January 2020 Newsletter – Exploring Loose Parts: Benefits of Loose Parts

Because loose parts can be used in many different ways, they are a great tool for strengthening all areas of development.  Sometimes, children will use materials in ways that support hand-eye coordination and fine muscle development. Other times, they may use those same materials in a cooperative way that promotes communication, negotiation, and problem solving. Some loose parts lend themselves to the exploration of early literacy concepts, mathematics, or scientific thinking.

Loose parts are open-ended, meaning there is not a predetermined right way to use them. Using loose parts is an active, child-led process. This gives children an opportunity to express themselves creatively and use their imagination. Children can use materials that have multiple purposes in their storytelling and pretend play. These activities typically involve a group of children, meaning that they are also practicing cooperation, collaboration and negotiation skills.

As children explore, they are able to make connections to prior knowledge, learn from others, and conduct their own experiments. Because the exploration is child-driven, children strengthen their concentration skills, increasing their ability to focus their attention and ignore distractions. These learning experiences improve critical thinking and self-regulation skills, which are essential to success in school and in life.

Introducing loose parts outdoors can have the benefit of helping children connect to nature, which has scientifically proven benefits to health and well-being.  Items from nature can be used as loose parts that children can use to construct new creations and explore engineering and design.

What other loose parts benefits can you think of?  There are many, many more!

For the main article Exploring Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Infants & Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Older Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Helping Teachers Get Started with Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

January 2020 Newsletter – Exploring Loose Parts

Happy New Year!  Happy New Decade!  What a great time to adopt new strategies to promote children’s creativity and exploration!

An easy and inexpensive way to do so is by incorporating loose parts into the learning environment.  “Loose parts” is a term used to describe any material that can be used in an open-ended manner.  These are materials that can be used in many different ways, or for many different purposes.

Loose parts can be recycled materials, found objects, or items from nature. Ideally, the materials are free, but some loose parts can be found in stores or from supply vendors for very little investment.

In this newsletter, we will explore the benefits of loose parts and materials that are appropriate to use with children of different ages. If you are interested in learning more about bringing these valuable learning materials into your environment, be sure to check out one of CCEI’s newest courses, CUR125: Loose Parts: Incorporating Found Objects and Open-Ended Materials into the Classroom. This course is the free trial course of the month of January 2020 for individuals who are new to CCEI, so be sure to share with your colleagues!

For the article Benefits of Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Infants & Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Loose Parts for Older Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Helping Teachers Get Started with Loose Parts, CLICK HERE

December 2019 Newsletter – Collective Leadership: Collective Leadership with Staff

Including employees in goal setting and quality improvement is vital for long term success and sustainability. You can work with the entire team during a staff meeting, small groups of teachers working in committees, or with teaching teams. Individual situations will determine who should be involved in the collective leadership process.

In some cases, such as a disciplinary action, collective leadership is not appropriate. However, there are a number of opportunities to bring employees into the fold through collective leadership. Involving employees can help them feel more invested in the program and it reduces stress on directors, who often feel they need to do it all.  Consider the following options:

  • The team develops the program’s vision and mission statements
  • Teaching teams create vision and mission statements for their classroom
  • The team engages in group problem-solving when issues arise – rather than being told how to solve the problem, employees generate their own solutions, create action plans, and are held responsible for the success or failure of those plans
  • The team organizes family involvement events and celebrations
  • The team identifies and executes a fundraiser
  • The team shares responsibility for lobby displays and decorations
  • The team determines how to meet quality improvement initiatives or accreditation standards
  • The team plans their own professional development event

In each of these cases, different members of the team take on different responsibilities depending on their interests and strengths. Accountability is spread across multiple people rather than falling on the shoulders of just one person. The director’s role becomes one of a guide to help people with tasks along the way, instead of the person responsible for all of the tasks. It is also important that directors recognize successes and support staff through challenges or mistakes – treating them as opportunities to learn and build new skills.

For the main article Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Families, CLICK HERE

December 2019 Newsletter – Collective Leadership: Collective Leadership with Families

Many programs have some type of mechanism for collecting feedback from families, which is an excellent first step to . Some programs go as far as to have a family committee that meets periodically.  Programs that function as a co-op include families to an even greater degree.

Family members possess a wide variety of skills, knowledge, and cultural perspectives that can be very beneficial to collective leadership efforts. While you may not invite families to participate in all decision-making, there are many contributions that family members can make to your program.

