Monday, July 30, 2012

Montessori Musings: Treasure Box for a Baby

Since becoming more knowledgeable about Montessori, I have also become a lot more choosy about the gifts that I give other children. My goal is to give age-appropriate gifts and things contribute to a child's overall development. When a friend recently had a baby boy, we decided to make a "treasure box" for him that his parents can begin to share with him now and that he can later explore on his own with parental supervision.

Montessori "treasure boxes"(also known as "treasure baskets") are part of the sensory materials that contribute to a child's overall development and ability to make sense of their world. The objects inside should stimulate the five senses and be large enough not to be swallowed. Montessorian Tim Seldin writes in How to Raise an Amazing Child that a child's brain receives stimulation through discriminating between the properties of different objects and this stimulation is essential to brain development and function. Often treasure boxes have a theme and we chose a nature one for ours.

We include the following items:
- birch tree stick
- seashell
- acorn
- pine cone
- rock
- wooden peg doll
- wool
- brightly colored pieces of felt

We chose a pretty box to put everything in and my daughter made a handprint with paint to decorate it. My son then wrote out some instructions for the baby's parents on what to do with the items inside.

My son's hand-written instructions in German.
My friend, the baby's mother, was quite pleased, and Baby seemed highly interested as well when we gently rubbed some of objects against his cheek.: ) 

Linked to

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Guest Post: Chameleon Godly Play

We're finally back from our vacation in southern Bohemia (pictures to come!) and my friend Storyteller posted a guest entry from me over at Wonderful in an Easter Kind of Way. It's about my experience of adapting Godly Play into all kinds of different settings. 

At school.
Chameleons have always fascinated me. They change their color in various social situations and to blend in with their current setting. They’re also a good metaphor to describe my life since it was „taken over“ by Godly Play several years ago.

One of the many personality tests that I have taken over the years describes me as a „Maximizer“. That means that when I put the time and effort into learning something, I figure out how to use the heck out of it.: ) Much like a chameleon, I figure out how to make whatever I am doing blend with the current setting.

Please join us here to read the whole article!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Kindergarten Graduation / Kindergarten-Abschied

While I do try most of the time to stick to the main topics of this blog, sometimes it does indeed become a chronicle of our daily lives in Berlin. And there are some special events that I want to savor and sharing them with you helps me to do so. Meistens versuche ich streng bei den Themen diesen Blogs zu bleiben, aber es gibt doch besondere Momenten in unserem täglichen Leben in Berlin, die ich gern mit euch teilen möchte. 

Fun times with good friends in kindergarten.
On June 26, my daughter graduated from kindergarten. In German, the word "kindergarten" actually means preschool and is an important part of a child's life in our part of Germany. In most kindergartens, there is a "Vorschule" - literally "preschool" - but in German it refers to the year before a child starts school. It was a bittersweet, special moment for us all. My daughter is excited about starting school, but more than a little sad to say good-bye to her teachers who have invested four years into getting her ready for school. The kindergarten has been family for her, her older brother before her, and for us as parents. Am 26.6 musste meine Tochter sich mit ihrem beliebten Kindergarten verabschieden. Es war ein Event mit gemischten Emotionen: einerseits war sie heilfroh endlich Schulkind zu sein, aber andereseits war sie voll traurig Abschied von den ErzieherInnen zu nehmen, die 4 Jahre in ihr investiert haben um sie für die Schule vorzubereiten. Der Kindergarten war eine Familie für sie, für ihren älteren Bruder vor ihr, und für uns gewesen.

Our kindergarten is a Nature Kindergarten where the children's lives revolve around the seasons and being outdoors. The teachers are not dogmatic about any particular educational direction, but combine elements of Waldorf, Montessori, and other educational philosophies with nature pedagogy. At the end of each year, the graduating children put on a program for the others. Unser Kindergarten ist ein "Naturkindergarten", wo der alltägliche Rhythmus um die Jahreszeiten und die Natur dreht. Die ErzieherInnen sind nicht dogmatisch in einer bestimmten Pädagogik gewürzelt, sondern kombinieren Elementen von Waldorf, Montessori und anderen Bildungsrichtungen mit Naturpädagogik. Am Ende des Jahres machen die Vorschulkinder ein Programm für die anderen Kinder und Eltern.

