by side, mostly using their own ideas, admiring each others work, sharing marbles (yes I have about 100), problem solving and constantly tweaking the design. This went on for about 30 minutes and was incredible that it took place in the fall in a kindergarten room. The children need to develop these important skills to be peacekeepers, to have a voice in expressing their feelings and to know their rights. This is done through opportunities to talk about and practice problem solving and a large amount of play.

We do have a young class, and we do have bumpy mornings with interruptions, a range of social skills, hurt feelings and we do have children who are immature, learning social language, learning to manage their body movements, personal space, needing play practice, adult support and yes I sometimes I wish there were two of me.

I have noticed that the processed sugar consumption in lunches is high and that some lunches have multiples of these items and I wonder if you would consider replacing the packaged foods with nutritious food choices at meals and snack times as high sugar consumption results in deregulated behaviours, emotional outbursts, difficulty focusing and a sugar slump in the afternoon. It would also be helpful if you could limit dessert to one small item as some of the children may have fruit snacks, multiple cookies, pudding and another dessert in one lunch. We have no food allergies this year so peanut butter is great for lunches.

I think the recommended number of grams is 25 grams for children ages five but cannot confirm this as the BC Healthline does not say the amount although many other family health sites do. If you know please let us know.

fruit leathers -6 grams
fruit roll ups - 7 grams
fruit bars - 10 grams
fruit snacks-39 grams
yogurt drinks, tubes, yogurt check the label for the number of grams as it can be as high as 5 to 35 grams
bear paws -5 grams per serving (so 10 grams in one package)

You may already know that because of the amount of packaged foods in the lunches, I have asked the children to eat nutritious foods and drink their water in the mornings and save their processed foods for lunch. I am not telling them that the food is bad for them or that it is bad food just asking them to feed their brain in the morning and save their treats after they eat their lunch. If they have a lot of desserts then I ask them to choose one and eat the rest  after school. I have not named the packaged foods as dessert so many children have a dessert plus the processed food in packages like fruit snacks.

Children are encouraged to choose which of the nutritious snack and lunch foods to eat and how much, be it a thermos lunch, sandwich, cheese, meat, fruit or veggies and which dessert to enjoy at lunch. Without this expectation they always choose the packaged foods first before the healthy options.

While we sometimes break for a group snack time, we do have a snack table for whenever they are hungry, eating until they feel full except during lessons. They are encouraged to bring their water bottle with them or use a cup from the class kitchen.

To ensure that all children have access to nutritious foods I have fresh food in the classroom for students who only bring packaged foods so that they also can enjoy fruit and veggies with their peers. Last week we had mini oranges, apples sections with cinnamon and cucumber slices and this week we have ants on a log and oranges. I have also applied and received a food grant and have begun our cooking program once weekly to supplement foods and will cook a wide ranges of foods including cinnamon twists, ants on a log, veggie dips, bread & local honey, oatmeal bars and cookies. The school is also part of a food program which provides milk monthly for children and fresh veggies or fruit. So far this year we have received pears, applies and cucumbers.

Sincerely, Liz McCaw

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