December 2017

News from the Head of School

November was a busy month. Parent-teacher conferences have started full speed ahead. Jackie, Magy, Yasmine, Makai, Sabina and I attended NAEYC Conference in Atlanta and now we are getting ready for more conferences with holidays upon us. This has always been a great time of the year for me. Leaves on the ground like a blanket, children are playing bundled up in warm clothes. Everyone is busier but a bit more relaxed, music and decorations everywhere. A time for sharing traditions, visiting each other for a warm conversation and good company…

In the past couple of months, I have read a few books but the one I found to be very touchy and full of emotions is “A Chance in the World” by Steve Pemberton. He was the keynote speaker at NAEYC conference and his speech was so compelling that the same day I ordered the book. I recommend this book to everyone who is touching a child’s life in one way or another. In this book, Steve says ” I’d come away from intense scenes of family pride and emotion between fathers and children and would conclude that a man could build whatever monuments he wanted in the worlds of politics, sports, entertainment, and business, but if they come at the expense of his children, then he has failed. Once the attention fades and crowds stop cheering his name and his accomplishments are little more than fine print in a history book, the only thing that truly survives him is his child. That is his legacy. That is what defines him. All else is but a footnote”.

In the spirit of togetherness, love, and kindness… We wish you happy, healthy and joyful holidays.



Monarch Butterfly Newsletter
Creating Holiday Memories
by Dora Fowler

Several years ago, our daughter arrived home from college in time for the holidays. The year before she had commented on how her friend’s parents did not put out “old” decorations but rather decorated their home with new, “in style” decorations. Thinking that our adult children had outgrown our traditions, I did not put out any of the old, slightly beat-up decorations that had been part of our holiday celebrations since the children were babies. Goodness did I make a mistake!

After a terse announcement that none of our holiday things were out as they should have been, our daughter proceeded to the crawl space where she dragged out every box, every light, every beat-up piece of memorabilia that had ever adorned our home for the holidays. These decorations include a Santa made out of a Styrofoam cup by our youngest child 15 years before while in kindergarten; ornaments made out of string by our oldest son; and an angel fashioned out of an issue of Reader’s Digest and sprayed gold by our daughter when she was in first grade. Of such meaningful bits and pieces are holiday memories made!

Holiday memories bind families together. Memories include the things we do together, the stories we read, and the songs we sing and can be strengthened by bringing out and displaying the same memorabilia made by our children, year after year. Children need the sense of comfort provided by the structure in their lives. Establishing holiday traditions gives children this sense of structure. So, how do you build holiday memories?

Bake holiday cookies. If you don’t have time to bake from scratch, buy a couple of tubes of refrigerated cookie dough. Let the children use holiday cookie cutters and decorate the cookies with colored sugar, candies, and icing.

Turn off the TV and sing special songs. Repeat the words and melodies over and over so that the children learn them.

Make holiday ornaments. Buy inexpensive ornament balls and write the name of each child and the year in white glue. Then sprinkle with glitter. When the glue dries the glitter will become an integral part of the glass ball.

Allow children to help with the preparation of the big meal. Help your children set the table, make Jell-O, or line the breadbasket with a napkin before setting out the rolls. What is important is that the child feels that he is part of the meal preparation.

Help your children make presents for one another rather than buying them. Rocks decorated with flowers and wall hangings made out of burlap make very special gifts. Visit your local library or look through magazines for other simple gifts children can make.

Fowler, D., (n.d.). Creating holiday memories. Retrieved December 05, 2017, from

● Please sign up to bring in fruits and veggies to supplement snack


December 2017 Red Panda Newsletter

Happy December, Red Panda Families! We’ve made it all the way to December, which means winter is on its way and will soon be in full swing. For some of you, this may be your child’s first time in school and as you know, being in school is one of the most common ways germs circulate. It happens every year around the same time, a few children get sick and before you know it, teachers and students from different classrooms start getting sick as well. The average healthy person gets a cold between 6-10 times a year. It’s impossible to keep children from getting ill, especially in group environment, but there are ways we can prevent some illnesses and now is the perfect time to revisit some of these ways.

