Traditionally, one of our preschool’s strong points has been the unconditional families’ trust built on a number of reasons but big time on school open door policy.
In Dorothy Snot, parents were always welcomed to come in at anytime without prior notice and were offered numbers of options to get involved in school life. Quite often this proved to be disruptive for daily operation, but it has been our strong belief that parents’ active involvement in school bears more good than bad; builds mutual confidence, enhances children’ development and increases the interaction & learning within the community.
However, the covid-19 lockdown and the reluctant reopening took us into another planet with new rules; and a core one is keeping adults outside. This is hard for all to accept and in our minds could be a crucial factor to keep children further in home.
Well, forty five days after the most successful reopening we could imagine is clear that a big chunk of this success comes straight from parents’ trust and love towards the school. No happiness around if despite our strict covid-19 hygiene policy, parents would chose to keep children at home; instead though, 85% of school families returned within the first three weeks.
Living now in the age of the virus, is our core duty to keep finding new innovative ways to maintain and further build this trust. We have to be communicative and smart, make good use of technology and come up with new covid-19 compatible ideas to bring school life out in the open and keep interacting with families. In a future article I will write more.
In any case, all we educators must bear in mind that strong community bonds are key for a successful covid-19 school operation. It’s absolutely normal for families to be afraid, reluctant and precautious; and it’s our task to beat their fear and make them feel safe and included through open communication, honesty and empathy.
Building a strong school community is an absolute must for a successful reopening. Now more than ever, we have to work together with families to re-invent the play-based school of the post covid-19 era.
* John is Dorothy Snot preschool & kindergarten co-founder & Director
One of the basic aspects in life-derived learning is to allow children discover the real world, through play. Because children, when given the power to choose, always transfer their play into reality.
One of our pre-k classes developed a genuine interest on how cars work! They talked about cars, read about cars, saw movies, played with toys, even constructed fake cars in various forms .
Were these enough? Of course not! Children went on asking more & more things, so we had to give them the chance to see a place where a car is born…
Unfortunately, in Greece we do not have a single car making factory. However, we do have many car import and repair companies and Mercedes Benz Hellas proved so willing to let our children visit their premises, ask questions and even play in their cars!
Children came back in school full of enthusiasm. Because it is not what you learn in such a visit – it is how it makes you feel; and our pre-Ks returned in school feeling as great as any of us after having played in a Mercedes Benz!
Cooking is one of kids most favorable activities in school. Apart from being a great life-derived play, cooking assists toddlers to get acquainted with a good number of skills.
Getting in touch with math, for example, in the age of 2.5 y.o is greatly achieved through cooking. Children start to understand what does it mean “two spoonful of sugar” or “4 eggs”.
Their fine motor skills also are greatly enhanced, as well as their decision making skills. “Which goes first, the oil or the cheese?” The purpose is not to give them answers, but encourage them to think for themselves.
As it always goes on play: we do not cook to learn, but we learn so much while cooking!
Everyday, children bring in school questions and ideas arising from their own life. For example, they all have in home displays and other IT equipment but hardly ever have the chance to find out how do those things look, from inside.
So, whenever this question comes in school, and the truth is it comes quite often, we just give them old pieces of HW and screwdrivers, to find out on their own. It’s always so much fun!
We do offer a DIY class in kindergarten, in order to introduce 6 y.o. children into creative thinking & problem solving attitude.
For example: by constructing a hydraulic robotic arm from scratch, children transfer their play into real life conditions by engaging in the following. They:
Derive the plan
Measure the dimensions
Cut the wood
Trial and error to make the junctions work
Understand how the hydraulic pumps work
Team & coordinate to make the arm move in all three dimensions
While the above consist the most fascinating play, yet encourage children to develop numbers of skills and engage deeply into creative thinking and innovation.
But most of all it’s just freely selected & non-directed play. Adults do not direct or impose, only inspire and facilitate. It’s not by coincidence that, when such a project is over, children rarely play with the outcome. They have enjoyed most playing during the construction!
In a truly play-based environment, every single item can be transformed into a hat, a shoe, a wheel or a stool. That is why our spaces often look like junkyards!
Children should feel completely free to engage into play with anything that exists around, no matter what it may be; so they imagine, innovate, combine, cooperate and develop independent thinking, on a free will basis.
From my experience, at Dorothy Snot, I can truly say it is an exceptional school. From the first moment to the last, my time spent there was incredible. My first interaction with the school was my walk up to the building and seeing the bright and colorfully painted exterior giving it a feel of welcoming and warmth. Little did I know that the teachers and children would be just as, if not more, kind and welcoming.
My entire classroom was filled with happy and active children. The joy contained by these children was in part due to the extraordinary effort put in by the teachers. I saw first hand the work they put into making the days for the children not only fun but an effective and creative way of learning. The time these teachers spend with the children in school is only half the energy they put into making the school days a good time. They spend a lot of their time out of school preparing lessons and activities for the children.
The school is known for its “play-based” learning, which is a great way for children to absorb as much material as well as expel all the pent-up energy in them. From reading & writing to yoga and outdoor education, the children have a vast amount of opportunities to learn.
The school offers multiple different classes from English to Art, to Outdoor Education. The students are grouped off into their respective classes where they are able to participate in the class and then rotate into another class. This allows the children to interact with the teachers more, thus giving more attention to them, which is always a positive for younger children. Following these lessons, the children are involved in a free play which allows them to be creative while also subconsciously discovering more about their selves.
Overall, the school is designed and includes teachers that allow the children to grow up to be well rounded and kind individuals.
* Riddhi, a student from Canada, became part of our our school during May and June 2018, while participating in AIESEC’s “International Kindergarten” exchange program