Blog: Nurturing Children Together

Bring to Life Series - a Reflection

By: Knut Hill

Attending Marcia's and Dina's 'Bring to Life' Series is like being a fly on the wall in my four year old's class at Allen Creek Preschool. How lucky we are! Images of the children engaged in play are projected up on a classroom wall for parents to see bigger than life. I'm instantly transported into my preschooler's world while Marcia and Dina tell us what the children are doing. Their narrative is simple and descriptive, poignantly highlighting the complex and fundamental developments taking place.

Marcia expands on the benefits of this unique format: "seeing the children ‘again’ through natural photographs and listening to the children’s words transcribed in midstream as play or projects or discussions unfold allows us to look together at the children’s work.  We see the intensity with which the children play, the details of a child’s drawing or collage or painting; we hear the language a child choses to negotiate, convince, tell a story, or share some knowledge about the world; and we are surprised for example when a child reworks a pattern block design to create a pinwheel design that has several layers of radial symmetry.  This looking again provides a new perspective - without the sounds and the moment-to-moment action within the live classroom; we can pause, and look for the nuggets that give voice to your children’s development, to their rich capacities." 

As our children mature and spend more time at school, we miss out on the uncut storyline we had when they were infants and with us for every waking moment. For my wife and I, this separation brings natural and inevitable uncertainty. During a Bring to Life presentation I get a sought after glimpse into what really goes on at preschool. Who is he playing with? How is he using materials, or working through challenges? Answers to these types of questions are provided in pictures worth a thousand words; more detail than I can expect my four year old to remember let alone share with me. His teachers share a child's quote from the captured moment providing even more color to the scene. Seeing an expression on my boy's face of focus and enjoyment while hard at work reconfirms that our child has mastered separation from us and is free to fully enjoy school.

But what parent wouldn't eagerly sit through a presentation about their child? What makes this great is that, like all of the teachers that our two boys have had at Allen Creek, Marcia and Dina really know our child. They understand and appreciate him both personally and developmentally. The presentation reminds me of how experienced and knowledgeable they are. Pictures are selected that totally capture our boy. They explain how something seemingly simple or playful really signifies marked development toward important milestones. Sure we spend a lot of time with our children and experience milestone moments, but they have a different flavor at school. And too many of the moments we have are lost in the rushed, disjointed pace of everyday family life. Sitting together as adults learning about our children lets us focus and celebrate the wonderful journey.

 Marcia and Dina "feel great satisfaction with the process of preparing and organizing the presentations and are pleased that so many of you are able to come and share this time together." Thank you for crafting such a beautiful and meaningful series that documents our children's development at Allen Creek.

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Talking With Children About Tornado Drills

Tornados and Tornado Drills can evoke a  range of reactions in young children, and it is very possible that your child does not know what a tornado is, which makes talking about how to practice being safe in one additionally challenging. To begin the conversation about tornado drills, you may want initially to talk to your child about the weather: how sometimes it is windy and rainy, sometimes sunny or snowy, hot or cold. Children are naturally interested in what makes it rain and what causes wind, and they understand very early the ever changing nature of the weather. 

Rather than focusing on facts about how scary and powerful tornadoes can be, it’s best to keep the description simple: “It gets windy when warm air and cold air mix around together. Sometimes this mixture of warm and cold air makes very strong winds that come close to the ground, and when this happens it's called a tornado. Tornadoes are shaped like funnels and spin, kind of like tops (perhaps demonstrate with a top or something else that spins), and they can be very strong.” You can differentiate regular wind from tornadoes by talking about how the sky looks different in a tornado, with dark clouds and a greenish sky.  It is best to avoid discussing the potential disaster that tornadoes can cause, destroying houses, uplifting cars and people and trees, etc., and it is important to say that tornadoes do not occur just because it is windy, and that they are rare. Avoid getting too technical with weather terms like up- and down-drafts, cyclones, supercells, etc. 

As with fire drills, tornado drills help us practice what to do and where to go if there is a tornado warning; it's good to have a plan in case the wind gets too strong.  At schools drills follow a typical pattern. Teachers generally will tell children about the tornado drill ahead of time, especially for the first one in a year, and will describe what will happen. On the day of the drill, there will be some kind of alert, which varies from school to school. It is typically different from the alert used for other drills, so everyone knows what to do. Each class will go into a protected, inner part of the building, sit against the walls with their teacher(s) and friends, and wait until they get the “all-clear” from someone outside.

The primary goal in talking with children about this or any other potential disaster is to be matter of fact, not give too much or unnecessary information, and convey confidence in the grownups who are taking care of them.