What Kids Believe and Why it Matters

At after-school this year, one of our goals has been to see growth in the kids’ ownership of their learning.  Research has shown that when a child feels his intelligence is “fixed”—that you get whatever smarts you get and there’s not much you can do about it—he develops a passive and risk-averse approach to learning.  Why try if your efforts don’t amount to much?  And when children believe this about learning, it becomes true for them.  They do not grow, take risks and learn to their greatest potential.  They avoid challenges, give up more easily and their internal motivation dwindles.

On the other hand, if a child develops a “growth” mindset about his or her learning—believing that the mind is like a muscle you can strengthen through exercise—they become active, engaged learners.  A child who believes this about his or her mind seeks challenges.  In their failures, struggles and weaknesses, they see opportunities to grow.  They become their own educational advocates.  Rather than passive vessels of instruction, they become curious problem-solvers, driven from within.  This is what we want for the kids at after-school.  Such a shift in mindset would help them not just in their work with us but throughout their life.

Ibrahima shows Sara his work toward his goal of practicing state-test style writing responses.

Ibrahima shows Sara his work toward his goal of practicing state-test style writing responses.

We’ve been encouraged by signs of real change in mindset in many of the after-school kids recently.  Each child meets weekly with a leader to reflect on their learning. The child is helped to consider their personal strengths and struggles and to set a clear, actionable goal for the coming week.  We have seen the kids take such ownership of these conferences.  They keep their binders organized and jump into their goals once their homework is done.  They feel proud and excited to move their reached goals into a special section once achieved.

Kids work on personal learning goals they have set for themselves.

Kids work on personal learning goals they have set for themselves.

About a month ago, Moenae, one of our 1st graders consistently struggled to complete her homework in the allotted hour.  When the clock struck 5:00, she became destitute, moaning at the thought of having to do the rest at home.  She saw herself as a helpless victim of her own unchangeable abilities.

However, in her weekly conference, her leader helped her to consider what might be slowing her down.  What strategies and skills could she work on to try an overcome this seemingly impossible problem?  From this conversation, Moenae set several goals.  She realized that her wandering eyes and pencil were getting in her way so she committed to keep them both on her page at all times.  She also realized that after finishing one problem or assignment, she would lose her work flow and drift into daydreaming.  She set a goal to promptly move on to the next task after one was finished.  Her leader helped her record her list of strategies and gave her a copy.  Over the course of the next week, Moenae kept her goal list on the table, right next to her work.  When she got distracted, her leader would simply remind her of her goals.  She would scurry back to work.  After a few days, we noticed Moe glancing at her list independently and re-focusing herself.

By the end of the week, Moenae was consistently finishing her homework with time to spare.  There was a time when Moenae insisted—and genuinely believed—that she was not capable of finishing her work in an hour.  Now, if you ask her if she’ll be able to finish, she says, “Yeah, of course,” as if it had never crossed her mind to doubt it.  This past week, she told her leader that she wants to start using her focus strategies at school too.

Small as it may seem, this and the other simple signs of shifting mindset are so significant.They show is that the kids are taking their learning into their own hands.  They are gaining confidence and motivation.  They are developing an outlook that will help them bounce back from failures and overcome struggles.  We are so thankful for these encouraging glimpses and pray that it will grow in the months and years to come!

The juniors goal conference schedule and binders; these have helped them to manages their goals more and more independently.

The juniors goal conference schedule and binders; these have helped them to manages their goals more and more independently.

Pretend Play

When you think of cognitive development in the preschool years, the first word that pops into your mind might not be “play.” You might think of learning letters, numbers, colors, shapes, or a multitude of other academic concepts. These are obviously important in a little one’s brain growth, but, increasingly, child development experts are recognizing the importance of imagination and pretend play in a preschooler’s day.

Isaiah uses moon sand to create an island with trees for his dinosaurs

Isaiah uses moon sand to create an island with trees for his dinosaurs

In the past, imagination was thought of as a way for kids to escape from reality, and as they grew, fantasies would hopefully be pushed aside as they learned to deal with the real world. But the truth is, a strong imagination helps children understand reality in many ways. Imagination is necessary for learning about people or events we don’t directly experience, such as history or current events happening far away from home. Being able to imagine Benjamin Franklin flying his kite in that lightning storm, or Van Gogh painting a masterpiece in his famous little yellow house makes the story come alive in ways that simply hearing words could never do.

Tija and Jalice play "family" as they care for their dolls.

Tija and Jalice play “family” as they care for their dolls.

Le'Lani plays "family" with her baby doll too!

Le’Lani plays “family” with her baby doll too!

At A House on Beekman Preschool, creativity and imagination are encouraged throughout the day. We brainstorm new characters to add to stories during large group time. We talk in detail about what we are cooking in the kitchen area, why our baby dolls are crying or laughing and how to help them, and what the play dough shapes look like during center time. We act out stories on the playground and talk about what the birds we hear chirping might be doing. We know that imagination fosters not only creativity, but also language development, understanding that our thoughts might not be someone else’s thoughts (perspective-taking), social understanding, and the ability to integrate our emotions into our words and thoughts.

