Individualized Learning: Ways to Promote Your Child’s Success

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Individualized instruction is a hot topic in the education world today. Not long ago, this term was only associated with children who require special assistance, or students placed on Individualized Education Plans (IEP), such as those impacted by autism or ADHD. However, parents and educators have come to realize that there’s a flaw in this way of thinking. If you ask a parent if their child has the same interests and strengths as his/her peers, you will get a load of information that highlights the child’s individual strengths, weaknesses, interests, and eccentricities. We see each child as an individual, gifted with a unique set of talents and skills.

As a teacher, I have always felt that schools, both private and public, needed to arrive at the same conclusion that parents have always known: children also need to be educated on an individual basis. Luckily, the educational tides are shifting, and educators are finding the worth in modifying instruction to meet the developmental needs of all children. As the saying goes, “you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole!”

So how can we practice this child-centered teaching with our little ones?

  • Get to Know Your Students

Whether you’re a parent or an educator it is important to know what makes each child tick. What do they enjoy or value? What are they capable of doing? What motivates them? All of these questions can be answered by way of a simple assessment, ‘getting-to-know-you’ activity, or my favorite way, sit down and have a conversation with each child. Adults who take the time to interact one-on-one with the child will gain a greater understanding of his/her abilities, learning style, and interests.

  • Create Opportunities for Learning

A successful educator will build on a child’s interests to create a love for learning regardless of ability. I really want to stress finding out what interests and motivates them, because that is the key to success. If they love dragons, but dislike reading, introduce books that have dragon characters or themes! It may seem like such a simple idea, but it will create a stronger relationship with the student. Having someone acknowledge their unique interests means the world to them!

  • Monitor Children’s Progress
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Taking note of their individual progress not only provides a basis to celebrate success, but it also informs your teacher’s instructional approach. It is important to create a way to assess their progress. I find that a non-formal assessment, such as observation, works the best in identifying their growth. Not every student is a good test taker, so formal assessments do not work for every child. Working one-on-one or in small groups will give you a window into their thought process, what areas they have mastered, or areas that still need to be developed. An effective educator will then use this information to modify their instructional approach, which will then help them decide when to introduce new content, or increase support for a difficult skill. Ultimately, it will allow you to meet the varying needs of ALL children.

  • Celebrate Every Success

This is the most important thing! At the end of the day as parents and educators, we are preparing these little people to do big things! It is important to keep in mind that success varies among children and comes in different forms. Whether it's tying their shoes, reading a sight word, or writing their name, it truly is unique for every child. Celebrating every success, no matter how trivial, encourages them to persevere through difficulties and creates a positive and uplifting learning environment.

My biggest successes as an educator came when I relaxed, saw each child for who they were, and threw away any preconceived notion of how school should “look.” I instead focused my energy on creating a diverse learning environment that was tailor made for each student. As a result, we are in a much more joyous and productive place.  I encourage everyone to slow down, get on their level, and have a conversation. The results will astound you!

About Ashley:

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Experienced School Manager and education professional with a demonstrated history of working in the education management industry.

Dearest After-School Series: Manhattan Country School

For this week’s “Dearest After-School Series,” we are featuring Manhattan Country School’s after-school program. Ms. Chawon Williams, the director of the after-school program, gave us an in-depth look at how their program impacts the social and emotional development of students.

Manhattan Country School (MCS) is a co-educational, independent day school that follows a curriculum that is deliberately progressive and incorporates a ‘country’ perspective on issues, particularly regarding sustainability and interdependence. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ideals, the school envisions its students to gain academic excellence, intellectual freedom, social awareness, self-confidence and first-hand knowledge of the natural world. At MCS, thoughts on how to create change through their commitment to social justice and diversity remain a constant goal.

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With that in mind, the MCS after-school program was designed to focus on social and emotional development, while fostering a hands-on learning environment for its students. It is an opportunity for different grades to interact, learn from each other and form friendships. We reached out to the director of the said after-school program, Ms. Chawon Williams, to get more information about what happens after the bell rings at MCS.

The after-school program is based upon a ‘whole child approach,’ wherein students are encouraged to learn beyond the four corners of their classrooms to prepare them for long-term development. Different age groups are mixed together to encourage cross collaboration and for older students to practice leadership. With a total population of 268 students, there are around 60-65 students who participate in the after-school program each day. The students in the program are mostly from the lower school, with 30-50% being kindergarteners.

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Starting at 3:00 pm, from Mondays through Thursdays, students begin the program with snacks and supervised free play followed by a 2-hour enrichment class. There are 4 to 5 different classes offered each day and students can partake in the class of their choosing. These cover the staples such as African drumming, theater, and chess, but also include more diverse offerings such as robotics, ‘advanced magic’, and Mandarin. They can also participate in sports such as tennis, or fitness classes like yoga and dance. One of the more popular offerings is a fashion design class that incorporates math into art. Aimed to develop confidence and encourage self-expression, the culminating activity is a fashion show for the students to showcase their own designs. Another new addition this fall is a ‘playgroup' class called, Kids Club, that serves as an educational filler for kids who want a more relaxed setting to play and socialize after a long day in school. While they promote mixed age grouping, certain classes such as animation and coding are offered for the upper school kids only, as it requires more advanced skills. The rates for after-school classes are kept reasonable to allow families to take advantage of their enrichment classes. The full program costs around $1700 per semester.

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MCS believes in establishing long-lasting relationships with the students, parents, and teachers. A lot of thought is put into determining the mix of classes to be offered every year. According to Ms. Williams, they study the student population and their interests, while considering the skills and knowledge of the MCS teachers. Their teachers are also given the opportunity to create classes, and even MCS alumni come back to teach at the after-school program. Third-party providers are only hired for classes that need a specialization or technique to learn, like coding.

