The Elm Tree Newsletter April 2010
Our parent meeting last Thursday was delightful, and we had a great turn out! Many thanks to all of you who attended, I know it's not easy to get out on a weeknight and hope it was well worth your effort. Also a big thanks to Jessica Rainey for hosting the event!
The Ounce Scale Overview
Since early February, The Elm Tree teachers have been taking training in a program called The Ounce Scale. The Ounce Scale helps us get to know children better by observing their everyday activities at home and in the program. We will record notes in your child’s Observation Record here to keep track of their behaviors and accomplishments.
You’ll have a chance to record what you learn about your child at home in your Family Albums. These albums have space for you to write down stories about your child and put in photos or draw pictures. They are memory books for you to keep and enjoy for years to come. You will base it on real-time observation of your child as they go about their daily activities, such as eating breakfast, bathing, dressing, playing and being with children and adults. By taking a moment to sit back from your interactions with them and observe what is actually happening, in an objective way, you can get a much clearer picture of who the child is and how they interact with their world. Remember it doesn’t have to be ground-breaking moments, just the simple day to day stuff.
The family albums are broken down into six areas of development, and we will be observing the same six areas here. At the Parent Teacher Conferences in May, we will meet and share our observations with each other and use what we learn to plan ways to work together to help your child grow.
We will put a reminder up on our white board about making your observations and also letting you know which area we are focusing on here at The Elm Tree, so we’ll start doing that. Please let us know of any
other ways that we can support you in this. Some suggestions were to keep the book near your bed and make notes at night before going to sleep. You could also keep it in the child’s room or a family room where you’ll be likely to see it and make notes regularly. The key is to focus on simple, small observations over time rather than filling it all out in one sitting.
Service Hour opportunities
At the meeting we discussed service hour opportunities and asked parents for input on the best method for letting you know what opportunities are available. In the past, we have kept a list posted on the bulletin board, and/or printed one in the newsletters. One suggestion was that sometime the tasks aren't specific enough, time-wise, to let parents know how to plan, so if we could find a way to designate not just the tasks, but also dates and times then parents might find it easier to put them into their schedules. A parent suggested using a website such as www.lotsahelpinghands.com to coordinate volunteer activities. We are looking into setting up something like this so that parents can see what volunteer activities are coming up and they can also sign up for them right there.
Mark your calendars now for our Spring Clean Up, planned for Saturday, May 1st. For this event we mainly focus on getting the school cleaned inside and out, washing toys and windows, pulling weeds and prepping the garden and flower beds. There might be painting or repairs to be done and various other tasks. There will be a chance for parents and teachers to sign up for childcare shifts on that day as well so that kids can come too! We have a potluck lunch afterwards which is a fun time for parents and children to visit with each other.
We will also have a 'Parent's Only' workday the weekend prior to this, April 24th. On that day we will focus on doing more of the non-kid friendly work, possibly installing the large boulders in the back, re-staining the sandbox and these type of jobs, we will have a full list of tasks for each weekend so that parent's can know which one to sign up for.
There is a new movement in the realm of children's outdoor playground environments called "Natural Playscapes" that emphasizes providing natural materials for the children to interact with rather than man-made plastic or metal. For example, a grassy hill to climb up and roll down, logs to sit on, large boulders to scramble on, meandering dirt paths lined with tall grasses, circles of tree stumps, willow huts and much more. Our dream is to turn our backyard into a natural playscape and I would like to see if there is any interest among our families in forming a Natural Playscapes Committee.
Parents who wish to join the committee will be able to read and learn about the ideas and principles behind the natural playscapes movement and then meet as a group and discuss which design elements we would like to include in our environment and how to make that happen. The beauty of this type of play environment is that children are more connected to nature and also the installation of the various features is a community event, pooling our collective resources and those of the greater community around us. For example, finding someone with willow growing on their land and asking if we can collect some to make a willow hut. Asking local tree cutters if they can supply us with logs and stumps and seeing if there are local artists who would like to create wooden benches, arches, murals or other features. This seems like it should be a group effort, not just in the installation but also in the planning and idea stage. If this sounds interesting and you'd like to be a part of it, please let us know! This is also an opportunity to be a model for other preschools and childcare centers as we all look for ways to increase our children's connection to the earth.
