“But what do you do?”

“But what do you do?” ~ when I hear the question I have to quickly decide if I give the full speech, a one minute version of the speech, or just a few words.

Most people within my professional circle know me as a “preschool teacher”. A kind, warm and fuzzy teacher who ties shoes, wipes off messy faces, sings songs and teaches about manners, nature, art, and social-emotional skills. My last eight years in the classroom were spent in preschool, and I came to realize the power and fundamental role that early childhood has on both the academic success in school and lifelong impact for children who have access to high quality early childhood programs.

When I took on a new role of entrepreneur and creating a business as an educational consultant, my friends didn’t quite know how the presumably soft skills of preschool teacher would translate into a business model. Surprisingly, learning how to take care of young children prepared me well for working with a wide range of groups because nearly all people find it refreshing to work with someone who is both kind and a go-getter!

Back to the question…”But what do you do?”

In a few words ~ I am an educational consultant.

One minute speech ~ I am an Early Childhood Educator and I work with schools, child care centers, businesses and organizations to develop programs that support a ‘holistic view of childhood”. With my almost twenty years of working with families and children I know the silos and obstacles that exist within our system and I can help facilitate ways to improve our programs to have a greater impact on children.

And for those who really want to dive into more of the details….I typed up an even longer description!

April Zajko, M.Ed. is the owner of April’s Teaching Tree, an educational consulting business with a mission of “growing a holistic view of childhood”. April has been leading professional development in education since 2003 and is licensed in Vermont as both as an Early Childhood Educator and Reading Specialist. April has built a solid reputation for providing relevant, engaging, and motivating programs that take theory and put it into actionable steps to improve outcomes for children.  Over the last school year, April has led professional development in Vermont for child care centers, regional Head Start teams, Starting Points networks, and private programs. April has partnered with several nonprofit organizations who are working toward improving educational programs for young children, including the Vermont Community Engagement Lab and the STEM Lab at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium. Over the last eight years, April has led trainings at the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children fall conference and developed master level trainings in science. Since 2016, April has taught early childhood courses for the Community College of Vermont in Saint Johnsbury, and has helped many new professionals get started on their career path in early childhood education.

April is committed to workforce development and knows that as we empower early care providers we strengthen our system and practices of care for ALL families.

April is passionate about advocating for nature-based learning and puts creativity and PLAY at the center of the curriculum.

April believes that ALL children thrive when we design inclusive programs that offer supportive and warm environments that cultivate nurturing  and responsive relationships.

April’s Teaching Tree gives voice to the vision and mission of “growing a holistic view of childhood”. To read my weekly blog post subscribe at http://www.aprilsteachingtree.com

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If your program or organization wants to create custom professional development or partner on projects for the next school year, please email April directly at aprilzajko@gmail.com

If you are an individual and want to sign up for a course of program led by April Zajko, visit this link which will be updated as programs or classes are added ~ https://aprilsteachingtree.com/upcoming-trainings/

If you would like to be part of April’s ongoing women’s leadership group called P.O.W.E.R.~Path of Wellness, Environment, and Relationship ~ send an email to get more information ~ aprilzajko@gmail.com

“You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” ~Gandhi

Digging Deeper Conference

 

IMG_9236.jpgI am so excited to be presenting at the “Digging Deeper Conference” that will be held at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. This will be a one day conference on Thursday, May, 24th 2018 and there are three different tracks participants can register for!

 

Click here to register for the Digging Deeper Conference

“Digging Deeper Conference”
Date: Thursday, May 24, 2018
Time: 9am – 4:30pm
Looking for ways to integrate your classroom curriculum in the garden? Or want to learn some new strategies with introducing new foods or building confidence and strategies in cooking with our youngest age groups? Or are you hoping to connect with a local farm and not sure how or want to hear how others are connecting classrooms to farms? Join us on Thursday, May 24th for a day to discover how to bring these connections back to your classroom and everyday curriculum for place-based learning at its best!  Choose your track for the day to fully immerse yourself. Each track offers endless opportunities for learning!

Tracks

Please note that you will pick one track during the registration process. This will help support a stronger learning community and give participants ample time for experiential learning, discussion, and peer networking. View each track description below.

Fun with Local Foods Track with Abbie Nelson and Marissa Watson

Preparing and serving new foods can be more fun and less arduous, with a few tools and by involving kids in the process. In this workshop we will explore how people develop food preferences, and how we change these preferences. We will share innovations in purchasing, serving, and educating kids about local foods through simple activities and recipes.

Participants will:

  • Learn how we develop food preferences and how to introduce new and local foods to kids.
  • Practice incorporating nutrition education into food-based experiences.
  • Learn how to find and properly procure local foods.

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Gardening All Year Track with April Zajko

Do you want to help children connect to the natural world through gardening, composting, and observing the seasonal changes? This workshop will explore how to implement a year-round study of plants, using both indoor and outdoor gardening activities. Participants will leave with many ideas for creating engaging learning environments, lists of suggested plants for children, science experiments, tips for sensory explorations, and meaningful ways to get young children growing plants all year!
Learning Objectives:
1. Participants will discuss ways to incorporate both indoor and outdoor gardening concepts into preschool and kindergarten classrooms.
2. Participants will investigate a variety of ways to create engaging learning explorations to teach characteristics of living organisms and local ecosystems.