One of the main goals is to provide support for the families which became the driving force in starting this after-school program. MCS is actually one of the few schools that does not charge parents for late pick-ups, instead believing that the program works best with a culture of mutual respect and cooperation between parents and faculty. They also offer an emergency childcare service to accommodate last-minute changes in parents’ and caregivers’ schedules. 

There are many schools that offer after-school programs, but what makes them unique, Ms. William says, is the vibrant community they’ve built together. She believes the success of the program is attributed to the inclusiveness and support of the parents and teachers for the students. MCS might be one of the smaller schools in Manhattan, but it focuses on building the right environment for building individual's social and emotional skills. Every person is engaged, and even after 10 years of working with MCS, Ms. Williams has always believed that the number one priority should be the children - for them to learn and have fun while doing so.

Dearest After-School Series: Manhattan Country School

For this week’s “Dearest After-School Series,” we are featuring Manhattan Country School’s after-school program. Ms. Chawon Williams, the director of the after-school program, gave us an in-depth look at how their program impacts the social and emotional development of students.

Manhattan Country School (MCS) is a co-educational, independent day school that follows a curriculum that is deliberately progressive and incorporates a ‘country’ perspective on issues, particularly regarding sustainability and interdependence. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ideals, the school envisions its students to gain academic excellence, intellectual freedom, social awareness, self-confidence and first-hand knowledge of the natural world. At MCS, thoughts on how to create change through their commitment to social justice and diversity remain a constant goal.

HipHop 1.jpg

With that in mind, the MCS after-school program was designed to focus on social and emotional development, while fostering a hands-on learning environment for its students. It is an opportunity for different grades to interact, learn from each other and form friendships. We reached out to the director of the said after-school program, Ms. Chawon Williams, to get more information about what happens after the bell rings at MCS.

The after-school program is based upon a ‘whole child approach,’ wherein students are encouraged to learn beyond the four corners of their classrooms to prepare them for long-term development. Different age groups are mixed together to encourage cross collaboration and for older students to practice leadership. With a total population of 268 students, there are around 60-65 students who participate in the after-school program each day. The students in the program are mostly from the lower school, with 30-50% being kindergarteners.

fashion design 3.jpg

Starting at 3:00 pm, from Mondays through Thursdays, students begin the program with snacks and supervised free play followed by a 2-hour enrichment class. There are 4 to 5 different classes offered each day and students can partake in the class of their choosing. These cover the staples such as African drumming, theater, and chess, but also include more diverse offerings such as robotics, ‘advanced magic’, and Mandarin. They can also participate in sports such as tennis, or fitness classes like yoga and dance. One of the more popular offerings is a fashion design class that incorporates math into art. Aimed to develop confidence and encourage self-expression, the culminating activity is a fashion show for the students to showcase their own designs. Another new addition this fall is a ‘playgroup' class called, Kids Club, that serves as an educational filler for kids who want a more relaxed setting to play and socialize after a long day in school. While they promote mixed age grouping, certain classes such as animation and coding are offered for the upper school kids only, as it requires more advanced skills. The rates for after-school classes are kept reasonable to allow families to take advantage of their enrichment classes. The full program costs around $1700 per semester.

mBot coding 1.jpg

MCS believes in establishing long-lasting relationships with the students, parents, and teachers. A lot of thought is put into determining the mix of classes to be offered every year. According to Ms. Williams, they study the student population and their interests, while considering the skills and knowledge of the MCS teachers. Their teachers are also given the opportunity to create classes, and even MCS alumni come back to teach at the after-school program. Third-party providers are only hired for classes that need a specialization or technique to learn, like coding.

One of the main goals is to provide support for the families which became the driving force in starting this after-school program. MCS is actually one of the few schools that does not charge parents for late pick-ups, instead believing that the program works best with a culture of mutual respect and cooperation between parents and faculty. They also offer an emergency childcare service to accommodate last-minute changes in parents’ and caregivers’ schedules. 

There are many schools that offer after-school programs, but what makes them unique, Ms. William says, is the vibrant community they’ve built together. She believes the success of the program is attributed to the inclusiveness and support of the parents and teachers for the students. MCS might be one of the smaller schools in Manhattan, but it focuses on building the right environment for building individual's social and emotional skills. Every person is engaged, and even after 10 years of working with MCS, Ms. Williams has always believed that the number one priority should be the children - for them to learn and have fun while doing so.

Dearest After-School Series: BLUE at Speyer Legacy School

Dearest After-School Series delivers an insider’s scoop on after-school programs at top schools in Manhattan. We are exploring these programs in detail to provide you with the information you need to know to make the best decision for your child. This week, we are putting the spotlight on Speyer Legacy School for intellectually accelerated students. Recently, we talked to Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school, about all things “BLUE” (the after-school program for Grades K-4), including a new program launching this fall.

Speyer Legacy School is a private school that caters to advanced learners in grades K-8. They follow a student-faculty led approach to inspire and encourage a passion for learning and questioning within each of its students.

With that in mind, they have designed an after-school program for Grades K-4 called BLUE, which stands for Build-Learn-Understand-Explore. Students are given the opportunity to pursue their passions while trying new things. To get a closer look at this program, we had a chance to speak with Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school, about what goes on beyond the regular hours at Speyer.

Each 75-minute class in the BLUE program aims to serve as an “exploratory time” for your child after school. At the beginning of the semester, students can choose from a variety of classes that include athletics, performing arts, visual arts, chess, reading, writing, building and innovation, and self-expression. They have the opportunity to switch classes during the first week if they feel like it's not the right fit (and if it isn't already full). Although some are restricted to certain grades, such as basketball (for 2nd to 4th graders), the school strives to create a balance between the variety of classes built for different grades.

