Preschool Pals Update: A Fabulous Fall

Preschool Pals Update: A Fabulous Fall 600 450 Way to Grow

An update from Ms. Gwen, Way to Grow’s Lead Preschool Teacher.

Our Preschool Class started off the month of October with an introduction to our Friends Unit. We learned basic skills about what a good friend does and how to make friends. We read books like “Can I Play Too?” by Mo Willems, “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister and “Bear’s New Friend” by Karma Wilson. In these books we learned valuable lessons on making friends, sharing and what it means to work together. 
The following week we discussed red and green choice and the consequences of the actions we choose. These choices help the kiddos easily recognize rules and pausing before acting. 

We entered the season of Fall! Our classes spent a lot of time outside watching the changing colors by taking walks in our neighborhood and playing in the leaves. The kiddos favorite part was watching them fall. 

Our PM class was finally able to harvest our produce we grew in the garden this Summer. We grew some healthy looking cucumbers, cut and ate them for snack. To our surprise the kids loved them! We had lots of requests for a third serving. 

October was a big month for crafts! We decorated our classroom with painted leaves, pumpkins, window art and sparkly apples. The kiddos loved these projects! There will be lots more art projects for the future! 

At the end of the month we took a field trip to Fall Harvest Orchard. It was a cold and windy trip but the kids still enjoyed themselves. Our classes took a hayride through the orchards, played in the corn pit, fed cows and goats, slid down the giant slide and went on an apple ride. 

We ended our month making glow in the dark slime!

Preschool Pals Update: And We’re Off!…

Preschool Pals Update: And We’re Off!… 600 450 Way to Grow

An update from Ms. Gwen, Way to Grow’s Lead Preschool Teacher.

The AM and PM classes started off the school year adjusting to the new class schedule, making friends and getting to know the teachers! For our littlest ones, in the AM class, learning the new routine was a challenge. Not to our surprise, the kids caught on very fast. Problem solving skills and communication were at the forefront of our first two weeks. We worked on basic concepts like; asking before taking, identifying emotions, following directions, listening to others, learning to play together and red/green choices.

The PM class were quick to remember the routine and adjusted wonderfully to the new afternoon time. Most of our friends in the PM class have known each other for over a year. Understanding basic concepts was something they worked on last year. So, our main focus was diving into our Family Unit! Weeks 1 and 2 we learned about what a family is and who is in our family. The kids took the time to draw out their families and talk about why they love the people they live with. The kids spent lots of time playing house, having weddings, cooking meals and caring for the babies in the classroom.

Weeks 3 and 4 we spent time talking about family diversity. Many of our families at Way To Grow come from different backgrounds. We talked about cultures, holidays, physical attributes, food, language and family structures. Our last week of the unit, we talked about different ways families spend time and work together. We celebrated our last day of summer with a picnic in the park and popsicles! Our unit was just one of the many activities that kept us busy in the classroom this month. We have daily lessons in counting, letters, sounds, rhyming, alliteration, patterns, calendar, weather, reading, music, STEM and much more! 

Not only have we been busy in school, but also outside of school, with two preschool events just this month! Our first event was our Parent-Child class with a quick briefing on nutrition and encouraging kiddos to try new foods. Our second event was held by Ready, Set, Smile. This program provided onsite dental services, oral health classroom education and referral services. We are looking forward to working with them in the near future to continue care for our class. Thank you to all the families that attended these events! 
Cheers to the new year! 🙂 

Preschool Pals Update: A Summer Summary!

Preschool Pals Update: A Summer Summary! 600 800 Way to Grow

An update from Ms. Gwen, Way to Grow’s Lead Preschool Teacher.

In mid-June, our class started the summer with a games unit. The kids learned how to play kick ball, Connect 4, Candy Land, Busytown, and Go Fish. Many of these games involved winning and losing. The big emotions that came with losing created a beautiful opportunity to problem solve and cope with one of life’s biggest obstacles.

Throughout the summer our class continued to read and study author and illustrator Mo Willems. The kids learned to identify characters, settings, problems and solutions. Their favorite book was “Watch Me Throw the Ball!”

By the end of June, Ms. Gwen had many requests to bake cookies. Each class worked together to bake chocolate chip banana bread. Their favorite parts were smashing the bananas and sitting down to eat the finished product.

During the third week of July, the class took a trip to the Como Zoo! The kids spent time with their families looking at some of their favorite animals and watching a Sparky the Seal show. ​

To end the month of July the kids played with shaving cream, made sandcastles, watered the garden and had a surprise visit from the ice cream man.