Consider the following opportunities to incorporate collaborative leadership with families:

  • Compose a vision and mission statement for the family committee
  • Develop a family vision for the program
  • Plan teacher appreciation events
  • Design community projects
  • Organize fundraisers
  • Plan a carnival or cultural festival
  • Organize family education events
  • Welcome and orient new families
  • Involve families in efforts to advocate for investments in ECE to state and federal lawmakers

What are some other ideas you have for how you can include families in the collective leadership of your program?  Please share them on our Facebook page here.

For the main article Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Staff, CLICK HERE

December 2019 Newsletter – Collective Leadership: Collective Leadership with Children

Children are able to participate in certain elements of collective leadership and they benefit from it in many of the same ways that adults do.

Here are a few ways that collective leadership can be used with children in the learning environment:

  • Develop a class vision – work together to create a vision statement that captures the overall goal or purpose of your daily activities
  • Co-create expectations – help children brainstorm the list of expectations for how children and adults will interact and treat one another
  • Plan curriculum projects – gather input from children about different projects they are interested in exploring
  • Plan field trips and class visitors – gather children’s ideas for places to visit in the community and visitors they can invite for a visit
  • Group problem solving – rather than determining the best way to solve a problem, engage children in coming up with possible solutions and choosing the best option for the situation
  • Room organization – sometimes room arrangement can be problematic, work with children to generate solutions to room arrangement issues
  • Class portfolios – while each child should have a learning portfolio that highlights individual accomplishments, children could create a class portfolio that details what they whole group is learning

For the main article Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Staff, CLICK HERE

December 2019 Newsletter – Collective Leadership: Benefits of Collective Leadership

Including employees in goal setting and quality improvement is vital for long term success and sustainability. You can work with the entire team during a staff meeting, small groups of teachers working in committees, or with teaching teams. Individual situations will determine who should be involved in the collective leadership process.

In some cases, such as a disciplinary action, collective leadership is not appropriate. However, there are a number of opportunities to bring employees into the fold through collective leadership. Involving employees can help them feel more invested in the program and it reduces stress on directors, who often feel they need to do it all.  Consider the following options:

  • The team develops the program’s vision and mission statements
  • Teaching teams create vision and mission statements for their classroom
  • The team engages in group problem-solving when issues arise – rather than being told how to solve the problem, employees generate their own solutions, create action plans, and are held responsible for the success or failure of those plans
  • The team organizes family involvement events and celebrations
  • The team identifies and executes a fundraiser
  • The team shares responsibility for lobby displays and decorations
  • The team determines how to meet quality improvement initiatives or accreditation standards
  • The team plans their own professional development event

In each of these cases, different members of the team take on different responsibilities depending on their interests and strengths. Accountability is spread across multiple people rather than falling on the shoulders of just one person. The director’s role becomes one of a guide to help people with tasks along the way, instead of the person responsible for all of the tasks. It is also important that directors recognize successes and support staff through challenges or mistakes – treating them as opportunities to learn and build new skills.

For the main article Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Staff, CLICK HERE

December 2019 Newsletter – Collective Leadership

Collective leadership is an approach to management that utilizes the strengths and contributions of all members of the group to reach a goal.  Organizations that use collective leadership engage members to participate in all steps of the decision-making, planning, and implementation stages of a project. Members of leadership recognize that their role in guiding change within a group of people is that of facilitator, rather than authoritarian. At different points within the process, different people have the opportunity to take on leadership roles, depending on their individual strengths and interests.

Adopting elements of collective leadership can build buy-in from the group, distribute responsibility, build teamwork, and instill a culture of collaboration.  In this month’s newsletter, we will explore the benefits of collective leadership and ways that it can be used in early learning environments.

For the article Benefits of Collective Leadership, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Families, CLICK HERE

For the article Collective Leadership with Staff, CLICK HERE

November 2019 Student Spotlight – Donna Ogonowski

My journey in education began when I was influenced to go to college to get a degree in education by receiving a scholarship for my first year.  I dropped out of college in my third year to marry the love of my life and moved across the country leaving all I knew, thank you US Navy.  I never returned to college to finish my degree, sometimes I’ve regretted that, but God places us in locations and orchestrates events to help us learn who we should become and where we should serve.  I began working at a child care center over 26 years ago primarily working with three-year-olds. This is one of the best things that has happened to me.

My current position is Administrator for a child development center.  I, of course, stay very busy. I love every minute of it though. There are times I sneak back into the class and just hang out with the students to have fun doing messy art or playing on the playground. I have the best of both worlds.

I love working with the three- and four-year-olds the most. They are so expressive and creative.  I love this age group as they learn new concepts, and how things work, and how to create wonderful works of art. Messy art and outside play are my favorite times of the day.

