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  • Marisa Ramsey

Smart Start Week 2: The Shape of Things

Hello Smart Start Week 2!

We are so excited to be utilizing a terrific resource this year for our Smart Start explorations. We are using Environmental Experiences for Early Childhood by Project Learning Tree as a springboard into play, discovery, and learning. Our approach to learning has always leaned into exploration of a child's natural environment and we could not be happier with this program, introduced to us by our friends at the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery, that integrates nature, art, language, science, music, math, and more!

This week, children went on a search for shapes that define both their natural and built environments. We talked about how our world is filled with objects of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Much of this week focused on observation. We encouraged children to see things in their environment in a new way. We offered them natural objects like leaves, stems, fruit, etc. so that they could see the connection between static geometric shapes found in our classroom and the more fluid shapes found in nature.

Our Smart Starters engaged with shapes through building, lacing, and play. Each play invitation was an opportunity to explore beauty and functionality as we discovered "the shape of things".

This week's theme was a perfect, full-circle connection for our returning students. In our search for shapes in the natural world, we discovered some big, beautiful circles that greet the children each morning.

In April, our Smart Start class started these sunflowers from seeds, transplanted them into the outdoor, bed, and they have grown throughout the summer to reach dizzying heights! This week, week talked about how we can see circles in life cycles. We harvested our sunflowers and brought them inside the classroom for the students to investigate. We talked about the life cycle of a sunflower and let the children remove seeds that we will keep and plant in the spring.

Exploration like this is valuable for a number of reasons. As children pick seeds from the sunflower, they are using a pincer grasp that will be so important to proper pencil grasp when writing. Understanding the concept of harvesting seeds that will then be planted to grow more of the same plant is foundational to understanding how our world thrives. Most importantly, these kinds of invitations feed their natural curiosity and wonder. More than anything, we want our students to enjoy the process of learning. We hope to cultivate the kind of curiosity and excitement for learning that lasts them their whole life long! That's what we mean by a smart start!


Morning Play Invitation: foam shapes, colorful cubes, shape blocks, shapes lacing.

Spontaneous Learning: Creating a sculpture. Marshall created this sculpture out of foam blocks and colorful cubes. We used it as an opportunity to talk about how a sculpture is a piece of art that looks different from every side, so you must move around and appreciate it from a variety of vantage points. Chance lined his cubes up to create a track. This was a great opportunity to think about lines and patterns which are foundational principles of art and design.

In week two, our students are still settling in to our Smart Start rhythm. Ms. Debbie spent time before the children went to centers explaining what would be available for them to explore. She asked them to make a plan for themselves. It is incredible that in just a few short days they are already thinking meaningfully about what they want to investigate. They are learning to share and to communicate clearly their wants and needs. The students are already learning to be responsible for themselves and their environment. They are building the kind of character that will set them apart as kind, compassionate, conscientious creatives!


Morning Play Invitation: hula hoops and step rings.

Spontaneous Learning: size. Students discovered that the hoops were different sizes. Smaller hoops could be placed inside larger hoops to create concentric circles.

Morning Circle Time: Harvesting our sunflowers, calendar, weather, and celebrating Evelyn's birthday. Our book for Wednesday was The Magnificent Sunflower by Lee Haydn Straight.

Creative Movement: stretching, balancing, moving to beats, frozen shapes, and listening for musical cues.

Table Time & Centers: Sunflower painting and imaginative play.

More sunflower discoveries!


Morning Invitation: Shape toss, blocks, Lincoln Logs, glueing shapes onto our "Shape Searcher" binoculars.

Spontaneous Learning: Story-telling. Jase and Marshall built some buildings with smokestacks. We talked about what kinds of buildings have smokestacks. We thought they could be like the smokestacks that the chimneysweeps pop out of in Mary Poppins or the smoke stacks of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. These supposings turned into silly story-telling that had us all laughing. Telling stories, playing pretend, and improvising tales develops language skills and creative thinking that will come in handy in a few years when these children are ready to put their imaginings down on paper. Play is the fertile ground out of which all kinds of creativity and genius will grow.

Table Time: Finishing up our sunflower paintings. Ms. Debbie showed the students some beautiful illustrations created by Eric Carle and pointed out how similar their paintings were to his. Eric Carle is a Smart Start favorite!

Centers: Making plans for Center Time, building, playing, and having meaningful conversation.

This week was extra special because it was FULL of birthdays! This week we celebrated Evelyn, Lily, and Otis (who was sadly out sick on his birthday)! We love celebrating with our students on their special day!

We had a great time this week discovering the shape of things. Next week we will explore....Sounds All Around! Put your listeners on and we will see you on Monday!

Click here for this week's videos!

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