According to Ms. Balter, the most popular choices for the lower school are soccer, chess, musical theater, fencing, and math, some of which have waitlists. Depending on the interests of the children, classes such as magic, creative drama, and painting extravaganza, are also offered. One of the new offerings is a recycling art class that combines the concepts of art and science. It develops their creativity and resourcefulness through making masterpieces out of recycled materials.

A highlight of the program is the "Makers’ Lab," which promotes innovation. The younger learners start with simple design challenges and use the materials made available to them. When students reach 3rd grade, they get to work on more complex projects involving robotics and coding.

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A child enrolled in the program begins class at 3:30 pm from Monday to Thursday. There is a total of 14 to 17 sessions per semester depending on the school calendar, costing $40-$50 per session. As Speyer maintains a 6:1, student to teacher ratio, the slots are limited -on a first-come-first-serve basis. Speyer parents can register their child(ren) online before each semester.

Behind the BLUE program’s success is their community of educators, who willingly share their time and talent with students. Teaching these classes provides an avenue for them to pursue passions outside of a formal class setting. The school only looks into third party companies if a subject requires a certain level of specialization, such as fencing.

Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school.

Ms. Lemor Balter, the interim assistant head of the lower school.

Speyer also values the interdependent relationships they build with the parents. The goal is to support them in any way they can, even in terms of childcare. That led to the creation of an extended hours after-school program called EA Jumpstart, piloting this school year. It runs from 4:45-5:45 Mondays through Thursdays and from 3:30-5:45 on Fridays. The cost (including snacks) ranges from $25 per day for the Monday-Thursday sessions to $55 for Friday sessions. A teacher from the faculty supervises and fosters a ‘study hall’ environment for the students to work independently.

After years of working with the school, Ms. Balter believes that overseeing the lower school program, together with the after-school program, works to her advantage as she gets to know the students on a more personal level. With accelerated students, it’s important to help them reach beyond their intellectual potential while supporting their learning in an environment that is collaborative, exciting, and fun.

Getting Ready for Preschool!

Starting preschool is a big (and exciting!) step for your little one. Whether or not it's your child’s first time away from home, as parents, we play an essential role in preparing them for this next phase. Here are a few tips on how to ease the transition for you and your child:

Organize play dates:

Your little one will soon be spending time with many other children and playdates is a great way to mimic a preschool environment. It will teach him to share attention, be a sport, and wait for his turn. Ask the teacher for a list of students who will be in the same class as your little one so you can arrange playdates with them or, find a local play group! Dearest works with the families in Manhattan, so contact us for introductions to like-minded families near you. 

Introduce routines and schedules:

Schedules and routines show consistency to help them adjust to the structure of a school setting. According to Rebecca Palacios, Ph.D., a Senior Curriculum Advisor for Age of Learning, Inc., "children learn best when routines and daily schedules are established. Routines provide opportunities to learn about order, sequencing, and concepts of time. Established routines make for smoother transitions and help children to prepare mentally for the day ahead while providing frameworks in which creative learning can occur.” Morning and night routines, that can include singing a song, reading a book, or "tucking in,” will also give them a sense of belongingness and reassurance. 

Assign simple chores: 

Whether it’s clearing their plates from the table, picking up toys, or dressing up, these simple tasks give them a chance to act responsibly. You will be surprised how much independence your child develops once he/she starts preschool. Aside from developing self-help skills, chores can help tune motor skills. Additionally, you can do arts and crafts activities such as, modeling clay, coloring, or cutting with scissors, for dexterity and improving hand strength. It will provide practice for proper hand placement and future handwriting demands. 

Practice language skills:

Take every opportunity to expand your child’s vocabulary and practice communicating what he/she would need or like to do. Ask questions and encourage them to do the same to reinforce an inquisitive nature. The better they get at self-expression, the more confidence they build to interact with others. Reading every day with your child is another great way to strengthen language skills. It even opens them up to imaginative experiences which are vital in promoting innovation and creativity.

visit THE SCHOOL WITH YOUR CHILD:

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If you haven't visited the school with your child already, ask when you can visit the school with your child or, find out if they have a visiting day or orientation. It gives you a chance to talk with teachers and have your questions answered. It will also be beneficial for your child to meet them, so he sees a friendly face on the first day. Tour the school, show his/her classroom, and maybe even play on the school playground. Experiencing the preschool with you present and gaining familiarity with a new setting can help increase your child’s comfort with this big adjustment. 

As much as we want to make this transition as easy as 1-2-3, there’s no need to over prepare. If you make it seem like it’s such a big deal, your child may end up being more worried than excited. Preschool is a time for growth. It’s about exploring things, meeting new friends, and making this whole experience as fun as possible for your little one! 

Intelligence can be developed- how we can promote Growth Mindset.

This week, we tackle the subject of the "growth mindset" - the belief that intelligence can be developed.

Carol Dweck, a Stanford University professor and a household name in education, has taught us through her research that with a growth mindset, children can get smarter through hard work. It is contrasted with a fixed mindset: the belief that intelligence is a fixed trait that is set in stone at birth.

According to Dweck, it’s important to promote growth mindset - an attitude that allows for possibilities and promotes progress and problem-solving. By teaching them that they can try new things, learn new things and that their brains can change and grow, we show them the right attitude for life-long learning. So, as parents, what can we do to help them develop a growth mindset? 

Dweck suggests some phrases that we can use to foster a “growth mindset:”

Praise a child’s progress and strategies, rather than the effort alone. 

  • "Wow, you really practiced that, and look how you've improved." "See, you studied more and your grade on this test is higher." "You tried different strategies and you figured out how to solve the problem." "You stuck to this and now you really understand it.”

Focus on what was accomplished by the child, rather than telling them to try harder. 

  • "Let's look at what you've done," "Let's look at what your understanding is," or "Let's look at what strategies you've used, and let's figure out together what we should try next.”

