Lindie's Blog
Lindie Keaton

Lindie Keaton

Monday, 17 January 2022 17:57

Stuffies Get Stuck--Real World Work

     Over the course of this school year, three distinct, yet similar dramas have played out.  Here's what happened. 

     I.  The first time it happened, Kindergarten had spent the day at Agraria.  We set up our circle area on clay benches that sit under a flat roof held up by four posts.  As we were packing up for the day, some Kindergartners were playing with a stuffed cat--tossing it in the air and catching it, when it landed on the roof.  The children let the rest of us know.  Many ideas were suggested.  Could Lexi or I reach it?  We couldn't.  How about a ladder?  We didn't have one.  A stick?  As we were searching for an appropriately long stick, Lexi went to the barn and returned with a long butterfly net.  The children cheered and commenced taking turns using the net to rescue the cat.  No Kindergartner could reach it.  I took a turn, while the Kindergartners backed up far enough to see the cat and direct me to move the net toward the cat.  I was able to almost, but not quite reach the cat.  "Lexi!" the children suggested.  And she did it--using the net, she pushed the stuffed cat off the roof.  The children cheered again!  Success!  A Kindergartner and his stuffy were reunited!

    II.  A month or more later, some Kindergartners were attempting to toss their stuffed animals through the basketball hoop on the cycle side of the playground.  They cheered each animal that made it through.  When a large stuffed dog got stuck, a Kindergartner tossed a basketball at it from below, until it was dislodged and fell to the ground.  A short time later, against all odds, a small stuffed dog, who had made several successful trips through the hoop, got its collar hooked on the metal upon which the net hangs.  There it stuck.  Basketballs repeatedly thrown, bumping it, failed to bring it down.  A hobby horse was retrieved from inside, and Kindergartners took turns trying to get it loose using the horse to no avail.  A couple of Younger Groupers stopped nearby and observed.  The Kindergarten children asked me to try to get the dog down.  I turned to the Younger Groupers, "Would you like to try?" I invited.  Without a word, one of them approached with a small smile, neatly jumped up, grabbing the hoop first with his hands and then with one hand and his feet.  With his free hand, he unhooked the dog's collar.  He jumped back down with the stuffed dog in his hand and was surrounded by a cheering cluster of Kindergartners.  Another heroic rescue!

III.  After winter break, Kindergartners were spectators to another stuffy rescue.  This time, while Kindergarten and Nursery children were on the porch eating snack, a few Younger Group children, at the far end of the porch, were playing a game of throwing a stuffed cat, attempting to get it high enough to touch the underside of the porch roof.  In a demonstration of physics and force, on one throw the cat ricocheted off the underside of the porch roof and onto the roof of the building and out of sight (from our perspective).  The Younger Group children quickly conferred.  They needed a ladder and a grown up to get on the ladder and get the cat.  Off they went and returned a short time later with Nathan, who looked at the roof where the cat had disappeared.  He wasn't sure the ladder would be high enough, but he would bring it and see.  More Younger Group children gathered waiting.  Elaina joined them.  They began backing out onto the grass, until they could see the stuffed cat's position.  Nathan brought the ladder, climbed as high as he safely could, but couldn't quite reach.  He disappeared into his office and emerged with a grabber.  With directions from the Younger Groupers, he used the grabber to knock the cat down to the porch.  The Younger Group, Kindergarten, Nursery--everyone present--erupted into cheers and applause.  Yet another successful stuffy rescue!

     "Real world problems", generally meaning an assignment that has implications in the real (as in adult) world, is currently an en vogue term in some educational circles.  It includes projects like raising funds for relief work, collecting data for scientific studies, and studying and proposing solutions for societal problems.  This type of work has its place at The Antioch School, though the impetus for it comes from the children.  Stuffies getting stuck, however is an actual real world problem for children.  They created it and are most invested in solving it.  As an adult, I avoid tossing items I value towards high roofs.  I observed each of these incidents as they developed and made a conscious choice not to interfere.  My work as a teacher is to support children in doing and learning from hard things, not to prevent them from experiencing them (serious safety issues aside, of course).  Figuring out what to do when stuffies get stuck can help children know they can do hard things--together with their community.  I choose and love to be a teacher here, because it's a place where children scrap their knees learning to roller blade and have conflicts with their peers.  And yes, it's a place where stuffies get stuck.

