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Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Preschool Blog

A Provocation A Day Keeps the Classroom at Play!

Listening in on a collaborative planning meeting between teachers in a classroom at Pinnacle Presbyterian Preschool, you would undoubtedly hear the term “provocation” used in the discussion. Provocations are an important part of our learning at PPP, but what is a provocation exactly, and how are they used?

The Reggio-Emilia approach follows the idea that there are three primary teachers in a young child’s life: the parent, the classroom teacher, and the environment. It is this focus on the environment that forms the basis for the importance of provocations in a Reggio-inspired classroom. A provocation is very much what its name infers: It is an invitation, a generator of ideas and creativity, and a prompt to ignite the children’s thinking.

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In the classroom, you will see various types of provocations, all with the intent to scaffold an activity, offer intention to a set of materials, or prompt new levels of thinking from the children. Provocations also serve a purpose to the teachers, as well, reminding us of our intentions as we engage with the children. Provocations can be:

-A question or prompt written and displayed at a particular table or area of the classroom. For example, “We wonder what types of lines you can create with these charcoal pieces?”

-A picture, photo or book displayed at a particular table or area of the classroom. For example, on a recent exploration of lines and shapes, students were introduced to the artist Miró. One of his works was placed in a frame on a table that included collage materials made up of lines, colorful shapes, glue and paper.

-An actual item or set of items arranged thoughtfully to elicit certain activities or outcomes by the children. Examples might include a beautiful display of flowers in the center of a watercolor station, the addition of a new material or tool to a familiar set up (adding rolling pins and stamps to the clay table after children have become familiar with manipulating the clay using their hands), or the subtraction of a familiar item from a set up that elicits problem-solving strategies (removing the scissors from a collage station…will the students begin to rip the paper, or fold the paper in new ways to fit it onto their page?).

-A verbal question or challenge given to a large or small group at the beginning of an activity by the teacher. For example, during Kiva a teacher might tell the class, “We have seen some amazing creations in the block area this week, and they seem to be getting taller and taller! I challenge you to measure your towers with this measuring tape and write that number on this chart!”

Once we shift our minds to see a child’s environment as an important teacher, it is easy to see provocations all around us. Now we challenge YOU to create your own provocation for the children in your life!

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Pinnacle Presbyterian Preschool has been on a journey to grow and learn from the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy for over 20 years. This journey is never-ending (as all good learning should be!), and this year we are excited to add a physical journey to our philosophical one. In May 2019, 13 members of the PPP staff will spend a week where it all began; absorbing, connecting and challenging ourselves in Reggio Emilia. We are lucky enough to be members of an individually tailored 5 State Tour of the schools and centers of Reggio Emilia, and equally lucky enough to have the support of our school community to make this dream a reality!

PPP’s director, Sabrina Ball, created the Reggio Journey Fund early last year with the goal of sending as many of our staff to Italy as wanted to go. As a team, we worked to identify and create new events for our preschool families that would enrich their lives as much as the funds were enriching our path to Reggio. And it has been a tremendous success!

Parents’ Nights Out have brought many of students together in a fun way outside of the classroom while their moms and dads spend some lovely time connecting with each other. Our first ever Mommy/Son Superhero Day and Daddy/Daughter Tea Party made lasting and beautiful memories. This year we have added a few more activities, including movies under the stars and an intimate Indian Cooking Class with our beloved Miss Juliet. The PPP staff is in awe of our community’s enthusiastic participation in these events and the kindness and excitement shown by our families when they hear about our upcoming journey.

Behind the scenes, the member of the 5 State Tour are busily preparing for this magical week. We are studying together, reading The Hundred Languages of Children and reflecting on our reading with members of the tour from all over Arizona. The PPP members have started a book club, meeting once a month and engaging in deep and exciting conversation about how we can create positive change from our learning in Reggio Emilia. 

We cannot wait to bring back all of the learning that we will experience this May to our very own PPP community, and let it guide and foster your own children’s early childhood experience. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for supporting our Reggio Journey!

“Teachers-like children and everyone else-feel the need to grow in their competences; they want to transform experiences into thought, thoughts into reflections, and reflections into new thoughts and actions.”