● Proper hand washing is essential for keep the germs away. It is best to wash hands whenever coming in from outside and before meal time (and of course after using the bathroom). Teaching children the proper hand washing routine can make a big difference. Remember to have them wash hands using warm water and soap for at least 25 seconds. To keep them engaged in this activity try singing a quick song, such as “Twinkle Twinkle” or another one of their favorites.

● Teaching children how to cover a cough or sneeze is also important for cutting down germs. A tissue isn’t always present during these times and children don’t naturally think to cover up when they need to cough or sneeze. It’s preferred to teach children to cough or sneeze into the crook of their arm or their sleeve, but if nothing else at least with their hands (which would require immediate hand washing). Germs are less likely to survive when they are smothered as opposed to being in the open air.

● Lastly, it’s important to pay close attention to the signs and symptoms of your child. Although there’s not much that can be done about a common cold, sometimes medical attention is needed if symptoms persist for extended periods of time. If your child is ill, the best way to keep them from getting sicker and from spreading the germs is to keep them home for a few days or until they are cleared by the pediatrician to help restore them to good health.

Let’s have a happy, healthy winter season!

Important dates in December:
December 8th: SfF closes at 5:00 (staff holiday dinner)
December 22nd- Jan 1st: Winter break (SfF closed)


Happy December Turtle families!

In November, I (Yasmine) had the pleasure of attending a workshop on our often forgotten senses: proprioceptive and vestibular. The title of the workshop was “Ready, but not revved: sensory and movement strategies for improved attention” and was presented by Kay Zastrow of Teaching Loving Discipline. Our proprioceptive and vestibular senses are equally important as our sense of taste, touch, sight, hearing, and smell. They affect our body awareness and balance.

Proprioception is our body’s ability to understand where we are in relationship to our surroundings. In short, it is body awareness. Our proprioceptive receptors are located in our muscles and joints and is activated by muscle contraction. Our vestibular sense helps us maintain balance and body posture. It is also related to movement. Our vestibular receptors are in the inner ear and are stimulated by head movements and input from other senses. When children experience issues with these senses, they may seem “out of control,” fidgety, or clumsy, amongst other things. There are a multitude of exercises and activities that you can do to strengthen their proprioceptive and vestibular senses. Below are a few strategies and activities to help.

Proprioceptive Strengthening Activities:
– Wall push-ups
– Wheelbarrow walking
– Climbing activities
– Carrying/lifting heavy objects (i.e. helping to carry groceries)
– Bear hugs
– Massages

Vestibular Strengthening Activities:
– Rocking in a chair or rocking horse (or rocking in your arms)
– Swinging on a swing
– Utilizing a spinner (sit and spin, spinning office chair SUPERVISED, of course)
– Passing a ball or other object overhead and through legs
– Freeze dance
– Hanging upside down (downward dog pose can be used)

Notes and reminders:
– SFF will close at 5pm on Friday, December 8th, 2017 for our staff holiday dinner
– SFF will be closed December 25th – January 1st. School will resume January 2nd.
– Please ensure that your child has at least two seasonally appropriate pairs of change of clothes (socks included)
– Please provide water bottles that have a straw.

Thank you,
Yasmine, Marisa, and Treasure


Greetings, Eagle Families,

Next month, new DC food service requirements and recycling guidelines go into effect. You may have already noticed classroom posters illustrating the new regulations. As it should be, sustainability is very much on the minds of SfF staff.

In the Eagle room, we have talked about the importance of protecting our home. For the new babies in our families, and for the animals we have been learning about, we need clean, safe places to live. We take care of our school’s toys, books, and furniture, so that many friends will get the chance to enjoy them.

We encourage children to practice of “The 3 R’s” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) in small ways every day—like starting off with a modest helping of snack, so food won’t be wasted, using leftover cardboard as drawing “paper,” and getting creative with “Loose Parts.”

