Wednesday, April 13, 2016

God Bless The Bees

This year, I have a combined group of 17 preschool and kindergarten kids for Bible and praise & worship each morning. They consistently amaze me with the depth of their understanding, their use of background knowledge, and their grasp of abstract, complex concepts at such a young age. The longer I teach preschool, the more I understand what Jesus meant when he said,"Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)

As adults, we like to compartmentalize everything in life: work, school, family, "quiet time", play time, spiritual, non-spiritual, etc. But there are no such distinctions in the world of a preschooler. Everything is fluid and inter-connected. It makes perfect sense to them to be singing "Our God is an awesome God..." while building a zoo with blocks and tiny animals, or transition seamlessly from The Banana Boogie (MGT's fall In the Orchard CD) to Holy Spirit Blow Me Away during music and movement.

This month, the Experience God theme is all about prayer, as illustrated in the Easter story. We are learning this week about prayers of intercession and petition. I explained a petition as a request for something to be fixed or changed. After we discussed it for a few minutes, I suggested we practice saying a prayer of petition, and asked the children if they had any ideas of things that they wanted God to fix or change.

Because all of my students are learning English as a 2nd (or 3rd) language, and there's some speech & language delay thrown into the mix, I often get one word answers that require lots of creative inference on my part to ultimately get to the complete expression of a child's idea. In this conversation, I got "earth" and "bees" as a response. After some follow-up questions, I figured out that the student wanted to pray a prayer of petition to ask God to fix the earth, to keep the bees safe, happy, and healthy. Even at five (and younger), they are very mindful of the importance of God's creation. They were also quick to connect the Bible lesson to the weekly learning objectives about bees.

So, while we thanked God for the gift of His son, Jesus, and the sacrifice he made to make a way for us to be part of His family, we also prayed for God to bless the bees with happiness, health, and lots of honey!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Preschool Art As Therapy

n. pl. ther·a·pies
1. Healing power or quality
2. any act, task, program, etc., that relieves tension.

It's back to school time already! Welcome to the first week of the 2016-2017 school year in Japan! The majority of my preschool and kindergarten students are returning, but there are a few new faces, which means there are the inevitable trials, tears, and tantrums in a new environment with different expectations. 

Our new MGT theme is perfect for back to school in Japan: Bees and Butterflies! (partly because the name of the class is Honey Bees & Lady Bugs, and it also fits the current weather so nicely) Day 1 featured painting a bee hive with bubble wrap. This was a great way to ease the new littles into art and sensory without having to get too messy right off the bat. They are not so sure about wet, slimy or sticky substances on their hands at this point. Also, adding sparkles to the paint is ALWAYS a welcomed choice. I gave them the option of making small circle prints with the bubble wrap or big circles, using dot paints of the same color. It was pretty evenly split in terms of which medium was requested. We're still playing catch up a little bit from having 1/2 days at the beginning of the week, so they haven't added the bees yet, but the hives are ready for some inhabitants. It was a relief to see one new Honey Bee eager and happy to complete this project in an agreeable manner, since most of the rest of the day any "suggestions" that came from me were met with a resounding,"NO!" 

Day 2 was all about bee food, and the daily topic posted features a picture of what appears to be pink cherry blossoms, otherwise know as sakura in Japan. Sakura is a VERY big deal this time of year, and the class thought the picture was really awesome! We made edible art with the special recipe card, we called them "Banana Bees". I used chocolate syrup instead of pudding. I bought most of the ingredients from the import store because some are not commonly found in regular grocery stores here. The kids were fascinated with the shape of the pretzels, and amazed that there were 3 different choices of raisin colors (green, light brown, dark brown). Everybody loves a special treat, so there were no tears on this one...that is until I said it was time to be all done and transition to a different activity. Transitions are no joke for new 3 year olds! 

The Queen Bee headband was a huge hit, not surprising, since headbands made the "favorites" list at the end of last school year. I gave them rulers to make their own stripes on the yellow paper. They had the choice black crayons, colored pencils, or markers. We talked about opposite words like long/short, fat/skinny, big/small, straight/curved (and stinger or no stinger) while they were deciding how to create their bee. They were very proud to get their picture with the headbands on when they were all done. 

Having an open-ended coloring activity with the geometric shapes saved the day in early arrival and free play time. Coloring is magical in it's ability to diminish or completely eradicate tears and separation anxiety in young children. It was great to see the different ideas each child came up with. I had one SUPER focused 3 year old who spent nearly 25 minutes meticulously coloring in the shapes she had traced, before also adding some hearts and "happy rabbits". 

My favorite art project of the week was the bees in the hexagon hive picture. It was rather comical watching them try to figure out what they were supposed to do with the cardboard stencils. Some of them started coloring on the cardboard before I modeled how to trace, either outside or inside the shape, depending on what part of the stencil they chose to use. I provided the pieces, and put the glue on (because Japanese glue tends to be very thick and difficult to squeeze out of the bottle) and they each decided how to arrange it on their paper. They also had a choice of how many sparkly bee stickers to add to the hive. Requests ranged from 5-15. We ended up with some VERY busy bee hives. Of course, because it's Japan, I added the option for sakura flowers, which everybody loved. 

Having a variety of child and teacher directed art projects definitely relieved tension and calmed first-week-of-school jitters, and helped to make this a fantastic welcome back to school week for everyone!