May 2022 Student Spotlight – Dalia Zamuc

May 2022 Student Spotlight – Dalia Zamuc

May name is Dalia Zamuc and I am a Dreamer. I was born in Guanajuato, Mexico on August 21, 1992. I am the fourth child of nine children born to my mother Ma Guadalupe Paniagua, and father, Alvaro Zamuchio.  I live in Palmetto, Florida but I work in Sarasota.

When I was thirteen, I moved to United States with my dad. It was not an easy year because my mom and siblings did not arrive in the States until a year later. I attended sixth through graduation of high school (2011) in Florida. The last year of High School is where I committed to my boyfriend who became my husband two years ago. He has been part of my family and my life for twelve years.

I love Florida and all it has to offer. I love the beauty of nature, the sunny days, and the people that I meet. I find happiness in playing soccer for these fourteen years. I also love music, dancing, and traveling.

Six years ago, my mother passed. She was only fifty-one of pancreatic cancer. The patience that she had raising seven children was marvelous. She raised all of us to love each other. I still have my dad and my six brothers and sisters, and I know that we are close because of the love mom taught us to have for each other.

Though I have no children of my own, I do have two stepchildren. One is eighteen and the other is twenty-four. Working with children is fulfilling as it was helping my younger siblings with their learning, homework, and daily life. However, I find switching from Spanish to English difficult at times. Working with the children, has helped my understanding of the new language develop as I communicate with the children, families, and co-workers.

I would say that my career in early childhood began with a love of children. I am number four of eight children. I loved helping my younger siblings with their homework in a new country.  I hope to be a positive and inspiring impact on the children’s lives who come into my classroom as my mother had in my life.

I chose to obtain the Florida Child Care Professional Credential (FCCPC) through CCEI because it was the highest-quality program offered and I can utilize the certification to help advance my career in ECE.  I would recommend CCEI to anyone who is looking for an education that is hassle-free, offers amazing support through their education coaches, and a wonderful student support staff when you run into any technical problems or issues.

I loved the online coursework with CCEI and I will pursue other courses to achieve my professional development goals.  I will continue to use CCEI for my professional opportunities, personal growth, and IACET CEUs.  My plan is to pursue all CCEI courses available to stay informed on the field of Early Childhood Education.  I also want to get my degree in either Early Childhood or Child Development.  I want to be the best teacher I can be so that the children in my care will be the best that they can be.

I am very thankful for CCEI!  The courses and certifications offered and at an affordable price are extremely beneficial for all ECE professionals. I am so happy to have had this experience to grow and use the tools given to me through the courses to make my classroom more efficient.

Though I love all the little moments with my little friends, my favorite times with the children maybe the least favorite times of other teachers.  I love pretending to cook or stack blocks and singing Happy Birthday. I love watching them create with art supplies. However, I think that my most memorable connections are made during conflict resolution, diaper changes, and dancing or running on the playground.

When two children are having a disagreement and I help them find a way to solve the problem, I feel that I am giving tools that will help them in life and education. They can self-regulate and socialize throughout life. During bathroom changes, I get have one-to-one discussions. The child talks about how they may be doing at home.  I also love to see the children play and dance with each other outside. They enjoy looking for insects, dancing, and running, and laughing. I feel that these times are areas during the day that many teachers do not think to use in the education of the children.

The children in my class seem to enjoy playing with sand, water, and looking for insects on the playground. They also love to stack large Legos and sing Happy Birthday.

I believe that our children are motivated by the bonds that we create with them. If a child feels safe and secure, the child is open to take chances to learn. They have more educational experiences and not be afraid to make mistakes. If a teacher is too strict or helps too much, many children do not feel free to learn or are afraid to disappoint the adults in their lives.

I think that the most enjoyable thing about my job is hearing the children from all the classes that I have taught call my name outside of the classroom. My heart grows when a child sees me at a store and calls my name and runs to me to give me a hug.

