Preschool Pals

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!

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!

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!


Book-O-Ween 1008 756 Angelique McDonald

This October, our Preschool Pals celebrated Book-O-Ween! This special holiday is when our very special friends get to dress up as one of their favorite book characters and have a party in the classroom. This year, they feasted upon spooky snacks like ghost & bat chips, monster strawberries and bananas, and washed it all down with spider milk.

Naturally, no event could ever be complete without a dance party! Our friends got to enjoy music followed by some spectacular spider art, and they wrapped the day up with a monster movie. It was a mighty adventure!

Preschool Pals Has Begun!

Preschool Pals Has Begun! 756 549 Angelique McDonald

This September, our preschool in North Minneapolis, Preschool Pals, held their first Parent-Child class for the school year. Preschool Pals hosts Parent-Child classes throughout the year, with near-perfect attendance by families. Each class centers around a theme that impacts families every day. This class focused on nutrition.

Lead by our preschool staff, the class was facilitated with the help of University of Minnesota Health & Nutrition Program Educator, Ms. Selah Michele. She spoke to parents about helping children try new foods and keeping them engaged with their food choices by including them in snack prep. She also gave parents tips for providing healthy snack options and answered personal questions from the families. 

The class concluded the session by making their own snack: fruit salsa with cinnamon chips. Parents then went home with a few recipes that they could try with their children. Yum! 

Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!

Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come! 1200 798 Ivy Marsnik

Last fall, Waabomiimii began attending Way to Grow Preschool P.A.L.S. after her mom met Miriam, one of our Family Educators, at a recruitment event. At four years old, Waabomiimii did not know her ABCs or how to count, but over the last year she has grown tremendously. Making leaps and bounds, Waabomiimii now knows all letter sounds, is counting up to 20, and has passed the nationally recognized IGDI early literacy assessments indicating that she is ready for kindergarten!

Itzel, Waabomiimii’s mom, is very happy with Waabomiimii’s progress and has enjoyed watching her daughter grow. “In just one year,” Itzel tells us, “Waabomiimii has learned the alphabet, how to write numbers, and count. She has learned rhyming words and is now learning how to read!”

Combined with our preschool parent-child classes and home visiting program, Itzel’s engagement has been instrumental in Waabomiimii’s success. “Mom always works very hard between home visits,” Miriam says. “She has done a great job with Waabomiimii over the past year on everything from counting and reading, to following through on rules. When she gets home from work, she now sets aside time each night to practice learning with Waabomiimii.”

During home visits, Miriam continues to work with Waabomiimii and Itzel on reading. “Waabomiimii is working on continuing to build her sight-word recognition – a critical first-step in early literacy,” Miriam says. “When I visit, we do a lot of shared reading, a technique we commonly use in our curriculum.” Shared reading, a strategy where students and adults read aloud together, provides guidance and support to the child as they learn new words. “I usually start by reading a sentence, then engage mom by having her read next. Mom then reads while pausing on the sight-words Waabomiimii knows to allow her to read the sight-words aloud,” Miriam describes. “Now they like it so much that mom is reading with Waabomiimii 10-20 minutes each day! They also visit the library regularly so they can continue to enjoy new books together.”

This month, Waabomiimii walked across the stage at the Way to Grow Early Learner Graduation and in a few short weeks, she will begin her next journey as she starts kindergarten. Thanks to mom’s hard work, and the help of Miriam and the Way to Grow preschool teachers, we are happy to report she is ready to succeed!

Meet Mr. Barry

Meet Mr. Barry 2055 1566 Ivy Marsnik

Every Wednesday for the past year, 12-15 Way to Grow preschool children cannot wait to see Mr. Barry’s friendly smile when they arrive at school.

Mr. Barry volunteers as a Preschool Literacy Tutor at the Way to Grow Preschool in South Minneapolis. “I love reading to the kids,” he says, “I get to the preschool before class starts, and before you know it” Barry cheerfully explains, “I’ll have several children crowding around me; excited to read, to learn and to enjoy a story!”

To say Mr. Barry has a passion for teaching would be an understatement. “I always wanted to be a teacher,” Mr. Barry goes on. “But, one thing led to another, and I wound up with a successful career in retail; but I never stopped thinking I would have liked to be a teacher.” So, even while working full time, Mr. Barry started his equally successful volunteer career as K-3 tutor at Emerson Public School where he served for over ten years. Though Mr. Barry enjoyed the one-on-one time, this school enjoyed a large number of volunteers. He credits this experience with inspiring him, and looked for more opportunities where he could make an impact.

“That’s when I saw a call to volunteer with Way to Grow in the newspaper,” Mr. Barry says. “I looked into the program and was very drawn to the idea of working with a population of students [where a large percentage are] assimilating to America, while simultaneously learning to navigate the school system. It’s hard not to tie this work to the achievement gaps everyone is talking about in Minneapolis, and, well, you can’t keep complaining that kids are undereducated, if you’re not going to do anything about it!” And so, Mr. Barry did, and has been with our Preschool P.A.L.S. ever since.

“I know that the families at the preschool are getting a head start, and that’s very profound throughout Way to Grow,” Mr. Barry concludes. “I, myself have learned a lot by watching these children and families progress and learn new skills. We are getting these kids ready to be successful and well educated. Seeing these results – let me tell you, I am so proud of how advanced these children are. It is what keeps me involved and inspired.”

Mr. Barry thinks about the impact his involvement may have in the future, “Someday one of these children might be our mayor, a successful CEO, a noted teacher or anything else they can dream of – even representing us in the White House!”  And Mr. Barry likes to think he is helping them get there; “Even if just a little bit!”

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