Virtual Teaching with Young Children

“Virtual Teaching with Young Children ~ Out of the Box thinking for Early Childhood Educators” 

By April Zajko, M.Ed.

3/27/2020  – rough draft form for now! 🙂

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None of us have a page in our early childhood education (ECE) programs about what to do when a worldwide pandemic hits. None of us as schools, whether preschool or higher education, have a detailed plan for what to do when we need to close our program to protect the health and well being of our students or staff. None of us were ready for the cascading events that unfolded over the last two weeks.

So please….do not for one second feel like you didn’t do enough this week to meet the needs of the children or families in your early childhood programs. We each are doing the best we can to figure out how to precede.

It’s the end of week and I promised the participants on my plethora of Zoom Calls entitled “Virtual Teaching with Young Children” that I would create a blog post as a “round- up” of the information and resources I had gathered. My voice is hoarse from all the Zooms, webinars, and Facetimes I hosted and participated in this week. When the WiFi didn’t hold out….we even moved to chatting by landline!

 

I also promised my family I would log off the computer by 5 pm on Friday and would be screen-free on Saturday 3/28/2020. So I am going to keep my word to both my ECE friends and to my family…this is what I have to share so far.

 

*Please subscribe to my blog  www.aprilsteachingtree.com as I will update and refine this post next week.

 

 

Rooted in best practice ~ Guiding Thoughts:

  • There is no such thing as online preschool! These virtual methods are to help serve the needs of our children and the families we support. We will always need high quality early childhood programs!
  • Self care is more essential now than ever ~ please care for yourself first, then parent, then serve as an early childhood educator ~ this sequence is essential!
  • Developmentally appropriate practice – this is the opportunity to share practical, easy to understand ideas for parents so they know how to help their child learn through PLAY
  • Content that we deliver must be play based
  • Nature helps us during times of crisis ~ content needs to encourage outdoor play
  • PLAY is the curriculum in early childhood
  • Even our online offerings should promote the holistic development of children ~ physical, cognitive, and social-emotional. We are growing healthy and happy children and so during a pandemic we need to protect children and PLAY is a powerful way to do this!
  • Worksheets are not developmentally appropriate for preschool age children. Sending home a packet of ‘sheets’ is not the way to provide for families in crisis.
  • If you already sent home a packet of worksheets or are required to continue to send home worksheets….it’s okay. No guilt.
  • Apps do not replace real life interactions
  • Screen time limits are important for preschoolers (link to guidelines)
  • Infants and toddlers should not be on screens (link to research)

 

Virtual platforms are tools that we are learning and implementing but it takes time to learn how to use these effectively.

Live & Interactive Platforms (link to comparisons)

Morning Meeting Model using Zoom (link to Miss April’s video)

Interactive Family Art Lesson (link to Miss April’s video)

 

 

Parental involvement:

Poll for time availability

Inventory access to technology

Clear feedback will help us figure out how to make this work – survey questions

 

Questions and Worries:

 

Children’s Privacy –

 

Equity –

 

Copyright infringement – artists include children’s authors and illustrators; if you are reading a book in a public forum or posting to YouTube be sure you have read information about this (link)

 

 

“What does the research say about Virtual Teaching with Young Children?”

 

Still working on:

 

Schedule of Zoom Q&A calls the week of March 29th:   (will be posted by Sunday evening)

 

Schedule of “April’s Teaching Tree” online trainings that will count for Professional Development hours:  (will be posted by April 1, 2020)

 

This blog post is clearly in draft form….check back next week for a little more polished document! I need to log off and go back to my own family! ((BIG VIRTUAL HUGS))

 

 

 

Resources

  

Watch the video “Working Virtually with Children” that can be found at my friend, Sally Haughey’s website “Fairy Dust Teaching”.  If you are going to offer live group chats (such as Zoom) check out her free printable at the same line, “20 Zoom Activities: Simple and Engaging Activities with Young Children” https://fairydustteaching.com/elibrary/

 “How to Tell Stories to Children” – Brush up on your own story telling skills by watching this   video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ6PRdA14So

Play by Age – ideas for ways to playfully support learning and development The activities are developmentally appropriate for each age category and support multiple domains. https://www.learning4kids.net/

 

“Virtual Teaching with Young Children” ~ Zoom calls

Join the “Virtual Teaching with Young Children Zoom calls”  hosted by April Zajko, M.Ed.