Instead of “I can’t,” introduce them to the power of “yet.” 

  • “I can’t do this.. yet,” "This doesn’t work…yet,” "I don’t know how to….yet,” "I’m not good at the…yet"

Based on our research and suggestions from our educators, we have compiled great books that can introduce “growth mindset” to children. 

Here are our top picks: 

Workshop : Teaching kids how to code

We kicked off the workshop with first listing out the benefits behind learning how to code. At Dearest, we believe coding is a valuable skill one can start to learn, even at a young age! Aside from developing problem-solving skills and sequential thinking, coding also develops one’s creativity. It's just like writing in a different language. 

This workshop provided tangible resources for our educators to introduce simple coding concepts to children 3 years and up. We focused on fun screen-free activities like building mazes and exploring conditional statements.

Our software developer, Zach, shared with us about his experience learning coding and how it has helped him in his daily life even with something as simple as navigation and scheduling.

One of the fun activities included making some binary bracelets! This activity was centered around teaching the concept of binary code. Using strings and beads, the educators created bracelets by encoding their names with the ASCII code. Find out how to do this activity here

Learning how to code does not have to be intimidating. There are many ways to teach your little ones the concepts behind coding without using computers and fancy toys.

We hope your kids will enjoy these activities in their next sessions with our Dearest educators. 

You can view all the photos from the event on our Facebook page!

For questions or inquiries, you can reach us through email at community@dearest.io

 

We look forward to sharing more of our events with you in the future! 

For updates, like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram @dearest.io.

 

Play and Read in NYC this Summer!

Sun’s out, which also means the kids come out to play! Did you know that New York City parks offer a ton of reading events during the summer? There’s no better way to spend your time under the sun than with interactive storytelling, sing-alongs, and great views! 

Here is a list of weekly events for you and your kids to enjoy. 

Storytelling in the Park

When: Saturdays, 11am-12pm
What: An annual Summer tradition, now in its 61st season. Gather at the famous statue for stories from a different story teller (or two, or more…). With folk stories, fairy tales, mythological fables, and more at this Central Park landmark. Come rain or shine. (For ages 3 and older)
Where: Central Park, Hans Christian Andersen Statue; 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue entrance Upper East Side, NY 10021
Website: storytelling-nyc.org

Fun in the Sun Summer Reading at NYPL Mulberry Street SOHO

When: Mondays, 11:30am (through July 24)
What: Music for Aardvarks sing songs about the summer. From the beach to ice cream, summer classics, and more. (For ages 0-5.)
Where: 10 Jersey St. SoHo, NY 10012
Website: nypl.org

Madison Square Kids Storytime

When: Wednesdays, 10am (through August 23)
What: Make your imagination run wild with exciting tales about art and nature! Every week features a different story teller who will transport you to another place and time. (For ages 0-8)
Where: Madison Square Park, Cherry Lawn - Madison Avenue and 23rd Street Flatiron District, NY 10010
Website: madisonsquarepark.org

Reading Room at Bryant Park

When: Saturdays, 12-1pm (through August 19)
What: Spend Saturday afternoons with your favorite literary characters! This program features storytelling, magic shows, and musical performances, too. (For ages 0-10)
Where: Bryant Park - 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, Midtown, NY 10018
Website: bryantpark.org

Storytime at the Battery

When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30am (through August 17)
What: Enjoy an hour-long of storytelling followed by hands-on activities. (For ages 3-8)
Where: The Battery Urban Farm, Battery Park - Broadway and State Street
Battery Park, NY 10004
Website: thebattery.org

Summer Reading Storytime at Brooklyn Bridge Park

When: Wednesdays, 11am (through August 2)
What: Brooklyn Heights librarians will read stories from their summer reading list and more! Listen to fun stories and sing songs, while enjoying the view of the Brooklyn Bridge! (For ages 0-5)
Where: Granite Terrace behind Pier 3, Furman Street
Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201
Website: brooklynbridgepark.org

Is coding just for the future Steve Jobs of the world?

The ubiquity of technology in the recent years has turned coding into a requirement for basic literacy. Knowing how to use a smartphone or a tablet is not enough anymore. Schools in the UK, Singapore, and even some in the US, have already introduced coding in the curriculum. You may think coding is just for the future software engineers and computer programmers, but it’s actually a skill that can be beneficial to anyone, even at a young age.  

So, how does teaching coding help your little one? 

1. Your child will think about the world in a new way. Steve Jobs once said, “Everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.” Not every job will require technical skills, but the logic-based thought one learns through programming is an important intellectual skill. Your child will start looking at the bigger picture while also learning how to break down big challenges into smaller, more manageable tasks. 

2. Coding will be beneficial in school. Learning how to code helps your little one with problem-solving. Your child will learn how to plan actions in a step-by-step manner and structure answers in an organized way. Coding and mathematics are closely linked, each offering beneficial insight into the other. Children with programming knowledge can apply their concrete coding skills in understanding abstract mathematical concepts. 

3. Your child will become a storyteller. Coding is sequential. A program has a beginning, progression, and ending. When programming, one must first figure out why one thing logically leads to another in a particular order and then think about how to express that sequence coherently. Thinking in abstract sequences is an important skill, extending far past programming. Many daily activities, from planning a walking route to school to recounting experiences of the day, require an ability to organize ideas and concepts sequentially.

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4. Coding helps develop creativity. Much like arts and crafts, coding is a form of expressing one’s creativity. Any problem has almost limitless paths to a solution. Part of the creativity of programming is finding out which path is the right one to take. According to Karen Brennan, one of the developers of Scratch (a free online computer programming language where you can create stories, games, and animations), “Kids were used to being told how to think, how to memorize. This allows them to be in control. It takes some time, but once kids have a little taste of being creative, many of them don’t want to look back.”

