Sink or Float

As we get closer and closer to the end of the school year, we can’t help but be excited about warm weather activities. One of our favorites is swimming! It got us thinking about pool and Copy of IMG_7370water safety. In PreK, kindergarten and first grade, we learned that designers often create prototypes in the name of safety. “I learned to swim with floaties,” mentioned Asher in PreK.

First, we looked at some action figures in the water and realized that they probably don’t know how to swim, because they sank to the bottom of the “pool.” To help them, we created prototypes of life vests for them. The goal of the design challenge was to keep the action figure’s head above water, because we don’t breathe through our toes, we breathe through our noses.


Returning Our Chicks to Casey Farm

Today we returned our chicks back to their home on Casey Farm in Saunderstown, RI. While we were a bit sad to say goodbye to our feathery friends, we understood that the farm was a better place for them to grow up then in our classroom.


It was wonderful to return to the farm (we visited in the fall!). Founded in 1702, it has 300 acres and overlooks Narragansett Bay. It now raises organically grown vegetables, herbs and flowers. And – of course – Casey Farm’s hens produce lots and lots of fresh eggs for both local families and nearby farmers’ markets! When we arrived at the farm, our guide, Terry, took us to the barn so we could introduce our chicks to their new home. We even learned about barn swallows and watched as they swooped over our heads.


We then went outside to learn a little more about chickens. We practiced clucking like chicks and even tried to find food in the sand by scratching with our “claws.”


We discovered some delicious worms and beetles!



We met Marshmellow, the rabbit . . .



. . . and then took a peek at the pigs (we even got to scratch their backs!)



We then saw the hens roosting and learned how to tell the difference between a freshly laid egg and one that had been laid hours before (ask us how we can differentiate between them!)



We moved on to feed some Rhode Island Red chickens (we learned that corn is like ice-cream for birds!)


We also visited some baby geese . . .


and baby turkeys (who tried to eat our zippers and buttons!)


Finally, Terry taught us how the farmers prepare their eggs for the market. First, we washed the freshly laid eggs . . . 



. . . and then weighed them to determine whether they were small, medium, large or extra-large. 


Once weighed, we sorted the eggs into the corresponding containers.


Afterward we sat at picnic benches and ate lunch – and then ran around the farm’s huge oaks and old stone walls. It was a very special adventure. 

Animals in PreK!

Chrystal, our MET intern, has brought such exciting learning experiences to our classroom. She has been interested in animals for many years and offered to help us learn more about them. First, she interviewed us to find out what we know about caring for animals and what might we want to know. She then read us many different books about animals (including some about helping animals, wild animals, and different kinds of pets). Finally, last Friday, Chrystal brought her two dogs, Channel and Jacob, to our school.


After reviewing how to treat animals with care and respect, we were given the opportunity to practice greeting dogs safely . . .


. . . how to hold them properly . . .


 . . . and how to walk them with a leash gently!



Chrystal has offered us multiple opportunities to learn about animals and their care. She invited the Director of Humane Education at the RISPCA, Lorna Steele, to visit our classroom this morning. The RISPCA (Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is 145 years old and the third oldest humane society in the United States! Lorna brought with her Dafne, her beautiful angora rabbit.

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Before meeting Dafne, Lorna first explained that while some animals can care for themselves (“wild animals”) and make their own homes, many animals depend on human beings to stay healthy and safe. She works at a “shelter;” an organization that takes care of animals who do not have a home or who are not cared for properly by their owners.

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Lorna then read to us Nico and Lolo: Kindness Shared Between a Boy and a Dog. This wonderful book reinforced for us the importance of treating all living things with hesed (kindness). “I learned we should take care of animals,” said Shira. “We should take care of dogs who need our help!” exclaimed Leo.

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After reading the book, we were finally able to pet two year old Dafne. “She looks like snow!” observed Millie. “And she feels fluffier than I thought!” said Adrian. “I see her nose!” exclaimed Asher. “And it’s moving a lot.”

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Nathan observed that “The bunny has such long ears!” Lorna explained that bunnies hear very well – and also are sensitive to vibrations. And we also learned that when bunnies get really hot, they release the heat through their ears (and they get very pink!)

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We thank Lorna for sharing her bunny, her expertise, and her gentle and warm spirit with us this morning. And a special thanks to Crystal for planning and leading this special learning project!


Our Eggs Are (Finally!) Here!

Today, Beth – the knowledgeable educator from Casey Farm  –  spent the morning with us. Casey Farm (in Saunderstown, RI) was founded in 1702. On the farm’s 300 acres overlooking Narragansett Bay, organically grown vegetables, herbs, eggs, and flowers flourish, providing bounty for both local families and nearby farmers’ markets.


