It is finally time for the return of arts and crafts!
Most of last year, I was able to come up with some of my own centers and materials for my preschoolers because I was placed at St. Martin's, a women's rehabilitation center in Woodlawn. Because the kids' days were so unstructured, I was given more freedom and flexibility to find activities that would be the most appropriate. Instead of following the Americorps curriculum closely, I was able to design and modify different parts of it to make it more accessible to my group of kids.
This year though, I've had a change of scenery. Finally in a classroom, I implemented the traditional Jumpstart sessions, just as Americorps outlines. From welcome and name cards to sharing and goodbye, I was finally able to get a taste of what a formal preschool classroom feels like. It's exciting to be in the classroom with a teacher who created an encouraging learning environment. Kids would come in every day and sign in by writing their entire names out and then the teacher would lead them over to the carpet. There was a regular schedule and the preschoolers responded well to that.
At the same time though, I miss all the afternoons I spent painting posters and cuttting and gluing shapes. So when my manager, Lucy, let us take the lead on creating the last three sessions of Jumpstart, my team and I were delighted. First session we had lined up? Dinosaurs!
It started with some cute dinosaur books:
And then, like any Jumpstart session, we had to come up with songs and poems for circle time, when all the preschoolers would be gathered on the rug, and we had to come up with different centers, for small groups of interactive work.
Mari, my fellow team leader, took to the internet and found a dinosaur poem and song. Sung to the tune of "Wheels on the Bus," we introduced different dinosaurs and their distinctive features. Brontosaurus with its long neck, Stegosaurus with its spiked tail, Pterodactyl with its wide wings, and Tyrannsaurus with its sharp teeth.
Next, we had the poem, "Five Hungry Dinosaurs," and used it to emphasize the same dinosaurs we went over and the places that they lived.
After circle time, we broke the preschoolers up into different centers. Our line up for the day was...
Let's Find out About it, with fact sheets and pictures of dinosaurs made by Mari. We also had some air dry clay later and gave pieces to the preschoolers to make their own fossils:
Puzzles, with a velcro (!) posterboard matching different dinosaurs by their eating habits made by my team member, Grace:
Art, with dinosaur-shaped sponges and paint, made by Jaylie and led by Lauraly:
And lastly, the very exciting Dramatic Play. One of my team members came up with the idea to do an archaelogical dig. We thought it would be great to expose the preschoolers to different disciplines and introduce them to the concept of artifacts. So I took some yarn and other knick knacks from our Jumpstart closet and got to work. Armed with "excavation brushes" (read: repurposed paintbrushes), the preschoolers picked up and examined bowls and "animal teeth." Since we couldn't fit a sand pit into the classroom, this center left quite a bit up to the imagination, but the kids had a good time and at least heard of something new!
All in all, our dinosaur-themed session went well. The preschoolers enjoyed it and making the materials was a blast. Next up: ocean life!
Daisy Lu is a second-year in the College, majoring in sociology. She is a member of the Jumpstart program, dedicated to serving preschoolers in the Woodlawn area.