You don’t need to be an expert to teach your children how to code. You can do it today in your own home by checking out Dearest’s blog post on the best tools for your children to learn coding.

The Dearest Blog by Dearest Educational Childcare. Find amazing educators to teach your child programming basics and many other skills on dearest.io

 

Sources:  

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/dec/03/should-kids-learn-code http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2014/11/coding-and-creativity/ https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/feb/07/year-of-code-dan-crow-songkick

Family activities to do in NYC before summer ends

Have you decided on your late summer plans with your children yet?

Don’t worry if you haven’t; there are still great activities that can help your whole family learn, grow, and have fun at the same time. Read on for Dearest’s top picks for fun New York City summer activities for you and your children.

Image: https://www.timeout.com/new-york-kids/events-calendar/august-events-calendar

Image: https://www.timeout.com/new-york-kids/events-calendar/august-events-calendar

Broadway Hits for Free in Bryant Park. Watch scenes from some of the most exciting Broadway shows this year. Just stop by Bryant Park and indulge you your kids. Previous offerings include Wicked, Chicago, Matilda and Something Rotten! The best thing about it is that it’s completely free. The event is ongoing until August 11, 2017.

 

Summer in the Square. Summer in the Square returns to Union Square Park with a line-up of free family-friendly activities and entertainment. Children’s shows, books to read, coloring activities, games, kids yoga and fitness classes, sing-a-longs, and dancing with kids bands like Hot Peas n’ Butter, story Pirates, Josh & The Jamtones… find all of the above and more every Thursday. This runs until August 10, 2017.  

Outdoor Play. Before the cooler weather of Fall sets in, enjoy the warm days of summer while they last. Enjoy the outdoors to the fullest while getting vitamin D. Explore the top 25 playgrounds (according to TimeOut) in NYC with your children.

Exhibitions & Museums. Museums in New York offer exciting programs for children of all ages during the summer. Take your children to a museum of their interest, and they’re bound to have their curiosity satisfied! Check out the Met’s family activities section or MoMA’s fantastic Art Lab, or explore these special exhibits below:

Let’s Dance! @ Children’s Museum of Manhattan. Bounce, glide, or leap your way to CMOM’s exhibition and dance space. Let your children engage in interactive video installation and be immersed in the various histories, styles, and forms of dance. They can experiment with dancing in colors and shadows projected onto a “stage” wall while exploring light design with child-friendly lighting boxes.  Be a choreographer with your child and create beats and rhythms with them. If your children like dance, music, or art, or simply want to hang out in a joyful space, this is where to go.

Mummies @ American Museum of Natural History. Have your children ever wondered about the secrets of mummies when you read them myths of pharaohs and stories of archaeological discovery? This special exhibition at AMNH will bring you face to face with some really ancient mummified individuals, and reveal how scientists are using modern technology to glean stunning insights about mummies and their cultures. Compare how ancient Egyptians and Peruvians were mummified and figure out who they really were in life. Sounds exciting? Take your little scientists there now - it’s open until January 2018.

The Dearest Blog by Dearest Educational Childcare. Visit dearest.io to hire amazing educators who combine learning with child care.

 

 

Do you know what’s going on in the mind of a child?

We all consider our children precious, and equally so their development and progression as people. But as parents do we really understand what’s happening, at a scientific level, within the minds of our children?

Take for example one statistic: that scientists now know that around 1 million neural connections are formed every second in the developing mind of a child. This extraordinary level of brain development only occurs once in the lifetime of humans – during early childhood. Not many people appreciate the true marvel at which young brains develop.

This flurry of brain activity is characteristic of the broader cycle that occurs in the development of children. The most important thing to understand is that the brain is built up over time and because of this, experiences early on in a child’s life change the architecture of the brain and impact how it adapts and responds later in life. Like a building with a sturdy foundation, well-developed experiences early in life gives a good basis for learning later in life. But the opposite is also true: a poor foundation in a child’s early development can mean hardship for a child trying to build out their skills later in life.

As research at the Harvard Center for the Developing Child explains: neural connections grow as children get older (reaching up to 1 million new connections a second). But at a certain point in early childhood, the number of neural connections peaks and then declines. The process, called pruning, helps the brain specialize its functions along certain neural pathways and become more efficient.

Brain Development over Time (Harvard)

A result of this process is that brain pathways that developed during childhood become entrenched and are difficult to change after they are set in. You may have heard of the phrase ‘brain plasticity’, referring for the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself in response to its environment. Because the brain specializes along these pathways, brain plasticity decreases as children become older. Parents should know that the experiences in the first few years of have an enormous impact in later development.

Ultimately, the most important take away is that the development of a child’s brain is especially important and sets the stage for later life.

  For educational childcare, visit: www.dearest.io

 

For educational childcare, visit: www.dearest.io

Event: Global Awareness Program

Dearest's Global Awareness Program is focused on developing awareness and interests in other countries, cultures, and people in the world. Based on the subject taught at International Baccalaureate® (IB) World Schools, our program focuses on personalized learning, problem-solving skills, and self-direction. 

To share an preveiw of the exciting program, we had a kid's Global Awareness Picnic in Central Park on June 17th!!

We kicked the event off by greeting in different languages. Then we dove right in to story time and art project that explore the theme of "The Circle of Us"--sharing and discussing my home, my state, my country, and my planet.

The second project was on building a "Tree of us", where we created a collaborative artwork with hand prints and discussed how we can each contribute by being a great global citizen.

This was a short and casual preview of what is happening at our Global Awareness Summer Camp. Find out more about the camp here.

 

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OUR TEACHERS

Combined, these three teachers have lived in 7 different countries and can speak 6 languages fluently! They are also experienced early childhood, music, and language teachers who can bring fun learning experience to your home. Visit www.dearest.io or email us at contact@dearest.io for more info.

