Ann Guthrie

Ann Guthrie

Saturday, 09 October 2021 14:41

Moving at the Speed of Light

Last week was fast paced with a lot going on. Years ago and thinking back to her own childhood, my daughter once made an observation to me that children in groups move at the speed of light. It’s a good metaphor for the flow of their ideas and the pace of their play… especially in young children.

I know that the speed is part of the exhilaration of it for them and I know it can still be difficult for them to keep up with it.... even though together they are the driving force of it. They are taking part in plans and play that can morph and change on a dime. This seems especially true for last week’s Nurseries.

I think in part it came out of our first real taste of sunny October weather, plus the the very beginnings of Halloween excitement that we always see emerging around this time. I think it also comes out of a growing familiarity with the process of talking and listening with each other if their play gets stuck. They are beginning to become more practiced with setting a limit with one another as needed and, in turn, with accepting a limit as it is set by a peer. They are beginning to take the time for one-on-one play together. Along with this growing understanding of the individuals in the group, they are becoming a bit more confident in their group play.

The Nurseries were busy with their plans in a big group, in a small group, and sometimes on their own. Their days involved a lot of climbing and running and triking and digging and swinging. They are MOVING! They are also getting the idea that if they have BIG energy they can take it outside where it can match the space. My repeating words are, “You know, it’s great to have big energy and a big voice. You just need to find a big space for it… outside.” It is beginning to make more and more sense to them and there are several who want to start outside first thing in the morning. Finding a way to recognize and match your own energies to the realities of the moment is a big part of self regulation.

Saturday, 09 October 2021 14:36

September 26, 2021 Expanding Energies and Understanding

Rain or shine, this is a BIG energy and active group of people. Imaginative play is where they live right now. They also love music time with Athena, and books and story time with me… plus snack time, of course and knock-knock jokes! It’s another one of those language and music kinds of groups. In addition, they are definitely individuals! They have their own personalities, temperaments, and very clear ideas of how their worlds should work and how the events around them should transpire! Add in their desire to be together and this mix is naturally giving them lots of opportunities to gain experience and skill, comfort and confidence with setting limits with one another…  and with accepting the limits that are set for them by others. They are learning all this problem solving together to the backdrop of their play.

The joy of their play and of being together is the motivator and certainly creates an environment for their own social understanding and personal growth. But this does not mean that this part of what they do is necessarily easy or fun. I know it can sometimes feel like a lot of challenge to them. It’s a given that it can take a lot of energy and courage to actually follow through and express yourself directly to a peer. It also takes energy and courage to open yourself to another, to let go of yourself and your own ideas long enough to listen to that other person and their own ideas or feelings. I am there to help en-courage (give courage) to them in this. With practice and experience, it does get easier and easier. And the growth that results helps expand their understanding and their worlds even more.

I am already seeing a great deal of forward movement, especially during this past week. These are young children with a young understanding of where they leave off and another person begins. Often a sticking point in their play together can stem from a difficulty in expanding their own concept of their play to include another’s ideas. To young children, especially when they are first navigating being in a group together, the emotional reality of  “Not nice” can sometimes mean you-don’t-want-to-play-Puppies-with-me. “Nice” can mean that you do. Deep inside their own worlds of play, it can make absolutely no sense to them that the blue climber or the play house or the Nursery loft could be used simultaneously for Puppies and Pirates! My mantra is that the school and all of the play yards belong to all of us together. You can always tell other people about your own plans for play and maybe they will want to do that or maybe their plans will be different. And that’s okay! And I might add, sometimes people want to put their ideas together and come up with something totally fun and new. And that can be even more fun.

Saturday, 09 October 2021 14:33

September 19, 2021 Early Days in the Nursery

It was another busy week… lots and lots of imaginative play inside and out, more experience with the idea of sharing the necessary stuff back and forth, setting times for trikes, gaining experience and comfort with limit setting for a friend as needed. Some are learning it’s okay to speak up more loudly to set a limit; some are learning to turn their dial back a few notches if you need to let people know how you are feeling about something. It’s all about practice and confidence in a group and finding your own middle and having the courage to share it.