Do you want to learn more about “Virtual Teaching with Young Children”?

Are you finding yourself learning technology that you never thought you would need to use with your young students?

One of the best things about the challenges we have faced over the last couple of weeks is that we have learned how to innovate and learn new skills!

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Thursday 3/26 10 a.m.

Thursday 3/26 2 p.m.

Friday 3/27 9 a.m.

Same link works for all three calls https://vsc.zoom.us/j/408053673

 

Description: There are so many wonderful examples of how early childhood educators (ECE) have stepped up these last two weeks to connect with both children and families in these times of quarantine. We know that there is ‘no such thing as online preschool’ but in this time of quarantine Early Childhood Educators are looking for ways to stay connected to their students and the families that they serve. Join April Zajko for one, two, or three Zoom calls to get some ideas, have a few laughs, and socialize with other ECE folks while working from home!

NOTE: If you are *NEW* to Zoom and want to practice some of the tools…log in 10 minutes early for a short tutorial. The calls will begin at the time listed and will last 1 hour.

Email April ahead of time if you have specific questions or concerns you’d like answered. aprilzajko@gmail.com

These Zooms will be recorded so wear clothes…or turn off your video. A round-up of ideas and resources will be posted as a blog post by the end of the day on Friday 3/27/2020 at www.aprilsteachingtree.com

These Zooms are FREE. There will be no Professional Development hours offered since the structure is open and there is ample time for Q&A

Same link works for all three calls https://vsc.zoom.us/j/408053673

 

April Zajko, M.Ed. is a licensed Early Childhood Educator and runs an educational consulting business, April’s Teaching Tree, based in Vermont. She teaches early childhood community college courses and has led in-person professional development since 2011.

Garden Grants Opportunities

While presenting my “Growing Outdoor Classroom” professional development this fall many participants asked for help in locating grants to help defray the costs. In an upcoming Module called “Funding & Power of Story”, I will share lots of tips and tricks to finding money and resources for your Outdoor Classroom. (Keep in touch by subscribing to my blog by adding your email to my newsletter subscription on the top right column.)

This blog post is a collection of  Garden Grant Opportunities to help you get started. Many funders have annual awards with various deadlines, so you will need to click around and mark the calendar for when grants open and when deadlines are approaching. Writing grants is easier than it sounds. The best tip is to read through ALL of the guidelines and make sure to pick grants that match the focus of your outdoor classroom or garden. There are literally thousands of grants out there….and this is just a sampling!

KidsGardening Grant Opportunities
KidsGardening has the most extensive list of different grants that are awarded throughout the year. https://kidsgardening.org/grant-opportunities/

Youth Garden Grant 2020 = deadline is Dec. 17th and it looks pretty easy to apply. Garden grant for any nonprofit organization, public or private school, or youth program in the United States or US Territories planning a new garden program or expanding an established one that serves at least 15 youth between the ages of 3 and 18 is eligible to apply! https://kidsgardening.org/2020-youth-garden-grant/

Head Start Garden Grant Program
Sponsored by Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, this grant program is specifically available to Head Start Programs https://www.nhsa.org/our-work/initiative/gro-more-good-garden-grants

KaBOOM! Playground Grants
KaBoom! offers grants to improve playgrounds  https://kaboom.org/grants/build_it_with_kaboom

Seed Money
Seed Money is a national nonprofit based in Maine that provides grants, crowdfunding opportunities, and training to food garden projects around the country and world. Check out their website to see the kinds of projects that have already been funded. https://seedmoney.org/

Shade Structure Grant
“The American Academy of Dermatology offers a “Shade Structure Grant Program” which awards grants of up to $8,000 to public schools and non-profit organizations for installing permanent shade structures for outdoor locations that are not protected from the sun, such as playgrounds, pools, or recreation spaces.” https://www.aad.org/member/career/volunteer/shade