Discovery Science Summer Camp!

Our Discovery Science Summer Camp began with a mini introduction to the life of plants, which featured up close interaction with a Venus Flytrap. The kids were fascinated by the tiny hairs on the lobes of the flytrap used for trapping insects. We then talked about carnivores, herbivores and omnivores. 

Rebecca, our Dearest Science Camp Teacher sang and danced a song while giving the children a chance to show off their own moves!

Up next was a sensory and creativity play activity where they got to build their own ecosystem; there were crayons, play dough, flowers, animals and all sorts of exploratory material for them to use. 

Each little explorer also got to play with and decorate their own telescope that they used to observe their environment. 

Our little explorers then headed outside where they made use of their observational skills and drew what they saw. They all had a set of binoculars they could use to watch closely and observe how nature moved around them.

We made use of our sense of touch, sight, smell, and hearing while exploring the garden. Their faces scrunched up slightly as our little explorers took a whiff of the mint in their hands and exclaimed, "It smells like mint!"

Our explorers then took a closer look at the Venus Flytrap to see if it had gotten any bugs trapped in it. They even tried catching some ants to feed to the carnivorous plant! 

After being out in the garden, we got the chance to plant our very own seeds! This sensory activity got our little explorers testing out their fine motor skills when placing the soil into the egg shells and planting their own seeds.

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To sum it up, the camp was an eye-opening experience for all. For continued learning and discovery, view our available summer camps and sign up for one today.

Additionally, we can also bring this summer camp to you! Drop an email to community@dearest.io for any inquiries. 

Alternatively, you can also view Rebecca's profile and book her for personalized sessions.

View photos from this camp

Event: Design Thinking Workshop For 3-5 year olds -Round 2!

This time round we held a drop-off session to promote greater interaction among the children and boy was it exciting! Some came all decked out in their very own space clothes!

We started off with a fizzy science experiment of exploding planets - a sensory activity for the children to learn about basic chemical reactions. They definitely enjoyed the process of getting their hands dirty. 

Not long after that, Dodo made his debut appearance! You can see from the faces of the children that everyone had different reactions to this strange orange puppet from outer space!

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Someone was quick to get up on his feet and point out "This is Jupiterrrrr!"  

He was soon corrected by another two who pointed out that that was in fact, the sun, and that Jupiter was the fifth planet from the sun. It was a learning process for everyone!

We then moved on to play a mini space game called "Don't drop the asteroid"! In this outer space game, the little space explorers had to keep all the asteroids (balloons) up in the air while the music played. When the music stopped they all grabbed an asteroid and froze!

After the game, we settled down and began with Design Thinking Step 1: Asking questions. The key was to ask Dodo questions to find out about his needs and the problem he was facing.

We used this as a framework outline for the Design Thinking Workshop, based off of the Stanford method. (You can read more about the Design Thinking Method here. )

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Upon defining the need (Design Thinking Step 2: Identifying the need) that Dodo needed to go back to his home on Jupiter, we set out on a process of coming up with ideas (Design Thinking Step 3: Ideation) on how to help. The children came up with fantastic ideas on building a rocket ship! Not without building some space helmets first! 

Soon after, we left our space helmets to dry and got started on the building process of our rocket ships (Design Thinking Step 4: Building)! There were plenty of materials for everyone to choose from and start building. 

Everyone got busy with custom designing their very own individual rocket ships. They used tapes, paper plates, buttons, and a whole bunch of other recycled materials to build.

Dodo asked Jason, "What are you building? " as he saw the boy wrap some tape over some silver shapes. He responded, "I'm packing some food to bring to space so we can eat in the rocket ship!" How brilliant!!

Once they were done decorating, most of them were pretty proud of what they had built. Some even liked chilling out in their little rocket ships.  

Up next was the trip to space! This was Design Thinking Step 5: Testing what they had built. Some were a little apprehensive while others were real excited to see what lay behind the dark curtain! 

They were fascinated by the flickering lights and atmosphere in the space room. Most importantly, they helped Dodo get home and back on Jupiter!

Once we were out of the space room, we reviewed our activities and discussed how it felt to help Dodo get back to his home. We framed Design thinking as a tool you can use to help people anreven aliens!

A group photo with their rocket ships! For the full photo gallery, see here

We want to extend a big, warm thank you to everyone for coming down and participating in this workshop with us. 

At Dearest, we believe that exposure to empathizing and problem-solving concepts are an important part of a child's learning and education. We can bring these educational activities to your home, through our Dearest Providers, given our focus on personalized learning. If you've enjoyed this event and/or are looking to attend future events, you can sign up for our service here. We hope to see you join us at bigger and better future events!

Event: Space-themed Design Thinking for Children 3-5!

This Design Thinking Workshop for 3-5 year olds introduced problem-solving skills to the young children where they had to help an alien Dodo get back to his home on Jupiter.

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The event kicked off with a little alien song and a mini introduction to the Stanford d.school Design Thinking Method.  

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Design Thinking Step 1: Asking questions.

The children started off by asking questions to Dodo to find out his real needs, and with the help of prompts from some of our Dearest providers, we soon got the ball rolling!

Design Thinking Step 2 & 3: Define needs and ideate. 

Once the need for Dodo to go back to Jupiter was defined, the children began the ideation process by writing down their ideas on a piece of paper. 

The children shared their ideas with Dodo, many of which included ideas on building a rocket, spaceship, and even a flying disc! Dodo loved hearing about the children's ideas and was super excited to be traveling back to space with them!

Design Thinking Step 4: Build!

This was the most exciting part where parents and children worked together to build out their ideas. Everyone got their creative juices flowing and we soon had a room filled with super cool DIY rockets, space, ships and even space suits! 