On his blog, progressive preschool educator “Teacher Tom” explains:

I usually just call it “junk,” or in the case of items that come from nature like leaves or sticks, I might refer to it as “debris.” Whatever it’s called, the key element is that we didn’t pay for it and I have no concerns that it will be damaged, misused, or lost. Most of what you’ll find on our playground came either from the earth itself or from the garages, attics, and recycling bins of the families who have enrolled their children. I often say that one of the functions of preschools isn’t to use stuff, but to finish using it.

One of the wonderful things about a play-based curriculum is that everything is fodder for
creativity, enjoyment, and learning—from $100 “physics learning” sets to toilet paper tubes. The expensive set will—hopefully– last years, while the toilet paper tubes might not make it to the afternoon. Before they disappear, though, those tubes might become physics experiments, art projects, telescopes, or insect obstacle courses (that we won’t have to worry about losing or damaging).

In November, some of the Eagles’ most productive play has been using “loose parts,” or trying to do more with less. For example, when all our toy vehicles went “on vacation” (to storage) this month, the Eagles figured out that blocks, boxes, and even some musical instruments make pretty good cars! Before we refilled our nearly empty paint cups, we experimented with mixing paints together, and painted on leftover bubble wrap before throwing it away. “The Birthday Present Game” arose when someone had the idea to use origami paper (ignored at my house for years) as gift wrap for their artistic creations.

This month they also danced like dinosaurs. They practiced throwing bean bags onto the couch, and problem-solved ways to get bean bags back from behind the couch. They learned about many different birds, and practiced yoga poses, including the “Pigeon.”

In December, we’ll learn more about our namesake birds—Eagles! We’ll keep playing with the new “it” toy in our room—plastic Easter eggs– and will continue to creatively use, and use up materials that we find.

Here are a few resources discussing reduced, reused, and recycled play:

Happy pre-winter!
Patti and Darren


Sea Lion December 2017 Newsletter

This school year is going by fast! The Sea Lions have now been in their new classroom for a few months and the many changes that have been occurring, physically, socially, and cognitively, are amazing to witness. The Sea Lion Room team has gotten to know the children quite well. The children love to share stories about their families as well as their personal interests. They will continue to learn and grow as they engage in various activities and explore the world around them.

Beginning next month, we will be introducing a new and important part of our program, the Family of the Week. Each family is encouraged to sign up and come in at least once or twice during their week. Research demonstrates that when families become involved in their child’s education and school community, the more successful the child will be. Please come in and share what makes your family unique. The children love hearing about their classmates’ families and are very proud of their own. The first two Anti-Bias Education goals for children in regard to family structure and fairness are:

1. All children will receive encouragements and language to define their own family from their personal experience and will see their family represented in the learning environment.

2. Children will develop awareness and appreciation of different kinds of families beyond their own as well as the ability to talk about their own and others’ families.
During your family week, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, extended family, and even pets come in the classroom to spend time with the whole class. Here are some examples of what you can do:

-cook/make a snack with the children that is meaningful to your family
-read a favorite book or folk tale at morning circle
-join children for lunch or snack
-share a special talent/hobby/interest
-describe bedtime or other special rituals
-share culture through clothing, food, dance, music, religious celebration, etc -share special   information and traditions about your hometown -share your family’s migration story -teach   and play a game your family enjoys
-show pictures from a trip and tell stories of your travels -expose children to greetings, numbers, or common phrases in your home language

There are also many other options. Feel free to discuss with teachers on ways to make activities developmentally appropriate, scheduling times, etc. It’s important that whatever you decide to do, it is an activity you and your family are actually interested in so that the children can feed off of your enthusiasm.

Thank you,
The Sea Lion Classroom Team


Tiger Classroom

Meaningful Conversations

A meaningful conversation is a genuine two way interaction; an exchange of ideas that involve careful listening, appropriate responses and balanced contributions. When adults have such authentic conversations with children, the children are given a chance to do their own thinking, to create their own solutions to problems and to express their own ideas.