Early in the week, one child announced his find of a small and beautiful dark brown chrysalis with yellow/orange almost golden vertical splotches and lines . Several of the  children (and grown-ups) kept track each day. On Friday the same child who found it brought me over again to show me the changes. It was dark, dark brown, almost black with two thick horizontal rings around and near the top of the pupa case. As we gathered up to see, he proclaimed, “When it turns dark, that means it’s about ready to come out.” When we came out after stories, indeed that’s what we found. Metamorphosis was complete, the chrysalis shell was empty, and the owlet moth had flown away!

Sunday, 12 September 2021 22:57

A Herd of Nurseries

These Nursery Schoolers seem so very aware of one another. They are also very much drawn to one another and want to gather up and take part in things together. Whatever their fellow Nurseries are doing seems to be the most interesting to them… at least in the moment. It’s difficult to predict this early in the year, but this urge to herd up really does seem to be pretty central to them as individuals and certainly it will be great foundation for their group building this year.

At its core, the Nursery is a social laboratory. In many ways, the Nurseries create their own social laboratory each year out of their own particular personalities, temperaments and individual needs and interests. Of course this is true for all the groups… all of the students are adding layer after layer to their own social understandings of others and of themselves. They are all gaining in their own social experience and practice.

As a species we humans… infants, children, adolescents, adults… are highly social animals. We have large brains that in part evolved as a match to the neural processing demands of this complex social work. Our brains require a large portion of our daily energy. Young children’s growth and development is on a fast track in all ways! Recent research into human metabolism shows that while adults use 20% of daily energy to fuel their brains, for children from the ages of three to seven, 60% of their daily energy is devoted and consumed by their developing brains. If you think about this just a bit, it makes absolute sense, and it is still astonishing!

My point in sharing this is to acknowledge that all children are busy growing and changing and developing in so many ways. They are building whole body systems. They are wiring up… building connections within and expanding connections to what is outside of them. It is something that happens quite naturally while they interact with the people and the worlds around them. And because they are so new to the world, and because the social is so fundamental to human experience, for Nursery aged children, it can be a big part of what they do. They are led to this throughout by the essential nature of human development.

It will be interesting to watch. Several Nurseries have brought previous friendships with them which has been wonderful and may even help speed up everyone’s group building process this year. There will also be plenty of discovery for each of them since, previous friendships or not, everyone will be getting to know one another within the novel context of this year’s Nursery.

These children’s urge to herd up and be together may also fast track some of their social work together. Simply being drawn together and then finding themselves sharing the same close-up space will give them more opportunities and need for picking up the various social tools that can be useful in smoothing the path with one another. Even this first week, people have been coming to Athena or me, and, with encouragement, have already wanted to carry through talking and listening with another if there is a problem.

Even in these first few days I’m already seeing them want to take on this important work. We are off to an amazingly quick start together!


Monday, 03 May 2021 18:09

Big Energy/Quiet Times... Finding the Balance

Early spring tells bodies to be busy and to MOVE and it feels like these particular children have been feeling this especially intensely this spring!

For weeks they were driven to soak in the spring and be active... almost always. Perhaps they have just logged enough warm, sunny time now, or maybe it's just the angle of the sun that is telling them spring is really here to stay. In any case, the outside is still a huge draw for Nurseries, but they are also finding ways to seek out the inside times or find quieter activities that will match their own needs to reset and renew their energies.

They are back to recognizing when they need to just put themselves on pause for a bit even if friends still want to be on the move. I can see how they are helping each other in this. I also see them self regulating more now. They are adding "inside plans" to our mornings and afternoons beyond just their most loved Storytimes and settling in with books.

Sometimes they will take a break from the extreme physicality of their running, climbing, and triking, etc., to just relax at the fence line with the chickens who are out in their their yard.

Another favorite relaxing outside thing for them is to plan a time to actually go into the chicken yard… to “go-in-to-see-the-chicken-coup” as they say. They want to look into the nest boxes for eggs and know how to unlatch the roof…  and then to latch it back up.

This is such a good outside change of pace for them… and at the same time they are building real trust relationships with each of the hens. Calm energy, quiet voices and many, many violets hand picked to feed them. What amazing experience for a young child to have. They are all taking on the responsibility of figuring out, and then knowing, how to keep other living creatures feeling comfortable and safe. As one Nurseryer put it, “We don’t want them to think we’re predators.”