Wild Ones Seeds for Education Grants
If adding native plants to your landscape is your garden focus, research the Lorrie Otto Seeds for Education Fund which awards from $150 to $500 to each selected grant project to purchase native plants and seeds to help establish a hands-on nature education area for youth engagement.  https://wildones.org/ (Click on Seeds for Education near top of website)

Annies Grants for Gardens Program Grants are open each year in August, https://www.annies.com/giving-back/grants-for-gardens  Or  you can download a beginner’s guide to creating a school garden anytime at this link –https://www.annies.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Growing-School-Gardens_Annies-Homegrown.pdf

 

Check out other “April’s Teaching Tree” blog posts related to Gardening and Food Education:

Gardening Book for Teachers

Communicating Food Education & Mealtime to Families

Seeds, seeds, seeds

Farm to School Early Education Resources

Sprouting in a Jar

Upcoming Training ~ Active Indoor Play

depth of field photography of p l a y wooden letter decors on top of beige wooden surface
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Title: Active Indoor Play

Date/ Time: November 21, 2019  6-8 p.m.

Location: Concord School

Instructor: April Zajko

Cost: $5.00 for non-network members of the Caledonia & S. Essex starting point networks

Register by emailing – Lynn Macie at learningatlynnies@gmail.com  (Please register by Nov. 16th)

Description:  Childcare providers know that healthy children are ACTIVE all day, but how can we arrange our learning environment to support gross motor play. This two-hour training will help childcare providers feel ready to support gross motor play indoors on days that they can’t get outside. Learn more about the gross motor skills children ages 0-5 should know, explore LOTS of ways to get children moving indoors, explore how to incorporate yoga activities into circle time and transitions throughout the day, and learn how to teach calming and self-regulation with slower movement & breathing activities.

Objectives:

  • Participants will define gross motor skills for children ages 0-5 years old and will create a binder of resources that will keep kids moving and engaged throughout the day.
  • Participants will explore a wide variety of indoor gross motor activities that will keep children engaged and burn off excess energy
  • Participants will learn yoga activities to use at circle time and transitions, as well as learning how to teach calming and self-regulation with slower movement activities.
  • Participants will explore ways to create a “Cozy Cottage” space in their program for children to use to self-regulate.

 P.O.W.E.R. ~ Path of Wellness, Environment, and Relationships

Training Title:  P.O.W.E.R. ~ Path of Wellness, Environment, and Relationships

Date/Time: Saturday, November 2nd

Location: Johnson, Vermont

To register, contact: Suzanne Lague – stlague@comcast.net

“A candle loses none of it’s light by lighting another.” ~Rumi 

Workshop Description: As child care providers it is easy to feel like we are giving away our power and begin to feel burned out. We will will practice recognizing and addressing issues related to vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. We will explore the eight domains of wellness and determine which areas in their life they need to add focus and attention. We will discuss ways to improve the environments that we live, work, and socialize that align with our core values. We will brainstorm how to develop nurturing and supportive relationships as a way to build support one another. Throughout the session participants will hear inspiring stories of growth and transformation that others have found on their own path back to reclaiming their inner power.

 

Learning Objectives:

Participants will practice recognizing and addressing issues related to vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue.

Participants will explore the eight domains of wellness and determine which areas in their life they need to add focus and attention as a powerful way to develop meaning self-care routines.

Participants will discuss ways to improve the environments that we live, work, and socialize to align with our core values. Journal prompts and guidance on how to begin a Reflective Practice will help providers become intentional in how they create safe, nurturing learning and work environments.

Participants will brainstorm how to develop nurturing and supportive relationships with other child care providers as a powerful way to find support in the field with their professional support team.

 

Bio for Presenter:

April Zajko, M.Ed. began her career as a massage therapist and yoga instructor. While earning her bachelor’s degree in Psychology, April began to lead women’s retreats and stress management seminars at a holistic health center in Delaware. Once April earned her Master’s Degree in Education, she began to weave her holistic minded approach into her work with young children and with her adult learners. Currently, April teaches early childhood courses for the Community College of Vermont and leads professional development for child care providers around the state of Vermont. April graduated from the 200 hour Yoga Teacher Certification program at the Sivanada Yoga Center in Val Morin, Quebec in 1996 and earned a second 200 hour Yoga Teacher Certification from the Heart Space Yoga Studio in St. Johnsbury in March 2019. April is also an October 2019 graduate of the Snelling Center for Government’s Early Childhood Leadership Institute. April embraces the value reclaiming our personal power, both as we advocate on behalf of children while simultaneously learning how to take good care of ourselves. Through self-care and professional support teams our joy and longevity in the field of Early Childhood Education will be persevered.