            -Loris Malaguzzi, inspiring developer of the Reggio-Emilia approach

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After another long desert summer, a slight coolness can be detected in the mornings here. It is a signal to desert dwellers that a much needed break is coming. And it is a signal to us at Pinnacle Presbyterian Preschool that our dear friend Notty will be back soon. Notty has spent his summer in Colorado, as he does each year. Being a small woodland elf, the desert heat is simply too much for him. But last week, the classrooms at PPP each received a very special (and very tiny!) piece of mail. It was our first letter of the year from Notty! Notty shared that he would be making the trek back to Arizona over the weekend. He expected that he would be back at school by Monday morning, so friends should look for him and his camper when they went outside to play. Sure enough, there was Notty’s camper tucked under a tree! Students investigated his tiny house: a loft bed with a ladder, a soft and snuggly blanket for cooler nights, miniature cookware, and a treasure box full of Notty’s most special things. Questions immediately arose: Where was Notty? How did he get his camper to Arizona? What did Notty cook in his camper? How tall was Notty? What does he look like?

It is at this exact moment that the magic of Notty begins each year. PPP teachers gently guide the students’ inquiry. They show them where Notty’s mailbox can be found, and explain that if we write a letter to Notty, he will write one back. Teachers set up tiny letter writing stations in their classrooms, and spend time together in Kiva writing down the students’ questions, sounding out the letters in Notty’s name, and demonstrating to their eager students how to fold a sheet of paper small enough to fit into a tiny envelope. For the rest of the year, “Notty Mail” becomes an integral part of our emergent curriculum. The students’ chose to write, draw pictures, create tiny gardening tools, entire homes, in fact, for this little friend they have only corresponded with via mail. They worry about Notty when a storm comes during the night (“I was so nervous that Notty’s camper would have a flood!”). They LOVE Notty, the tiny elf who gives them such kind, positive feedback. And we love him, too, for all the amazing learning he inspires each day in our beautiful preschool home. Welcome Back, little friend!

A New School Year, A New Blog

PPP is excited to embark on our very own blog journey this year! We hope to share information with preschool families, colleagues, and anyone who draws inspiration from our Reggio-inspired, Sonoran Desert world. With the first week of school quickly approaching, we thought it fitting to begin by offering a few of our tried and true transition tips.

For many of you, this will be your child’s first time in a school setting, and it can be an incredibly emotional milestone for us moms and dads! With that in mind…

Tip #1: Have no fear, preschool is here! One of our teachers has this to say about parental confidence: “Your child is amazingly perceptive and picks up on all of your non-verbal cues. If you are happy and relaxed while dropping your child off at school, your child takes note of this. If, on the other hand, you are anxious, nervous, or hesitant, your child also sees this. Consider the way you want your child to feel about coming to school in the morning and lead the way! Your child will ‘catch’ the attitudes you exude.”

So, what exactly should this confident drop-off look like?

Tip #2: Short and sweet drop-offs are the best kind of drop-offs! At PPP, we believe strongly in the Conscious Discipline approach to social-emotional learning and use many of its strategies in our daily routines. In the morning, you will often hear something along the lines of, “Good morning, Annie and mommy! Welcome to school! We will keep Annie safe today while you are at work and we will see you at pick up. We’re going to have an amazing day together!” Follow that with a hug and a purposeful walk out the door, and you have just given your little pumpkin
a confident start to the day.

Of course, the morning goodbye is just one small part of the transition process. How you prepare your child at home has just as much of an impact on success!

Tip #3: Bring the preschool into your life at home. There are many ways to do this. Before the school year begins, you may want to create a simple picture calendar to keep handy. Especially if your child attends school just 2 or 3 times a week, this calendar will help a child become accustomed to the rhythm of their new schedule. Once school has begun, one PPP teacher suggests taking pictures of familiar locations at school (the front of the school, classroom, playground, and any other areas your child might adore). Having these pictures handy on your phone to look through when discussing school helps keep it familiar to your child on those days away.

We hope we have equipped you with a few new tools for your transition toolbox. Some of you will never need to pull out your toolbox at all, while others will need a toolshed to keep all the tools you have tried during the year! Either way, know we are here to support your child and family every step of this beautiful process!