Ann's Blog
Ann Guthrie

Ann Guthrie

Sunday, 03 November 2019 20:18

Forging a Group: Challenge, Practice, Skills, Joy....

Here we are finishing up October and now into the very first week of November and these children are already forging larger group ties, connections, and the skills they will need to work together in more complex ways. It’s still so early in the year and they are already busy and able and interested in going on to the next level of group building.

Every year, every group of children does this. For Nursery children it sometimes happens in November or December, often in January or later, and one year it wasn’t until two weeks into May, that a collective group understanding came about.

When it does happen, it’s when they seem to sense individually that they are ready and also that they want to accomplish things they can’t do as well on their own. It requires the ability to communicate their ideas in a group setting with the others. It requires a certain give and take, plus a comfort with the process of really listening and talking as they work out the inevitable bumps in the road and figure out how to take their play forward. It requires practice, repetition, and sometimes courage, to be able to let go of what you may want in the moment to become part of something bigger than yourself and make yourself part of a blended vision. I see the work they put into it to find the balance. I think they are  aware of their individual and collective effort, but, for them, I think it is the joy of the process that is what they’re most aware of. Their process is the motivator! When they are on a roll, it’s like watching jazz musicians improvising with and off of one another.   

I think one thing that is at the core of being ready to do this kind of work is their practice and comfort with turn taking. I have watched them spontaneously join up in unlikely little groups of three or four to throw a ball around to one another while they came up with  variations to the game as they went along. One variation included them trying to bounce it off of their heads instead of catching it. Much laughter.

There has been another game that was invented and refined by one Nurseryer over several days. With this one, as many as six children at a time would eventually join in. In it, after the rest of the group had ritually stepped out of the way, each Nurseryer, in turn, would run like mad around the perimeter of the sand box and, after several circuits, would dive — head, tummy, legs — flat into the sand. They would jump up triumphant, the rest of the group would celebrate with them, they would scoot out of the way again, and then the next person would make their own run and dive and celebration.

With no adult involvement or direction, they are sometimes having real shared group conversations around the lunch table now which absolutely requires them all to individually  buy into turn taking. Sometimes in call and response. One went like this:

“Who likes cucumbers?”

Around the table one at a time: “I like cucumbers.”

“Who likes strawberries?”

Again, one at a time: “I like strawberries.”

“Who likes carrots?

This time, one person quickly disagrees: “I hate carrots.”

Another gently says, ”Don’t say hate; that’s not good.”

The first person, rephrases: “I don’t like carrots.”

Someone else responds: “But they’re healthy food; they’re good for you.”

Playing with the form of their call and response they had just invented, the others continued laughing around the table: “I like carrots.”

Being three and four and five, it eventually was over the edge and into: “Who likes to eat poop?”

And then they joyously moved into something new.

Please realize that all of these vignettes stem from their hard work and practice and getting to know one another and themselves in this group setting. Add a creative spark, the idea of some Nursery Schooler who leads the way, and then the others spontaneously join in. I am an observer and sometimes if I am quick enough I can grab my iPhone or paper and my pocket pencil to make a record of these moments.

This is high level work/play that they are choosing to do. Make no mistake, they are accomplishing this while they often feel “Meee first!” You can see that there is much joy and satisfaction in their process and what they can do together, but it’s also challenging work for them. It requires a lot of practice being together and working things out to set the stage for every one of these spontaneous epiphanies.

I imagine they may be tired when they get home!


Monday, 16 September 2019 02:08

Mystery, Magic and Discovery

It was hot and dry last week at school! Sand in the air ended up coating sweaty Nurseries with a fine layer of dust by the end of each day. One child made note that when you mix sand and water you get mud.

Nurseries are busy taking in their worlds… often when they appear to be mostly lost in a haze. They think about what is happening… or what has happened and then try to figure it out. Sometimes, compared to adult analysis, they make what seems to be strange sense of things. If you hang back a bit though, sometimes you can pick-up some amazing outside the box thinking. There is always an individual way to their figuring things out (which I am busy learning from each of them as part of my own process). Their individual ways might be linear or meander and jump from here to there and sometimes it ends up shaped and expressed into what can be described as a metaphor to express the feeling and emotion that surround what they are working to understand in the moment, or, it could something they’ve experienced and are remembering. “Remember when…?”

