July 2014 SFF Newsletter

Director’s Report

“Good teaching is a dialogue with children.” – Viktor Lowenfeld


Welcome back Jackie Whiting. Jackie has been sharing a lot with us about the environments in the early childhood programs at Carolina Friends School. Right now she is making a list of what she’d like to change in her classroom to make it more like the preschools in Reggio Emila, Italy (after which the early childhood programs at CFS are modeled) and prioritizing these changes to fit in with the budget we have given her.

Shaciara Smith will be leaving us effective July 18. After nearly a year at SfF she is leaving to pursue a Masters in Public Health. We know she’ll do really well and wish her the best. We have employed our long-term sub Cristina Alba to take her place. She has worked for us fulltime for the past 2 summers and this summer parttime. She will be a teacher at Temple Sinai Nursery School starting in the fall and will be with us 4-6.

VOLUNTEERS – You may have noticed four of our former students volunteering in the school this summer. We welcome back Max Krauthamer, Ava Holmes, Yasmeen Gauri, & Laurence Zeffler.

THANKS – to Tracey Wingate for a very festive and well-attended Teacher Appreciation Picnic on the 11th. Over 90% of our parents attended, and I know the teachers enjoyed the event and felt honored.

PROGRAM EVALUATION – Thank you to the families who filled in the survey and answered the questions to evaluate the program this year. We are pleased with the feedback we got. Most of it was commendations and there were some suggestions too. Two questions came up that I’d like to address: “The program gives me information to help my child make a smooth transition to kindergarten.” In the Quaker House classroom, the teachers communicate with parents about kindergarten expectations based upon our interviews with kindergarten teachers in independent, charter, and other public schools. Each year, we sponsor an “After School for Friends” evening during which current SfF parents with older children in schools after SfF speak about their experiences. In addition to that we talk with parents during their semi-annual parent/teacher conferences about transitioning to kindergarten. Sometimes in the summer we have children who have been to kindergarten speak to the children about their experiences.

Also a parent or two wondered whether once the program evaluations are completed, they would receive information about the findings. Here they are!

THE ESSENCE OF QUAKER EDUCATION – Inquiry-based learning. (from the Winter 2014 issue of “Chronicles of Quaker Education”) Growing out of the Quaker form of silent worship, which is a powerful practice of open inquiry, the pedagogy in Friends schools is based on inquiry. Teachers intentionally and frequently use open-ended questions, which are powerful tools to stretch children’s natural curiosity, reasoning ability, creativity, and independence. This kind of inquiry-based learning allows students and adults to benefit from seeing and hearing multiple perspectives, and then to build knowledge through a collaborative exploration.

Learning through inquiry shifts the educational emphasis from the “product” to the process of developing critical thinking skills and broadening students’ engagement with content. The latest brain research shows that open-ended questions engaging students in reflective, creative thinking open up new connections in the brain, which make the brain more receptive to new learning and different points of view. Friends school pedagogy is an inquiry process leading to genuine insights and new ways of seeing and understanding the world and the world’s people.


Quaker House Newsletter

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,

QH Teachers


Rainbow Room Newsletter

Summer is flying by and the Rainbows are having a blast! The children enjoyed napping in sleeping bags, bonding in tents, and roasting marshmallows during our camping theme. Our friends also took on various roles in dramatic play to explore fantasy. The children are especially excited when we fill the pools on the playground for water play. There is joy on their faces as they splash the water with their hands and feet.

Throughout the year, we expose children to water play at the water tables, but having the opportunity to splash and put their whole body in water provides more chances to discover the wonders of water. Young children explore the world through all of their senses. They feel, taste, smell, hear and see the water as it splashes on their face and body. The children question the movement of water and experiment with various ways of engaging with it. They wonder why it leaves their hands pruny or makes them cold after stepping out. The pools provide opportunities for solving social problems such as use of space and whether or not someone wants to be splashed. Conversations arise about personal experiences with water at a pool, beach, or in the bath tub.   Some friends may engage in dramatic play and pretend to be on the high seas or in a kitchen. Water play provides so many benefits for development of young children. Summer is great time for the children to engage with water outdoors and give them the opportunities to have this sensory experience often.