I have a big family. I love to spend time with my husband and my seven siblings. Though I work until after 5:30p.m. each weekday, I cook for my husband and watch movies with him. During the weekend, I like to go to dinners with my three sisters. Sometimes just hanging with my hard-working dad and brothers are a fun way to spend time.

I can see myself still working in this field with the same educational team.  My co-worker and I have one mission, and that mission is to teach our children how to self-regulate, care for others, problem solve, love to learn, and even potty train. I want to spend my future continuing to make a difference in all lives.

May 2022 Newsletter – Project-Based Learning: Director’s Corner – Supporting Project-Based Learning

A great way to support teachers as they design PBL experiences is to share PBL resources. Identify appropriate resources from sites like beingmakers.org or Eastern Connecticut State University.

But rather than just sending a link to an article and hoping for the best, leaders can create engaging learning opportunities for their employees. Divide the staff into small groups and assign each group with a video or article to explore, reflect upon, and discuss.  Task each team with creating an activity or presentation that they can share with the rest of the staff at the next staff meeting.  Information can also be shared in a newsletter format or a poster that can be posted in a common area for all staff members to view and reflect upon.

This practice, in many ways, uses the core elements of PBL. Draw parallels between this activity that your employees complete and what you hope they implement in their classrooms.

Other ways to support your employees:

  • Materials: This could include anything from enhancing the technology in the classroom to opening up the internet (with child safeguards in place) on classroom computers. Subscriptions to kid-friendly publications here can also support PBL (The Week Junior Magazine, National Geographic Kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids, etc).  There may be additional items that are required to complete projects, such as ingredients for a recipe.  Work with staff to determine how to work with the materials on hand, while providing a manageable budget for project materials.
  • Finding community connections: When you review PBL plans with teachers, work with them to identify appropriate community connections (people) or locations for field trips. Engage families, too, by asking for input or volunteers to visit the classroom to share knowledge.
  • Training: Help teachers identify professional development opportunities in the community. If you are ready to make the program-wide shift to PBL, consider planning an entire professional development day focused on learning about and planning for PBL.
  • Mentoring and Coaching: Support the implementation of PBL by pairing teachers in mentoring or coaching partnerships. Encourage teachers to collaborate on challenges and seek ideas from their colleagues.

Celebrate efforts:  Be sure to make time for teachers to share their success stories with the team. At the same time, not every project lands exactly where expected. Remind teachers that even though a project didn’t follow the intended plan (which should be flexible), valuable learning experiences were had by all!

 

For the main article Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Elements of Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Getting Started and Project Ideas, CLICK HERE

May 2022 Newsletter – Project-Based Learning: Getting Started and Project Ideas

Getting started with PBL requires teachers to make a fundamental shift in how they view their role as leaders and curriculum planners.  There is much to learn about PBL and there are tons of resources available, many of which are linked in this newsletter.

Before jumping in, we suggest that teachers research PBL, including the goals and design elements associated with it. You can also review projects that other teachers have completed and shared online.  This stage of implementation can take as long as necessary to gain a clear understanding of the components of a project.

Once you have an initial understanding of PBL (you may not fully understand all aspects until you have a few projects under your belt!), reflect on how you currently manage your classroom and curriculum planning.  Identify how your current practices align with PBL, the practices that would need to be tweaked, and the practices that you will ultimately need to let go of.  Sit with that for a bit and seek support from colleagues who have more experience with PBL to help you make necessary adjustments.

While you are researching, make note of potential project ideas here that may be interesting to the children in your care. Also, listen to the children – they will tell you what they want to learn about.  See if you might be able to design a project around their interests.

When the time is right, introduce the idea of doing a project with the children. To start, you can limit PBL to afternoons, if you are uncomfortable letting go of all of the traditional planning that you are used to. During that time, allow children to take over some of the planning and curriculum design.

Remember, projects rarely fit into a neat Monday-Friday schedule.  Many will extend across several weeks.  At the same time, some might only last 2-3 days if children are able to answer the questions they have.  Remain flexible and alert to the cues children give you as they explore and engage with the content.