Sunday, 12 December 2021 18:11

The Sugar Jar Tree

     Many years ago Antioch School Kindergartners would cut a Christmas tree to decorate for school.  Since not all families and children celebrated Christmas, they decided to make it more inclusive.  After all, the tradition of bringing greenery and evergreen trees in during this dark time of year dates back to the earliest solstice celebrations, long before Christmas was celebrated.  They called it a giving tree, and the Kindergartners would choose a cause for families to donate to and the tree would be decorated with items for that cause.  Some years it was hats, mittens, and scarves.  Other years items for hurricane relief, food for local food banks, and even items for the birds at the Raptor Center were placed on and under the tree.  Last year, when we weren't in school in person during December, we weren't able to make plans about a tree.  I never know for sure what each group will do with this tradition, but without a recent memory of it, I wasn't sure if it would be of interest this year. 

     Additionally, the group had been very busy finishing number days and writing a play together.  The beginning of the play flowed easily, and act one was written in one sitting.  Several sessions later, though, act two hadn't been concluded.  With much discussion and sleeping on it, the children concluded the writing of their play in about a week.  That work didn't leave much lead time for discussing a giving tree.  I introduced the idea the next week.  The children wanted to get a tree, but beyond that were focused on the play.  After sleeping on it, I realized that several things about getting the tree would need to be adjusted this year to make it work.  It also dawned on me that a tree played a pivotal role in the end of their play.  The next day, when we were discussing the tree, I just asked, "Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking?"  Immediately, one of the Kindergartner's eyes lit up, "The tree could be in the play!"  And so the impetus for getting the tree shifted and came into focus for the group. 

     The afternoon we went to the Yellow Springs High School Forest to get the tree was partly sunny and not too cold.  The children were full of enthusiasm.  "We love this camp!" they declared as we set up around the fire pit at the School Forest.  When we started towards the planted spruces, pines, and firs, one child immediately had a suggestion.  "We should get a tree that's not too tall, so we can carry it."  At each tree that someone declared was the one and someone else declared wasn't, they were able to add to their list of characteristics.  But there were still a lot of trees that weren't too tall, with needles not too prickly, full branches, branches not falling off, and not too short.  Then one child added, "It should be in the shape of a sugar jar."  Then she explained the shape--a round bowl like body with a handle sticking out on top.  This really helped narrow down the choices.  The final thing they needed to come to a decision happened when I got busy with something else--I don't remember what exactly, maybe tying my shoe or helping untangle Penny's leash.  At that point, I heard a Kindergartner say about yet another tree--"How about this one?"  And a moment later they all announced to me--"This one!"  Time and space are sometimes all that are needed to come to consensus, and they had done it! 

     The tree currently is residing in our indoor classroom.  It's easiest to move it out to the outdoor stage for play practice from there.  So far the children have decorated it with a name tag saying "The Sugar Jar Tree" and a series of short poems written on paper and hung on the branches.  Perhaps a giving idea will come up later, or maybe it won't.  Perhaps a new tradition is being forged.  Time and space will tell.

Sunday, 05 December 2021 15:30

Kindergarten Gratitude

     Each year around Thanksgiving the Kindergarten has written a poem around gratitude.  Daily gratitude is part of our school culture, and we often express appreciate for each other's help, work, and talents.  During the pandemic, I have seen this gratitude grow, as we've come to realize how precious our time together is.  Below is this year's Kindergarten poem of appreciation.  Each child had the opportunity to dictate their sentence to me, and I wrote it down.  This is the what they created.

Thankful

I am thankful for nature.

I am thankful that our whole community is stopping the big germs.

I am thankful for my family.

I am thankful for the sun.

I am thankful for the rain.

I am thankful for Kindergarten.

Antioch School Kindergarten 2021-22

 

 

Sunday, 07 November 2021 17:55

What did you do today?