One morning on Tire Swing Side, I saw a Nursery child, one of the youngest in the group, leaning down and looking very intently at the ground. I wandered over and started looking with her. She had a small stick and was poking at the ground where there was a patch of scintillating light about 8 inches in diameter. We talked about it.

It was a display that seemed to be coming out of the ground in some odd way. It was nothing I had ever experienced before and my immediate instinct was to find another stick and poke around with her. The light really did seem to be emerging directly from the ground.

Because I am a grown up, and by definition with more experience and knowledge and observation hours, I found myself quickly discounting that theory and I started looking up and around and about to try to figure it out in another way! (Of course, more experience and knowledge and observation hours, can also lead you into assumptions and thinking that closes too quickly. It can speed up your thinking, but it can also lead to thinking that’s just more inside the box. It can create limits to your understanding.)

Anyway, other Nurseries began to appear. They joined us in the marvel and then wound into their own processes of searching out answers. Since I had already discounted my own from-the-ground and from-above hypotheses, I started scanning the Kindergarten window wall that was nearby. There was a lot of discussion with a lot of ideas and a lot of poking at the ground and looking about. Then while looking through the Kindergarten window, I saw the overhead fan cutting the sunlight that was coming in from the skylight… with a pattern that exactly matched the pattern of scintillating light that seemed to be emerging from the ground.

I said nothing about my discovery, but I did step in front of the source for a moment which stopped the light display. I stepped aside and then I did it over again for just a little bit longer. The Nurseries glanced over and were matching my movements with what they were observing about the light display disappearing and reappearing. Almost immediately I heard one say, “It’s from the sun! It’s from the sun! Look into the Kindergarten room!” There was talk and some quick theories about different kinds of skylights. All of this happened in just a few minutes time and then they were off and onto other things.

Along with the of the light mystery, it was magic to watch them work!

Monday, 02 September 2019 19:33

The Trees that Say "Stop!"

l loved getting to see the children together in our two little Nursery groups last week. They were up in the loft…  and down and up and down again… checking things out (and one another!) from different perspectives… and getting to know that ladder. On Thursday, we mixed up a beautiful batch of blue play dough which they enjoyed both mornings. They were around the room or elbow to elbow at the long table, and all the while they were getting to know one another in the context of a new year. They flattened and rolled, pounded and pulled; they rolled little balls and bigger balls; molded and cut it into shape, built it up and decorated, and often started all over again.

Each of those two morning, around 9:00 or 9:15, a Nurseryer came up with the idea of wanting to go outside. So I polled the children on “how-many-minutes-do-you-want.” On Friday the children independently announced their choices as the numbers 1 through 5 which was fun and so very unusual. I added them up, we “found the middle,” and then got out the three minute timer to match.

Each morning we used the timers and gathered at the rocking chairs for our first group meeting of the year and talked about staying together so we could all see “the-trees-that-say-stop.”  Once outside, we walked the entire perimeters of the Tire Swing Side (on the west) and the Cycle Circle Side (on the east) to get oriented with both play yards and comfortable with the visual boundaries.

The delayed gratification of first walking the perimeter of the play yards all together and in a group instead of simply heading out to get busy with their ideas for sun and sand and trikes and friends can be really hard work for children these ages. After snack and stories when we were planning for their second perimeter walk (this time on the Cycle Circle Side) one child said very clearly (and insistently), “But I don’t want to.”

I said, “I don’t want to either… it can take a long time… let’s really stay together this time and see if we can walk quickly. I think we can make it work.”

It was a mighty quick walk! Each time I asked, what does the tree (or bush or stump or corner of the building) say there was a great answering chorus of “Stop!” We were all the way around before we knew it and they were off the play.