Continue to reflect on what is working and what can be improved upon. Make adjustments and talk to the children about how things can work better or differently. Continue to research PBL or seek professional development opportunities related to PBL.  This month, CCEI’s free trial course for new students is called CUR118: Outdoor STEAM Activities and Project Based Learning. Consider signing up today.

If we want children to be life-long learners, we need to model that practice ourselves.

Ready to get started? Download a copy of The PBL Journey: A Guide for Teachers here.

 

For the main article Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Elements of Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Supporting Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

May 2022 Newsletter – Project-Based Learning: Benefits of Project-Based Learning

When teachers release the reins of curriculum planning by incorporating PBL, they are actively engaging students in planning what they will learn about. When children are actively engaged, much learning occurs across all areas of development. Here are just a few benefits of using PBL in the classroom:

Interest and engagement: Being excited about learning is like a snowball rolling downhill. PBL ignites children’s motivation and love of learning because they get to explore topics that are naturally interesting to them. You have probably seen the spark in a child’s eyes when they were fully interested and invested in gaining new knowledge or skills.  PBL provides children with a level of autonomy and self-direction that traditional lesson planning just cannot do. When teachers allow children to follow their interests or incorporate them into the project in some way, they are ensuring a higher level of engagement than would normally be present. Think back to the previously mentioned example of community helpers.  In this project, a teacher could encourage a child who loves trains to explore what it takes to become a train conductor.  Even though train conductor usually doesn’t top the list of popular community helpers, a case could be made that they are valuable and helpful members of the community. Expanding the scope of projects to include children’s interests is just one way to promote engagement and excitement about learning.

Incorporates skills across academic domains: Projects naturally incorporate multiple domains of learning. They require children to not only conduct research but to use observation and problem-solving skills.  Projects typically result in the presentation of a product or solution to a problem, meaning children must translate what they have learned into something that others can use and understand. Children must use critical thinking skills, creativity, scientific thinking skills, language & literacy, math skills, and motor skills to explore topics and produce their end products. In many cases, projects will also require the use of technology for either research or final product creation, which is a great way to create meaningful screen-time experiences.

Builds social and emotional skills: In addition to the traditionally assessed academic skills, PBL provides children with the chance to strengthen social and emotional skills. Projects are meant to be collaborative learning experiences that help children work with others, solve conflicts, and know when to assert their idea or go along with another child’s idea. Because projects rely on reflection and revision, children will practice perseverance, patience, and decision-making skills. There is also a sense of ownership and pride that accompanies the completion of a project that just does not exist with many teacher-planned, weekly-themed units.

Stronger teacher facilitation skills: Children are not the only ones who benefit from PBL. Teachers will also strengthen their facilitation skills, meaning that they assist students in making their way through the project, rather than planning every step of the way.  Of course, children will always need teacher guidance and support, but that role doesn’t take over the learning process in PBL; children continue to have a say in the direction of their learning. Teachers will also build child assessment skills, such as observation and documentation of learning. PBL opens the door for teachers to use creative options and technology tools to capture the learning in the classroom.

Connects the program with the larger community: Because PBL’s goal is to address a real-world question or challenge, children and teachers are automatically engaged with the community outside of the program.  The answers to most of the world’s questions are out there and PBL will require you to get out there, too.  This level of authenticity and connection is sure to engage young learners’ minds.

Here is more information about how PBL promotes 21st Century Skills that every child needs.

 

For the main article Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Elements of Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Getting Started and Project Ideas, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Supporting Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

May 2022 Newsletter – Project-Based Learning: Elements of Project-Based Learning

One of the hallmarks of PBL is that children are tasked with answering a real-world question or exploring solutions to real-world problems or challenges. This brings a level of authenticity that is engaging for many children.

Project based learning builds upon the weekly themed lesson planning that traditionally happens in early learning environments. For example, the traditional “community helpers week” is a great foundation for future projects. All of the activities during this week give children a chance to learn more about police officers, firefighters, mail carriers, etc. These activities are most likely planned in advance by the teacher, with little input from the children.

