Ann's Blog
Ann Guthrie

Ann Guthrie

Monday, 30 May 2022 16:38

"The Sound of Construction and Progress"

This is a letter of appreciation to Nursery parents. Heartfelt thanks go out to each of you for having your child join the Nursery this year. They have each brought an absolutely unique self to the work and play of what they’ve done this year. I have loved watching them discover who they are and who they can be.

I’ve watched them taking it all in as individuals. I’ve watched them flocking up into the safety of taking it in all together… especially during those first few months of getting-to-know-you. I’ve watched them expand into the experience of checking out being with this person and that person… one-on-one and with smaller groups in the Nursery. I've watched them begin to move beyond Nursery and into all those other people and groups around them at the Antioch School!

Along the way there were problems to solve, conflicts to resolve, sometimes courage to find in order to really say, “Stop,” or to really hear, “Stop,” … to really talk and to really listen with one another. This work is universal and very human. Being developmental, it is ongoing and it builds on what has come before. Children need this experience along with the scaffolding, tools, support and skilled guidance to find their own voice and way toward solutions. What drives them in the social realm is similar to what drives them in the physical realm, or any realm really... challenge and mastery... the feeling of I-can-do.

And of course the idea is for them to learn to do it on their own! This is a process. It is over time. The opportunity to experience and practice is key. It can sometimes be ongoing and challenging work for children and the adults who care for them, but problems to solve and conflicts to resolve really are a vital grist for their mill. It's all so necessary to becoming practiced and skilled in the doing.

Being individuals with their own individual temperaments, personalities, and experience meant that the nuance of their own work... what they needed, and needed to work on... was unique and very much their very own. Athena and I were there to provide the scaffolding, tools, support and guidance; they were there to make themselves part of this important and necessary process.

These are children who have a lot of social drive! So of course, the ultimate carrot for them... the real reason to take on the hard part of the doing of it… is to help smooth the path and make yourself part of something bigger than yourself. Their motivation is to be together with a friend or friends and to have FUN & PLAY & LEARN! It’s pretty simple and also very complex!

For me, it’s a musical composition by Kimio Eto for Japanese Koto that has always been a metaphor for the work the children take on during their Nursery year together. Musically it’s always captured the repeating themes, the playful approach, the sometimes struggles, the ongoing push to master, the essential nature of the children’s process as they move forward in their cycles of growth and development. Oddly enough, I found the original album I had from my childhood and discovered that in English the composition is titled “The Sound of Construction and Progress.” It absolutely fits!

So celebrate them! They have all done so much to create this group together… all year long. They have enriched themselves and one another in the process. All these glorious individuals have come together to create a truly glorious group. It is very much theirs! I do get the very strong feeling that they will each be carrying along some of their Nursery year as they go forward… expanding, growing, and polishing themselves and the others around them along the way. Thank you all so very much for my experience of being in the day-to-day with your most amazing children.

Thursday, 10 March 2022 21:49

Runnin' for Freedom (02-26-2022)

It was another short but busy week of high energy while we wait for spring. There were many, many books to be read, mud to moosh, to stomp, to churn and to fall into,  and grass — dormant, but no longer icy — to run on. There were lots of ideas and innovations, especially within the realm of the theatrical. We are still deep into Shape Days and will begin talking and planning for Name Days soon... to begin sometime in late March or early April.

As anyone who lives with them knows, young children can be very concrete in their ways of seeing the worlds around them. At the same time — and paradoxically — they often live in a rich world of metaphor to help them make sense of it all. These particular children are all of this. Add deep thinkers too. The simple, beautiful song, "Runnin’ for Freedom" you'll see here, brings Nurseries to experience that is made immediate and authentic by the personal: It was composed by a Nursery friend and her father! It meets the children where they are in their own particular concrete/metaphorical mix of the moment. Poetry, song, storytelling, dramatization, it was another opening of a door from their own unique and and very young experience into a wider dimension and reality.

Thank you so much for the sharing this family piece and making this possible. Nurseries enacted the song with Athena through call and response during Music on Thursday morning. They loved it!

I was able to catch the children and their own theatrical inventions and performance of "Runnin’ for Freedom" in a sequence of photos. And here is the song:

Runnin’ for Freedom

Headed North.
In the night.
Through the woods.
And the fright.
Oh, I’m runnin’
For freedom now.

I’m alone.
Yes I am.
But the Lord.
Guides my hand.
Oh, I’m runnin’
For freedom now.

I’m in the dark.
But I see the light.
And my fire.
Burns bright.
Oh, I’m runnin’
For freedom now.

Does freedom mean?
I don’t know.
I’ve never seen.
But I’m runnin’
For freedom now.

