Babies to Three to Barretto Park!

At Babies to Three we are unashamed about using every resource available to us: our refurbished space on Jackson Avenue; our selfless volunteers; our parents who come and share their experience.

And, on a brisk and bright October morning, we decided to take advantage of another great local resource: Barretto Point Park in the South Bronx.

Gathering together in our kitchen space, at 9.30am, parents, children and volunteers put together nutritious lunches and then made our way to this unheralded park, which sits on the East River, south of Hunts Point. After a short journey by train and bus, we were greeted by some beautiful Fall colors, all radiant in the bright sunshine.

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Unknown to some of our families, and never before visited by this staff member, Barretto Point Park has wonderful views across the East River, an interesting history, and plenty of purpose-built play areas for children to slide and swing. And like kids to candy (only much healthier!), our children rushed onto the climbing frames and across the soft play surfaces.

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The children initially explored these areas and then took the plunge – building their confidence by repeatedly climbing steps, walking across wooden crossing pathways, and burning energy in the best way possible by enjoying an outdoors experience that was fun and safe.

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For the parents, carers and volunteers alike – lunch would prove to be a much-needed respite! This was also an opportunity for us to get to know one another better – whether traveling together, playing with the children or sharing a sandwich

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By the time we started to make our way home, all of us had a sense of contented tiredness. Adults and children had engaged in a trip that involved exploration and interaction… We’d travelled and talked… maybe even learned something new. All the time, the bonds of friendship are growing – and all thanks to a lovely park in the South Bronx.

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We Solved the Problem!

One of the most exciting parts of our curriculum is a process of conflict resolution that we use on a daily basis. When children encounter problems with other children or adults, they are trained to work through steps that help them to express their feelings and find a solution to the problem together.

We have been amazed at the growth we’ve seen in this area. Sometimes the children decide, “We can share!” Other times a child’s empathy comes through. “He can have my toy.” And some of the negotiations are quite complex. “I will use the blue fish and you can use the blue boat. Then we’ll both have blue.”

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Mahogany and Jalice solve a problem by deciding to share the dolls.

We decided to try using our steps to solve large group problems that involve all of the children. Together, they suggest solutions that might work. The picture below shows our problem on the left, where the teacher and some children are feeling sad because other children are shouting out while a book is being read. “How can we solve this problem?” we asked the students.

Skyla held up her hand and said, “Stop!” When we asked her what needed to stop, she said, “Yelling!” So our first solution shows a hand and a “no yelling” sign.

“What if someone really wants to say something while the book is being read? Is there a way to show you have something to say without shouting out?”

The solution that was agreed upon was to put your hand on your head if you really want to speak. So we added the solution with a picture of a hand on a head. Now, when children shout out we point to the solutions to remind them what we decided together.FullSizeRender-3The next problem we brought to the group involved messy centers. When children went to a new area to explore, they often found toys and supplies left everywhere. When asked how we could solve this, several children stated, “We can clean up!”

“When should we clean up? Should we run to a new center first and clean up at the end?”

Kwali shouted, “No! We should clean up first before we leave!”

The kids noticed how happy the boy looked as the solution was drawn. “You solved the problem together! Let’s practice this during our center time!”

FullSizeRender-2It’s empowering to be part of finding a solution. The satisfaction of hearing, “You solved the problem!” is second to none. We are proud of our little problem-solvers, and pray that these skills will follow them throughout their school careers!


Portrait of a Passion Class

A lot has changed since our first year of after-school.  We are constantly trying new things, seeking to learn from the kids, their families, the neighborhood, and, most of all, God.  But there is one element that has remained constant–Passion classes.  Each Friday since our very first week, the kids at after-school have had opportunities to try out different extra-curricular activities.  We’ve dabbled in rock climbing, French cuisine, dance, origami, theater, poetry, violin, cooking and more.

These Passion classes have blossomed out of the interests and hobbies of the staff, volunteers and, more recently, the parents.  We have found that the value of the Passion classes comes not just from the activity itself but from the opportunity for the kids to see adults who are jazzed about something–to see that it is a good thing to get excited and to care about how you spend your time.  We’ve found that the kids can get excited and curious about even the most seemingly basic activities if an adult they look up to is pumped about it.