 

Sound Advice for Healthy Families

Last night I got to briefly chat with many moms that I know in my community. I was standing at my table promoting our new Music Booster’s Club and had our first bake sale. After about the third interaction, I thought about the Peanut’s character Lucy who would set up a booth and charge her friends for her sage advice.  I didn’t actually use Lucy most famous reply, “Snap out of it! Five cents, please.” Rather, I listened and nodded my head in understanding. Life is busy and so many things are all happening simultaneously that we often feel like we just need to take a moment to check in with a friend.

Image result for peanuts comic advice five cents

So if you are looking for some “sound advice” about parenting and raising healthy kids I narrowed it down to three main thoughts.

  1. Families are busy, but more than anything our children need to know that we are there to listen day or night. Our relationship with our children is built on trust and open communication.
  2. Children need daily unstructured outdoor time in order to thrive. Childhood is short and we should protect their time to be kids. We should turn off our own devices and head outdoors with them to boost our own health! Wellness is achieved by daily healthy habits which can be a simple as a walk in the neighborhood or playing in the backyard!
  3. Eat dinner together as often as possible…I think shared meals is the best way to reconnect with one another. Both positive communication and healthy foods feed our children and ourselves. Take the time to make sit down at the table together!

I don’t think I will build my own booth like Lucy…but I do intend to write my weekly blog posts as a way to help parents and teachers find simple ways to ‘grow a holistic view of childhood’.

Be well,

April

“A growing body of scientific evidence identifies strong correlations between experience in the natural world and children’s ability to learn, along with their physical and emotional health. Stress levels, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, cognitive functioning—and more—are positively affected by time spent in nature.” ~Richard Louv

Grieving While Teaching

 

Reflecting on our values and our teaching practices is one of the most powerful ways to deepen our roots and to grow. Sharing those reflections with others is one way that we can mentor or support other teachers experiencing the same thing that we’ve gone through. So I offer my reflection of figuring out my core values while grieving, and how to navigate grieving while teaching….and I hope that it helps in your own journey.

As a lifelong learner, I continue to learn and grow. I believe that my teaching evolves each year, but at the foundation is one core value that I hold as my ‘true north’ ~ “LOVE”. Throughout my career my administrators, co-teachers, assistants, families, and children all remark how my classroom feels warm, nurturing, and safe. It’s a place that oozes with love and positivity. Parents especially appreciate how I create a sense of belonging and the trust that they feel by my approach with their children.

The fact of the matter though as teachers some years are tough because of our personal lives and so I want to share about one of my most difficult years of my life. One week prior to the start of school, my father passed away suddenly from testicular cancer and all I wanted to do was to climb into bed and keep the covers over my head. How on Earth could I manage to pull myself together to be an upbeat, organized, and fully present preschool teacher?

By some sweet miracle the school contacted me and said that preschool would have to be delayed opening by one week because of the odor of the gym floor being replaced. I was so grateful because I needed that week to pull my emotions together after the grief of losing my father. I felt like I needed to spend more time outside in nature alone, and to explore my own roots – who I was, what my values were, where I was going in my life, and figuring out who I was.

Before I knew about the delay in our start for preschool, I was so torn about taking care of my own health and being a fabulous teacher. I rarely take sick days, strive for perfection, and am in over-drive creating the best possible classroom that I can. At that time though I knew I couldn’t “pour from an empty vessel’ and knew I needed to take time for myself, time to grieve, and to process my emotions. So a huge gratitude to the universe for the delay in the gym floor so I could miss a week and still be there to start the school year with my preschoolers.

