SummerScience News & Preview!

March 14, 2016

Dear Parents,
Read on to find out about the daily schedule and the theme that will hold our sciencey activities together this year, making the science, engineering, technology, art and mathematics that we employ on our journey relevant and meaningful to our young, but innately inclined, scientists.

SummerSciencers meet daily, Monday-Friday, from 9:30 – 12:30. The five longer days a week let children who are bound for kindergarten “dip a toe” into that schedule.
We make every effort to assign children to their current lead or assistant teacher, although not all teachers participate in SummerScience as group leaders. In any case, the daily routine, already familiar to the children, enables us to take off running.

To ensure fair distribution of openings, we number the forms as they are received in the office, and use that order as a factor if we have more applications than we can accommodate. (Children who can’t be accepted initially will go on a waiting list. As spaces open up we’ll notify you.)

The SummerScience day is similar to the routine your child is used to, but it is AMPLIFIED! There are more choices, more materials, more room. Most students will have the opportunity to work with new teachers and should come to school ready and excited to take on new experiences and new surroundings.

If your child is in a two-day class or one of the younger three day classes we’ll ask this year’s teacher if she thinks he or she will operate well in the SummerScience environment. (We want it to be a good experience, not a confusing one and SummerScience requires a bit more independence and compliance than in the classroom. Children need to reliably stay with their class – particularly outdoors – and come when called if they become distracted.) We’ll send home news of your child’s acceptance or deferral to the waiting list April 5th. Further details will come home by mid-May.

What and Where.
Each child is assigned to a small group that meets together in its “den” with their teacher or teachers for the following parts of the day: beginning circle time, the daily walk-about (a “field study” designed to use the process skills of science to learn more about a chosen topic), a cooking or sensory experience (exercising everyday science and math concepts), and lunch/recall time.

Center time brings together children from several dens. They work as they did in their former classroom center/work time, choosing from both familiar and new learning centers, working with new and familiar friends.

Our “Camping” theme will make relevant the “STEAM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics + ART) tools we use in our daily activities. On our daily walk-abouts, we’ll be encountering and studying fellow creatures that “camp” alongside us in our suburban homes. We will learn some things about these backyard animals – their size and structure, how they move and what they eat – all of which influences what they look for or construct for a habitat (leafy branches, the dark dampness under rocks and forest litter, etc.). Just as scientists do, we will model and document what we learn. What we can’t manipulate firsthand (wildlife doesn’t generally enjoy being poked and prodded) we can read about, and through imaginative play “walk in the shoes” of those creatures and critters, creatively engineering suitable environments for them.

We expect some creative engineering when we work on fabricating habitats out of found materials – just like our animal friends must do. We’ll be asking for donations from you – cardboard, medium cardboard boxes, fastening materials . . . (your imaginings are welcome, too!)

We spend time outdoors each day – on the playground, exploring along our “nature trail” and other wooded and grassy areas around St. Matthew’s camping ground. We’ll have a tent downstairs and outside as well as a canoe on the playground. Also inside will be the ever popular “bubble dome.” Last year it was filled with butterflies that we’d watched “hatch.” I wonder what it will be like this year?

You will provide a bag lunch and a drink and we will supply the daily snack (as well as water on our walk-abouts and playground). Some days the snack will be “cooked” by the children upstairs in the cooking/sensory center. We will practice some elementary food chemistry – seeing how many different things we can make using flour – I can think of pancakes, paste, pasta, play dough, gak, . . . How can one ingredient turn into so many things?

Snack time may be incorporated into the midday story or small group time, or be actual “trail mix” to munch as we rest along the trail. We’ve learned that all this physical and mental exertion makes SummerSciencers hungry and thirsty. Our snack usually consists of something like Goldfish crackers, pretzels, etc. We will be sensitive to food allergies, but if you prefer to send your child’s snack, that’s fine.

At the end of the day all the children assemble upstairs for a group story and sing/dance along. After the first day, we will dismiss as we have all year – to carpools – so DO NOT remove your child’s tote tag. If your number has to be changed, a new carpool card will be sent home to match the new SummerScience number on the tote tag.

Each day the children take part in a center/work time and playground time with children in theirs and other groups. Your child’s teacher will be present with them during those larger group times, but may be in charge of a particular center in the room. Most children are happily busy working in and moving between activity centers, but the youngest children, and/or those who need a teacher at their elbow to help them choose, engage and persist in a task, or control unacceptable behavior (hitting, pushing, etc.) may not be able to function as fully or safely as a more mature child. If you wonder about your child’s readiness for this, ask his/her teacher before enrolling (and before saying anything to him/her about coming to SummerScience). Next year will bring another opportunity.

Scientists must be able to share their observations and understandings with others. We will be consciously incorporating literacy & language along with the science, math and engineering and art that applies to our planned experiences. Do you realize that LANGUAGE is a technology of our culture? Perhaps the most important!

At this time, we don’t plan any field trips away from school, but if your family has a favorite “nature spot” to share with other families, please send us their location and features. We’ll include them in our SummerScience newsletter. If you are a scout leader, a “naturalist” or simply someone who enjoys the outdoors and its inhabitants, we’d love to have you volunteer to be a resource, sharing your experience and/or enthusiasm. We do expect to have a professional “naturalist” lead us in some of our outdoor excursions to help us see further and deeper than we might otherwise be able to do.

SummerScience is great fun – for children and adults. It’s a grand conclusion to the school year and a wonderful door into the opportunities nature affords us in summer. If your child will be entering kindergarten next year – the Monday – Friday schedule is a good taste of the kindergarten work week. If your child has struggled this year with attending happily or exercising independence within classroom limits, nothing will be lost if you choose to give them another year to mature.

We hope you’ll join us!