Featured Project: Bird Nests

Toddler D students enjoyed a bird exploration with Ms. Erin during the “What Makes a Bird a Bird” project after learning about different forest animals. The class discussed the physical and anatomical properties of these animals and completed various projects to enhance their understanding. The class told Ms. Erin that birds have wings, feathers and beaks. “Where do birds live?” This question raised excitement and a variety of answers—“The sky.”, “High in the trees.” and finally, “Birds live in nests!”

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The students were enthusiastic to tell Ms. Erin about the nests they’ve seen as they began a closer investigation of birds. The children continued to expand their concept of how birds build nests and what nests are made of.

As an activity for this project, students created their very own bird nests by using sticks, paper, string and a cardboard box. The class began ripping paper and string into little pieces to start constructing their bird nests. The students decided they would also need glue to make sure the materials used for the nest would stick together. This activity sparked imagination and inspired discovery for the next week as the students added to their homemade nests. The bird nest project was a huge success!

The children were enthusiastic and enjoyed learning through this experimental and hands-on educational activity. The class was proud of their hard work on the nests for their “birdie friends.” As the Toddler D class continues to explore birds and their habitats, students are engaging in vocabulary expansion and increasing understanding for future projects. Ms. Erin’s class will continue to learn more about birds focusing the students’ attention on the eggs inside of the nest.

Featured Teacher: Erin Mitchell – Toddler-D Head Teacher and Coordinator

Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 2.41.47 PMFrom Toledo, Ohio with a degree in human development and family studies, Ms. Erin believes that hands-on learning, even in the earliest stages of life, is an important part of the classroom. “The children are encouraged to explore with a variety of materials and it is so exciting to watch them grow and learn to use the different materials in so many different ways,” says Ms. Erin.

The kind and loving atmosphere that is encompassed at CDC is what initially inspired Ms. Erin to join the team. “I noticed that CDC genuinely cares for the education of each child, and I wanted to be a part of the team.”

After living in Charleston for two years, Ms. Erin has reveled in the opportunity to help share the Reggio Philosophy with Lowcountry families. “I really admire the Reggio Emilia philosophy’s perspective of the child being the author of their own learning. The philosophy focuses on the child’s ability and allows the child to be very active in the learning process rather than merely acting as a sponge.”

When not working at CDC, Ms. Erin enjoys running outdoors, exploring the Charleston beaches, listening to music and playing the ukulele. Most of all, Ms. Erin enjoys reading and shares this hobby with the students in the classroom. “The toddlers are at such a fun age and seem to really enjoy storytelling. I love being animated and seeing the children’s reaction to certain events and hearing the questions they come up with to each story I read.”

Ms. Erin believes that it’s important to “be someone you want to be around”, and to always try to have a good attitude.

Featured Teacher: Alex Hewson

alex-hewsonBorn, raised and educated in Awendaw, SC, Ms. Alex is a Charleston native who believes the success of CDC is based on teamwork. “The children, their families, and the teachers work together under a valid and worthwhile philosophy of personal empowerment.”

Being homeschooled from fourth grade through twelfth grade, Ms. Alex was raised on an educational philosophy that closely aligns with that of CDC. “I learned through doing. I decided when enough was enough. I was given time to dig deeper into subjects that I was especially interested in. My parents thought of themselves as coaches rather than teachers. It was my responsibility to learn and move forward. It was their responsibility to guide me along the way.”

It is this similar educational philosophy that drew Ms. Alex to her current position at CDC. “My job is to provide the tools and to guide my students on their path to better understanding of the subjects they are interested in,” she says.

Ms. Alex’s biggest reward is seeing her student’s good behavior, manners and respectfulness toward others while out on field trips. Project time is a personal favorite because “the children’s level of interest is high because they have actually chosen the subject. They have control over the situation and the outcome.”

When not working at CDC, you might find Ms. Alex babysitting, traveling or planning her next adventure. As part of Ms. Alex’s homeschooling experience, she grew up traveling with her sister to Mt. Pleasant for year round swimming, Spanish tutoring and piano lessons.

What people find most surprising about Ms. Alex is that she is adopted. She currently lives with her two adorable black and white cats named Tuxedo and Paxton.

Ms. Alex believes in personal empowerment and growth and believes that “if you are going to do something, give the time and effort to see it through.”