Beth arrived to our school with dozens of fertilized eggs, an incubator, warming lights, and lots of different kinds of bird eggs!


The PreK and Kindergarten students and teachers were able to see the eggs laid by swans, bluebirds, robins, grey catbirds, golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, loons, and even an emu egg! We enjoyed observing the eggs; some of us discovered that eggs are camouflaged to be either the same color as their nests or as their mothers. Beth also showed us a slide-show, during which we learned how to tell a (female) hen from a (male) rooster, what chickens eat, how Casey Farm protects chickens from predators, the best way to take care of chickens (free-range and cage-free!) and how to hold chicks (hold them close to the ground & gently!)


We also learned about the different stages and components of a chicken embryo, including the blastoderm and the egg tooth!




Beth then showed us the incubators into which we will place our eggs. There they will stay (round side up, pointy side down) for 21 days until they hatch. A hen’s body temperature is about 107 degrees, compared to our 98.7 degrees – and so our incubators will be as warm as a hen’s body. We will have both Rhode Island Red and Dominique chicks.


But the most wonderful surprise was still to come! Beth brought a Dominique hen to our school!

IMG_8199Beth then invited us to pet Henny Penny!


By tomorrow morning, our incubator will warm to 100 degrees and we will fill it with our eggs. And then the countdown will begin . . . and we can hardly wait!




Discoveries at the Beach!

As part of our STEAM week learning – and in celebration of Earth Day – we went this morning to Conimicut Beach in Warwick, RI to see the lighthouse (a historic sparkplug lighthouse built in 1883) and go on a treasure hunt!


When we first arrived at the beach, we unfurled the treasure maps that our amazing friend and teacher, Peter, had created for us.



After locating the “x marks the spot” on our maps, we went searching (and digging!) on the beach for our buried treasures . . . .


. . . and we knew when our friends had found their treasure chests when we suddenly heard squeals of delight!


When we opened them, we discovered they were filled with pirate coins!


Afterward, we went exploring on the beach.


We discovered beautiful shells, driftwood, and even helped to carry a horseshoe crab back to the water (yes, that’s a picture of the children gently holding the crab by the tail!)


At the end of our adventure, we stopped together by the water and sang our morning blessings as a kehillah. As we watched the waves roll over the sand at our feet and listened to the gulls sing above us, we ended with a special prayer of gratitude (the shech’iyanoo).


Thank you so much, Peter, for creating such an exciting adventure for us. And thank you, Val (Aeden’s mom) for joining us!


Creative Play in PreK!

We have been so engaged and productive since returning from our Passover break and are continuing to enthusiastically hone our creative and collaborative skills.  For example, just today we worked together as a kehillah (yup – every person in our classroom – grown-ups and children alike!) at our train table, building underwater boats, magic freezing wands, and alligators!



We also recently decided to create a Veterinary Office in our Dramatic Play Area! We first looked at books and pictures of veterinary clinics. Many of us wanted to work with rainforest animals, so we further focused our research on tropical birds and reptiles. We then created signs for the clinic . . .


. . . and created crates, cages, trees, food . . .  and even warming lights (for Herman the Worm, of course!)


In our clinic, we are taking care of sick parrots, snakes, a lizard, ducks, kittens and puppies. Our friends from home (including a turkey!) have also required check-ups from our many enthusiastic (yet gentle) veterinarians.


We even are sketching pictures of our sick animals – thereby sharpening our observation skills and our knowledge of dog anatomy!


Crystal, (our Met intern), will build upon our interests and is preparing to speak to us about animal safety and care. She will also be planning for an educator from the RISPCA (RI Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to visit our classroom!


Our interest in the natural world and science isn’t limited to our Dramatic Play Area! We are also learning more about the rocks and minerals that are all around us. We discover them in our playground, our backyards, and at the seashore. And we also find them, of course, on our science table!


We have learned (while doing research and during our Circle Time conversations) that sand and crushed rocks are used to make gravel for driveways and concrete for our buildings. Stones like granite and marble are used for countertops, statues and to decorate buildings. We have discovered that human beings have used rocks for both decoration and tools for thousands of years: turquoise and amethysts adorn rings and necklaces; flint was used to make arrows; our strongest drill bits use diamonds. We have observed many of the rocks on our Science Table and documented our discoveries in our Science Journals. In addition, we are learning about the different components of rocks:

MINERALS are non-living compounds of elements that are found only in nature. They are the building blocks of rocks and can form crystals.

CRYSTALS are solid substances with atoms arranged in an orderly pattern which usually form smooth flat surfaces called faces.

ROCKS are solid mixtures of one or more minerals. They make up the inorganic solid potion of the planet Earth.

There are more than 1500 mineral species and over 100 kinds of rocks!

Building Bridges in PreK!


