Educating New York’s Youngest CitizensJanuary 4, 2013
Lindsay Clark – assistant for the Rainforest Alliance’s education team – writes about her experience introducing teachers and students to our new Early Education Activities.
Every day we are bombarded with different sights, smells, tastes, sounds and textures. As adults, we often overlook many of the sensory experiences that form our understanding of the world around us. But young children are guided by their senses and use them to learn more about places near and far.
With this in mind, the Rainforest Alliance’s education program developed its Early Childhood Activities in collaboration with Project Learning Tree to help instill a sense of curiosity, wonder and excitement in our youngest citizens. Through these lessons, students in pre-K learn about their own neighborhood with their five senses and use their new knowledge to begin to think about far away environments — such as the rainforest — and the sights and sounds they might discover there.
This fall I had the opportunity to work with early childhood educators from New York City’s Educational Alliance and ACS/CUNY’s Informal Childcare Program. Together with NY Project Learning Tree, we led five workshops to reach over 50 educators and help them incorporate our robust and engaging early childhood curricula. During Rainforest Alliance-led workshops, we took a listening walk to a nearby park where we paid attention to the sounds of the neighborhood and distinguished the man-made noises (like people shouting and horns honking) from the natural sounds (like birds chirping and the wind blowing). We created shape necklaces and explored the ways teachers can familiarize their students with shapes through both their natural world and the built environment around them.
During our walk we also collected leaves and demonstrated how teachers can begin to introduce their students to math concepts such as graphing and sorting. We mixed coffee, sunflower seeds, dried flowers and other natural materials into paint and explored the different textures found in nature through painting. We also tried out different methods of integrating smells, textures, sounds and tastes into classrooms to bring to life various people and places. Finally, we had fun creating a healthy “tree” snack that will make students eager to try different types of food, such as pretzels, hummus, carrots and raisins. Students can also take part in a tropical taste test, which introduces them to foods such as avocado and mango.
I always love participating in early childhood education workshop — the teachers are truly enthusiastic and eager to learn new and engaging methods of introducing their students to the world around them. It’s thrilling to see the excitement in the teachers’ eyes as they think of all the ways they can use our materials with their students.