It is all in their process and perhaps a little glimmer of the individual and group work they will be doing. This time one child presented a problem and I was the one who presented a solution. Layers and complexities to be added. Stay tuned, we are off to a fine beginning!



Sunday, 10 March 2019 00:36

Legos... To Be Changed As Needed!

Even before All School Lego Day, some Nurseries have been wanting to bring their own lego constructions from home to show friends, use at school, share, and also put on display. My reminders that their pieces could get mixed in with our school legos has gained no traction with them. They have all been adamant that the Nursery display shelf or in the communal lego bin is the best place for them to be.

These are generous individuals who have made a generous group and so this has worked for them this year very well until last week, oops, when it suddenly didn't.

There were some deeply felt discussions about whose were those and which were whose. It got sorted out for the moment, but it was clear, to me at least, that we would need to talk as a group to go forward.

Later on, when I brought up the problem with legos, they had ideas of what to do. I asked if I could write their ideas down, and, as it turned out, it would take more than one go at it to really figure it out. What follows are their thoughts and words they dictated to me so parents could know their new plan.

Here is the part they came up with on that first morning after snack.

Dear Moms and Dads,

Please, we are asking that we not have any legos at school.

Because they keep getting mixed up with the school legos.

It's making us feel sad.

And please don't bring legos to school; they'll get lost and you can't find them.

But on [All School] Lego Day you can bring them… of course.



I read it back several times and these were the words they wanted me to email to their parents. But I got home late after school, ran out of time that evening, and couldn't get it done.

My thinking was also that, of course, All School Lego Day is only once a year, and once a year is a looong time and a difficult concept at three or four or five years old. Also I understand that sometimes when children are solving a problem they can be pretty absolute.

So later in the week I told them that I ran out of time and couldn't get their letter typed out on my computer for their parents like we planned. I asked if I could read it to them one more time to be sure their words were the ones they wanted me to write.

I read it and I asked, "Does everyone agree that we shouldn't bring lego constructions from home anymore?"

One right after another, five people immediately said, "No, I don't agree!"

I asked, "Should we change it."

"Yes!" they said.

"Well, how can we change it? I can write down your words."

One person said, "Keep them in your cubby."

Another person added, " Instead… when you're done playing with them, keep them in your cubby."

Another person capped it off with, "And take them home at the end of the day!"

I read it back to them with the changes and everyone agreed.

So here is their newly amended and agreed upon version:

Dear Moms and Dads,

Please, we are asking that we not have any legos at school. Because they keep getting mixed up with the school legos.

It's making us feel sad.

And please don't bring legos to school; they'll get lost and you can't find them.

But on [All School] Lego Day you can bring them… of course.

Instead... when your done playing with them, keep them in your cubbies and take them home at the end of the day.



Their work was in-depth, over time, and makes a fine snapshot of their group process and the sort of problem solving they are capable of doing.

To be changed as needed!

Wednesday, 02 January 2019 21:40

"Oh, I Guess the Show is Over"

It's always so interesting to see how the Nurseryers take on the challenge of more and more complex group process to match what they want to accomplish together. Lately they have been using our set of hollow hard wood blocks as a backdrop for their plays. One afternoon in December, while the others finished eating lunch, one child used all of the Nursery big blocks to build a huge stage and announced that there would be a play after lunch. Later there indeed was a play and and one that they wanted me to write down.

Included here are not only the written words of their play, but also notes recording some of their process as they worked out the rough spots. First the process:

Child 1:     It's called "Mighty Pups Ready for Mighty Action!"
Child 2:     playing piano accompaniment
Child 3:     announcing, "I'm Sky."
                 "Mighty Pups ready for mighty action!
                 We're here to save the world!"
Child 4:     singing and dancing….
                 "And now we begin!"
Child 1:     "No, no. You don't sing… you just play!"
Child 3:     "Oh… I guess the show is over….
                  pausing she begins to leave….
Child 2:     "Ruff-ruff, ruff-ruff, ruff-ruff…."     
                 barking insistently to bring them back together….
Child 3:     returning...
All:            joined in pup chorus…
                 "Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff…."
Child 5:     "Tornado… take cover!"
Child 3 and 4 and 5:     
                 "Ready to dance, ready to dance…."
Child 1:     "No. Don't dance. No, it's a show that talks."