In contrast, a community helpers PBL unit may focus on the real-world question of “How does someone become a community helper?”.  During this project, children not only learn about community helpers but discover the skills and qualifications required to become a firefighter or a doctor. They can work together to generate ideas for how to answer the main question, which may lead to other questions that need to be answered. They can work in teams to write letters to the local police department asking their questions or invite the mail carrier to come into the classroom for an interview.  Prior to the interview, they can generate a list of questions to ask the mail carrier and after they have gathered the answers to their questions, they will need to compile the information into an easy-to-understand presentation or poster.

Projects should promote inquiry and flexibility, meaning that five days into the project, there may be more questions than answers and projects may change direction before returning to the original question (which they may never do).   Teachers encourage children to continue following their interests in the topic until it wanes. As you can imagine, most projects won’t fit neatly into a one-week lesson plan.

The great thing about PBL is that it can be scaled to the interests and developmental level of the children in the group.  For example, older students may work on a project with a focus on how to save money for college or a car.  Younger children could also do a project related to saving money for a class pet or to donate to a local charity.

In addition to focusing on real-world questions and solutions, PBL provides opportunities for:

  • Child choice: children generate ideas for how they will contribute to the project.
  • Child voice: the ideas generated come from the children. Adults facilitate and help children document their ideas and observations, but the children do the work.
  • Ongoing inquiry: children have the chance to revisit and revise questions and ideas throughout the project. Adults encourage children to rethink, redesign, and restart elements of the project as necessary.
  • A tangible product or solution: the goal of a project is for the children to generate a real solution or product that addresses the question or challenge that was the genesis of the project.

Lastly, PBL differs slightly from traditional projects that you may be used to from your experience in school in that they are the learning opportunity, not the culmination of a unit of learning. For example, in a traditional project, a class may read a book about animals and create a poster about the book.  With PBL, the children would research information about an animal that is on the endangered species list and write a book about the animal and how to save them!

Learn more about the difference between traditional projects and PBL here.  You can even take a quiz here to see if you can tell the difference between the two – we scored 8/8!

 

For the main article Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Getting Started and Project Ideas, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Supporting Project Based Learning, CLICK HERE

May 2022 Newsletter – Project-Based Learning

With the school year wrapping up, it is time for programs to reflect on what worked, opportunities for growth, and summer planning. Many early learning programs experience an influx of children who require care for the summer months. This is a great time to consider enhancing the learning opportunities and methods that align with the interests and skills of these youngsters.

One teaching tool that programs can incorporate is called project based learning, or PBL, for short. According to the experts at Buck Institute for Education/PBLWorks, PBL can be defined as:

…a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.

You may recall completing projects, either as part of a group or as an individual, when you were in school. If you participated in a science fair, created a public service announcement video, or built a miniature representation of your town as a student, you are familiar with the idea of completing a project.  Using a project-based learning framework takes traditional projects to a completely new level.

In this month’s newsletter, we will explore elements of PBL and provide project ideas that you can use to engage children in meaningful and active learning experiences this summer. With any luck, the experience and confidence you gain planning projects over the next few weeks will empower you to incorporate PBL year-round!

 

For the article Elements of Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Getting Started and Project Ideas, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Supporting Project-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

April 2022 Newsletter – Nature-Based Learning: Director’s Corner – Supporting Staff as They Enhance Nature-Based Learning Opportunities

Director’s Corner – Supporting Staff as They Enhance Nature-Based Learning Opportunities

If you don’t currently work in a nature-based preschool or forest kindergarten, extended periods of nature-based learning may not be built into your program’s routine. There are a few ways that programs can incorporate nature-based learning experiences:

  • Build them into the existing outdoor playtime
  • Increase the amount of time spent outdoors
  • Provide different materials that promote nature exploration
  • Schedule regular community field trips or nature walks
  • Increase the number of natural items and learning experiences that are present inside