Featured Project: Ocean Habitats

ocean-habitat1During the Pre-K’s exploration and investigation of sand, Ms. Alex observed the students’ interest in different animals that are found in the sand, both at the desert and at the beach. The students named several animals including sharks, turtles, kangaroo rats, dolphins, crabs, jellyfish and camels. As a class, we began discussing where each of these animals lives. “Do all animals live in the same habitat?” “What makes their habitats different?” “Are all animal habitats made of the same materials?” “Does more than one animal share a habitat?” “What kinds of items are found in an animal habitat?”

Through research the class discovered that there are many different animal habitats. Some of these habitats were a forest, jungle, ocean, grassland and desert. The class decided to begin their exploration of habitats by exploring the ocean.

ocean-habitat2While investigating the ocean habitat, Ms. Alex’s class found that there are over 300 different species of sharks that live there. Many students thought that all sharks are “mean and scary,” but after doing some research, the class found that most sharks are not scary, and will just leave you alone if you do not bother them. The most dangerous sharks, that the class has discussed, are the Bull shark, Great white shark and the Tiger shark.

Throughout the next few weeks, Ms. Alex’s students will be investigating and exploring the components of an ocean habitat. During their investigation, the students will work together to transform each of their learning centers into an ocean habitat complete with all of the necessary components.

Featured Project: Birds

birdfeeder2Toddler A students are enjoying exploring birds during our “What Makes a Bird, A Bird” project. Ms. Meredith observed the students’ interest in these animals and began our exploration of red and blue birds. “Do you see or hear any birds?” “What do birds eat?” “Where do birds live?”

The students became interested in birds when they observed them on nature walks and from inside the classroom. The class then explored the physical and anatomical properties of these animals and completed various projects to enhance their understanding.

The students continue to expand their vocabulary of concepts and words relating to birds including beak, fly, feathers, red, blue, and even cardinal! It is so wonderful to see and hear the students growing in their appreciation and understanding of birds! The students still run to the windows and get so excited when they see their “birdie” friends! As one of our authentic creations for this project, students created class bird feeders by rolling pinecones in sun butter and birdseed to provide food for the birds.

birdfeederThe birdfeeders were a huge success and attracted more birds for observation. With spring just around the corner, the Toddler A students are now able to see new species of birds migrating to our area. There are several blue birds, cardinals and black birds.

The students created their own renditions of the birds using clay, feathers and various paints. “What textures should we add to replicate the bird’s feathers?” “What colors do you want to add to your bird?” The children enjoyed personalizing their birds and even created individual birdfeeders to take home. This project has been a huge success!

As the class continues to explore birds, they will begin to investigate the various colors and textures, which make these animals so unique. The Toddler A students are engaging in incredible dialogue about these animals and are looking forward to increasing their vocabulary and understanding in future projects!

Featured Teacher: Meredith Baird – Toddler-A Lead Teacher

m-bairdCollege of Charleston graduate and Mount Pleasant native, Ms. Meredith fell in love with Children’s Discovery Center when enrolling her 1-year-old daughter. “God’s timing and an incredible dose of fate are what motivated me to change careers and begin working as a lead teacher at CDC.”

Her career change may come as a surprise to many. “Before transitioning to a toddler teacher, I spent five years working with active older adults at Franke at Seaside. The median age of my residents was 81 so I am definitely on the other end of the spectrum now!”

Spending time in nature and taking walks is Ms. Meredith’s favorite activity to share with her students at CDC. “So many times our lives tend to be full of things to do which enables us to slow down and appreciate God’s beautiful creation surrounding us. Watching the students explore and have novel experiences is such a gift.”

Meredith’s favorite part about working at CDC is sharing everyday with her wonderful coworkers and students. “Starting each day with a grateful heart and having the opportunity to positively impact the lives of CDC children makes every day my favorite.”

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is the attitude Meredith brings to CDC and her everyday life. “Each day, I strive to positively impact the lives of others and make a difference.”

The Bus Project – Toddler F Class

The Toddler F class just completed “The Bus Project.” The project came after I noticed the children lining up and sitting in chairs. Each time I asked what they were doing, they replied, “Ms. Susan, we’re going to Hobby Lobby!” I wasn’t sure if they were interested in Hobby Lobby or how to get to Hobby Lobby. After exploring Hobby Lobby by viewing pictures, drawing and a virtual tour, I realized the children were interested not in the store, but the means of getting there.