Above, we have one of our Dearest Providers, Eva, helping Nishka and her dad build their spaceship for the trip to Jupiter. And below, we have Forrest, fully focused on painting his beautifully designed flying disc!

Design Thinking Step 5: Test what you built!

Once the children were happy with their finalized project, they got to test out their rockets, spaceships, and spacesuits on a trip to space! They were on a mission to help Dodo and bring him back to Jupiter.  

They eventually reached Jupiter and Dodo was happy to be safe and at home, all thanks to the help of the children. It was time for them to go back to Earth! They traveled back to Earth where our Dearest Provider, Jennifer, did a mini Space Storytime as a concluding activity.

The children seemed happy with what they had built; Noah loved his suit so much that he kept it on throughout even after the trip to space! 

The workshop finally came to an end with a short wrap-up and review of the Design Thinking Method. This is a great method to deeply understand other people's problems and pains, while subsequently trying to build a solution that will help them. Exposure to these problem-solving concepts for your child will put them in good stead for building effective solutions for people. 

We want to extend a big, warm thank you to everyone for coming down and participating in this workshop with us. It was a fun experience and we hope you managed to bring home a small takeaway from this Design Thinking Workshop.

At Dearest, we believe that exposure to thinking and problem-solving concepts are an important part of a child's learning and education. We can bring these educational activities to your home, through our Dearest Providers. If you've enjoyed this event and/or are looking to attend future events, you can sign up for our service here. We hope to see you join us at bigger and better future events!

Best Tools for Your Children to Learn Coding

Are you literate? If you’re reading this, you definitely are. But are you literate in a 21st-century sense?

“A computer science education is literacy for the 21st century,” said Mayor Bill De Blasio on the announcement for the “Computer Science for All” program at NYC public schools. In fact, people are starting earlier and earlier in the education of computer science, and it’s not without reason. Children may not grow to be full-fledged programmer overnight, but learning coding isn’t just for future computer scientists either. Coding not only challenges and teaches children logical thinking and problem solving skills, but also frees their imagination and creativity, as long as they do it in the right ways -- Dearest has sorted out a list of great ways for you to help your kid start today and have fun learning.

Daisy the Dinosaur

Daisy would probably be the most adorable dinosaur you’ve ever seen. Other than her cuteness, she can also familiarize your child with coding basics. The free, fun app has an easy drag & drop interface that children of all ages can use to animate Daisy and make her dance on their screens. By playing with Daisy, kids will intuitively come to understand the concepts of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving the challenges of the game.

 

Hopscotch

If your child has outgrown the games in Daisy the Dinosaur, then Hopscotch should be the next challenge! Awarded as one of the best apps for families by Parents Magazine, Hopscotch allows your talented little ones to take an initiative and make things that they enjoy. According to the developers of this block-based language, blocks are the favored way to learn to program from Harvard and MIT to Code.org and Google. Therefore, Hopscotch is deliberately designed to help kids learn coding logic and concepts through blocks before diving into the syntax of coding languages. It serves as a blank canvas for you to create your own games, art, or stories, and even includes an online community where you can upload your work and access unlimited tutorial materials.

 

Scratch

Designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a programming language and an online community where children code programs and share interactive media ranging from games, animation, to stories, and virtually anything they can create using the programming language. Instead of learning coding by staring at a computer screen on your own, in the Scratch community you can explore and experiment with other Scratch users from various backgrounds. By sharing their work in the online community, members can get feedback and learn from each other, and thus maximizing their creative and coding potentials. Meanwhile, you don’t have to be online to take advantage of Scratch’s learning opportunities -- you can download the Scratch offline editor and play with codes even without Internet access.

 

Kodable

Another great tool of learning coding, Kodable is not a game or program-building platform but a more organized curriculum for elementary students from 4 to 11 year old. Available on iOS devices, Kodable app is a student companion app to the award-winning Kodable Curriculum. It is designed to take students from learning to think like a programmer in kindergarten to writing real JavaScript by the 5th grade. Even if you are not a computer science expert, you can still use Kodable to teach your child coding because it includes the fundamentals of every modern programming language in an inviting way. With engaging and entertaining scenarios such as outer-space explorations and meeting with aliens, your little one is bound to have loads of fun learning.

Image source: Daily Mail (dailymail.com)

Image source: Daily Mail (dailymail.com)

For more fun ways that encourage active STEM learning, check out Dearest’s favorite educational tools for children ranging from infancy to teenage! If you have suggestions, you are also more than welcome to share with us in our community of passionate educators and loving parents.

 

Sources:

Edutopia

NPR

Workshop: Teaching Science

We kicked off the event with a warm welcome by Eiko, founder of Dearest, who was extremely delighted to see the many happy faces of providers at the company's first event.

Maya, our Community Development Manager, then led the introduction on how to use the platform and our educational session guideline to give everyone a better idea and structure of what Dearest is all about!

Adam, Guest Teacher, from NYU, who is also a provider on the platform, started off by taking us through some Teaching Practices and Strategies for STEM Educators

His Ph.D. Research at NYU is based on STEM and Literacy for young children. As an experienced teacher (both General and Special Education), his passion for teaching and learning Science definitely shone through as he took us through some hands-on science activities to do with children. 

The first station revolved around The Phenomena of Inquiry: Why Structures Stand or Fall? Providers got their hands busy by building structures with different materials in various ways. 

The next station explored the Concepts of Floating and Sinking. Adam explained how using different cultural tools and words can stimulate thinking in each child and best practices on teaching. 

The third station was focused on Exploring Light Phenomena as providers learnt how to use a pin-hole camera to teach concepts related to light and creating shadows.

Up next was our STEM Competition! Providers came with a brainstormed STEM Activity with a chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card! It was amazing seeing how some providers came prepared not just with activities but props too! Congratulations to Rebecca for winning the prize! 

