March and April in Middle Pre-Primary

Spring is here!  Has your child been singing our new spring song at home?  We are feeling so much joy and energy these days as the sunshine lightens up our days and the warmth brightens our moods.  We are finding excuses to dash outside whenever we can manage it – spending our time writing poems, doing activities, and tending to our sweet garden (stay tuned for news of radishes, kale, sunflowers, and sugar snap peas – all things that we’ve been sprouting inside our classroom in the hopes of harvesting before school is out for the summer!).  I hope you’ve been enjoying these first glimpses of spring just as much as the children have.

We began our Animals IPC unit by choosing and creating our own animal headbands and acting like animals on the Primary children’s playground.  The children do not play on the Primary playground during school hours, so this was a special treat!  There were ferocious tigers, cuddly koalas, trumpeting elephants, and an ox, among others.

One of the most interesting moments during our Animals unit came early on during one of our circle discussions.  I asked the children if they could tell me where animals lived, and they listed “the zoo” and “the jungle.”  It’s true, there are many animals that live in zoos and jungles…but I wanted to work with the children on understanding that animals live right here alongside us, even in cities like Ghent.  And so we dove right into a study of Belgian animals.  We talked about Belgian Blue cows, fire salamanders, badgers, hedgehogs, magpies, Western Jackdaws, wood pigeons, moles, and foxes.  Every time the magpies or Western Jackdaws visited us in the yard of ISG, the children leapt up and raced to the windows to see!  We even hosted a slug in our classroom for an afternoon and conducted some science experiments.  We placed the slug on a piece of paper in front of three different plants – which one would the slug move towards?  Why?  We made our predictions and then observed as the slug headed towards a clump of moss.  Why study slugs when there are zebras and cheetahs in this world?  I believe that there is so much power in learning the names of the plants and animals that surround us, right here and right now – it connects us all to our home in a new way.  More on that later…

Then the children each chose a Belgian animal to focus on and study, and they painted portraits of these animals.  We talked about what colours the animals were, what habitats they need to live, and what the animals eat.  The children showed their animals and talked about them at assembly in front of all of their peers here at ISG – they were proud of their work and their learning over the course of the unit!

We had fantastic parent volunteers during this unit – a big big thank you to Ellen, Martina, Nathalie, Catherine, and Yasmine.  Ellen brought in their sweet family dog, Roxy, for the children to observe at circle.  They took turns petting the dog and even got to feed her little treats.  I think we need a class pet – the children were so joyous with Roxy around.  Martina (and little Marco!) brought in a whole library of books about Australian animals and read us a few stories.  They even shared special Australian chocolates called Tim Tams with us, let us touch and learn about some of the animals that are only found in Australia, and brought in some Italian goodies to send to our pen pal school.  Nathalie and her boys generously let us borrow a huge bag full of animals for the children to sort, talk about, touch, and play with.  Catherine read a special story to us during our Word Adventure week, and the children were enchanted by the idea of trees pruned to look like owls and other animals.  Yasmine brought in some magazines from home for our ongoing pen pal project (we are just about ready to put a box in the mail!  The children have been working so hard on letters, artwork, and special things to send to their friends across the world.).  Thank you all for your participation and involvement this unit – it’s been a treat to share our space with you and borrow your ideas, energy, and resources from home.

We celebrated two birthdays this unit – Aya and Rakan, both of whom turned five years old!  We have developed quite a fun routine with the children when it comes to birthday parties:  the whole class helps rearrange the tables and chairs into one long table, then we wash our hands and let our birthday friend serve us whatever treats they brought.  A huge highlight for the children is singing happy birthday, of course – it’s amazing how many of the children already knew all of the lyrics to the song before they even spoke much English.  In other news, our dear friend Maali returned to Saudi Arabia with her mother for a few months, but we will hopefully see her for the last few weeks of school.  The children are missing their friend and filling her drawer up with artwork and letters – we hope it will be a sweet surprise for Maali upon her return.

We navigated a bittersweet transition in Middle Pre-Primary at the end of our Animals unit, with our very own Miss Nadia taking over lead teaching duties and Miss Marta continuing to provide such wonderful support and stability for the children (she is also an amazing photographer and documents the children's learning - but unfortunately that means that we don't have any photos of HER with the children, because she's usually behind the lens!). The children have been fantastic and adaptable, and we couldn’t have asked for a smoother change.  Miss Nadia is thrilled to be with the children, and they are equally thrilled with her bright energy and fun-loving attitude. I have so appreciated all of your hugs, well wishes, and kindness, and want to thank you all for your understanding and support through this change.  Your smiles and words of encouragement have meant the world to me and solidified just how amazing of a community ISG truly is.

Before I turn it over to Miss Nadia, just a few last thoughts about children and the natural world, a topic that is close to my heart…It is so, so valuable to connect your children to the world around them.  Learning the names of plants and animals that you encounter every day, right here in Gent, is a spark for their curiosity and love of this beautiful world.  It brings abstract concepts like environmental awareness into children's real, every day experiences.  Pause for a moment to watch a slug glide along.  Learn the names of trees, feel their bark, listen to their tree songs (the children have loved doing this at school!).  Notice the changes in the seasons.  Connect your children to their every day world, time after time, in many repeated small moments.  Wonder and marvel and appreciate and respect.  There is so much to see and appreciate, even in the middle of a city!  And if you have a moment, pick up a copy of one of my favourite books of all time: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. 

On that note, here's a final word from Miss Nadia:

I would like to share with you, that I am very glad to be part of this class! Though it was a sudden change,  I spend  all this academic year in this caring and supportive community and that makes me feel that I am still “home”. I left Miss Mia’ s class, but I am still here at ISG. So, I strongly believe in the same values. Respect, communication, cooperation and a warm approach are the keys to grow closer to your children and earn their trust whenever they need me.  I am really excited and  determined to keep on learning with your children, as they did all the previous months. Miss Sophie is a great teacher and she gave me all the appropriate notes. I have to confess that all the children changed a lot! Miss Sophie worked a lot with them and I realize it every day. They advanced, they know the rules, and it is really amazing that they remember the rules and the routine in the class and they are willing to talk with their friends politely and gently.  I am surprised by their progress.  I was with your children the first month and since then we have had a lovely relationship during all these months. From my first day as lead teacher, I felt so well accepted by your children, the atmosphere was welcoming and not at all like a first day. We continued and completed with joy and excitement the Animals IPC Unit. We grabbed any chance to pretend that we were some animals which live in Belgium and we played a lot in the yard. Let’s have two wonderful months and I will be happy to share with all the parents their ideas and thoughts for our next unit. Thank you very much for your warm acceptance