Creating community is one of my top priorities in teaching, and so I knew that I need to get the school year going on positive note despite my deep sadness. Chester Raccoon from the book “Kissing Hand” became my mascot in my classroom. I bought a raccoon puppet and used the puppet to teach about emotions. I thought a lot about how that kiss left in a palm could travel to the heart at anytime so the love of a parent could be felt, whether or not they were present. Though the book is about separation when a child goes to school, the parallel for grief work was very healing to me.

In many ways as we work through grief we wear a mask. Especially for our students and our own children at home, we want to be able to be present and upbeat so we put on the mask of ‘happiness’. Though I realized that I also needed to take time to grieve and to heal so I had to prioritize my ‘alone time’ when I didn’t have to have the ‘everything is okay mask’. This part of the grief journey means connecting to others who have experienced the same loss and who support your vulnerability.

At this same time my mother was also undergoing ovarian cancer treatment which meant that I was making frequent visits to be with her. My parents had been separated since I was three years old, and so the chances of them both having cancer at the same time was more than symbolic to me. As I visited with my mom we chatted about many things and I felt more comfortable to ask her heartfelt questions than I ever had as a child.

It became clear in January that her diagnosis was terminal and I tried my best to come to terms with losing both parents in less than a year. It was simply unfair and unjust. I went through a phase of anger, but I knew that I needed to find “BALANCE” in my life to not be swallowed up by grief. This journey helped me become much more intentional about how I spend my time and how I prioritize my own personal health and the time that I have for my own family. At first it felt selfish but I realized that I taking care of ourselves, including taking sick days and bereavement days, is how we can continue to be our best selves.
On Easter Sunday, I sat by my mother’s bedside and held her hand as she took her last breaths. The words to the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” were playing in my mind as I sat there taking in the fact that this was the last time I would be with her. My lifelong champion, confidant, and closest friend would no longer be a phone call away. How could I live in a world without my mother? My ‘true north’ felt completely pushed off course and I knew that reorienting the sails would take work and effort. That night as I laid in the guest room bed, my mind was spinning, and I cried myself to sleep. When I woke up, I felt something renewed in me a deep sense of purpose.

With the loss of my mother, I decided to take two full weeks off before going back into my classroom. I knew that my assistant teacher would do a great job, and that the children would be just fine without me. Letting go of perfection or thinking that I needed to put on a superhero cape was a HUGE shift in me. During those two weeks, I let myself truly grieve.  I reflected on what I needed to do to be able to survive the last couple of weeks of school. Some days it felt like a survival situation and ‘just keep swimming’ was my mantra. The end of year tasks weren’t completed with perfection but it good enough really was enough. This was the first time in my career that I understood the vital importance of life / work balance, and when we reorient our priorities to care for ourselves we feel like we matter.

Five years have now passed since my father’s death and through reflection and inner work I can offer these thoughts:

– By striving to be a nurturing mother to my own children I honor the memory of both of my parents.

-By letting go of perfection and being a ‘flawesome’ teacher, parent, or spouse, I am happier and more content with my life. Owning our flaws is the best way to stop perfection from gnawing at us. My new mantra is “Purpose over perfection”

– By living with intention, I re-prioritize my life so that the precious time that I have here is lived fully, in alignment with my values, and with JOY. Before I commit to something, I check in to see if it fits with may values and life goals.

-By connecting with others I can create a new sense of “BELONGING” and though I felt like I had lost my ‘true north’ my memories always connect me to my parents, and other family and friends who have passed away. Connecting in real life to a small circle of friends who support and cheer each other on is vital to our health and happiness.

-Gentle self awareness and daily self-care makes the grief journey easier. Taking time to pause, breathe, and to remember that kiss in Chester’s palm is way that I can reset.

-I believe that when we are clear on our core values our decisions and path is easier to see. For me, my core values of love, balance, and belonging help me keep my life steered in the right direction.

 

Grieving while teaching can be very challenging and if you find yourself in that journey…my advice is to be gentle with yourself. Take time when you need it and communicate with your school team & home team when you need support. I believe that when we let go of ‘perfection’, we give ourselves some breathing room.  As I think of the two people who had a profound impact on who I am, my parents, I know that their best qualities are deeply rooted in me and that keeps me grounded. Taking the time to grieve, to rediscover our roots, and to connect to others is essential.