During the day, it can be challenging to find the time to have authentic conversations. Involving children in the home and at school in everyday tasks such as watering the plants, and setting up the table for a meal not only strengthens language skills but strengthens the bond between the child and the adult.

When meaningful conversations occur, some forethought has gone into making sure that the conversation can sustain the child’s attention. Teachers use open ended questions (these questions require more than a yes or a no) and comments that extend or scaffold a child’s thinking and involvement. Some examples of open ended questions would include: “”Is there another way to…”, “Why do you think that happened?” and “What did it feel like when…?””

When there is a child who has difficulties responding to questions or engaging in back and forth conversations immediately, teachers use ‘mapping’ as a tool to help. Instead of continuing to ask questions, the teacher describes in details what they are doing at an activity next to or close by the child. Gaining a child’s interest in an interactive experience by attracting their attention using mapping and actions – ‘Oh Timmy, look at what I have found on my hand, a tiny, tiny praying mantis! Can you see it crawling up my arm?’

‘Teachable moments’, in moderation, are important but not if they come at the expense of genuine, two-way conversations. They help children to develop the communication skills for active participation in their communities and for life-long learning.

Thank you,

The Tiger Teachers


NAEYC 2017 Workshops


Yasmine Brooks attended the following workshops:

“From Name-calling to hitting and biting: Effective consequences that reduce aggression”, Kim Jackson, Conscious Discipline; Becky Bailey, Conscious Discipline

“Vroom: Creating brain-building moments”, Mary LaMantia and Patience K. Hill, Child Care Aware of America, Vroom Partnership Project

“Don’t shoot the messenger: sharing worrisome information with parents of young children”, Janice Friedman, Variety Child Learning Center; Stacey Ratner, Variety Child Learning Center

“Music, moving, and learning with Greg & Steve: A way to reach the children”, Steve Millang, Greg & Steve Productions; Greg Scelsa, Greg & Steve Productions

“Caring for those who care: Compassion fatigue and self-care for educators”,
Sara Whalen, National Association of Counsel for Children; Kaitlin Bush, consultant

“Listening closely: Infants and toddlers on the road to literacy”, Virginia Streckewald, CHILDCRAFT Education

“Ready, but not revved: sensory and movement strategies for improved attention”, Kay Zastrow, Teaching Loving Discipline

“Feed that brain some music! Developmentally appropriate adult-child music activities that support infant and toddler brain development”,  Lili Levinowitz, Rowan University; Ellen Acuna, Music Together Worldwide

“Yogapalooza: Incorporate yoga into your classroom with music, tips, tools, and creative relaxation”, Bari Koral, Bari Koral: Kids Yoga, Music + Movement

“Promoting kindness and empathy by developing skills that benefit all children: From classroom rituals and traditions to everyday practical ideas”, Jacky Howell, azspire, llc; Natalie LaRochelle-Eades, CentroNia; Makai Kellogg, School for Friends; Sabina Zeffler, School for Friends


Makai Kellogg attended the following workshops:

“Let’s Start Talking About Skin Color: Having Conversations with Children About Skin Color and Differences”, Katie Kissinger, Portland State University and Threads of Justice

“Children with Challenging Behaviors: Developing and Communicating an Inclusive Philosophy”, Deborah Abelman, Family Service of Greater Boston

“Promoting Kindness and Empathy by Developing Skills that Benefit all Children: From Classroom Rituals and Traditions to Everyday Practical Ideas”,  Jacky Howell, azspire, llc; Natalie LaRochelle-Eades, CentroNia; Makai Kellogg, School for Friends; Sabina Zeffler, School for Friends

“Pedagogical Practices that Support Creative Investigations in Early Mathematics”,  Angela Eckhoff, Old Dominion University

“Healthy, Positive, Body Image: How Teasing About Children’s Appearance Reinforces Sexism, Racism, and Homophobia”,  Meg Thomas, AMAZE

