Lindie's Blog
Lindie Keaton

Lindie Keaton

Tuesday, 19 February 2019 16:11

Tracks in the snow

     A recent Forest Kindergarten morning occurred after a light, overnight snow.  The children decided to hike to the cave--a plan they had deferred previously on a particularly icy morning.  As we entered the Glen, we could immediately see that we were not the first creatures to use the trail that morning.  Several sets of tracks ran ahead of us on the trail.  Additionally, a number of distinct tracks crossed the trail at various points. 

     The children recognized the cloven deer tracks right away.  The deer tracks generally crossed the trail, as the deer headed more directly down toward the creek. A raccoon also crossed the trail appearing to head toward the creek.

     Two different sized, yet similar tracks, ran along the trail in the same direction we were traveling.  "Dog tracks!" the children declared.  Sure enough the tracks with their rounded pads and claw marks did appear to belong to members of the dog family.  However, there were no human tracks on the trail save our own.  Perhaps they were lost dogs someone ventured.  Someone else guessed that one was a wolf.  The tracks did not appear to be animals traveling together, as the large ones veered off the trail and went their own way, while the smaller ones followed the trail for a considerable distance.  Finally, someone decided the smaller set could be fox tracks.  I confirmed that fox had been seen in this area, which is why we sometimes refer to the bog, as Fox's Swamp.  The children had to consult our field guide to find out that the largest wild dog family member in our area is a coyote, which perhaps had made the set of larger tracks.

     The smallest set of tracks, squirrel-like in appearance, ran on the trail for the longest, decidedly not squirrel-like in behavior.  The children consulted our field guide once again and made many guesses--skunk, weasel, badger, bear--but the imprints weren't clear enough for us to make a definitive determination.  We are hoping for another snowy Forest Kindergarten, though, when perhaps we can identify the mystery tracks.   

Sunday, 13 January 2019 18:23

The roles we play

     Play is foundational at The Antioch School.  Play allows children to try out new roles, solutions, and behaviors in an informal, low risk setting.  A good example of this is detailed in the children's story, Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, which is the recollections of the author's mother about a wild space where the neighborhood children played.  Part of the story goes, "Everybody had a car.  All you needed was something round for a steering wheel. . . if you broke the speed limit you had to go to jail.  The jail had cactus on the floor to make it uncomfortable. . .Anna May, quiet little Anna May was always speeding.  You'd think she liked to go to jail."  Play can be a way for children to explore being the rule breaker or the hero--or both.  

     Play is so integral to the children's days at school that they generally ignore adult presence while engaged in it.  This allows me to have a window into their world.  One such window occurred last week on the day there was a covering of snow on the ground.  The children had donned their winter gear, and we went out to the playground.  One Kindergartner in her snow pants and puffy, winter coat held her arms out perpendicular to her body and tottered around on stiff legs. 

     "I can't move.  I'm like the little brother on the "You'll-shoot-your-eye-out" movie," she explained to no one in particular, as she continued to move stiffly across the snowy playground.  Then she threw herself onto the ground, thrashing about.  "Help!  Help!" she called. 

     A child nearby, who is often on the receiving end of friends' offers to help, looked over in a puzzled way.

     "Help!  Help!" the first child called again, continuing to thrash in the snow.  The nearby child scanned the area.  All the other children were engaged in their own play and seemed oblivious to the drama playing out.  At that point, the second child gathered herself decisively and strode over to her fallen friend.  She reached down and "lifted" the fallen child from the ground. 

     "There you go," she declared.  They then replayed this scene multiple times with several helpers eventually joining in, until the snowy balance beam caught their eyes, and they moved onto exploring slippery surface balance together. 

 

Sunday, 02 December 2018 21:36

The Kindergarten Giving Tree

     The Kindergarten Giving Tree tradition dates back further than my time at The Antioch School, but I am told that once there was a tradition of the Kindergarten getting a Christmas tree.  Eventually, this didn't seem fitting, as not all families celebrate Christmas, so a more inclusive tradition was established about 20 years ago.  The Kindergartners still get a tree, but it is a giving tree and each group decides on a cause and something school families can give to help.  Over the last decade or so Kindergartners have asked for hats, mittens, and scarves for those who don't have any; food for the local food bank; clothing for those who lost their homes in a hurricane; and supplies for injured birds at The Glen's Raptor Center.  This year the children have chosen something different, after learning that in some places children aren't able to attend school, because they must spend so much time carrying water for their families.  Please have your donations to school by Friday, December 14.  This is their request:

     Dear School Families,

     We are going to get a giving tree.  Could you please give money, so the people who need water can get water pumps?  Antioch School Kindergarten will give the money to Heifer International.  A water pump costs $150.  We'll put a box out for you to put the money in near the tree by the front door.

