Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Colorful Morning at CuriOdyssey

An excited girl 'building it up' at the CuriOdyssey science & wildlife center

Nieve and I decided to spend a morning together at CuriOdyssey Coyote Point. It had been more than a year since our last visit and Nieve was excited to enjoy some of her favorite exhibits.

A nice little example of diffraction

Feeling the fog

Though the center is small it's a fun place for a three-year-old to explore. There are a mix of things for children to do, with most of the activities being either physical sciences or animal exhibits.

Learning about gears and levers to move a polycarbonate ball around a track

More actuating levers to move the ball along

Gravity is great - Nieve seemed to enjoy Rube Goldberg-like machines

Nieve enjoyed both sides of the center. She liked working through various mechanical and optical exhibits, observing what happens when she activates levers or gears. When she couldn't figure out what was happening she would ask for an explanation.

Nieve cracked up at the speed and playfulness of the otters

A happy girl trying to communicate with the little mammals that could not keep still

She also enjoyed watching the animals, with her favorite being the rambunctious river otters. We spent more than 15 mins in front of the glass, laughing from surprise by the swift moving mammals.

A busy girl building

"Eye see you!"

But what really captivated Nieve's interest were stations where she could build something. She loved transforming construction materials into her own grand creations. The more building blocks she could get her hands on the better. She also seemed patient and effective at managing problems that arose (deviations from her desired design); I was impressed at how well she worked through various set-backs.

Using hollow plastic pipe to create her on aquaduct

Nieve used the half-pipe to form a water-catching gutter that protected her piles of sand from erosion

For instance, while working at a water & sand table, the water kept dispersing the sand Nieve piled under the falls. Instead of giving up she used some pieces of plastic to better direct the water and shield her sand piles. It took time but her solution proved both practical and effective. The engineer in me was pleased to see her so engaged in the process; I hope she continues to develop a love of problem solving!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A New Class for Nieve

Yea! Finished another year!

Last week marked the end of Nieve's year spent as a 'Tiger Beetle'. Although her transition to the 'Harvest Mouse' classroom should be less of a change than Ronan moving onto kindergarten she still decided to mark the last day by dressing up in her own unique way.

Nieve knows how to accessorize... she picked out the purple scarf and blue strap from her costume bin at home

I'm a little unclear on exactly how she came into possession of the purple hat, but apparently the Tiger Beetle teachers thought Nieve would be the be the most appreciative of the sparkling purple material and rainbow tiara.

It was not difficult to convince Nieve to pose for a photo. I wish she was always this accommodating.

Clearly the teachers know Nieve. As soon as she had the hat on her head, Nieve ran off to get a white 'princess dress' from a classroom next door. It was all a part of a masterly planned ensemble. She asked for 'boots' but sadly her daycare did not have any that would compliment her unmistakable outfit.

Celebrations mean dancing

Once properly bedecked in haute couture, Nieve spent her last few hours as a Tiger Beetle prancing, dancing, and telling all of her friends that she was the 'princess cowgirl'. I was told Nieve's outfit, attitude, and actions were the source of no small amount of mirth and merry mayhem.

All that dancing works up a thirst

It was a fitting end to a brilliant year. Nieve loved her time in Tiger Beetle and we can only hope this carries forward into Harvest Mouse. A very big thank you to Nieve's teaching staff and classmates for providing a fun, stimulating environment that embraces the children's individuality. Nieve loved it!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

...And Opening Another

Ronan's obligatory first day of school photo. This is how he smiles now.

This morning marked Ronan's entrance to the wonderful world of elementary school. He was fortunate to get into a language immersion program; for the next nine months only Spanish will be spoken by the teachers in the classroom.

Ronan wanted the trucks in the background of the shot, so I obliged

Señora Nicole greeted us with a friendly "buenos días" when we arrived before the first bell. From that point forward Ronan communicated using a combination of English and gesticulation, and it seemed to work well enough. All of the responses from his teacher were in Spanish.

A happy boy getting ready to go to elementary school

Ronan was cool as a cucumber

Ronan chose to do a puzzle (rompecabezas) for his morning activity and we helped him get settled in a spot where he could work. We gave him a quick hug and kiss goodbye and left his classroom. Yes, there were tears, emotional clingy behavior, and tantrums but none of it came from Ronan; it was Nieve who was distraught by the change (Mom and Dad were also a little glassy-eyed).

Getting ready to ride to school...

Ronan was uncharacteristically calm for such a big change (except when chasing one of his new friends around the playground); we're hopeful the transition will be smooth and he embraces his new community with open arms. He's ready and able. It's Mom and I that need to accept that our little boy is growing up far too quickly. Needless to say, we're both terribly proud of Ronan.

...and he's off!

Hearing it from Ronan this evening, his day was a blast. He likes Señora Nicole, his classmates, and the facilities. He told a story of seeing a bottom feeding fish in an aquarium at the biblioteca de la escuela, his carpet square is orange, and that the rules in the playground are far too strict and nonsensical. Here's hoping his time in kindergarten continues to be enjoyable and rewarding!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Closing Another Childhood Chapter...

Ronan waving a greeting during his graduation ceremony

Friday was Ronan's last day at the Wetlands, officially ending the pre-elementary school phase of his childhood. He's now officially an alum, completing four fun years of play-based collaborative learning. He started as a timid 'Snowy Plover' back in 2009 and finished a confident and capable 'Red Legged Frog' last week.

Still paying attention, but sitting still is getting hard

Red Legged Frog, Class of 2013

The graduation ceremony hosted by the preschool was fun. The children sat as a class and listened to some short highlights of their time at the Wetlands and each child was called up to receive a certificate of completion. The children's favorite memories were read during the ceremony, which entertained both parents and children. Those memories ranged from kindness and collaboration of peers to specific toys or food preferences.

Nieve was so excited for Ronan she ran to where he was sitting and gave him a big kiss

Ronan appears to be a bit demanding when it comes to his certificate of completion

The celebration after the ceremony was impressive. Over the past few months the teachers have been working with the students to make movies, all written, directed, performed and by the students. Only the filming (and editing) was out of the students control.

Nieve was clearly excited for and proud of her big brother. She said, "He's so cool."

These short films were screened for us guests in a small theatre created in the studio of their classroom. The extensive props made for the various films were on display, and the children were available to answer questions about the plot, production, or process of their films. Hats of to Ronan's teachers - the entire celebration was very well done.

The graduate, marching on to what's next

Ronan is certain to miss his friends, teachers, and the rest of the pre-school community, but thankfully he's excited to start elementary school. We're thankful he had four years to grow in this community and is a more capable Kindergartner for it. A very big thank you to all of Ronan's educators for the past four years - he'll most certainly miss you!

Rolling out of preschool