Summer and Fall Enrollment
We have quite a few families who will be leaving us to go on to preschool over the summer and this means plenty of new families will be joining us as we head into fall. Get the word out to your friends and neighbors with toddlers that we will have openings available
starting in June! And a reminder to parents to please complete and bring in their summer surveys no later than April 23rd.
We would also like to begin providing our prospective clients with a list of parents who they can call for personal recommendations of The Elm Tree. The list would likely include a short bio on the parent being contacted (how long they've been at The Elm Tree, ages of their children, etc), an email and/or phone number and the best time to call. If any of you would be willing to be on the list please let us know! Also, our testimonial section on the website could use an update if anyone feels strongly about writing up a few sentences about their experience here for families interested in our school you can email it to us at any time.
Message from Puja
Here is a special announcement from Puja:
“My belly is growing, as some of you may have noticed, and it is more than the winter coat… Noah and I are four months pregnant! I am thrilled to share this news with all of you as I feel you are extended family. There are many changes occurring now reflected in the transition from winter to spring, my own body, and plans for the future. I assume we are all experiencing these changes to varying degrees in our own lives. For me, I find these changes will influence the lives of those around me and it is important to share with you these changes. We have decided to move to northern California where I have family and we have an opportunity to be in a beautiful mountain cabin surrounded by nature’s embrace. This means I will be saying “goodbye” to the Elm Tree family to embark into the unknown. I cannot express how deeply the relationships with your children have effected my own development and sense of self. They have been my teachers. I am now more prepared to be a mother. I thank you for your great examples in parenthood and hope your own lives, full of change, abound with grace and beauty.”
As we head into spring we’d like to remind everyone to ramp up their sunscreen applications on sunny/high UV index days. Be sure to mark whether they are wearing sunscreen or not at sign in, as we don't want to double-apply. We have Rocky Mountain Sunscreen in the kid's bathroom if you need to apply it at arrival, if everyone has sunscreen on in the morning this helps us tremendously in getting everyone outside in a timely manner. We will reapply if we go outside again in the afternoon.
Also, this is a great time to re-check your child's diaper basket and make sure that not only there is a change or two of clothing in there, but also that the clothing is season-appropriate. Given the nature of Colorado springtime, you may want to have both a warm weather and a cool weather option.
For many years The Elm Tree provided cloth diapers as a way to not only provide a convenient service for its families, but also a way to reduce the environmental impact. In recent years, the interest in using the cloth diapers waned as children were not used to the bulky cloth between their legs and so the cloth diapers were phased out. We have been looking for a way to provide a similar service for families that would not only lessen our impact on the earth but also streamline the diaper process for everyone.
One idea was to order 7th Generation, chlorine-free diapers in bulk so that not only would it be better for the earth (no chlorine used in manufacturing the diapers) and better for the kids (less irritating for their skin), but also more convenient for parents to not need to remember to bring in diapers all the time and for us teachers as well (keeping everyone's diapers stocked, organized and refilled is actually a lot of work). We are open to everyone’s input on this and also ways to make this financially feasible. For example, if each family wanted to contribute a small amount, say around $5, each month until this fall when we could roll the diaper costs into the tuition increase, then The Elm Tree would cover the remaining costs of the diapers. Please let us know your thoughts on this.
I can't tell you all enough how much we appreciate all you families, so I thought a special section just for that seemed appropriate. All of you are extremely important to us and so, so great. We truly are grateful for all that you do to make this place what it is. The volunteer hours, the participation, suggestions and feedback, the recommendations to your friends....thank you, thank you!
Reminders, Events & Closures
Our daily blog keeps you updated on 'What We Did Today', and
can be found at www.theelmtree.org/blog
We are posting our menu on the website weekly for those who
would like to see at a glance what we will be serving, or have served.
The menu can be found at www.theelmtree.org/menu.html
April 16th is our Professional Development Day, Elm Tree will be
April 24th and May 1st - Parent workday and Spring Clean Up. This is a great way to get in your service hours for the the entire
quarter, or even for the entire year!
May 13th and 14th are Parent Teacher Conferences. Regular childcare will not be offered on those days, however we will have childcare available for the time of your conference, if it is needed.