We began with an investigation: What kind of vehicle was big enough to fit everyone? We explored real vehicles. The children decided a car was too small, an SUV didn’t provide enough seats, but a bus was perfect. Every child had his or her own seat and seatbelt, and everyone was happy! The children learned that the bus has three doors. While trying to open one of the doors, they discovered the handle was inside. The children learned about the different parts of the bus and their functions. We asked questions including, “Which of the parts are circles? Squares? Rectangles?” “What does the steering wheel do?” Why do we wear seat belts?” “Why does the bus need gas?”

The children made a list of parts they wanted to create for the bus mural and classified them by shape. They used various materials and loved painting glue on the mural to hold each part in place. I was surprised that they actually understood where each part should be placed, according to their experiences analyzing the CDC bus! We had a lot of fun exploring and creating the bus mural.

CDC’s Featured Teacher – Susan Hodges

Congratulations to our Featured Teacher Susan Hodges, Lead Teacher for Toddler F!

Susan HodgesFormally a coordinator with Lexington Medical Center Child Development Center in Columbia, Susan recently moved to the Charleston area. She read about Children’s Discovery Center in Parents magazine. “The environment was so welcoming!” she says. “The overall atmosphere was warm and conducive to children learning, and I wanted to be a part of the team.”

The encouragement of children to become investigators and communicators is what she loves about the Reggio approach. “I value listening to and observing the children, to see what their interests are each day. Discovering what makes them tick, what they find interesting and what they love to explore is the best part.”

Project time is a favorite. “The children are part of a process of co-constructing knowledge and shared understanding with each other,” says Susan. “It’s exciting to see their faces light up as they explore and learn.”

Her biggest reward is her relationships with the children and their families, and partnering with them to provide the best possible care. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren: “They are priceless and bring such joy to my heart!”

Pre-Toddler D Lead Teacher – Victoria Smith

unnamed (12) (1)From New York with a bachelor’s degree in childhood education, Ms. Victoria believes that education should be exciting to children. “We should learn together. At Children’s Discovery Center, I learned the child is the first teacher, the teacher is the second teacher and the third teacher is the environment. I think that philosophy is beautiful.

“Children’s Discovery Center’s Reggio Emilia philosophy and approach resonated with me from day one and I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” she says.

An important part of her work is teaching students to identify, name and imitate different things. “I love showing them a picture and watching their expressions as they try to figure it out, point to the picture and name it. It’s a priceless moment that I cherish.”

During project time, children take on the role of being the teacher as she stands back and observes. “I feel like the student because I’m learning from them. I watch as they use their minds to develop fundamental concepts of how things happen.” While the children are exploring, she brings up questions to further their curiosity. “I am there to guide them as they develop the meaning of the project they’re doing.”

Born and raised in the Bronx, Ms. Victoria has a dog, “Mr. Bentley,” and is engaged to her boyfriend, Luke, who is also a teacher. She enjoys shopping with her mother, writing poetry, spending time with family and the outdoors.

“I love to dance as if no one is watching, and sing as if no one is listening!”

Exploring Pumpkins Inside and Out: Pre-Toddler D

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 2.50.51 PMThe children explored with pumpkins in many different ways. They explored through their sense of touch by feeling the outside and insides of a pumpkin. They smelled the inside of the pumpkin. They even painted with pumpkins and orange paint. They used their curiosity while exploring and I learned a lot about how they use their minds to explore.

I placed pumpkins of different sizes around the classroom. Some children sat on the pumpkins while others rolled them across the floor. One child collected pumpkins by placing them one at a time into a basket, counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. A few toddlers picked up a small pumpkin and dropped it on the floor as if it was a ball. Some kicked and banged the pumpkins on the table. While exploring the inside of the pumpkin, the children were skeptical at first. They didn’t seem interested until one child walked over to look at the pumpkin with curiosity. Quietly observing, I wondered what would happen next. They all started peering into the pumpkin, putting their hands inside. They discovered pumpkin seeds and began to pick the seeds from the squishy flesh.

The children also painted pumpkins on paper using paintbrushes and fingers. I placed pumpkins on the table to remind them how a pumpkin looks. It allowed them to visually connect the color and shape of their drawings with the actual pumpkin.