As I enter Sunnymont-Westside my teacher greets me, “Hi Julie, I notice you look excited today.” She listens while I tell her all about my grandmother's visit. We put my name tag on together, after I find the right letter combination or sticker. It feels great to be welcomed, acknowledged and cared about. When I feel secure and emotionally relaxed, my brain is much more able to take in new concepts and process new learning experiences. I can learn much better from an adult I trust and love, and I've already started by using language with her as she listened and asked me questions that made me think.

After washing my hands, (which is always a fun way to build neural pathways by processing the sensations of the water and soap on my hands, as my brain plans how I will move my hands), I go straight to the playdough table. Here I can sit and observe the rest of the classroom until I feel comfortable to venture out. After all, observation is a form of participation and I know that practicing skills for dealing with stressful situations will benefit me for my whole life.

The playdough is very tactile to punch, pull, poke, twist, and squeeze. It is relaxing and calming after a hurried ride to school. Hey, the muscles in my hands and arms are getting stronger. That will probably help me to hold a pencil when I'm ready to write. Oh, I see a friend I've been looking for in the house area. I rush right past the block cabinet thinking I'll get back to that later. I do hate to miss the geometry, one-to-one correspondence, number values, shapes, spatial relations, gravity, balance, problem solving, and cause and effect block building offers.

I can work on my social and emotional skills in the dramatic play area today. I walk up to the dolls and realize that my friend Jessica is holding my favorite doll. I grab the baby by the legs and pull, quite hard, because I'm very determined. A dad comes over and acknowledges my feelings of anger and desire for the baby as he also reassures Jessica. He holds the baby so Jessica and I can problem solve without hurting each other or the doll. I'm so glad he was there, not only was I feeling mad, when I started to grab the doll away I actually got a little scared. We work out a way for Jessica to use the doll first and me to wait until she's done. The dad is helping me find something to do while I wait. It is so hard to wait and I'm still a little sad about not having the doll right now. My plan was to be the mommy so I could reassure the baby it would be OK, when we go to the doctor's, that it might hurt a little bit but the hurt would stop. I stop to think how wonderful it is that I can learn skills like these in two ways; by interacting with adults, and then by practicing taking on the roles in my play.

I feel hungry so I head to the cooking/snack table. I know that besides getting some nourishment I'll be able to socialize with friends, practice pouring, measuring, cutting, peeling, stirring, watching thermal reactions, fractions, conservation of number and exposure to new cultures and vocabulary through food. Wait, I see small and large oval things in a bowl that are several colors and have speckles. I wonder what they are. Oh, I hear a parent telling John that they are eggs; I didn't know eggs came in different colors. I'm not that fond of eggs, but Mark is eating them so maybe I'll give it a try. I sit down to serve my self a raw egg, crack it into the bowl, mix it up with a little milk and take it to this hot plate (I hear them calling it a grill). I pour my liquid egg onto it, and yikes, my egg is changing. It looks more whitish, and harder and I can scrape it up into a pile now. The heat must be doing something to the egg. Time to eat the egg, but Hooshing has put some type of sauce on his eggs. I'll try it. Hmm. People from different cultures like the same things even when they're new to them!

Well it's group time and although I know some of my best learning happens during self directed play when I get to choose what I'm working on—the music, movement, stories, and being together in a large group do help me learn language, problem solving skills, listening, and turn taking, and anytime I move my body my cognitive abilities increase 50%. Oh, it's one of my favorite songs, All Fall Down. It feels good to remember this song and know what to expect next. First we kick, and then fall down. Now we're reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar where I get to help count the fruits the caterpillar is eating.

Yay, it's outside time where I can be more carefree and use louder voices and bigger movements, sometimes it hard for me to be in control of my body for too long. And of course, I've been looking forward to the chance to practice balance, body stability, motor planning, bilateral body use, large motor skills, and large muscle coordination that will help me control my body with less effort so I'll have more energy for those listening and thinking activities.

Oh, no! Class is over already. In the 2½ hours I've worked on my curiosity, self-esteem, language, math concepts, science, problem solving, logical thought, conflict resolution, creativity, gross and fine motor skills. It's OK; my parents will bring me back to Sunnymont-Westside again.

Debbie Barnes, M.A.
1 and 2 Day Class Teacher