Thursday, 10 March 2022 21:41

Icy Cold Realities/Periodic Mud to Celebrate (02-20-2022)

These days, the angle of the sun is telling Nurseries, “Wake up; wake up; run and explore!” However the reality is that there is only so much you can do with snow that has turned into lumpy, frozen foot steps and an impenetrable ice cap to the hard frozen ground.

Sap is beginning to rise. Energies are high. Outlets are a bit limited. Cabin Fever is a frequent result.

However, there is still periodic mud to celebrate. One child came in on Friday after our quick overnight freeze, saying she really wanted it to be a really rainy day (like Thursday). When I asked why, she talked at length about how much she loved playing in the mud! She wants more rain to make even more mud.

When we are all together again on Wednesday, we will have three Octagon Days. Three days for a single shape can seem like a lot, but octagons are often very intriguing to Nursery ages (think of the joy of traffic signs in general.) They can also be inspirational for STOP, GO, and CAUTION signs and the play that results.

These winter days, especially with current icy cold realities, some Nurseries are often choosing to be cozy and warm inside after they arrive. They are creating spontaneous story times asking Athena or me to be their readers while the world warms up a bit. They often love to sit with old favorites to reread or they will search through the shelves for new ones to experience. When we come inside after morning pick-up, each of us chooses a book to be read… including me. On Friday time a Nurseryer chose to be the one to present her story. She chose an old favorite of theirs… Polo and the Dragon by Regis Faller. She made it a fun, interactive time, and they all loved it!

Thursday, 10 March 2022 21:33

A Card in a Basket (02-12-2022)

Nurseries were very busy with big block construction in the room and in the hallway throughout the entire week. On Thursday after an early morning of construction in the room and hallway, followed by Art/Science, plus an all school fire drill, then followed by outside play to decompress a bit, they were looking at quite a big morning clean up to do before Snack Time.

Nurseries were running out of steam.

While we were gathering to have our meeting and choose jobs, little did we know that Kindergartners had been working to clean the hallway. They had already put all of the big blocks an other things away! Our clean-up had unexpectedly become much simpler!

Nurseries wanted to write a card to Kindergarten to say thank you. In order to make sure everyone could help, they brought the card over to Kindergarten in a very large basket… with lots of room around the rim for many hands. They asked Lindie to read it to Kindergartners. The message talked about how it was nice of Kindergartners to clean up for them. It was heartfelt… plus it was a great opportunity for several Nurseries to stay for a few moments to talk about Kindergarten!

Thursday, 10 March 2022 21:19

How Did the Sand Get to Be Blue (01-09-2022)

Everyone seemed very pleased to see one other on Monday. They seemed to come back after our long Winter Break with a new level of curiosity, wonder, and inquiry. Often in a contemplative mood, many are are posing questions to the group and to me and themselves about hows and whys. They are wondering what makes things the way they are. They have ideas. Some ideas are right off the top of their heads. Some they consider and think about for a while and then carefully compose into a theory.

One child asked, “How did the sand in the five minute timer get to be blue? Did you color it, Ann?”

“No, it just came that way from the supply store,” I said. Curious myself, I asked her, “How do you think it got to be blue?”

The entire group was listening and there were several different theories, some wonderfully fanciful, some very much tied to experience and observation. After thinking a while, the child who originally posed the question said,  “I think they used real sand that that they put special color on… and they heated it in the oven.”

Our Number Days began on Tuesday and Wednesday with ZERO and continued on Thursday and Friday with ONE and TWO. Many zero, one, and two shaped cutouts were painted at the easel or decorated at the tables.

There are a number of Nurseries in this group who especially love numbers. They are very interested in counting and organizing them and are also intrigued by larger concepts. We read, How Much Is a Million, by David M. Schwartz and illustrated by Steven Kellogg which they loved. Taking the time to actually articulate each number, I imagine, did you know that to count to one million would take 23 days? Or that to count to one billion would take 95 years? Or that to count to one trillion would take 200,000 years? “No one could even live that long!” several observed. It was a lot to wonder and think about!

Monday, 13 December 2021 00:20

Work/Play and the Flow of Time

All of the Nurseries had a very busy time last week. I think they are not even aware most of the time of just how busy they are. When one child wondered why it was almost go-home-time and how we weren’t even able to do everything they had planned, I mentioned about how very busy the day was. I also mentioned that we had stretched the day as far as we could go and had just run out of time.

She looked surprised and very unconvinced. Raising her eyebrows, she said, “I don’t know… what did we do?”  I started listing some of the things we had all done with the day: Block construction, peeling apples, time in the hall, reading stories, music with Athena, making and seasoning applesauce, taking leftover Chicken Apples to the deer, plus many other plans, inside and out along the way.

But it really didn’t convince her at all! She still had things to do and Time should wait!