“Supporting Multiracial Children and Families”,  Ijumaa Jordan, IJ Consulting/Harvest Resources Associates; Megan Madison, Brandeis University


Jackie Whiting attended the following workshops:

“Using play to bridge the gap: Three strategies for creating learning experiences that are effective, meaningful, and fun for young children with dyslexia and other learning difficulties”, Queenie Foong Kwin Tan, For the Children

“Getting ahead of challenging behavior: The importance of building a positive classroom climate”,  Barbara Kaiser, Kaiser Consulting; Joan Duffell, Committee for Children

“A Chance in the World”, Steve Pemberton, Keynote address

“Engaging with nature”,  Lytha Roddy, Santa Monica College, Play 2 Create, Inc.; Judith Brunk, Play 2 Create, Inc.

“Power of puppets: Creative ways to use puppets in all areas of your classroom for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers”,  Tracy Trautner, Michigan State University Extension

“Paint in our hair and paint in our toes: Twenty-five process art experiences designed to ignite creativity, encourage imaginative thinking, support global development, and excite the soul of the young child”, Kristian Klebofski, Friends Preschool; Michelle Klebofski, Friends Preschool

“Creating exceptional family experiences: How to develop systems that will consistently meet and exceed family expectations”, Linda Hall, Bright Horizons Family Solutions Monica Miller, Bright Horizons Family Solutions

“Appropriate assessment of young dual language learners: Using observation and play to understand what they know”, Douglas Bell, Kennesaw State University

“Free play events for children and adults in your community: Pat Rumbaugh, The Play Lady, will educate, inspire, and invite you to play in this exciting presentation that has something for everyone” , Pat Rumbaugh, Let’s Play America Ltd.; Jackie Retzer, The Genius of Play™ The Toy Association™

“Science inquiry: Unlocking the scientist in EVERY child!”, Stephanie Lester, Antelope Valley College; Linda Brown, Lancaster School District; Linda Froschauer, National Science Teachers Association; Victoria Roanhorse, Explora! Science Center and Children’s Museum

“Transitions to enhance the learning environment: How to create and use effective transitions throughout the day”, Ron Mohl, Lakeshore Learning Materials


Magy Youssef attended the following workshops:

“Teaching infants, toddlers and twos with special needs: Strategies that work!”,  Clarissa Willis, University of Indiana

“Puppet Play: Using a mascot puppet to connect children to all areas of the curriculum while extending their skills and challenging their imagination”,  Mary Jo Huff, Storytellin’ Time

“Are leaders born or made? Unraveling the myth of what it takes to create and achieve your leadership vision”,  Joanne Busillo-Aguayo, California State University, Northridge

“Promoting Kindness and Empathy by Developing Skills that Benefit all Children: From Classroom Rituals and Traditions to Everyday Practical Ideas”,  Jacky Howell, azspire, llc; Makai Kellogg, School for Friends; Sabina Zeffler, School for Friends

“From name-calling to hitting to biting: Effective consequences that reduce aggression”, Kim Jackson, Conscious Discipline; Becky Bailey, Conscious Discipline


Sabina Zeffler attended the following workshops:

“Let’s start talking about skin color: Having conversations with children about skin color and differences”, Katie Kissinger, Portland State University and Threads of Justice

“Healthy, positive, Body Image: How Teasing About Children’s Appearance Reinforces Sexism, Racism, and Homophobia”,  Meg Thomas, AMAZE

“Growth, mindset and pedagogical leadership: Helping teachers revise, reimagine and redefine their practices in a climate of innovation and change”, Robyn Brookshire, PhD; Kathy Kidd, MS

“Heart-centered leadership: Creating a balanced and inspired work environment with people-centered approach focused on lifelong learning, celebration, reflection and nature-rich living”, Tina Reeble, Demensions Educational Research Foundation/Exchange Press; Heather Fox, Dimensions Educational Research Foundation/Exchange Press

“A qualitative investigation of the impacts of yoga on children’s self-regulation, emotional regulation and classroom engagement”, Roxanne Rashedi, University of California, Davis