What keeps me motivated to work with children is watching the students learn new concepts. I am so proud of all they learn. I have worked in the same facility for 26 years and have watched my three-year-old students grow and some have even chosen this as their career and it’s so fun to have a student now become an employee.

I live in the Northern Virginia area and it’s a very busy lifestyle here with so many activities to get involved with. I don’t have a lot of free time, but I do enjoy counted cross stitch as a stress reliever and I’m very involved in my church and teach a great group of ladies. I am also involved in a Christian Women’s Network locally that serves and ministers to women in the community.

I learned about CCEI in the summer of 2018 and signed up our school for the center program and myself for a certificate program.  I have just completed the coursework and now applying for the credentialing from the CDA Council.  I love that the employees at my center can complete the courses they need at their pace while meeting requirements for annual training for state requirements. It’s a wonderful option for us.

I highly recommend CCEI to all that I know.  It is a wonderful program that has such flexibility. It’s a work at your own pace online study program, but there is the personal touch of the Education Coaches and other personnel that is very supportive of your growth. They have really helped me as I completed my coursework.

November 2019 Newsletter – Promoting Mathematical Thinking: Families

Because math is everywhere, families have an opportunity to reinforce math learning at home. Create resources for families that communicate the importance of early math skills. Give a list of math language that families should incorporate into their conversations with children. Be sure to explain the nature of early math and developmentally appropriate practices.  We don’t want families to feel like they have to use flashcards or worksheets to teach their children math.  There are plenty of fun ways to play with math throughout the day. You can also:

  • Establish a lending library of books that contain opportunities to discuss math at home.  Attach an index card with guidelines for parents to follow before, during, and after reading the book.
  • Create math backpacks that focus on a particular math skill. Allow families to sign out a back pack for the evening or the weekend.  Provide detailed instructions for the playful nature of the activity and describe the importance of the skill.  Help families decide which back pack to take home based on what you know about the child’s skills and abilities. 
  • Give math homework. Again, this should not be anything paper and pencil related. Ask families and children to count how many turns it takes to get from the school to home.  How many stop signs or traffic lights are between the school and home?
  • Help families see how they can incorporate math language and skills into running errands.  Create a fact sheet that explains the math language the can be used at the grocery store, for instance.  You can also include ideas for how families can keep children engaged during trips to the grocery store by incorporating a few math activities. 
  • Host a family math night.  Prepare a number of different activities and games that incorporate math skills and language.  Be a role model for families so they can hear the math language you use and take those ideas home with them.
  • Be sure to document children’s learning and display evidence of learning in a place families will see when they visit the program.  You may be able to use social media, bulletin boards, daily sheets, conferences, or newsletters to highlight math learning. 

How do you encourage families to engage in math language and exploration with their children? Tell us on Facebook.

For the main article Promoting Mathematical Thinking, CLICK HERE

For the article Infants & Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Preschoolers, CLICK HERE

For the article Kindergarten & School-Agers, CLICK HERE

November 2019 Newsletter – Promoting Mathematical Thinking: Kindergarten & School-Agers

School-Agers are already receiving math instruction during their school hours.  They don’t necessarily need additional direct instruction while they are in their before/afterschool program.  However, you can incorporate mathematical thinking into fun activities that engage children’s creativity and personal interests.  Take a look at the K-12 learning standards in your state to remind yourself of the math skills children are expected to know at different grade levels, and then try to find fun ways to incorporate some of those skills into your routine.

  • Estimation/prediction stations – each week, set up a station where children can estimate or make predictions. 
    • Number of items in a jar
    • Time it will take for snow to melt
    • How tall the sunflowers will grow
  • Conduct a variety of science experiments.  Ask children to make predictions, observations, and collect their data.  Then help them create visual representations of their data.
  • There are so many opportunities to use math in cooking with children.  Be sure to include cooking in your program. You could also incorporate other activities such as sewing, knitting, or crocheting.
  • Create weekly survey questions that children can ask other students in the program, teachers, or their family members.  Again, help children determine the best way to gather the data and represent in a visual way.
  • Encourage children to create their own board games. They can create the materials for the game and teach their peers how to play.
  • Plan a fund-raiser.  Include the children in planning from start to finish, including budgeting, purchasing and making materials, promoting the fundraiser, etc.

What fun and engaging ways do you reinforce math language and learning with school-agers? Tell us on our Facebook page now!

For the main article Promoting Mathematical Thinking, CLICK HERE

For the article Infants & Toddlers, CLICK HERE

For the article Prechoolers, CLICK HERE

For the article Families, CLICK HERE