Some children share many details of their days here at school, when they get home, while others process these events more internally. The question of "What did you do today?" may bring a flood of words, a shrug, or an answer of "I don't know." or "Played" or even "Nothing". So I thought I'd share some observations I've made over the last several weeks on what the Kindergartners are doing here each day. The children are very busy here at school. Here is what I am seeing. Their large motor activities have included monkey bars, the hanging bars, digging in the sand, riding trikes, swinging in the swings, tire swing, and hammocks, building with sticks, and raking leaves. There was some intense work last week on the teeter totter figuring out fulcrum, weight, and balance. Small motor activities have included lots of drawing, writing, and crafting. The fairy house has had improvements and repairs made to its roof and walls. It's been equipped with camping supplies and is currently being decorated for Christmas. There's been lots of cutting, stapling, gluing, and taping--especially taping. The children have used grass, onion grass, leaves, sticks, paper, string, rocks, and bones as craft materials. They have been burying and unearthing items, including bones, a fork, and a cement block. Their imaginative play has included being various animals, fairies, robots, super heroes, families, and a stuffy birthday party. They have also put on monologues for each other in a theater they created in our meadow. The monologues are a mix of stand up, mime, vaudeville, and a lot of slapstick. Many of the children are reading and making pattern predictions on our job chart. Some are exploring numerals and numbers using our calendar, even making their own calendar pages. Some children spend time each day looking at or reading books to themselves or others. Several children dictate notes to family or friends or stories for me to write for them. Some of these stories are shared with the group at our story time. While some of these activities are done in a solitary way, most are done with others. As a result, children are honing their skills each day as they figure out how to make plans together; share resources; negotiate and navigate differences and problems--there is a lot of this inherent in imaginative play, where they are creating whole worlds together; explore inclusion and exclusion; identify and share feelings; and set and reset boundaries as they do the mutual dance of learning to set firm, fair limits and learning to respect them. All of this takes a great deal of self-awareness, evaluation, and control. It also takes a great deal of energy, and this group is doing it beautifully all while managing the task of keeping themselves comfortable in an outdoor setting. It's a lot--I can't wait to see what they'll do next!
Sunday, 10 October 2021 18:26

A visit with Penny the beagle

     As we finished celebrating the color brown, my dogs, Penny and Ivy came to visit Kindergarten.  Several weeks before, Penny, a beagle, had had surgery to remove a tumor.  As a result, she now has three legs--two front and one back.  I had shared this at news time, and several Kindergartners asked questions about why, how could she walk, could she come to school to visit?  It is normal for children this age to be both curious and afraid of body differences that involve differently formed or missing body parts or different ways of moving.  I thought a visit from Penny might be a good way for the children to begin to be more comfortable with these types of differences. 

     On the afternoon of the visit, my partner brought the dogs to the playground to meet us.  On our way up to the playground, a couple children who usually are at the lead, hung back with me.  One of them confided, "We're both a little afraid about seeing a dog with three legs."  I explained that many people feel that way and reminded them that they could go close to see Penny or stay as far away as they wanted.  I reassured them that although Penny might look different, her body doesn't hurt her now. 

     Some of the children were interested in petting the dogs, and some were not.  A group of interested Younger Groupers joined us to visit the dogs.  Several of the children took turns walking Penny. The two children who hung back with me did get close to Penny, and one of them even took a turn walking her around the playground.  The other asked if Penny could come back, so she could have a turn to walk her, when she is more used to her.  Penny, who loves to be petted and to walk around sniffing things, thoroughly enjoyed herself and is looking forward to a return visit.   

Epilogue: The children enjoyed revisiting Agraria last week. Penny is trying out as our off site support dog, and many of the children like taking turns holding her leash. A couple children tried reading to her (she wasn't very attentive to print:), and I noticed several children coming over to her to give her a pet and to touch base, as they went through their day at Agraria. She will accompany us on our hikes in the Glen, trips to Agraria, and other off site trips as well.
Sunday, 26 September 2021 20:09

Getting to know Agraria

     On Friday this group of Kindergartners had their first visit to Agraria.  The weather was beautiful--sunny and warm enough by afternoon for some children to wade barefoot in Jacoby creek.  We started by setting up our circle area around the clay oven, which is under a roof. Next on our agenda was taking a look at the bathrooms in the big, old barn.  The toilets are composting, so instead of flushing each person needs to add a scoop of saw dust when they are done. 