Playing Masha.
My daughter and the other boy graduating put on a puppet show of the fairy tale, Masha and the Bear, with the help of their teacher, Birgit (whose ideas I've often shared on this blog). Unsere Tochter und das andere Vorschulkind spielten Puppentheater - Mascha und der Bär - mit Hilfe von ihrer Erzieherin, Birgit (deren Ideen ich bei diesem Blog öfter weitergegeben haben). 

Masha escapes from the bear and is reunited with her grandparents.

The oldest children also complete a fire safety course each year. They learn various safety procedures in lighting and putting out a fire. They are also taught to respect fire, but not be afraid of it either. Die Vorschulkinder absolvieren jedes Jahr einen Feuersicherheitskurs, wo sie lernen richtig mit Feuer umzugehen. Sie lernen dabei Respekt vor Feuer zu haben, aber keine Angst oder Panik zu kriegen. 

Lighting the fire. 
Two successfully lit fires.

At the end of the program, the children are "knighted" as schoolchildren. Zum Schluss werden die Kinder offiziell als Schulkinder mit einem Schwert "geschlagen".

Being "knighted" as a school child!.
My daughter wasn't the only one that the teachers, children and other parents were saying farewell to on this day. Our kindergarten is a special type called a "Parent-Initiative". That means that we parents do all of the behind-the-scenes work like accounting, carpentry, and shopping for the kindergarten. We actually helped start the kindergarten and was there during the hard times when we weren't sure if this enterprise was going to make it. I learned so much from this experience. About German culture in Berlin. About nature pedagogy. About building things that last. This kindergarten inspired and nurtured my love of nature pedagogy that I now bring into my own work with children. Unsere Tochter war night die einzige, die am dem Tag verabschiedet wurde. Da unser Kindergarten "Eltern-Initiativ" ist, mussten ich und mein Mann auch Abschied nehmen. Wir waren Mitgründer gewesen und waren dabei, als alle damals im Zweifel waren, ob es mit der Kita weitergeht. Ich habe persönlich soviel von dieser Erfahrung gelernt. Über die deutsche Kultur in Berlin. Über Naturpädagogik. Über nachhaltigen Aufbau. Dieser Kindergarten hat mich inspiriert Naturpädagogik in die eigene Arbeit mit Kindern einzubeziehen. 

Me with Sali, one of our teachers.
One of the teachers, Alex, led everyone in a farewell song for us: "Bye-Bye, Miss American Pie". He made up new verses about us and changed the chorus to " . . . this will be the day that we cry." And cry we did. I balled like a baby. Tears of thankfulness for the friendships and years that we had together and tears of sadness at leaving. Tears of happiness for my baby girl who is growing up and tears of sadness that I no longer have a preschooler at home. Alex, einer der Erzieher, hat das Lied "Bye-Bye, Miss American Pie" umgewandelt in ein Lied über uns. Statt " . . . this will be the day that we die", haben wir gesungen " . . . this will be the day that we cry." Und ich habe geweint wie ein Baby. Weil ich dankbar für die Jahre und Freundschaften bin und weil ich Tschüss sagen muss. Aus Freude, dass mein Kind wächst und aus Trauer, dass ich kein mehr Kitakinder zu Hause habe. 

In the words of the Flaming Lips (who I don't normally quote on this blog!!), " . . . life goes fast, it's hard to make the good things last", so let's fully enjoy every moment while we can and realize that it is a gift from God! Die lieblings Band von meinem Mann, die Flaming Lips singen,  " . . . life goes fast, it's hard to make the good things last", so lässt uns lernen jeden Moment, jede Phase als Geschenk des Herrn zu schätzen. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Parable of the Two Sons

A few weeks ago, I shared the Young Children and Worship story, The Parable of the Two Sons, from Matthew 21:28-32. In general, I feel that YCW stories lack a certain depth that Godly Play stories possess. Following Jesus, the second of the YCW books, says that it is a resource for three to eight-year-olds. Godly Play, on the other hand, can be quite effective with adults. I do tell YCW stories, though, mainly because there are some interesting biblical accounts that are not included in the GP "canon". Like this one.

At first glance, one might think this is the story better known as the Prodigal Son. However, Jesus told this parable when the religious leaders of his day wanted to know where his authority came from. In this parable, a father asks one son to work in the vineyard. The son says, "No," but then changes his mind and harvests the grapes anyway. The second son, when asked, replies, "Yes," but then refuses to do the work.

The story ends with Jesus telling the religious leaders that the tax collectors and sinners are like the first son and that they themselves are like the second son. The tax collectors and sinners changed their ways and will come into the Kingdom of God first.