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So much can happen in a single Passion class.  This past Friday’s baseball class is a great example.  Afterschool staff member Clarissa led 8 kids in the basics of baseball.  Because we do our best to give the kids their top choice, the groups usually end up with quite a mixture of ages.  Clarissa had kids all the way from kindergarten to 5th grade, and had a mix of boys and girls.  In their time together, yes, the kids learned about baseball, but they had opportunities to learn much more as well.  The older kids had opportunities to encourage kindergartener D’sean and first-grader Kenyen as they tried out batting for the first time ever.  One young lady who started out refusing to step up to the plate for fear that the boys would make fun of her was hitting a home run by the end of the game.  Jeremiah, now in his third year of after-school, showed how much he has grown when he struck out but instead of lashing out or giving up, just smiled to his coach, shrugged his shoulders, and hoped to do better on his next turn.  And they all got to see Clarissa confidently lead them in what some may have previously thought was a “boys'” activity.

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We are so grateful for your prayers and support in making Passion class Fridays possible.  God takes these simple Friday activities and uses them in such creative ways–to create bonds, to resolve conflicts, to awaken dreams and open up minds.

If you would like to learn more about leading a Passion class in a topic or activity of your choosing, please contact lauren@ahouseonbeekman.org


First Steps at Babies to Three


After some mid-summer labor, by a team of extraordinary volunteer decorators, our workspace had been transformed into a comfortable, clean, family-friendly setting. At the same time as we set about refurbishing the space, my colleague Frances and I were also engaged in preparing a program that would be most responsive to the needs of our immediate community.

 

We planned to offer services that would stretch from pregnancy right up until these children will be ready for Pre-school.

On Mondays, our focus would be classes for those who are pregnant or recently delivered of their babies.

On Tuesday mornings, parents, grand-parents, carers and their children could join us to enjoy play, music and storytime and also receive structured teaching on topics ranging from important milestones in childhood development to healthy nutrition.

On Thursdays we would be running a Parenting Course that is recognized by local and state government.

And so, we walked round the blocks in the immediate area, extending a welcome to those who might benefit from these programs and also posting flyers around the community.

But then came the real test!

A warm and welcoming building, carefully prepared programs and enthusiastic staff and volunteers are of no value if people don’t attend.

Thankfully, they have… and since mid-September we have seen not only a steady increase in numbers but also parents expressing real gratitude for the services and support that we are offering in this part of the South Bronx.

 

Image-1In addition, we held a gathering for our wonderful team of volunteers who attend faithfully week-by-week to offer childcare so that parents and caretakers can be released from their immediate responsibilities and are able to concentrate on the topics we cover.

Our wonderful Babies to Three volunteers.

Our wonderful Babies to Three volunteers!

 

These are early days – but we could not be more thankful nor more enthused at the prospect of serving young families at A House on Beekman.


Happy Places!

Everything feels better when you’re happy about where you are. It’s true for your home, vacation destinations, and certainly the place where you go to learn and work each day.

As our 3 and 4 year old program has started this month, I am grateful for so many things. But my number one reason for gratitude is the fact that A House on Beekman is considered a Happy Place for every single one of our children.

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Our kids are smiling when they arrive each morning. They’re still smiling in large group time, center time, recess and lunch. And the best time to observe that the smiles are still present is at the end of the day, when they hug their friends goodbye and cheerfully shout “See you tomorrow!” as they head down the sidewalk.

When learning occurs in your “Happy Place,” it means the brain associates learning with positive, good things. And when this happens in the preschool years, the chance of future school success drastically increases.

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We love that our 3 and 4 year olds are happy here. We love watching friendships blossom and minds and hearts grow right in front of our eyes. We love witnessing what Jesus spoke of in the book of Matthew, when He said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to wondrous little creatures such as these.

Thanks for your love, support and prayers. They are helping to make this Happy Place a reality for 15 special kids!

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