It is quite possible for leaders to unilaterally make changes to class schedules and purchase additional materials, but to ensure buy-in, it is better to involve staff members in the planning process.  If boosting nature-based learning is a goal for your program, here are some things you can do:

  • Start the conversation: About a week before your next staff meeting, share an article with your staff that introduces nature-based learning and its benefits. Several appropriate articles are available in this newsletter and you could find others online. Ask participants to review the information in preparation for a conversation that you will be having during the next staff meeting.
  • Brainstorming: During the staff meeting, ask for feedback on the contents of the article. Review your program’s philosophy or mission statement. Ask staff to identify how the philosophy and nature-based learning align. If it is not clear, consider making revisions.  Also, ask team members to come up with a list of opportunities and challenges that they will face as your program moves forward with enhancing children’s experiences in nature. What materials might they need? What changes to the daily routine are necessary and realistic? It may even be beneficial to have teachers reflect on any aversion they have toward spending time in nature. Finally, ask for volunteers to sit on a committee that will focus on creating policies and practices that will be used moving forward.
  • Create an action plan: As conversations continue, you and your committee will have to answer the what, when, where, why, and who of this endeavor. What are the most important tasks that must be accomplished? What materials are needed and what is the budget and plan for purchasing them? What changes need to be made to playground schedules? What nature-related resources and locations exist in your community? Will the program adopt a nature-based curriculum or will teachers come up with ideas on their own? Are there field trip policies and procedures that need to be created or updated? Set the committee to work answering these questions and others that arise during your conversations. Create priorities, timelines, and due dates.
  • Engage families: One of the action items should include how you will communicate this enhancement to families. Be sure to share resources that support your decision to increase nature-based learning opportunities. Talk about the benefits and provide activity ideas that families can try at home. Additionally, efforts should be made to engage families in your nature-based learning experiences, either as field trip chaperones or volunteers.  Perhaps family members work in nature-related fields.  These individuals can be invited to share their knowledge with staff and children.
  • Involve the children: Sometimes, teachers will be able to identify children’s interest in nature simply by observing their play. It could also prove helpful to have conversations with children during meals or group meetings to find out what children are interested in learning about.
  • Continue to learn: Share books and resources with your team so that they can continue to learn about activity ideas and best practices for nature-based learning. Seek out professional development opportunities related to nature exploration. Work with individuals and teaching teams to implement enhanced learning experiences.

By enrolling your staff in the planning of enhanced nature-based learning experiences, you will be creating enthusiasm and accountability. This practice is essential to the success of the project.

For the main article Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Materials for Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Nature-Based Learning Tips, CLICK HERE

April 2022 Newsletter – Nature-Based Learning: Nature-Based Learning Tips

Nature-Based Learning Tips

One of the most important things to keep in mind about nature-based learning experiences is that they should be based on children’s interests.  They should also be hands-on and promote exploration, observation, and documentation. Educators should avoid lengthy “lessons” about nature and instead, act as a facilitator of children’s learning.  Supervision and safety remain the top priorities, but there should also be a high degree of independence and child-initiated investigation.

There are hundreds of activity ideas that we could list here but since we don’t know the children in your program or their interests, we’ll use this space to share some other key practices to keep in mind.

  • Watch for choking hazards – Be sure to provide materials that are appropriate for the age of the children in your program.
  • Wash hands – Ensure children and adults practice proper handwashing after exploring in nature.
  • Do no harm – Encourage children to observe nature with their eyes, ears, and noses. They should ask to pick up unfamiliar items and should be careful not to harm or damage the things they are exploring.
  • Become familiar with your environment – Learn about the plants, animals, and insects that are common in your area. Inspect your nature space often and remove any hazards.
  • Do thorough research prior to field trips and nature walks- Gather as much information as possible about the site, availability of water and restrooms, and terrain. Visit the site before visiting with the children to get a solid lay of the land.
  • Engage with the children – Ask children questions about their exploration. Talk about their observations and encourage children to document what they see. This can be done in a nature notebook. Introduce new vocabulary words and learning concepts, while continuing to allow the children to take the lead.
  • Challenge your comfort level – Not everyone is comfortable sitting in nature, touching dirt, or picking up items from nature. While it is not necessary for teachers to jump in mud puddles with children, they should be sure that their aversion to nature does not impede children’s learning opportunities. Work with a mentor or member of your leadership team to determine how you can best support children’s learning.
  • Plan activities each week – Make space on your lesson plan for nature exploration activities. Identify the materials you will make available and how you will document what children are learning.