On the one hand, the YCW story does very clearly explain the story to the children who are listening. Indeed, the children who heard this story were paying very close attention, even an 8-year-old who was present. But somehow, the story was more of a "retelling" of the parable and something was missing for me. The mystery was lacking and there wasn't much to wonder about at the end. However, I would definitely tell it again to children, to help them become familiar with this story.

During the Wondering, one of the children present seemed to identify with the second son. "Because I don't always obey my parents," he said. Interesting . . . 

The materials above are from Worship Workworks. While beautiful, they were very expensive and were a gift from my mother to our children's ministry.

Do any of you do YCW as well as Godly Play? How do you feel about the differences?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sand, Ziggurats and the Tower of Babel

A couple of days ago, I sent my family out to the playground, so I could finish up a few chores at home. When I finally joined them, they were building a sand castle.

Me: "Hey guys, that's a really cool sand castle you're building"

My 8-year-old son (matter-of-factly): "It's a ziggurat, Mom." 

Okay, not the answer I was expecting! 

I am fairly certain that ziggurats were not on my mind at age 8, much less attempting to build one. But he had just read about the Tower of Babel in his Adventure Bible that morning, and the historical snippet to the text explained that the famous tower had probably been a type of ziggurat and included a picture. 

The ziggurat sand castle and its architects.

Don't you love how children creatively explore the things on their mind?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Godly Play: Baptism / Die Taufe

Two weeks ago, we heard the Godly Play story about baptism. This story is from the genre of liturgical stories and combines teaching about the Trinity with what happens when a person is baptized. 

This is the second time I've told the story and it is always a hit with the kids, because it involves water and they can "baptize"the dolls afterwards.

In our church tradition, we don't baptize babies (instead we have a "blessing" in which the parents commit to a Christian upbringing. Rather than using a baby doll for this story (which most GP storytellers use), I use a dollhouse figure. Last time, I had an adult woman figure. But this time, I decided to use 2 figures of older children, a boy and a girl, to see if the children would identify with them more.

Although I asked my daughter beforehand if it was okay to use her dolls, she had a bit of a crisis when I started "baptizing" the dolls. So I ended up having to tell the story a second time, since the other child present couldn't concentrate because of her interruptions. (This is why it is good to have a "door person". I have a door person for larger groups at school, but not at our church brunches.)

There is no official "wondering" time with this story, but the kids wanted to hear the story of my baptism, since I was the only one present who had actually been baptized.

When our group is this small, the kids don't usually play much with the story materials, but go straight to the art supplies. This time, though, the combination of water, sand and candles was too much fun to pass up.

I will be curious to see what conversations come up in the next few weeks about baptism!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Great Link: Children and Social Justice

I just read a wonderful article by David Csinos, the author of Children's Ministry that Fits, and Brian McClaren about involving children in social justice that I want to pass on to you. It's called:

The authors eloquently express a value that is very dear to me. Faith leads to action. Instead of locking our children in a golden tower to protect them, we can empower them to join God in renewing the world. We can show them that the world is not a scary place, but rather a place that is at times beautiful and at times fragile, hurting, and broken. A place that needs God. A place that needs his children to do his work in bringing lasting change. 

Please read and let me know your thoughts!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Drawing Layers: Butterflies and Flowers

One difficult concept for children in learning to draw is to mentally transform 3-D objects into two-dimensional ones. 
Betty Edwards talks about visually "flattening out the layers" in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  She has the reader use a transparency to hold up to an object and then trace said object with a non-permanent marker in order to see the flattening process. While very useful advice for an adult or older child, I find this to be a bit too complex for younger children.

Instead, the advice from Mona Brookes in Drawing with Children has proved most helpful to me in teaching my own children what to do. Her advice is to teach children to always draw what is "in front" first and then to draw the things in the background next. After drawing the object in front, you "skip over" it with your pencil to draw the object in the background, continuing with your line until it is finished. 

To practice this concept, I chose one of my daughter's favorite subjects: flowers and butterflies. I often use graphics from the internet and found this graphic (actually a crochet pattern) of a butterfly, bee and ladybug in front of a flower. We first drew the butterfly, ladybug and bee. Then, I showed her how draw the flower and "skip over" the parts of the flower hidden by the bugs. Her finishing touch was to add a house and people. It was a pretty exhausting process for her, but if you compare her drawing above to the original, it's impressive for a 6-year-old. 

Linked to The Magic Onions