At this point, one-by-one, the other actors simply leave the stage for the circle table where one other child has been observing. They all quietly begin drawing.
Child 1 has lost his players.

I watch him as he makes the realization that, in order for the show to go on, he will have to let go of the kind of control he would like. He begins to work hard to get them back.

"Guys guys... come back... come back!"

He begins enthusiastically talking about the play, focusing on the story line that they were all developing and on their characters.

This whole time, I have been sitting watching and taking notes in the chair they gave me to be part of their audience. As they come back over, they notice that I have a pencil and paper and ask me what I'm writing. I tell them I've been writing down some of their ideas. Child 3 suggests I should write down their words for the play. I tell them I could do that. And if they want me to I could be the narrator in their play.

"What's a narrator."

I tell them it's the person who reads words the actors have written in order to tell their story while the actors act and say their lines. They think that is a good idea.
The child who had been observing from the circle table comes over to join with the rest and be in the play. I ask who they will each be in their play so I can write that down too. They already have the title!

Here is their play… these are their words written in fine collaboration. It was enthusiastically performed two times on the afternoon of Thursday, December 6, 2018.

Mighty Pups Ready for Mighty Action

Child 1………………. Chase
Child 2………………. Zooma
                               also plays music for the play
Child 3………………. Sky
Child 4………………. Another Sky
Child 5………………. Another Sky
Child 6………………. Marshall
Teacher/scribe  …. Narrator + Rider
*Note: Rider is portrayed by a picture posted on the wall

The Nurseries…
*Note: Child 1 suggested playwrights should be written down as all of them… The Nurseries... and this was agreed upon by the entire group.

Narrator:         "The beginning of the story is when the pups are playing on
                         the field. And then the tornado comes and Rider calls the
Narrator/Rider: "Paw Patrol to the look-out."
All the pups:    "Rider needs us. All pups into action!"
All the pups:    "Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff…."
Narrator:          "Paw Patrol was playing volley-ball and lava comes and Rider
                         called the pups.
Narrator/Rider: "Paw Patrol to the look-out."
All the pups:    "Rider needs us. All pups into action!"
All the pups:    "Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff…."
Narrator:          "The pups went out at the playground one day and there was
                           a terrible storm and they had to go home."
Narrator/Rider:  "Paw Patrol to the look-out."
All the pups:     "Rider needs us. All pups into action!"
All the pups:     "Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff. Ruff-ruff…."
Narrator:          "The robot shoots the metal net on Chase. Chase gets out of
                           the trap with his super speed."
Narrator:          "Sky finds a shovel and when Rider calls the pups, the robot
                           traps the metal net on Another Sky. She got a sword and she
                           flies back with her mighty wings."
Narrator:          "It ends when the robot has no use for the powers and the
                           robot breaks apart. Mayor Humdinger's nephew Gerald was
                           controlling the robot."
The End

This is their process and their play... with the rough spots, limit setting, problem solving, compromise, and collaboration along the way!




Sunday, 02 December 2018 18:59

Blast Off!

Projectile points, arrow heads, atlatl (spear thrower), archeological sites, tools, stone tool making, debitage, excavation, discovery, chemical reaction, bones, burial sites. The Nurseries are expanding their vocabularies and minds while they take part in some wonderful experience with Jeff White, our resident archeologist.

On Monday, there was a lot of looking, listening, and handling of artifacts plus some archeological basics. On Tuesday, each child excavated artifacts (m&ms) from an archeological site (chocolate chip cookie) with a tool (tooth pick). They also each excavated an actual stone projectile point from a ball of play dough. Brian and I labeled sandwich bags with their names to help them keep their personal artifact safe.  Later, back in the Nursery room, several children tested out their projectile points by carefully poking the points through a series of circles they had drawn on paper.