Our students use their vibrant imaginations, working memories, and scientific knowledge to build intricate structures using blocks, Magnatiles, Legos and cardboard (our collaboratively created Persian palace is but one example!) We now understand that adults use similar skills to create and care for real-world bridges throughout our state.


Our kehillah warmly welcomed two special visitors from the bridge design section of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RI-DOT) to our classroom. Mr. Noorparvar (Laurie’s husband!) and Mr. Mike Savella work in the Bridge Design section of the RI-DOT; they are principle project engineers who oversee several DOT projects and both are involved in designing new bridges and rehabilitating existing bridges. Our kehillah understands that caring for our state’s infrastructure is essential (including maintaining the 700+ bridges in Rhode Isand). “Bridges are important so that people can’t fall into the ocean or any kind of water!” explained Shira. “Or fall on other roads – they help us cross roads,” said Aeden.


“Before we begin,” said Mr. Noorparvar, “we need to talk about safety.” He explained that DOT employees use special objects to keep them safe when they are working on construction sites. First, Mr. Noorparvar pointed to the vest he was wearing; “It has bright colors so people can see and it glows in the dark!” exclaimed Nathan. Then Mr. Noorparvar showed us his hard-hat (“that’s so your head doesn’t get hurt!” explained Leo. “If something falls on your head, the helmet protects you!” said Zemer. “They are like a bike helmet!” exclaimed Aeden.) Mr. Noorparvar showed us a special DOT flashlight and his construction boots with steel in them (“they make a loud sound when you hit them!” giggled Asher).


Mr. Mike and Mr. Noorparvar also showed us a tape measure that they said was 125 feet long. “That’s so very long! As long as our whole school,” said Sabine. Later on during their visit, we unfurled the tape measure and discovered that it reached from one end of our hallway to the other!


Mr. Mike and Mr. Noorparvar brought in models of different kinds of bridges, including arch bridges . . .


. . . covered bridges, post-tension brides, draw-bridges (“I saw a very rusty bridge like that and it was stuck up in the air,” exclaimed Adrian), truss bridges, and suspension bridges (RI has two of them – the Newport Bridge and the Mt. Hope Bridge! “I went on one before and it’s my favorite kind of bridge,” said Zemer. “I’ve been on the red Golden Gate Bridge a thousand times! That’s a suspension bridge,” explained Aeden.)


While investigating the bridges, our two special guests taught us about bridge design. We were excited to learn that arches and columns are used to build bridges . . . just like our Shushan Palace! Mr. Mike and Mr. Noorparvar also taught us that a square shape is not very strong. If, though, we brace squares through the middle, we create two connected triangles – and then we have the strongest shape for building bridges!


“Triangles are so lucky ‘cause they are so strong,” Shira said decidedly.


Showing us a bridge they had created from popsicle sticks, we were told that the triangles created a sturdy structure – strong enough that it could hold us up! Most of us thought the bridge looked too small and delicate to support us (“We might break them if we step on them,” said Millie). We were able to see what would happen, though, if we stood on them . . .

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“Hey, they do hold us up!” exclaimed Millie.

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Our Pre-K designers and engineers are now enthusiastically creating bridges in our block area. We invite you to visit our classroom so we can share with you some of our creations!

Our New Intern in PreK!

 IMG_7665*Crystal – our newest MET intern – with some of her PreK friends*

We are so pleased that our kehillah will be welcoming another new student from the MET High School in Providence (http://metcenter.org) to our classroom. Crystal Martinez will be joining us on Wednesdays and Fridays; she has chosen our PreK for her internship and Andrea will be mentoring her. Crystal has already spent a few days with us in our classroom and we are already captivated by her enthusiasm, warmth, and genuine interest in education – and in each of us! We are all so happy she will be part of our kehillah. We asked Crystal to write a paragraph introducing herself to our community:

Dear Parents and Staff of the Jewish Community Day School:

I wanted to introduce myself; my name is Crystal Martinez, and I’m a sophomore at the Met high school. I am 16 years old and I am an intern in Andrea, Ilana and Laurie’s lovely Pre-K classroom on Wednesdays and Fridays. My all -time dream would be to become a veterinarian. I’m very interested in working with animals, but I also adore children and that’s why I’m interning with Andrea and writing this letter to you now. Believe me when I say that your kids are so lucky to attend the JCDS. The way the staff does things is so unique and effective for the children. It’s amazing! My main goal in my time at JCDS is to form a connection with each student, because there’s nothing better than having a relationship with someone who has a super imagination and is always in the mood to color or go hula-hooping at any time of the day!

