Hopkins Preschools–Take A Look!

Many parents are now focusing on finding the preschool that fits best for their child and meeting the deadline of registering for next year.  It can be difficult to look so far into the future (past the winter, spring and summer) and see your child proudly walking into her classroom. However, the practicalities of preparing for the next great year involve finding, assessing and holding a spot in the school of your choice over the next few months. Luckily, the Hopkins School District helps to make your search less complicated, because of the high quality preschool experiences provided by the Kaleidoscope staff throughout our district.  The classrooms provide a developmentally appropriate approach to education. The environment in which the children learn inspires creative thinking, problem-solving, exploration and an appreciation for the energy of the young child. The staff are proud of the work they do with the children in their care.  We took some time to talk to the teachers about the unique aspects of the program.

The Kaleidoscope program is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach.  This educational philosophy holds most dear the children’s active role in their own learning. The teachers see every student in the classroom as capable and able to be an active participant in their own education. To different extents in each classroom, the curriculum unfolds as the teacher learns of the questions and interests of the students. The projects that the children are engaged in, though they don’t come from a “packaged curriculum”, teach the important social and academic skills which provide the foundation for learning. However, the lessons being learned are approached through a subject of intense interest to the children.

The use of simple materials throughout the classroom encourage an active role from the students. With classroom materials that can be worked with in many ways, the child is encouraged to bring her own ideas into her play and into her learning. The basic principle is to encourage the children to build an idea around a material, not have the device dictate a certain game or method of play. This allows the child to capitalize on her own imagination–which in turn builds critical thinking skills and problem solving skills.  If the item isn’t telling the child what to do–then the child gets to think for herself! The use of computers and technology play the important role in the classroom of providing information. For instance, if the students have shown an interest in birds, the teacher works with the students to find bird calls and pictures of nests through the internet.  Technology is used as a method of gaining knowledge; technology is never used as entertainment.

The teachers in the Hopkins preschool program play an integral part in the student’s learning.  They purposefully create a space where wondering and questioning are the centerpiece of the learning experience. The teachers take the time to watch the children and understand the interests they are showing in different topics or subjects.  Using this information, they build a project around that interest and invite the children to follow their curiosity into the details of this project.  Through this work the children are building the school skills that are so necessary for success in later grades: developing a longer attention span, being part of a group and working together effectively, the ability to plan an action and follow through on that plan–controlling their own behavior.  All of this happens because the students are so engaged in their topic of interest, they want to continue to learn.

Interested in learning more about the Hopkins Kaleidoscope programs? Take part in the visiting days in February:
Meadowbrook: February 25, 12:00-1:00pm
Harley Hopkins: February 26, 12:00-1:00pm
Glen Lake: February 27, 12:00-1:00pm

When taking a peek at possible preschools, consider the advice provided earlier by our preschool staff about how to best assess the fit between the program and your child in our previous blog post: Welcome to Another year of Preschool

Winter/Spring 2013 Adult Community Education classes are here!

Hopkins Adult Enrichment classes and events are open for registration now! Try a fine art class, enhance your cooking skills, explore a new hobby, manage your finances, discover a new fitness option, and so much more, all here for you at Hopkins Community Education. Registration open now, register online, or call our helpful staff at 952-988-4070. Browse our interactive catalog here.

Indoor Entertainment from the Experts

It is snowing outside, and it feels too cold to venture out for long. However, the cabin fever we begin to feel as we head into January and lumber through February can be difficult to manage–especially if we have active and energetic toddlers!

The parents in the Hopkins Early Childhood / Family Education program have shared so many ideas about how to keep entertained and be entertaining during the winter months. Because the parents in our program hail from so many different cities, have such eclectic interests and are willing to share so generously with each other, the ideas of places to go and things to do is often long and inviting.

We thought we would share the list of ideas generated from our families. The families in the Hopkins ECFE program are a community who support one another and actively engage with each other.  Through this list we are happy to share that sense of community with you!