To kick things off, on Monday one child had the idea to bring in planks from the hallway and build a floor in the room. The rest picked up on the activity and wanted to join in!

These are creative people and there were additional ideas too! A sea-saw-balance-beam.


Dino slides.

A bus parking lot with a place to relax on a rocking chair. Plus, if you look in the background in this photo, you will see the beginning idea for a bench.



 That is big enough for one…


And also big enough for two. We ended up reading that book, Cat and Mouse, on the spot!


On Tuesday, after several weeks of anticipation, we were able to finally get out the water table. Like we always do with any new, exciting, and complicated activity, we met at the rocking chairs to talk and plan. I explained that we would need to find a way to wear smocks since, as much as you try, water can splash and that we would also need to take off jackets in order to keep them dry. I told them that there were buckets they could use to carry water in from the sink. In part, it's putting the water in themselves that helps give them a real sense of ownership. It also seems to give them the understanding that they are together and collaborating on something fun and BIG. Draining the water, watching the whirlpool vortex grow bigger and bigger, keeping the cork carefully in hand, and checking the bucket below (so it doesn't overflow) are very interesting, important things too!

Here is the list they had me write.

We used the Water Table all week long. Somehow they all found a way to keep themselves and one another dry!

So dry that by Thursday morning they had all decided together that they didn’t even need smocks. It was also easy for me to see they really didn’t need them. So now… no smocks it is!

Rainy wet or clear and dry, they found their outside/inside balance for the week.

Outside there was Cycle Circle Side.

There was continued Nursery/YG connection being forged.

By Friday morning the winds told them they needed airplanes.

By Friday afternoon the powerful bluster of even bigger winds sent them up onto the Golf Course where they spent a joyous half an hour being blown around and into the grass with one another.

Inspired by the wind, they added to that fun by linking hands and facing in the opposite directions. Then they would spin each other until their grips broke and they flew away from one another to spin off into the grass. They did this two-by-two and then four by four.

It was exquisite and transitory. In a way I wish I had thought to take my phone/camera with me when we headed out to the Golf Course to make a record to share. And in another way I know it just fine that I didn't. All of this is part of their useful experience of the moment and they are storing it up better than any words or camera can do! 





Sunday, 08 November 2020 19:43

Sunny with a Rain of Pancakes

Nurseries had a grand finish to Color Days with an entire week of Rainbow. Their long planned Pajama Day was on Friday. Probably inspired by wearing pajamas all day, there was long, extended imaginative play that centered around pancakes… making them, eating them, and eventually catching them and gobbling them down as they fell from the sky. Once the entire group was part of it, they eventually all had to navigate a dangerous and exciting fire with lots and lots of running. They took refuge for a while in the top of the red loft house. And then they resumed their mad chase of catching and eating pancakes! I am looking for the Nursery copy of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs which, judging from the rain of pancakes, I’m pretty sure they will enjoy.


Sunday, 25 October 2020 18:39

Stuff a Pillow with Milkweed

Nurseries have a new Playhouse slide game inspired by an Older Grouper who in a playful mood stopped by as they were playing early last week. He stepped up carefully at the bottom to create a tunnel for them by balancing calmly on the rims, feet on either side, long legs stretching up. No words were needed. Nurseries understood immediately the invitation to slide down and on through his tunnel.

After about five minutes of this, the OGer moved on to other things and a Nurseryer took his place. They’ve returned to this game over and over again throughout the week… two Nurseries taking turns to make the bridge perched at the bottom and all of them one-by-one shooting down the slide, and on through and into the mulch.

Along with all of this and the usual of Color Days, running chase games, trucks and trikes, indoor construction, stories and songs, etc., plus hosting a visit for a four year old and his mother, we also headed back to the tall grass maze on the Golf Course in the afternoons. One child was on a search for milk weed…  enough to stuff a pillow. He proclaimed, “It will be so so soft….”


Saturday, 17 October 2020 19:22

Riding Trikes; Making a Community

This past week I found out a bit more about the Pajama Day that is being planned by several of the Nurseries. It is absolutely their own plan and has been shared with me only in passing...  and as a foregone conclusion. Evidently it’s NOT going to be on a Black Day; it’s going to be a Rainbow Day instead!

Anyway, I do love how this group is charging ahead with their own plans. Next week I will see if they want to talk together in the group and make it official.