     Finally we were ready to set out on a morning hike.  We started out by sampling some herbs in the garden--oregano, basil, thyme, and mint.  We made our way through the maze--a series of mowed trails in the meadow just beyond the offices.  We stayed together on a first pass through.  The children decided that they were comfortable exploring the maze on their own.  They had a plan to ask a friend if they got confused or turned around or to stand in one place and call my name.  They practiced yelling, "Lindie!" just to be sure, and then they were off to run through the maze on their own--no one needed to call my name.  From the maze we walked the trail to the persimmon circle for morning snack.  There were ripe and some not so ripe persimmons on the ground around the tree.  A couple Kindergartners sampled the red, ripe persimmons.  I think they taste like a grape crossed with a banana.  No Kindergartner was a fan. 

     After morning snack the children played in the wooded area behind the persimmon circle, which is mostly honey suckle under-story that creates an open space just the right size.  The remainder of the morning was spent at the rocky creek, where the children kept their boots on and stayed on the rocks due to the temperature and depth of the water.  After lunch the children made plans for a return visit to the maze, to explore Jacoby Creek where the depth and temperature would allow for barefoot wading, and to be back in our circle area before snack with enough time to use red clay and paint with poke berries.  We got to all but the poke berries, which we postponed until purple or pink days back at school.  It was a very full and busy day at Agraria!

Saturday, 11 September 2021 01:25

Beginnings

     I'm really enjoying observing this group of children exploring their environment and getting to know themselves and each other.  Here are some highlights from this past week.

  • The children have asked me to tell a story each day at snack time, so we are part way through the Gray Cat stories--a long time Kindergarten oral story tradition.
  • Some children are visiting the garden and the chickens daily--checking to make sure the hens have food, harvesting cucumbers, green peppers, and tomatoes, and planting radishes.
  • The children are already advancing their knowledge of problem solving--how to share a scarce resource; how to deal with bawdy humor (aka potty talk); how to use a wagon to move a heavy item when there aren't enough friends willing to lift it; and a novel solution to how to break a tie vote when deciding on activity plans--everyone's stuffy or stuffy substitute, which was anything from a drawing to a back pack, gets to vote also.  In case you're wondering, the tie was broken when a stuffy voted differently from their Kindergartner:) 
  • The children are learning the routines and taking on responsibilities--remembering to tell me their plans when they go into the building, the meadow, or anywhere that is out of bounds from where we currently are; figuring out the timing of the walk to the bathroom; reading the job chart to find out what their jobs are today and tomorrow; and learning to stuff hammocks back into their stuff sacks.

     They have made hike and shape day plans for next week, and even have field trip plans made for later this month and beyond!  I'm looking forward to seeing how it all turns out!

Thursday, 10 June 2021 21:24

Kindergarten Remembers--our year in the pandemic!

      At the end of every school year, I ask the children to complete the sentence "I remember. . ." with what they remember from that year to create a group poem and record of their time in Kindergarten.  I write down exactly what they say. I do re-order it to follow the flow of the year.  Hearing the words and memories of this year's group, I really know that despite everything, we did it--we had a successful year together outdoors during a pandemic!  Here is their poem.  Enjoy!

Kindergarten Remembers

I remember when I first came to school.

I remember when we were down in forest classroom.

I remember sticks.

I remember my friends.

I remember lunch.

I remember when we went on hikes.

I remember we saw that bunny.

I remember when we saw that snake.

I remember when we saw animals in the Glen, like the box turtle.

I remember when we builded nests.

I remember that snowy day it was a little hot, and the snow all melted.

I remember when we saw the first cicada.

I remember when we went to the Nursery classroom to see the tadpoles.

I remember the tree falling down.

I remember when I started smelling the stinky smell of the cicadas.

I remember every sunny day was the best day ever.

I remember every rainy day was the worst.

I remember every school year is the best school year.

I remember the good times of the school being the greatest place and the greatest time of my life.

