January 12


No. 6

Pumpkins, pine cones & gingerbread houses 
Preschool - Creating a world of wonderment
On a rainy afternoon, after the children have all gone home, the Gig Harbor Academy preschool is still bustling with activity.  The preschool teacher, Diana Nold, and her assistant Christine Nelson are busy creating a Wonderland. 

"Early childhood is all about wonderment," Teacher Diana explains as she helps Christine construct a child-size gingerbread house, "and it's in embracing that wide-eyed sense of wonder and then constructing meaning from new experiences where you can really build on learning.  It's about creating curiosity."
The emergent, inquiry-based, curriculum is the basis for teaching Gig Harbor Academy's youngest students.  Hands on exploration and thought provoking questions drive the various projects the class embarks on.  Teacher Diana illustrates this approach  by using the example of the Pumpkin Project.  Pumpkins were placed around the school and observed by the preschool classes to learn about stages in the plant life cycle.  

"How long will they stay there?" she asks rhetorically.  "Until they're done."

This organic approach extends to other nature projects the class experiences.  Working with pine cones, they experiment about the effects that water has on them opening and closing.  It's a process of observing and questioning that enhances their curiosity and ultimately leads to the question, "Why do we have pine cones?"  The class tree project incorporates picking up what falls off the trees and making creations from the pine cones and leaves. 

Trees are often incorporated in their story time, when you'll find the preschool classes wandering in the wetlands, finding pages of the books they are reading attached to trees.  Usually these are action books, so they are propelled to stomp or clap from tree to tree as the story unfolds.  Weather is also a key area of study and, with the ever-present rain, has meaning to them.  "It's about making sense of what's real in the world."

When they aren't outside, the students are in the classroom learning through hands-on science and math projects, using building materials and classroom manipulative items purchased with the funds allocated to her from last year's auction.  Though sometimes learning comes through the use of food, graphing apples, or at lunch, and she shares a story about a child who displayed the four group math concept by stating proudly, "I made a four group with my goldfish!"  These are the most rewarding moments for Teacher Diana. "It's their natural way of saying something that shows they are getting the concepts."
The use of technology is also incorporated in the classroom.  Hanging from the ceiling are self-portraits the students made by looking at pictures of themselves on the iPad.  "It's about building self-awareness," she explains, "without giving examples of what something is supposed to look like." Consistent with the project-based learning and open exploration approach, each self-portrait is as unique and creative as the child themselves.  
"What it turns out to be is theirs, not mine."
It's no surprise that this Wonderland has a waiting list.
Author: Amanda Marley-Clarke

Fresh New Looks Around Campus
We've reached $30K of our $45K goal!

Thanks to some generous donors, we've reached approximately $30,000 in donations!   Great work is being done all over campus with these funds, and more projects are coming.  So far, we've re-carpeted the hallway in the quad, the hallway leading to Pre-K, the head's office, and 4th & 5th grade.  Next up, we'll be working on kindergarten and first grade classrooms.  Senora Agee now has her own desk area in the Specialist's room and we've installed some risers for our well system. 

There are many great ideas being considered.   We're tackling projects as the donations continue to come in to cover them.  We have about a month left in the campaign and we hope to raise an additional $15K so we can tackle a larger project.  We'll be sharing more about that in the next newsletter.  Please consider donating and being a part of this era of renewal for our campus.  

Next week, the board will review all the ideas brainstormed by students and determine the winning idea!  We'll share that with you in the next newsletter. 

Any donation, large or small, is a treasured seed.   We most sincerely thank you for your consideration. 

To Donate - click here to go the Annual Project Fund page on our website!
To find out more contact:   admissions@gigharboracademy.org

  • Classrooms with 100% participation will be thrown a thank you party in their classroom.
  • Donors of $1,000 and over will once again be invited to a thank you reception.
  • When staff reaches 100% we'll deliver them their favorite morning beverage in class.