Childhood by Nature has created a list of activities that you can explore to help you implement nature-based learning experiences.

For the main article Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Materials for Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Supporting Staff as They Enhance Nature-Based Learning Opportunities, CLICK HERE

April 2022 Newsletter – Nature-Based Learning: Materials for Nature-Based Learning

Materials for Nature-Based Learning

Before you create the materials list for enhanced nature-based learning, it is a good idea to review some of the resources that are available. Childhood by Nature has compiled a list of Top FREE Nature-Based Learning Curriculums for Schools and Homeschools.  By reviewing these resources, you will have a better idea about the types of materials that you will need.

Some of the materials may come in a standard science kit, such as magnifying glasses and bug observation boxes.  Other materials may be collected from families or community marketplaces such as Freecycle or Craigslist. Sometimes, the only materials children require are their eyes, ears, noses, and hands.  Here is a list of just a few of the items that you could introduce to the children in your care:

  • Garden tools – shovels, spades, rakes, watering cans, gloves, etc.
  • Seeds and planter boxes, indoor plants (Check the poisonous plant list to avoid dangerous plants)
  • Buckets, baskets, sifters, and funnels
  • Carts and wheelbarrows
  • Books about nature topics
  • Binoculars and magnifiers
  • Bird boxes, houses, feeders, etc.
  • Butterfly gardens and plants that attract butterflies
  • Outdoor seating or mats
  • Sand and water tables or bins, sound garden from repurposed pots and pans, mud kitchen
  • Art supplies, notebooks, pencils
  • Various nature-related loose parts and figurines
  • Lumber, stumps, tires, recycled boxes
  • Weather tools – thermometer, rain gauge, windsock, etc.
  • Measuring tools – rulers, measuring tapes, measuring cups/spoons, etc.

For more material ideas, check out these offerings from Discount School Supply.

For the main article Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Benefits of Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Nature-Based Learning Tips, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Supporting Staff as They Enhance Nature-Based Learning Opportunities, CLICK HERE

April 2022 Newsletter – Nature-Based Learning: Benefits of Nature-Based Learning

Benefits of Nature-Based Learning

Researchers have long studied the benefits of nature for both adults and children. In 2019, a team of researchers, led by Ming Kuo, associate professor at the University of Illinois, reviewed hundreds of studies related to the benefits of exposure to nature.

The results of the review identified several positive benefits that nature has on students in the following areas:

  • Physical activity and fitness
  • Self-discipline and motivation
  • Stress reduction
  • Resilience
  • Attention and perseverance
  • Engagement and enjoyment
  • Cooperation and teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Exploration
  • Independence
  • Critical thinking
  • Leadership
  • Environmental stewardship or caring for the planet

These studies align with the many studies on the benefits of nature for adults that have documented the stress-reducing and health-promoting effects of spending time in nature.  The fact that so many areas are positively impacted by nature reinforces the idea that it is possible to enhance student outcomes through nature-based learning.

Even if individual children do not experience all of the benefits, the potential that children will experience some of these benefits makes the effort worthwhile. For example, if nature can help reduce stress in a child’s life, they will be better able to engage in learning experiences and interact with peers, even if they never become a steward of the environment.  And when that child’s stress is reduced, they are likely to be less disruptive in the classroom, creating a more calm and safe learning environment for all children.

You can learn more about the finding of the research review here:  Do Experiences with Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship.

For the main article Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Materials for Nature-Based Learning, CLICK HERE

For the article Nature-Based Learning Tips, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner – Supporting Staff as They Enhance Nature-Based Learning Opportunities, CLICK HERE