By Kindergarten 2020-21

June 9, 2021

Monday, 31 May 2021 18:40

3 Princesses and 30,000 Cicadas

     Two major events happened recently in Kindergarten.  First, Kindergartners performed an original play they wrote together.  Initially, inspired by the Older Group (OG) musical, they re-enacted Alice in Wonderland on the stage in art/science.  They had me write down the cast and scenes.  They did a run through.  The next time they were in art/science, they got dress up clothes out for costumes and acted out a play they called The Four Princesses.  Later, when some children wanted to practice Alice in Wonderland again, other Kindergartners wanted to do The Four Princesses.  Their solution was to combine the two plays into a new play they entitled Alice and the Three Princesses.  They had a long meeting about who the audience would be.  Some children wanted a small audience, so eventually they settled on inviting Younger Group (YG) to a dress rehearsal and inviting OG and Kindergarten families to a performance the following day.  The dress rehearsal went wonderfully.  On the day of the performance, though, one child, who had a major part, was out sick.  After much conversation, they determined that the show must go on and arrived at a solution--one of the princesses would step into the part of the super hero, and another princess would take over the missing princess' lines, as well as deliver her own.  In that way, Alice and the Two Princesses was performed.

     The second major event was the emergence of the cicadas of brood X (ten).  We had been reading about this 17 year cyclical event, but it was still other-worldly to see thousands of cicadas crawl from the ground, shed their nymph skin and emerge as winged cicadas.  Kindergartners held handfuls of nymph shells and sometimes handfuls of winged cicadas, as well.  They dubbed each other "cicada whisperers" and marveled at each new cicada hatchery we found.  In about a week the males started to call.  There are three types in brood X, and we've heard all three calls in various places and times.  The ones that sounds like a UFO landing have been an almost constant background noise and like a rainbow seem to always be just over the next hill.  We can hear them especially well in the bottom of the valley (drainage swale) between our forest classroom and the cycle circle side of the playground.  Early on the laser sounding ones would crescendo in the afternoons in our own forest classroom.  Later that transitioned into the ones that sound like a sizzle, think water in hot oil, becoming the dominant afternoon voices.  17 years ago my son was in Nursery here at the Antioch School, when the cicadas made their last appearance.  This year he graduated from college.  Likewise, this year's Kindergartners will be young adults when the children of these cicadas emerge.  Kindergartners have been enthralled with this unique phenomenon--the visible life cycle of the cicadas this spring and the way they function as insect time markers for our incremental human growth.  See you in 17 years brood X!

Sunday, 18 April 2021 14:35

Rabbits and snakes and chickens--oh my! from the Glen to Agraria

     Kindergarten started the week with a hike in the Glen all the way to Meatball Rock.  The wildflowers were plentiful and gorgeous.  We are learning to identify as many as we can--spring beauties, violets, cut leafed toothwort, dutchmen's breeches, wild ginger, blood root, toad shade trillium, May apples, and twin leaf were all spotted.  This group loves names and naming.  If it has a name, they want to know it.  If it doesn't, they will name it! 

     It was a great hike for wildlife viewing as well.  First we saw a baby rabbit--just old enough to be on its own--hiding along the bike path.  Just inside the cave, a black rat snake lay on a rock shelf.  Amazingly it didn't slither away upon our arrival.  A parent consulted with a snake knowledgeable cousin and determined the snake was likely getting ready to molt making it too lethargic to get away quickly.

     Mid-week the Kindergartners celebrated Nn days by learning about how birds build nests.  Then they tried their hand at building their own bird nests--some hand held, small enough for a songbird, and some large enough to accommodate a Kindergartner-sized bird.  This traditional Kindergarten activity here has been a favorite of groups for decades and predates my time as Kindergarten teacher.  One Kindergartner declared, "I love birds!  I love this day!"

     Kindergarten ended the week with a long-awaited trip back to Agraria.  They spent an extended time in the morning in imaginative play in the wooded thicket behind the Persimmon Circle.  We visited the small, feeder creek before lunch.  After lunch, the children spent some time exploring a trail they call the obstacle course, which ends up at the end of the small creek.  The children also visited with the hens, who they discovered love dandelions.  Though we've been told the hens are all named Prudence, I over-heard Kindergartners looking for their favorites, who they've named Julia and Chloe.  We finished the day at Jacoby Creek, where some children are still working at how to extract a large piece of what appears to be quartz from between tree roots that have grown solidly around it along the creek bank.  It was a glorious day for the children at what has become one of their favorite places!

    

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