Ashanti and Harmony build a zoo with some of our volunteers!

Ashanti and Harmony build a zoo with some of our volunteers!

It’s no wonder that pretend play comes so naturally to children…God built this special ability into each little one, knowing that as they are having fun interacting with the world, they are also learning, growing and becoming well-rounded and integrated adults!

Mahogany, Dwayne, Jalice and Harmony build a subway car from chairs

Mahogany, Dwayne, Jalice and Harmony build a subway car from chairs

 


Home Start Service at Babies to Three!

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Our Home Start Service prepares young children for preschool by exploring creative curriculum at home with hands on activities. These activities are learning games and songs specially designed to build the kinds of skills that lead to lifelong learning.

Our home visits work around the family’s schedule. It’s wonderful to see these families in their natural environment and we are always greeted by a big smile on the children’s faces as we walk through the door.

Today, we visited Alec, who will be three in July. Together, along with Alec’s mom, we enjoyed an activity called “Giving One to Each.”

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This is a simple but purposeful activity which involves saying to Alec “Alec put the napkin next to the bowl” introducing him to the concept of accommodation. Also, placing one napkin for each bowl provides an opportunity to practice ‘one to one correspondence’ which is the basis of counting and other math skills.

He will also enjoy helping with grown-ups, and following simple one to two step commands.

Theses activities are ideal for families to practice during the ongoing week as they don’t require any special toys and materials and the repetition encourages concept embedding.

Home visits are a wonderful reminder for us that the parent is the child’s first and most important teacher. We, at Babies to Three, are happy to provide resources and encouragement so that this learning relationship is developed and fostered.

We’re Hiring!

HEAD TEACHER/ASSISTANT DIRECTOR

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A House on Beekman started a preschool program in Sept 2014 that fosters the development of 3-5 year olds and prepares them to enter Kindergarten. We are seeking a Head Teacher that will also serve as the Assistant Director to continue to lead our children in their academic, social, emotional and spiritual development.

QUALIFICATIONS:

*Valid Teacher Certification in Early Childhood Education or Related Field (must be in process of obtaining NYC certification if from another state)

*3 or more years experience teaching children under 6 years of age

ROLE DESCRIPTION:

*Head Teacher of 4-5 year old students

*Serve as Director when Head Director is not present

*Assist Director in Curriculum Development/Child Assessment/Parent Support

*Communicate with parents and encourage their input regarding the growth and development of their children

*Accompany Director on home visits

*Hold 2 parent/teacher conferences per child per year

*Actively participate in staff training and development

KEY CHARACTERISTICS:

*Aligns with the mission and vision of A House on Beekman

*Builds and maintains a positive, nurturing and supportive relationship with children and families

*Maintains a safe and healthy environment in the classroom and on the playground

*Possesses the ability to set and maintain professional boundaries with families

 

Email sloan@ahouseonbeekman.org with your cover letter and resume to apply!


Becoming Good Stewards!

When choosing our after-school character trait of the month, we try to reflect on what we’ve been noticing in our work with the kids—what seems to be on their minds, what they are currently curious about, what are they struggling with—and be responsive to that.  Some months have been obvious; for example, gratitude in November as we celebrate Thanksgiving and generosity in December as we celebrate Christmas.

Our focus for February all began with a pencil sharpener.  We had noticed that our electric pencil sharpeners were constantly breaking.  We realized that this was often because kids were shoving pencils in eraser-end first!  It was a relatively small problem, but it got us thinking about the importance of caring for the things we’ve been blessed with.  This led us to the topic of stewardship—how are we to care for and use the resources and opportunities God puts in our lives?

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When teaching about stewardship, especially to kids, it can be easy to focus simply on how we spend our money.  But over the course of the month, we discovered that stewardship means so much more than that.  The leaders began the study by acting out Jesus’ “Parable of the Talents.”  The kids cracked up at Jassen’s nervous servant character and Seanette’s shocked and dismayed master, reacting to his “buried talent.”

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We spent the next month thinking about what this message meant for each of our lives.  The kids were helped to ask themselves questions they had never reflected on before—what has God given and entrusted to me?  What gifts? What talents?  What relationships has he put in my life?  What opportunities has he placed in my path?  And most importantly—what would it look like to boldly and thoughtfully use those gifts to bring him glory and join in his incredible work of renewal?

Even our littlest kids discovered that they have talents and special unique gifts that can be used to help and bring joy to others—from computer skills to joyful singing to acrobat moves!

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The month culminated in a special opportunity to speak and perform at A House on Beekman’s Winter Benefit this upcoming Tuesday.  The after-school dance team and the older kids in the program have been preparing and rehearsing to share their skills and their stories.  They are eager to get on that stage and boldly use the gifts God has given them.

We’ve come to realize that stewardship is about so much more than tithing.  It’s about recognizing what an honor it is that God trusts us with time, opportunity and ability and encourages us to get out there and use it.  This is true of each child at after-school and, over these past weeks, we’ve seen them embrace and celebrate it. To think that it all started with a broken pencil sharpener!