     Love,

     Kindergarten

Postscript--Right before winter break, we counted the money together and the children knew we had raised enough for three plus pumps, when they left school for break.  Thanks to two late donations, though, we were able to give Heifer International $600 to purchase four pumps!  Thanks, everyone!

Sunday, 11 November 2018 13:18

Kindergarten Leads the Way--Leadership learning in a democratic setting

     On a recent fall morning after a rainy night, one Kindergartner came in with an idea to make a boat.  She used construction paper of various colors (we were at the end of our color day celebration--rainbow) and colored masking tape.  When she was ready to test it out, she, along with a few Kindergarten friends, went out to the large puddle on the cycle circle side of the playground.  It floated!  Buoyed by her success, several other children tried their hand at making construction paper boats. 

     After several more boats were launched, I joined the children standing at the puddle observing their fleet.  The first boats had sunk below the surface of the water.  Two Older Group students joined the small group of Kindergartners speculating on why the boats, which had floated at first, were now sinking. 

     "They got too wet," one Kindergartner suggested. 

     "I made a wave, and it sunk them," another Kindergartner confessed. 

     "The wave got water inside and it sunk," one of the Older Group children surmised.  . 

     Later that morning, as the Kindergarten snack helpers and I were walking to the kitchen, we saw the two Older Group children, who had joined us at the puddle, now sitting at a table at the end of the hall.  They were diligently working with paper and foil. 

     "Are those boats?" one of the Kindergartners asked. 

     "Uh huh," one of the Older Groupers nodded, not looking up from his work.

     That afternoon, in the art/science room, the Kindergartners continued their boat work, using foil and cardboard tubes.  In this way, learning and leadership are shared here.  The value of one's ideas and input are not based on age.  Kindergartners often bring ideas and topics to our all school meeting, and have individual meetings to set boundaries of personal behavior with older and younger students, as well. 

     The same day as the boat making, a group of Older Group children built houses with the large blocks outside the Kindergarten room.  On our way outside, the original Kindergarten boat engineer stopped and looked at the structures. 

     "That roof isn't stable," she offered to the Older Group student nearby.  The Older Grouper smiled and turned back to consider the roof. 

Sunday, 28 October 2018 20:49

Wild Mornings in Forest Kindergarten

     This fall the Kindergartners have been quite busy on Monday mornings in Forest Kindergarten.  There has been more de-construction than construction so far on our lean to.  Many children have tried their hand at whittling.  They've set a goal of hiking to the Yellow Spring and have been working toward lengthening their hikes, while shortening the distance the groups spread out.  So far they have hiked to the creek over-look, the rocks, the cave, the creek, and even to Meatball rock and back with enough time to spare to relax and play in our forest classroom afterwards.  Last week we had our first fire.  The children plan to have s'mores (or just marshmallows) for snack at our next fire.

     This fall the deer have also been quite busy, too.  We see them almost every Forest Kindergarten morning.  Often they are leaving or crossing through our forest classroom, when we are first arriving, perhaps on their way to the Glen.  There is a small herd of five or six, does and fawns who've lost their spots.  One morning a buck crossed through, though we were all outside the forest classroom at the time.  (We're quite careful to give bucks, and does, lots of space, this time of year.)  The last two Forest Kindergarten mornings, the herd has appeared from the woods across from our forest classroom entrance and crossed the field to the Glen.  Those of us who arrived early enough to observe them have been treated to the magical way each deer materializes from the trees, it's camouflage melting away as it slowly emerges into the field--a living testament to the mysteries the forest holds.

Sunday, 30 September 2018 12:50

I need a meeting

     As Kindergarten moves into October, with basic routines under their belts, the children begin to shed their careful niceties and move into real relationship with each other.  This isn't to say they stop being nice to each other, but just that the honeymoon is over, and they become more willing to be real.  The result--which I welcome--is increased conflict, and along with it the opportunity to solve problems, take responsibility, be vulnerable, generous, honest, forgiving, and to strengthen bonds with peers.