There has been a school-wide focus this past week on triking. Trikes are now coming out daily and Afternoon Nurseries have been helping put them away again in the trike shed at the end of the day. As a matter of fact, at the end of the day on Thursday before last, two inspired Nurseries collaborated to to put almost every single vehicle back in the Trike Shed before the Older Groupers could even get to it! One Nurseryer did the pedaling and parking and the other one ran ahead excitedly cheering him on.

We have many solo trikes, two person trikes, plus trailers to hitch up as well, so there are a lot more possibilities for cross group interactions and collaborations that have opened up. Plus it makes for a lot of practice with being part of something bigger than Nursery, turn taking, navigating traffic, problem solving, and the absolute joy of it all.


Saturday, 10 October 2020 19:36

"Black!! That's Pajama Day!"

Tuesday we took a hike through the maze of paths some kind person has mowed through the tall grasses and other vegetation up on the Golf Course field… Nurseries were on a search for ripe milkweed to release into the breeze. On the way we found beautiful red clovers, lots of little white flowers, towering grasses in graceful clumps, dog poops just off the trail, honey bees, forks in the trail to follow, and a single wooly bear that we steered off the path… so it wouldn’t be eaten by a bird they decided.

Wednesday afternoon one Nurseryer organized going over to Cycle Circle Side to play. We also went into the garden to see Easter our old laying hen who is the last of her flock. She was quite talkative and loved eating the sorrel the children offered her. Thursday morning while we were at Art/Science, she laid one of her multicolored eggs which one of the Older Groupers brought into the refrigerator.

Then, another morning early, after checking out the Color Day chart one more time, a Nurseryer celebrated when she came to Black on the chart saying “Black!! That’s Pajama Day!”

I said, “It’s Pajama Day?”

She looked at me surprised, and tilted her head and raised her eyebrows.

So intrigued and confused, I said, “Why do you say Black is Pajama Day?”

She chortled and clued me in my saying, “Because ......... told me!!”

“Oh,” I said, “I didn’t know. Maybe we could see if other people wanted to do that too!”

And that is where she left it for now, but it does seems like a Pajama Day is in the works! If it does fall around our Black Days, what a lovely antidote for some of the excess of anticipation that always seems to gather around at Halloween time.

It does look like Nurseries are headed off into gathering their own steam for ideas and planning!



Sunday, 04 October 2020 00:36

More Tools to Grease the Social Wheels


It appears that Nurseries love pushing the merry-go-round as much as they do riding it. I saw a YGer (Younger Grouper) come and join them to sit in the very center while reading a book. It was already moving at that point and having a passenger seemed to inspire Nurseries to speed it up…  a lot! I waited for her to reconsider as they ran it around even faster… but she stayed on, immersed in her book and seemingly totally unbothered. Several OGers hopped on to enjoy the ride. After about 5 or so minutes the Nurseries moved onto other things. OGers left and the YGer stayed planted and reading her book. Then a few minutes later, she got up and wandered off too. Still or moving, it was what she wanted! It’s really lovely seeing the groups flowing through the play yards and interacting so naturally.

These Nurseries are quite good at greasing the social wheels to keep their play going. Extra tools are always useful though, and they are beginning to venture into talking to one another if there is a problem to solve, getting the courage to say the the other person’s name and then directly state what the problem is and then work together to find a solution. We talk about how they can solve it and I usually end with, “Is everything okay?” If not, we begin again!

To begin a meeting, often the go-to phrase to start with is, “I wasn’t comfortable when you…”. Sometimes it’s just, “[Name], stop! I don’t want to play that anymore.”

Of course, practice always helps. We will be getting trikes out later in the week and that will give everyone lots of opportunities and practice with the special case of setting times for trikes… we have so many trikes, but often people develop their own favorites. Anyway, it’s a very concrete and valuable exercise in give and take, talking and listening and working toward agreement… with their agreed upon timer as the final arbiter!

We’ve also had group meetings for their chase games so they can each set their own signals to let the others know when they need to pause to catch their breath or stop to move onto something else.

I let them know that I am always there to help. Even so, all of this requires a certain courage and comfort with one’s surroundings and the people you’re with in order to be ready to take this on. The fact that they are beginning to want to do this work with one another is a sign they’re feeling pretty comfortable!

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