To start the month of August, our class took some time to talk about big transitions. The morning class learned about what it would be like moving up to the afternoon. And the afternoon class talked about graduating and going to a new school for kindergarten! We watched Inside Out, which talked all about the emotions that come with a big move. 

We wrapped up our summer with our end of the school year celebration at the park. On our last day of school we had a water balloon fight, made ice cream, handed out awards and said goodbye to many of our kids. It was a whirlwind of a summer that ended in a sweet way. All the best to our little graduates!

​See you next year!

Congratulations, Class of 2023!

Congratulations, Class of 2023! 2560 1707 Kate Kinkade

This August, Way to Grow had the opportunity to celebrate our Early Learner Class of 2023. The achievements of our families shine bright: this school year, 89% of our preschoolers were evaluated as ready to enter kindergarten on track!

Beginning kindergarten is a major milestone, and each of our Early Learners have been working hard alongside their families to prepare for their next big adventure. Way to Grow’s assessments indicated that 89% of our pre-k students are beginning the school year on track to succeed, determined by the results of our Individual Growth and Development Indicator (IGDI) assessments. Developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota, these assessments are administered to our Early Learners three times annually.

Starting school—at any level—is a big step worth celebrating. Way to Grow is here to help families navigate questions, new systems, and major changes at home. Our Early Learners will continue to be enrolled in Way to Grow for the next four years, learning and growing alongside their Way to Grow Family Educator all the way until they’re ready to begin fourth grade.

Way to Grow’s Early Learner graduation was supported by many of our dedicated volunteers, funders, and partner organizations. Our friends at the Ciresi Walburn Foundation funded a book fair for the celebration, filling the Metropolitan Ballroom with tables of over 600 books for each child to hand-pick for their home libraries. Graduates were also supported by our dedicated partners at the Books to Grow project, which has been partnering with Way to Grow for over a decade. Each family received a hand-crafted gift bag, filled with art supplies and a brand new copy of “The Crayons Go Back to School.”

When it was time to receive their diplomas, our brave graduates walked across the stage with their heads held high!

Way to Grow would like to extend heartfelt thanks to all who made this celebration possible. Thank you to all the Way to Grow parents and caregivers for your work and commitment to your child’s education. To our Way to Grow Family Educators and staff, thank you for all your hard work, enthusiasm, and dedication. Finally, thank you to our event volunteers from PNC, the Way to Grow Board of Directors, and our network of funders for your continued support.

To all of our Way to Grow families: you are going to do amazing things this year. We’ll be there for you every step of the way!

Photos by Alden Content

Preschool Pals Update: Cultivating Minds!

Preschool Pals Update: Cultivating Minds! 600 800 Way to Grow

An update from Ms. Gwen, Way to Grow’s Lead Preschool Teacher.

Last week, we finished up our forest animal unit. To the kids’ surprise, zebras, tigers and cheetahs do not live in Minnesota! Our focus was learning about what animals we see outside like squirrels, deer, birds, chipmunks, beavers, etc. We categorized these animals into the habitats they live in: tree, ground and water. The kids spent plenty of time playing with flashlights in the bear den and protecting their castles from evil snakes.

After coming back from summer break, the class finally started to build our garden! We learned about what types of fruits and vegetables we are growing and how to plant them. The kids took the time to paint plant labels and decorate the garden bed. Finally, it was time to plant! The kids learned to cultivate the soil using their rakes, dig holes to put the seeds in and water them.

Wow, so much hard work! We took a much-needed break with some ice pops in the shade. Every day the kids have looked forward to watering our garden and watching the little sprouts grow.

For the summer, our AM and PM classes will start a small unit on games. The goal is to help with following directions, listening to others and being okay with winning and losing. The PM class’s main focus will be our author study for the summer. The kids decided they wanted to learn about and read books by author and illustrator, Mo Willems! 

Keep up the great work, Preschool Pals!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! 800 800 Maren Nelson

We think the world could use a little more love. This year, Way to Grow has a Valentine Wish—to spread joy and love to our community! We enlisted the help of our preschoolers to share their thoughts on love. Our hope is that they remind you love is about the little things we do for each other.

Feeling inspired? Join us in our campaign of good vibes by sharing your Valentine Wish on social media! Use #OurValentineWish and help spread the love! Please consider a gift in honor of your Valentine and spread the love to your community.