     While some current events in the adult world this week were disheartening, the Kindergartners continued to have meetings to talk about how they can share playground equipment, how they want friends to get their attention, and even what is appropriate humor and conversation at the snack/lunch table.  These children are learning boundaries, consent, and respect for themselves and others.  I am so grateful to be on this journey with them.  The world will be better for it.

Sunday, 09 September 2018 12:01

Deciding how to decide

     Kindergarten had some very important decisions to make this week--our first one together as a group.  We have two new guinea pigs, and they needed names.  The children came up with a list of ten or so names--almost the same number as children in the group. 

     "How will we decide?" I asked.

     A small group of children quickly agreed on the name "Fluffy" for the rough-haired sister of the pair and suggested voting.  Another child, singly attached to the name she suggested, shook her head, "I'm not comfortable with that.  That means my name won't be used."  A child who had been in the Kindergarten last year suggested using a counting rhyme, but this was also rejected.

     "We have to compromise," another Kindergartner declared.

     "What does that mean?" I asked.

     "When no one says 'No'", he explained.

     "It sounds like you want consensus," I supplied.

     So over the course of several days and nights to sleep on it, the group continued to talk, shift, and coalesce around agreement on the names.  Eventually, through compromise, they arrived at consensus.  Some Kindergartners thought we needed more pets to name--more guinea pigs or perhaps frogs.  They decided some of the names could be used for our fish.  A Kindergartner pointed out that she has three names, so a guinea pig could also have more than one name.  Here are the names the children bestowed:  rough-haired guinea pig--Fluffy; smooth-haired guinea pig--Becky Toothpick; catfish--Demoned; reddest Mama fish--Lilly; tiny baby fish--Snuggly; other tiny baby fish--Cuddles.

Monday, 28 May 2018 21:55

Kindergarten--The Finale!

     Each year I have spent with Kindergartners at Antioch School ends with the entire group participating in a culminating activity of the group's own design and choosing.  I never know what it will be, but in twelve years, it has happened without fail.  This year included.  The children performed their long-awaited Kindergarten Circus the day before the last day of school.  It was "epic, amazing, awesome", as circuses are known to be, and it was entirely and wholly theirs. 

     On the last day of school, after enjoying a wet and wonderful afternoon of water day activities, the children brought their towels back to our room.  They spread their towels out in our library to create our own beach for our very last story together.  As I was reading, one Kindergartner very quietly began moving through the group, giving each of the other children a hug.  A second began the same, though somewhat less quietly.  At this point, I stopped reading, as some children expressed that they were distracted by the hugging.  I offered that I could see the hugs were important and asked if we could finish the story, and then have time for hugs.  That is what we did. 

     Below is a poem the children created together earlier in the week, as we reminisced about our favorite memories from our time together.  Enjoy.

Kindergarten Remembers

We remember. . .

When we gardened the first day,

swimming

That time when we went to the pumpkin patch, and we were on a tractor,

Picking green apples at Peifers, and also my dad being there,

Forest Kindergarten when we did a lot of Mine Craft battling, but we weren't battling real people,

Making a big house in the forest,

Going to the creek in Forest Kindergarten,

Having pizza in Forest Kindergarten,

Bay Blades,

Ice skating,

Rip sticks,

Playing games.

 

Kindergarten

May 22, 2018

Sunday, 29 April 2018 18:28

Wild Flowers & Orphan Squirrels--Antioch School Kindergarten Spring

     By the last week of April spring weather finally made enough of an appearance that we began to see evidence of it in wild flowers blooming in the Glen.  The Kindergartners spent daily shared time with the younger Younger Groupers (YG'ers) that week.  (The older YG'ers were at the theater with the Older Group, working on their spring musical.)  Our YG friends joined us in Forest Kindergarten, where the group planned a hike to Meatball Rock via some of our favorite Glen landmarks--The Rocks, The Cave, the dinosaur's eye (a rock formation with a hole), and the lemon squeeze (where the trail cuts through two large blocks of rocks that form the cliff).