I’ve recently earned my RIELDS (Rhode Island Early Learning and Development Standards) certification.  Through that class I learned about child development from the ages of 48 months to 60 months. It was very interesting, and I learned a lot from it. In addition to that classroom experience, I also have hands on experience working with children.  Not only have I grown up surrounded by children, but I had an earlier internship at the Children’s Workshop.  I am really looking forward to continuing to work  with your children.  I am thankful for the opportunity to work with them, and I thank you for taking your time to read this.

Sincerely, Crystal


Practicing Executive Functioning Skills in PreK!

Our PreK is a community of students deeply engaged in exploration, discovery, and reflection.


And no matter what we are doing – whether it be painting, meditation, or cooking – we are practicing a set of skills called executive functioning skills.

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These high-level cognitive functions enable us to manage our emotions and monitor our thoughts in order to work more efficiently, effectively, and collaboratively. They help us to organize our behavior and override immediate demands in favor of longer-term goals. They also help us to respond appropriately to the limits and consequences of everyday life with responsibility, adaptability, flexibility, and integrity.


Requiring a lot of time to practice and learn, they are all skills that “stick” when taught consistently and meaningfully beginning in the earliest of grades. They are reinforced when children construct their own learning experiences (a core characteristic of our progressive classroom). Research shows that executive skills are necessary for future academic successes and ensure that we might become reflective, respectful, and responsible members of our communities.

What are some of the names of these executive skills and how might we practice them in our classroom? A few examples: when our students construct a detailed and complex palace out of blocks or create the Mayflower ship from cardboard, paper, duct-tape, and paint, they are acquiring sophisticated “planning skills” and practicing “goal-directed persistence.”


When they create and illustrate their own classroom rules, our students are strengthening their “response inhibitions.”


Creating a doctor’s office in our Dramatic Play Area? That sparks their “working memories!”


And t’fillah, meditation, and yoga hones our students’ “sustained attention skills” and “emotional control.”   And using our Peace-Table and Feelings Journal? That requires “reflection” and “metacognition!”



All of these activities build the skills for future student successes in school . . . and in life.


Dr. King Was an “Upstander!”

Over the last few weeks as we have been preparing to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we learned about Dr. King’s legacy and reflected on our own visions for making the world a better place for all people. Anchoring our discussions and play are the beliefs that all people are made in the image of God (be’zelem Elohim) and that we are responsible for making the world a better place.


During our conversations, we talked about some of the injustices Dr. King experienced in his lifetime (our understandings about the ways in which we are alike and different helped to shape these discussions. Part of our learning is documented on the lobby bulletin board – please check it out!) We learned that Martin Luther King – and the many people who worked with him during the civil rights movement – were upstanders. An upstander is a person who knows what’s happening is wrong and then works to make it right. In comparison, a bystander is someone who witnesses injustice or inequity and doesn’t get involved. The work of civil rights participants and social justice advocates (both then and now)  help us to understand the saying (written in Pirkei Avot): “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it.”


Along with Rosa Parks, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and many, many thousands of men, women and children, MLK worked to change people’s beliefs and attitudes, as well as the laws of the land. During our conversations, we also acknowledged that there is still so much more work to be done and reflected on the ways in which we could build on Dr. King’s legacy of repairing our world (tikkun olom).


Some of us imagined a time when all people will sing “Stop in the Name of Love” when they see something bad and then use the peace table. Other children suggested that we should visit people in the hospital who are sick, pick up trash in playgrounds, and teach people to say our mantra: “I am peaceful.” Still others said they wanted to change unfair laws, build ramps in all buildings for people who use wheelchairs and “teach people to solve a problem in a peaceful way.” Our reflections are posted on our chalkboard in the back of our room; we encourage you to read them in their entirety!

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We all agreed that we want, like MLK, a peaceful world in which children and grown-ups alike will remember to use “treat each other with kavod.” We will continue to build upon our discoveries as we reflect on issues of diversity, tolerance and respect throughout our year together. We affirm that our kehillah – community – is built upon the foundation of shared values, goals and concerns. At the same time, we can only continue to grow and learn when we recognize and nurture the differences and diversity among us. We are all unique individuals with differing interests, backgrounds, families, beliefs and personalities. Indeed, our kehillah works every day to reaffirm Dr. King’s words that “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

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Wishing you a meaningful holiday.

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Below is more of the text from our reflections on what makes us alike and different. See our previous post and the lobby bulletin board for the more illustrations & text):

We are all alike. We like to play in PreK.

We are all different.


Some of us like to pretend to be doctors.

Some of us like to play family of doggie.

Some of us like to play in the block area.

Some of us like to color.

Some of us like to be scientists.

Some of us like to use the Peace Table.


We are all alike. We all have families.

We are all different.

Some of us live with moms.

Some of us live with dads.

Some of us live with moms and dads.

Some people live with two moms.

Some people live with grandparents.