The mud pit is another popular area on the playground where children cook, experiment and dig. Playing in the mud offers unique tactile sensory experiences that are vital to brain development. Children from different aged classrooms come together to work on worm finding expeditions and cooking projects while displaying creativity, empathy, language and social skills.

*Please make sure there are at least two full sets of clothing including underclothes in your child’s cubby, so that they can engage in both water and mud play often.


Rainbow Room Team


Green Room Newsletter

The Green Room are exploring new adventures in our Summer Program. The following are some of the Summer Adventures: Camping,Bear Week, Mud day, Pirate Week, Magic week. The children are having a lot of fun doing these activities and are eagerly waiting for new ones. Our upcoming adventures are Under the Sea/Water and Theater and Music.

In the July edition of Young Children, the journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children; Dr. Jessica Vick Whittaker presents an interesting articled titled ‘Good Thinking! Fostering Children’s Reasoning and Problem Solving.’ According to Dr. Whittaker:

Forty-four percent of the preschool Dayis spent on learning activities primarily literacy and writing activities (Early et al 2005). Too often, such activities focus on skill attainment and not critical thinking, reasoning and problem solving that are fundamental to learning and development. Such skills warrant attention and it is important that teachers foster them intentionally. This article summaries research on the development of preschool children’s critical thinking skills and suggests practical research-based strategies for supporting them.

Dr. Whittaker says, “Definitions of critical thinking skills vary, although nearly all include reasoning, making judgments and conclusions and solving problems (Willingsham 2008 Lai 2011)”

The following is a five point checklist that Dr. Whittaker presents for teachers and a summary of their related Strategies:

Checklist of Teaching Strategies to Support Preschool Problem Solving and Reasoning

  1. Facilitate children’s play: Provide a variety of materials that stimulate all senses and give positive interactions during play.
  1. Help children understand the difference between guessing and knowing: Do simple test to prove theory and additional if necessary.
  1. Foster categorization skills: Provide a variety of materials that allow children to sort, compare and describe objects
  1. Encourage children to think before responding: Allow children to think about the question or problem and suggest that there may be more than one way to solve a problem.
  1. Model and promote scientific reasoning, using the language of problem solving: Teachers are to encourage children to use their senses to explore their environment and ask questions. Teachers are also share their own problem solving skills with the children and encourage and conduct experiments and discuss the results.

In conclusion, Dr. Whittaker says, “Children’s ability to problem solve and reason is integral to their academic as well as social success. Each day early childhood teachers support these skills in numerous ways…”


Blue Room Newsletter

I (Elizabeth) recently revisited an article from Teaching Young Children magazine titled “Share Your Passions With Your Child”. What better time of year to embark on some great activities that will excite and bond both child and parent. The article highlights four main steps to help create special, unique and long lasting experiences.

– Go to events! The summer months bring lots of activities outdoors, and DC is full of local activities that can connect with your passions. Live music, farmers markets, sporting events, picnics, and hikes outdoors are all events that can be shared with your little one.

– Explore the topic! Share what you know about soccer, gardening, swimming and more. This will continue to build the bond between parent and child. Use books, newspapers, or websites to provide visuals and more information about a topic of interest. Encourage questions and if you don’t know the answer, investigate together!

– Be active participants! Enjoy the activity by doing it! Sharing a hands-on activity together will create a longer lasting memory and experience. Prepare a fun recipe, create your own bubble solutions, or make a kite! You don’t have to be an expert on the topic, your child will enjoy the process or participating more than the final product or outcome!

– Repeat and repeat and repeat! Sharing things you care about can be a daily and ongoing practice for your family. By continuing to share, explore and participate together you will be modeling how to be an active lifelong learner, and show that there are always new and exciting things out there to experience

Look for things that you are excited and interested in, that feeling can be contagious and lead to endless possibilities! www.washingtonparent.com/calendar.php is a great resource for ideas and family fun activities year round!


Important Dates:

  • July 4th – School Closed
  • July 5th – Cyana’s Birthday
  • July 7th – Elizabeth’s Birthday
  • July 13th – Jemmie’s Birthday