     Along the hike, we looked for wild flowers and discovered many more in bloom than just a week ago.  We saw Dutchman's Breeches, violets, May apples (not blooming yet), twin leaf, toothwort, spring beauties, toad's trillium, and bluebells.  The garlic mustard was coming up, though not blooming yet.  Some adventurous souls tasted it.  There was interest in trying a recipe I have for garlic mustard pesto, so we made a plan to try that soon with plants that we gather at school.  When we arrived at Meatball Rock, some YG friends gave others a boost and several Kindergartners made it to the top of Meatball Rock for the first time this year.  We enjoyed a snack together, before heading back to our forest classroom. 

     On a morning later that week, a couple Kindergarten children came in from the tire swing side of the playground. 

     "We found something!  It's alive!" they announced excitedly.  "It's a rat!"

     It did look like a rat, but was in fact, a baby squirrel so young its eyes were still shut and with only a thin covering of fur on its body.  It had fallen from one of the trees and was lying on the ground.  While I was trying to recall the advice the Older Group had received from a wild life rescuer, when they made a similar discovery a few years ago, another Kindergartner knew just what to do.

     "My mom knows medicine.  She's still here.  I'll get her to help," he declared, as he ran in to notify his mom, a midwife. 

     In no time, I had retrieved a long strip of parachute cloth to fashion into a sling.  Our midwife held the squirrel safely in the sling, while we found some extra stuffing from our recent sewing projects and used a leftover sock from a sock puppet project and some rice to make a warming bag.  Then our midwife mom climbed into the tree and hung the sling with its soft, warm bedding and tiny squirrel, as high up in the tree as she could safely reach.  We left it and played on the cycle circle side of the playground for the rest of the day in hopes that the mother would return to retrieve her baby.

     Alas, at the end of the day, the baby squirrel was still in the sling and had become quite cold.  Nathan, our school manager, had tracked down a wild life rescuer, Kim, who would take our orphan squirrel baby to raise and then release into the wild.  Kim informed us that squirrel mothers can only physically retrieve the very smallest squirrel babies and that our orphan was already too big to have been carried back to the nest.  The cold baby warmed up on the car ride and was active and healthy by the time she reached her new home.  Her name is Violet, and we look forward to getting updates on her progress.

Sunday, 25 February 2018 12:28

Include, Include, Include

     Sharing can be difficult, and for five and six year olds, it is a skill that often needs practiced again and again.  Sharing trikes, block construction,  space in the room and friends is something Kindergartners work on daily.  One might be the loneliest number, but three can be one of the most contentious, and spontaneous activities where all the children in the group take part often don't occur until sometime in the second half of the year. 

     Just this past week, this year's Kindergarten group began making big strides in this area of development.  Ironically, about the time they started organizing themselves as a whole group for an activity, one child articulated it well.  I had been supporting this child in a couple of interactions that morning that involved allowing a third person to join in play with two who were already involved.  Numerous reminders were needed, which involved interrupting the play.  Finally, in frustration, the resistant Kindergartner declared in a curmudgeonly six-year-old way, " . . . (at) this school it's just include, include, include!"

     "Yes!"  I responded.  "You've got it!"  I find it best to ignore curmudgeonly attitudes and fortunately for my work life, find them endearing.  Within the week, Kindergartners began to play a super hero game that inevitably descended into physical play fighting that became too rough for several participants.  "Your bodies are growing so fast," I explained.  "Sometimes it's hard to know your own strength right now, so this isn't working for everyone.  How can you play this, so that everyone stays safe and comfortable?"

     "We could play freeze tag instead," one Kindergartner suggested.  The group immediately agreed and decided to use their new favorite who's it rhyme, Blue Shoe, to find who would be it.  After a short time playing freeze tag, a problem with the plan emerged.  There was no agreed upon method for changing who was it, and the first it was getting tired of the role.  At that point, someone suggested just regular tag, so that who was it would switch with each successful tagging.  All the children were happy with that and almost every Kindergartner and some YG'ers joined in the game.

     When we called to go inside and get ready for snack, the children came running and gathered in our library.  All of them arrived before me, to their delight.  "This is a surprise," I told them. as this group often takes a bit of time to transition from playing outside to our clean up meeting inside.  They were beaming, glowing with energy from their game, as they all sat close in a circle--together and included.

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