Don’t forget that Harley Family Center provides great opportunities for indoor play! Here are some events you are likely to want to get involved in:

Saturday Open Gym

Stay and Play Classes on Thursdays or Fridays

Science in Action Classes for Preschoolers

Frosty Fun

Hang the following list up on your fridge, and when things start to feel slow, choose something or somewhere you haven’t yet experienced and head off to a winter adventure.

Indoor Ideas:

  • Put on a music CD and have a dance party
  • Bring snow inside and play in the sink or in a dishpan
  • Fill a dishpan with cornmeal or rice and some cups and spoons for pouring in the pan
  • Take an extra bath—water is always fun
  • Build a pillow fort or a pillow pile to climb on
  • Build a fort with blankets
  • Draw paper rockets or make them out of paper and run through the house “flying” them
  • Cut open grocery bags, tape them together, tape them to the floor and let your children color all over them
  • Bake—cookies or breads. Also, look up homemade bird seed / feeder recipes and make food for the birds
  • Pull out stickers and pieces of paper, let your children create a sticker collage
  • Sit in the high chair and finger paint on the tray
  • Put books in different parts of the house, different rooms equal a different book to read
  • Map out a roadway with masking tape and drive cars on the roadway around the house. Don’t leave the tape on too long—it will leave a mark
  • Rotate toys in and out of view over the winter. “New” toys that haven’t been seen in a week or two have a great appeal
  • Do simple art projects. One great idea is to use “Magic Nuudles”, found in art supply stores. They glue with water to create sculptures

Outside in the Yard:

  • Use your best judgment about how long to stay outside with little ones. They won’t often tell you they are too cold. Have them protected in good quality outer-wear or limit the amount of time they are able to be out.
  • A full body zipped up body suit is a good idea for littler children.
  • Purchase mittens that go further up the arm, to keep them from falling off
  • Remember you likely won’t be outside for long, but it is great to do most days
  • Gentle sledding—pulled on a sled or slight hills
  • Grab some kid sized shovels and let them “help” shovel the snow
  • Sand buckets from the summer can be used to build snow bricks for forts—or purchase a snow brick maker
  • Spray bottles with water and food coloring to paint the snow
  • Make a person or a whole family out of snow
  • Fill Tupperware with snow and make different shapes or a whole city out of the packed snow
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood and count the different animals you see, or the number of cars, or the sounds you hear. Enjoy the walk together—and the hot chocolate you can have when you come back inside

Neighborhood Activities:

  • Ice rinks and sledding hills, you can find them listed on your city’s website
  • Library story-times or play areas: Hopkins and Linden Hills have great libraries for kids
  • Community Centers and Rec. centers have open gyms. For details see the blog entry  hopkinsparent.com: Indoor Fun
  • Nature centers have indoor and outdoor activities: Westwood, WoodLake and the Lowry Nature Center are three ideas
  • Mall Play Areas—early in the morning is best with toddlers. Just walking around the mall with a baby in the stroller is also a good time.
  • Wild Rumpus Book Store—the whole neighborhood has different stores to explore
  • Sovereign Grounds Coffee Shop in the early morning
  • Stages Theatre has plays for very young children during the day
  • Williston Fitness Center has toddler-centered activities

Day Trips:

  • Children’s Museum on Tuesdays is group-free
  • Edinborough in Edina
  • Eagles Nest in New Brighton
  • Maple Grove Indoor Pool
  • Arboretum
  • Mall of America—Toddler Tuesdays and Underwater World
  • Midtown Global Market has kids’ entertainment on Wednesdays
  • Choo Choo Bobs
  • Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Walker Arts Center both have family days
  • Three Rivers Parks District has great offerings at their parks—see their website for details
  • Go Bowling: Memory Lanes or Pinstripes or Tuttles are three ideas
  • MN Zoo or Como Zoo

Looking to find families with children your age? Eager to share the joys of parenting and discuss the challenges that arise?  Our ECFE program is beginning second semester on January 22nd. We would love to have you join us!