Creating a Virtual Classroom

Creating a Virtual Classroom 1200 600 Way to Grow

By Deedee Stevens-Neal, Director of Education

Spring is definitely here and Way to Grow is keeping busy! Read on for an invitation to join our virtual Education is Power event, see children learning and working hard in our new virtual world, learn how we created a virtual classroom, and to get important updates on 2020 giving.

The teachers at our Way to Grow Preschool Pals are using creative ways to help keep both teachers and students connected during this peacetime emergency. Shortly after the stay-at-home order was placed, the team created a private Facebook group for the parents and children of the preschool. The teachers began creating videos from their homes that continued some of the children’s daily routines (such as discussing the calendar and letter of the week) and downloading them onto the private Facebook page. The families could respond via comments or send videos back. The teachers then incorporated these responses in their next video. The teachers also created videos of themselves reading books and giving ideas for easy activities that the families could do together. The books being featured are both in English and Spanish.

The preschool teachers then began scheduling virtual home visits to allow each child an opportunity to actually interact with the staff members. The teachers create a lesson plan that focuses on basic literacy skills and offers both quiet, sedentary activities and more active movement. Families sign up for visits at times that are convenient for them. Each child can have one visit per week so that they can continue their relationship with the teachers and continue to progress with their learning. These visits are in addition to virtual visits with their Family Educator.

The preschool virtual home visits have been a success! The teachers have had opportunities not only to connect with the children enrolled in the preschool, but also re-connect with older siblings that have attended in the past and younger siblings that may enroll in the future. Several children are using their families as part of the lesson. For example, one child was asked to name something that starts with a “W” and they ran out of the room to get their sister who was wearing a watch. Others have used their baby as an example of something loud and their moms as something that is beautiful.

It is important in this trying time to keep some stability and normalcy in the lives of these young learners. By giving the children these opportunities to remember their routines and practice their skills, we hope to come out of this time with children that are mentally healthy and developmentally prepared for kindergarten.

Learning at Home: Alphabet Wall Game

Learning at Home: Alphabet Wall Game 150 150 Maren Nelson

This activity comes from one of our Preschool Pals teachers and is a great game for you and your preschooler to play at home together.

What You Need:

  • Cards with all the letters of the alphabet (uppercase AND lowercase)
  • A wall you can put tape on in a room with lots of space to run
  • A helper! (that’s you, caregiver, family member, or friend!)

Game Set-up:

If you do not have letter cards, here’s how you can make your own:

Cut paper into small squares. On each square, write the upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet. Then tape these squares on the wall in a random order. (Make sure you tape them at a height your child can reach.)

How to Play:

Level 1: Letter Names

The helper calls out a letter from the wall. The child then runs to the wall, finds the letter, and tags it with their hand.

Level 2: Letter Sounds

The helper calls out a letter sound. The child then runs to tag the correct letter.

Level 3: Word Sounds

Option 1: The helper puts an object in front of them and the child must run and tag the first letter in the name of the object. (Example: the helper sets a cup in front of them, so the child should tag the letter “C.”)

Option 2: The helper calls out a word and the child runs to tag the first letter of that word.

New Underwater Friends

New Underwater Friends 756 506 Maren Nelson

Our Preschool Pals teacher, Mr. Eka, is always looking for ways to engage his students in new ways. Sometimes that involves painting with interesting materials and other times it means sharing opportunities that the kids otherwise may not be able to experience.

Last week, our preschoolers took a field trip to SeaQuest in Roseville for their first field trip of 2020! The kids were instructed on how to safely engage with the animals, taught about the different species, and had a ton of fun along the way. “The place really let the children touch, feed, and play with the animals. I think both children and parents had a really fun time and some had already planned for return visits,” said Mr. Eka.

Check out the photos below!

Cookie Hunt!

Cookie Hunt! 1152 864 Angelique McDonald

Our preschool is on winter break, but last week they celebrated the end of 2019 with a cookie hunt!

From Mr. Eka: “We’ve been reading The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires so we decided to make a gingerbread cowboy of our own. The children had lots of fun watching Ms. Alanna carve the dough into a cowboy. Then they used the rest of the dough to cut shapes using their favorite cookie cutters.

“But just like in the story, after we baked the gingerbread cowboy, it ran away! So we had to look everywhere in the building and catch it so we could eat it! Fortunately, we caught the gingerbread cowboy at the front desk. We ate it and it was delicious!”

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