They are all voracious inventors and consumers of experience. They get an idea and toss it out for themselves and in so doing, off it flies to the other Nurseries.  It is invented and reinvented by different individuals. Shared in the moment, it slides into group experience and, really, who can even know exactly where the ideas come from. They are sponging them up, using them, and collectively making them their own!

By the way, Nurseries are very happy and enthusiastic about Holidays already here or on their way. They are also beginning to talk about making gifts and giving gifts and of course wrapping gifts!

Monday, 13 December 2021 00:18

Catching Hold of a Few Nursery Traditions… December 12, 2021

To generate some curiosity and interest, last week I put a collection of charts from past years out on the rectangle table for the children to look at. This concrete approach seems to have worked and Nurseries have finally caught hold of group planning for post Color Days celebrations. They looked through and talked about last year’s Shape Days Chart and Number Days Chart. Plus they poured over the list of different ideas from a Food Day Chart that another Nursery group had created around seven years ago.

We also looked at a few old Name Days Charts. Name Days is an idea that was generated by a Nurseryer around 15 years ago. She successfully pitched it… it caught on then and has become a recurring theme almost every year since. Along the way it became a lovely springtime tradition that recognizes and celebrates each child in turn over a several week period as we head toward the end of our year together.

Anyway, I was predicting that Nurseries would be most inspired by the concept of Food Days, but Number Days is the one they chose to go with first! So Number Days it is. They are already beginning to sign up for their favorite numbers and we will probably be ready to begin sometime this coming week. Then after Winter Break will be able to finish up when we return. And then we shall see what's next... perhaps they'll add in something entirely new.

Early on Friday morning a Nurseryer asked me to come with her to see a bird she had found. It was a beautiful male cardinal who was immobile, down and seemingly in shock on the asphalt near the OG window wall. One wing was stretched out and looked broken. She said we should stay away and I agreed. Presumedly he had been disoriented by reflections of nearby trees and had crashed into an OG window. Hoping he could somehow recover, we kept our distance. Nathan was alerted and he let the other teachers know as well.

After about 5 or 6 minutes we saw that he had shifted position and was able to tuck his wing and then get on his feet. After about another 5 minutes he was suddenly gone and must have recovered enough to fly away. So... it was an unexpected and very happy outcome.

Monday, 13 December 2021 00:16

Friends and Cohorts Set the Stage… December 4, 2021

On Friday morning several children came in dancing and wanting ballet music to dance to. The Circle Table and chairs were moved out of the way; they dictated their Dance Safety Rules; and then they proceeded to dance a large part of the early morning to Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker.

Still dancing later on, they found that they could circle up and take turns going under one another's arms to make new patterns of human geometry!

Athena told me that on Monday, the day when Nurseries returned after Thanksgiving Break and the day that I missed, the children all chose to play Family all morning long and didn't even bother to get things out in the room. Back together again, one another seemed to be all they wanted or needed.

Monday, 13 December 2021 00:15

Not Grocery Store Applesauce… November 27, 2021

Since some were wanting to eat the applesauce we had made while it was hot and some were wanting it cold, we put together a sign-up sheet. One child joked with appreciation, since she had tasted it on Friday afternoon when it was finished up with a small amount of cinnamon, honey and butter, "You know it's not grocery store applesauce!" Grocery store applesauce or not, everyone did want to try it, and also decided together that the temperature should be WARM, not hot or cold.

Outside after Snack Time, they enthusiastically ate their firsts out of a cup, and then each child requested seconds! Cooked for hours over low heat, it was the rich color of apple butter and very different from the typical Motts-from-the-store variety. They all thought it was delicious... but then they are also adventurous eaters.

Monday, 13 December 2021 00:13

Thanksgiving Traditions… November 14-2021

In pre-Covid times, planning for the traditional, community wide, All School Thanksgiving Feast always helped kick off this bigger kind of group process for Nurseryers. The days before Thanksgiving, all of the students would work together in their own groups to provide the basics for a Thanksgiving Feast at school from turkey to mashed potatoes and veggies to bread and pies. All the school families were invited to come and also to bring something to share... pot luck style. Nurseries traditionally prepared the cranberry sauce and used my hand cranked food grinder to make the cranberry relish. It was a big deal for them and helped Nurseries, and all the students, to see and connect with one another as a larger community.

These Nurseries would be naturals at this kind of large scale planning and celebration! But since this kind of gathering still isn't possible at school with Covid, I want to find something that will help approximate the experience for them.  Food prep, hand tools, mechanical devices and shared food are always great motivators for these ages. We'll talk about finding a way to use some simple hand cranked machines in the Nursery over the next months. I'm predicting that they'll all decide to have me bring my hand-cranked apple peeler/corer so we can make and eat applesauce together. We'll see! Like with our pumpkin pie, Nurseries will prep the apples. They will be well sauced and only adults will be servers!

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