It was a really close call given the thoughtful educational activities suggested by other providers. This was also a great way for everyone to share ideas to grow and learn from each other. 

To wrap up the event, we handed out goodie bags - with activity inspiration and some handy materials to use during sessions.

Before we listed those activities however, we made sure we could do it too. So we experimented, tried and failed and put those that succeeded on display!

We hope everyone that attended walked away with great ideas and inspiration to teach and we just wanted to thank all of our providers and people who contributed to making this event a success. 

We can't wait to share with everyone more about future workshops that are currently in the pipeline. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram, and like us on Facebook to stay tuned for updates!

6 Fun Activities You Can Do with Your Child for Earth Hour

Every day we sit in well-lit architectures, stare at electronic screens, or breath in and out artificially conditioned air. Don’t you just miss the natural light -- or even natural darkness -- once in a while? If so, you’d probably want to join the Earth Hour this year, which is coming up on March 25, 8:30 p.m.

Organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Earth Hour is a global movement for saving energy to protect the planet. This annual event encourages individuals, households, and businesses to turn off their lights for an hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in one day in late March, to raise awareness of preventing climate change.

If you’re staying at home with your children, Earth Hour is an excellent opportunity to tell them a bit about environmentally-conscious lifestyles, as well as to have a fun family time! Dearest has compiled a list of inspirations on what you can do during Earth Hour this year.

Camp outside or sit in the balcony, and gaze at the stars.

You may know what Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night looks like at MoMA, but not the night sky right above you each day. Put aside your work and daily chores for a bit, and lie down with your children in the balcony -- or in a camp outside if possible -- to enjoy the darkness, the spring breezes, and the stars. And if the weather is nice, maybe you can even see the milky way and the constellations. Are you feeling that awe of nature?

Play hide-and-seek.

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Hide-and-seek is exciting, but what's more exciting is hide-and-seek in the dark. Without clear sight, you and your children would need to listen (and even smell) to find one another. Make sure you’re in a safe room with enough space to move around!

Hold a family poetry recitation contest.

“The dark night gave me dark eyes, but I use them to seek the light.” Sounds good? Maybe your child turns out to be an even more talented poet. Darkness is often inspiring, and you as a parent can be inspiring as well by giving your child the opportunity to start writing and imagining. Dearest also features quite a few providers that have creative and literary specialties, and they are always ready to help you achieve that.

Play board games with candle light.

Board games are always a good pastime, and candle light creates the dramatic environment where you and your children can ruminate on your king, queen, knights, and bishops in a chess game. In fact, board games such as chess greatly stimulates children’s intellectual development. What’s more, if your kids are too young to play chess, we actually have a stress-free way for you to teach them how to play.

Look at old picture albums and tell stories.

Candle light also goes well with a bit of nostalgia. Remember when you were a child? Share your stories with your kids by flipping through old picture albums; your children would definitely appreciate it to get to know you better.

Meditate or practice mindfulness.

Last but not the least, one hour with lights turned off is a perfect time to practice meditation and mindfulness! Darkness is very powerful in encouraging introspection. Take a deep breath, and think quietly with your loved ones. Not sure if you’re meditating in the right way? No worries, you are always welcomed to join our educators’ event in a few days, where you can learn all about mindfulness and child education!

That's it! We hope you have a wonderful time with your little ones during this year's Earth Hour. If you have other fun activities, make sure to tell us and other parents about it! After all, community of caring and loving parents is a cornerstone for giving our children a bright future.

The Truth About STEM Gender Gap

Close your eyes and imagine an engineer building a model, or a scientist doing experiments. Now, what’s the gender of the person that you’re picturing? For most people, it’s probably a male. In reality, though there are more and more working women today, it is true that women are still underrepresented in a lot of professions, especially those in STEM.

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Does this mean that women are just not as good as men in STEM-related fields? To answer this question, we take a closer look at researches focusing on gender differences in STEM education. In 2009, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) average mathematics and science scale scores of high school graduates show no significant gender differences among high school graduates who earned credits in advanced math and engineering/science courses. In 2016, Emily Richmond, editor for the National Education Writers Association, pointed out that when breaking down the NAEP scores by gender, “girls averaged 151 points (out of a possible 300, three points higher than for boys). Further, “45 percent of females met or exceeded the proficient level, compared with 42 percent of males.”

What do these results mean? They mean that girls do just as well as boys in STEM learnings; more than that, they may outperform boys in critical thinking and technology-related problem-solving skills! However, performance is not the same thing as interest. One may have excellent performance and skills in a certain subject, but he/she doesn’t necessarily like it. A 2015 report published by the National Center for Education Statistics describes the affective dispositions (i.e. interest or attitude) of high school graduates toward STEM courses. The key finding is that compared to males, lower percentages of female high school graduates reported that they liked mathematics or science, although more female took courses in algebra, advanced biology, chemistry, and health science/technology.

So, it seems that the so-called gender gap in STEM is more real in terms of interest than of performance. Granted, the statistics from these researches may not be perfectly accurate, but they point to us an often neglected situation in STEM education -- that in order to close the gender gap in STEM fields or to improve our STEM education in general, interest is key. Our children need to be passionate about STEM to do well in those areas and derive genuine appreciation and happiness from what they do. After all, there is no point in pursuing higher scores in STEM without firstly planting in our children’s hearts a true interest in technology and innovation.

Cavan Images via Getty Images

Cavan Images via Getty Images

Today (March 8th) we at Dearest celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD). We believe that our girls are as intelligent and capable as our boys in STEM, and that real improvement in any education starts with cultivating passion in learning. This year, the IWD campaign theme is #BeBoldForChange, and that’s what Dearest is striving for in today’s childcare industry. We welcome you to join us and make a change for our children.

 

Sources:

The Atlantic

National Center for Educational Statistics

International Women's Day