Kid Friendly Farmyard Track with Michaela Ryan and JoAnne Denee

Join Michaela Ryan and JoAnne Dennee in exploring the range of what farm and garden tasks are conducive to young helping hands. This will include an off-site visit to the farmyard at New Village Farm to explore tending chickens, sheep, cows, and goats, along with milking a cow or goat and collecting eggs. We will navigate these tasks together while facilitating a conversation about what it can be like to do so with young children. We will touch on essentials like allowing time and breath for observations with all the senses, embracing the cycle of life including birth and death, managing children resistant to engage, and building a partnership with a farm. As time permits we will explore managing other tasks with children in nature and gardens because we feel that a mix of animal care and earth care strike a nice balance of building an eagerness to work and participate in the world in young children.

A few words from past participants:

I thought the format was so well thought out.
I loved it! I didn’t feel rushed or on a time limit. It helped me to be in the moment.
This experience was super inspiring. You are deeply passionate folks teaching an important subject in a beautiful place – keep them coming!
The flow worked really well – keynote speakers, breaking out into smaller groups & moving!, coming back together, breaking out again!

Facilitator Bios:

Abbie Nelson is the NOFAVT, Food Systems Education Director, and Program Director of VTFood Education Every Day (VT FEED), a 18 year-old statewide Farm to School Project of NOFAVT, and Shelburne Farms. Abbie serves as a statewide school food system consultant and trainer involved in aspects of local purchasing and professional development with school food service. She has been working with statewide partners to advance access to local foods in institutions as a member of the VT Farm to Plate, and the VT FTS Network.
Marissa Watson is the NOFAVT School Food Programs Coordinator for VT FEED. She came to NOFA after falling in love with the Farm to School program in Georgia, where she got her MS in Agricultural Economics. For the past five years, she has worked as a farm manager for two different farms in South Carolina. Her career began in Washington, DC, with National Geographic and Discovery Television. While travelling to produce a television series, she dove into books about organic agriculture, and became hooked on the idea of making fresh food available to children and families. She enjoys working in the community to connect all kinds of people with local, organic food. She lives in Burlington with her pup Wilson, who is always a handful and always ready to play outside.
April Zajko, M.Ed. is the founder and owner of April’s Teaching Tree, which aims to help parents and educators renew their interest in connecting children to nature. April has led professional development programs for hundreds of teachers and child care providers throughout the state of Vermont, and is now exploring ways to share her courses with people around the globe ~~through curriculum downloads and online e-courses. April is a Licensed Early Childhood Educator and Reading Specialist. Her bachelor’s degree was earned at the Delaware State University, and her master’s degree was earned at University of Virginia. Her passion for lifelong learning has led her to numerous studies through Shelburne Farms, Fairy Dust Teaching, and Heart Space Yoga…as well as many other programs. Through the last 17 years, April has taught early education programs in both public and private schools. Currently she teaches preschool at a public school in Vermont. Through these various roles, she has learned many ways to connect to children and families, and loves to share this knowledge with other interested professionals. April hopes to share meaningful ways to use nature to meet early childhood standards through play-based learning, nature infused materials, and joyful learning environments!
JoAnne Dennee grew up spending her childhood afternoons bike riding away to the far edges of her suburban neighborhood to find respite in the embracing shelter of the thickets and wild places.  She has witnessed the great joy and transformative power when children experience their lives through farm, food, and forest education. She began growing food organically in children’s gardens for 9 years before moving to VT to teach at Poker Hill and then Lake Champlain Waldorf for the next 35 years. Author of  In the Three Sisters Garden she currently creates visual art from her gardens, mentors teachers in biodynamic gardening with children, and develops nutrition based programs for Common Roots VT.
Michaela Ryan: Growing up on a sheep farm in southern Quebec, Michaela Ryan found her way back to farming after spending a few years as an Environmental Engineer, a full time mother and then a Grief Recovery Specialist.  She is the founder of New Village Farm, a Biodynamic Learning Farm right here in the backyard of Shelburne Farms. She particularly enjoys working with cows and vivacious children who need a little more space than their modern upbringings often afford them.  Her inspiration to start an education farm was born of her deep love of growing up on a farm and her awareness that she is unlikely to have made it this far without the strength of will, love of the outdoors, and fundamental sense of belonging that came of it.  She is excited to share with you what nuggets of wisdom have come out of her 10 year journey of farming with children.

Gardening All Year: The Circle Widens

IMG_2586This week I had the fine pleasure of being a presenter in Sally of Fairy Dust Teaching’s 2016 Summer Early Childhood Online Conference. What an honor it is to be a presenter with such a rich and knowledgeable group of educators. I am humbled, and honored for the many comments that were shared after folks watched my e-course.

I feel like my circle of friends has widened, and I am eager to share resources with everyone. My blog is in it’s sapling stage, but I hope that you check back.
I will set up my opt-in this weekend, and by subscribing to my newsletter, I will share a big packet of ideas (more than what was in the slide show) to get you “gardening all year” with your children.

Thanks again for stopping by!

April

 

For more information about the 2016 Summer Early Childhood Conference click here:

Summer Conference