"Look it actually pokes through."

"It saws!"

On Wednesday morning, Archeology was put on hold for the Nursery while the Dayton Philharmonic's String Quartet performed "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" in the Art/Science room. The Kindergarten came, and the parent volunteers, who were in the hallway helping with the school mailing, got to listen to the fine concert as well.

On Thursday, and back to Archeology, Jeff had bins of sand marked off with grid lines ready for excavation. Projectile points and some pottery artifacts were found. After they finished with that, on the floor on a blue tarp there were two much larger bins of mulch also marked off with grid lines for the Nurseries to excavate. They found bones (molded blue plastic) and many other artifacts in each. One child even found a golden earring in one of the bins (burial site). Jeff asked lots of questions and here were lots of answers.

On Friday, Jeff talked about chemical reactions and escaping gases. The Nurseries watched some chemical reactions and beautiful changes happening in their individual home made lava lamps: water and oil and food color in a small mason jar to which Jeff added a half a tablet of alka seltzer. Afterwards, Jeff set up another experiment with small cylinders with lids (film roll sized), water and (drum roll please) more alka seltzer! Jeff asked questions about what they thought would happen. People thought a long time and then one child smiled, his arms shot up into the air and he joyously proclaimed, "Blast off!!"

That is exactly what happened.

Sunday, 18 November 2018 04:50

A Thanksgiving Invitation

From the Nurseries:

Dear Moms and Dads and Grammas and Grampas and Sisters and Brothers and Cousins,

Please come to the Feast.

We love you with all our hearts. We want you to come to the Feast. 

It's for Thanksgiving.

Please come to the Nursery room.

The food will be in the Art and Science room! We're making it! Turkey, pie, cranberries, mashed potatoes…. You can bring something too!



Saturday, 06 October 2018 19:34

Halloween Approaches

Halloween approaches in all its glory: candy and costumes, ghosts and goblins, doorbells ringing in the night. When you’re around three and four and five, when even a walk in the dark sometimes requires a certain courage, it’s an awesome mixture. For young children especially, Halloween can make quite a powerful celebration. It has elements that can be truly frightening as well as truly wonderful, often all at the same time.

Anticipation/excitement/tension/anxiety usually begin to build about this time.

In an attempt to keep it more manageable for all the children, I ask that Nursery Schoolers not bring masks to school. For children these ages, friends can literally disappear behind a mask.

Toward the end of October, the Nursery Schoolers and I will plan some sort of special snack in honor of Halloween. We will keep things as simple and low key as possible. If the Trick-or-Treat candy stays at home, I know the children will be able to stay on a much more even keel!


Saturday, 15 September 2018 19:24

Planning Color Days and Setting Times

Nurseries are already beginning to work together in group planning sessions. This Thursday they dictated a long list of yellow and red foods for our Color Days coming up next week. I took down requests for yellow and red apples, red and yellow peppers, yellow cheese, yellow melon, bananas, pineapple, lemons, corn, strawberries, raspberries and watermelon. I couldn't find one or two things, but I did add in red grapes thinking that they would approve.

They are still enjoying trading knock-knock jokes plus "Why did the…." jokes. They love the hilarious group laughter that follows. Mostly this is at snack and lunch times when we are gathered around the table. They do love it!

We had our first Music time with Dennis Farmer. He led us over to the kindergarten room to gather up with all the Kindergartners… the first time for many of the children to actually see the room. Kindergartners have already begun a Nursery Visit list. Seeing the Kindergarten room may inspire Nurseries to do the same with a Kindergarten Visit list. We shall see…. 

Some Nurseries have stepped into the next level and have begun to set times with each other for turns on the swings and trikes, etc… of course, with me there to help them with the process. They all have had practice setting their group transition times… for going outside and coming back in, or to gather up for a special group meeting…. and I think that their setting their own time taking is a natural extension of this. Setting times with a peer to get a turn or to relinquish a turn can be a little more complicated, personal and difficult though. However, they are beginning to want to take on the challenge of doing it!

When they set times with each other, each person gets to say how many minutes — from one to ten — that they want. We find-the-middle. If they agree on that, I can start timing. But if one or both disagrees, then we restart the process until they can end up with the number of minutes that they both can agree on.

In the midst of all this, I explain, and they come to understand, that the time has to feel fair to both.

At the beginning of the year, each time setting can be a rather lengthy process requiring a lot of support from me. Of course, they are all observing each other doing this and along the way, learning how it works. And, of course, with more and more practice, they become more and more confident. They become more and more independent. My presence is needed less and less. Later in the year, they will simply be coming over to me to announce the minutes they have both agreed on! Over the years, I've found that some Nurseries begin to understand the concept of finding the average as well as the negotiation of what feels fair. There are many years that several children want to add the concept of zero into the process. It's all very rich and also an incredibly useful social tool for them to have.

Sunday, 09 September 2018 20:38

Goofy Jokes and Ants in the Sand

In the Nursery, the first week can be a bit like a tea party while the children get to know one another and the room and routine and boundaries — and of course their teachers. Everyone can be just a little cautious. They are a bit careful to put their best face forward, and are a bit on their toes, while they take in all the amazing detail and nuance of their experience.

Even so, with these people, I can see that they are already feeling comfortable and relaxed. Even if a people are having a difficult time getting over the hump of goodbyes in the morning, they have let me help them with a cuddle or reading them a book… pretty remarkable!

We've had lots and lots of goofy, silly, inventive jokes — especially at lunch time — with laughter to match. There has been a great deal of cooperation and collaboration. Getting things that have dropped for the others. Watching out for people who maybe didn't know how to get down the loft ladder. Helping someone find the scissors. Letting me know if they thought someone needed something. Figuring out how to have one more person be on a trike. That kind of thing.

They love books and story time: Quick as a Cricket, There are No Cats in this Book, Mouse Soup, Frog and Toad, The Pigeon Needs a Bath, Knuffle Bunny, Theodore, A Smudgie Bear…. to name just a few that we've already read.

They've been getting lots of practice with setting times together and using our sand timers, which is our method to decide on when to go outside and to come back in. This will help them gain a foundation of how to reach a compromise for taking turns… with swings and trikes and other equipment or supplies.

I think because so many of these children are already practiced and comfortable with solving problems informally, they haven't needed many meetings as yet. I'm looking forward to when they do so we can practice this very useful process.

Here is a great anecdote from the very first day of our first week. The group was out in the morning on Tire Swing Side. One of the children from last year found a large segment from the trunk of an ash trees that had to be taken down a few years ago. Last year it had ants living in it. This year it wasn't hard wood any more; it was spongy. He began chopping it with a scoop taking off the spongy wood. Eventually he came over pretty excited to tell me that he had found the ants, "Ann, they're still living in the hard wood!"

Of course, the ants were looking pretty frantic running this way and that.

He watched for a while and then this Nurseryer began scooping sand over the ants and their home to replace what he had removed, "That will help them get their roof back."

Two other Nurseries came over attracted by the chopping/scooping activity. Not knowing the back story, what they wanted to do was to remove the sand, and so they did!

The first child returned to with another scoop of sand, watched for a moment and then objected telling them he wanted the sand to stay. They objected telling him they wanted to take the sand off.

I did my sign for "Pause," for everyone and then I asked him, "Are you comfortable when they take the sand off?"

He looked at them and said, "No, I'm not comfortable if you take the sand off.

I said, "Can you tell them why?"

He went into a very clear and succinct history of the ants and their stump.

The two girls listened and then began adding sand instead. The three worked together. One girl found another chunk of ash for the ants if they wanted to enlarge their home, "It's hard wood!" she announced.

She cheerfully got busy finding sticks that would serve as bridges for the ants.

"Ann, they're starting to use the bridges!"

Several more children spontaneously joined in, picking up on the ants' story as they went along.


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