I believe giving children opportunities to use various art materials and supplies is important.  I learned the children with whom I have been working have not used many different materials.  I was reminded, as I learned at Paradise Babies, that instructions must accompany the use of materials.  The children had to be taught they didn’t have to wash their brush after using a color; we have a brush for every color.  Perhaps they have only been given one brush in the past because that’s all that was available.  Perhaps they hadn’t been given opportunities to use tempera paint in the past.  Regardless of why they were getting cups of water, I realized I had to take the time to teach them how to use the paint.

You will also see we incorporated large body movements with painting.  We focused on the process rather than the product while painting outside.  Teamwork was necessary for the painting we did outdoors; it was windy and the paper had to be held tightly!

A Field Trip with Value

As with anything I do with children, I was intentional and thoughtful about where we would go for an end of the year field trip.  There are several tourist attractions in Roatan that would be fun to visit, but I decided we would do something none of the children had done before.  We visited the community center operated by the SOL Foundation.  Children from the neighborhood spend time at the community center Monday – Friday and are able to play games, get help with homework, participate in classes, and enjoy snacks and meals.  My class visited the center one morning for the purpose of allowing them to see a different side of Roatan than what they see on a daily basis.  The children in my class led a group time that included songs and chants we had been doing together this semester; this gave them a leadership opportunity.  It was interesting to observe the behaviors of all the children and had I thought of this sooner, it would have been something we would have done more than once.

After our time at the community center, we walked along the beach to a resort that hosted us for swimming in the pool.  It was great to cool off as it has been near 100 degrees recently.  Lastly, we ate lunch at the resort’s restaurant.  While there, we socialized at the table, used manners, waited patiently, and respected the space and other customers.

It’s great to take advantage of what is nearby and I wouldn’t have been able to plan this field trip 3 years ago.  However, I have now connected with people and gained resources in Roatan.


I started teaching 1st and 2nd grade at Island Academy of Roatan again this semester.  While I haven’t been posting, we have been engaged in some developmentally appropriate activities.  One of those activities was making pancakes.  The following are some goals/standards that we were working on before, during, and after making pancakes.

  • writing an invitation
  • reading a recipe/following instructions
  • making predictions
  • thinking critically
  • measuring/volume
  • reading related stories
  • writing a narrative including first, next, and last
  • identifying facts and opinions
  • observing solids, liquids, and gases
  • cooking vocabulary

As we know, children learn by doing!

Culturally Appropriate Dramatic Play

We recently had a difficult time coming up with the next dramatic play theme.  It made me reflect on dramatic play in Roatan.  Here is what we have done thus far:

  • “House” – We have had baby dolls, baby items, pretend food, skirts, aprons and kitchen items.  We haven’t had all this at once, however.
  • Ice Cream Parlor – There are a couple ice cream shops in Roatan and the children knew what to do with the materials.
  • Birthday Party – This is used when it is someone’s birthday.
  • Pizza Parlor – There is one chain pizza place on the island.  The children used the pizza materials appropriately.  However, I couldn’t believe the pizza place wouldn’t give us a couple pizza boxes.  I don’t think that would happen in the United States.
  • Doctor and Hospital – The younger children misused some of these items but the older children were truly engaged in play.
  • Hair Salon – Everyone became engaged in this play, including adults, boys, and girls.
  • Mexican Restaurant
  • Veterinarian – This was in response to one particular child spending a great deal of time pretending to be a dog.
  • Megapaca – This is Goodwill-type clothing store on the island.  We called it Megapaca, but it was a clothing store.  The children dressed in different clothes and went shopping with play money.
  • Grocery Store
  • Dive Shop – This is certainly culturally appropriate as that is a big business on the island and several of the children’s parents work in the diving industry.

Points to remember:

  • There are very few chain stores or restaurants on the island.
  • There is not postal system so having post office as a theme isn’t appropriate.
  • The children brush their teeth at the center but they are not familiar with going to the dentist.  Children in the United States typically visit the dentist at a younger age than children in Roatan.  We decided not to have a dentist theme since the children do not have real life experience with it.
  • Getting materials often proves difficult.  People tend to make use of everything they have and don’t have much waste.  Further, businesses do not easily donate items (even pizza boxes).
  • While not addressing culture, we have to take into account the mixed ages we have in the classroom.

It’s pretty amazing to look at the list of what we have done.  Dramatic play is important for so many reasons and I am pleased with what we have done and what we continue to do.  It’s refreshing to be reminded of the great things we have done when we may get frustrated with what to do next.

Our First Project Attempt – Cars

After being at Paradise Babies a year I decided it was time to do a project with the children.  I had been hesitant and learned some reasons why I had been hesitant.

First, the topic of the project was determined after observing several children show an interest in cars.  Cars are a popular item in the classroom, we added a “road” to the playground and proved to be successful, and we put up “steering wheels” on the playground.

I did a web for cars and brainstormed project activity ideas.  At the beginning of the project I thought a new teacher would be starting and was excited to have her on board.  Unfortunately, she ended up not working at the center.  I shared the web with Vania but we never discussed it and I didn’t discuss it with Sindy and Elvia.

We began by individually asking the children what they knew and wanted to know about cars.  They were able to tell us relevant information about what they knew but it was more difficult for them to share what they wanted to know.

I implemented the activities with individual and small groups of children.  With our mixed ages and inconsistent attendance this worked better for us than large group activities.

We did not do a culminating event. I do think we can do some sort of culminating event for our next project.

Here are some cultural thoughts.  There are certainly cars on the island and many of them are taxis.  There are several children that attend the center whose families do not own a car.  We cannot see cars driving by from a window in the center, or even from the building itself.  There is no parking lot; only one car was present for investigation.

Here are some things I learned:

  • I know the children will be better able to share what the want to know about a topic the more we ask the question and conduct investigations.
  • I will include all adults in the webbing and planning process.  I now believe it is imperative to have a strong co-teacher(s) when implementing project work.
  • At times I found it difficult to conduct the investigations because of the mixed ages in the classroom and never knowing who would be present on a given day.
  • Project work can certainly be completed without conducting a full project.  By this I mean using authentic items and in-depth investigations.
  • Having an extra staff person is also helpful as some of the work was done outside the classroom and in small groups.  Perhaps parents could volunteer with project work in the future.


Mixed-Age Classrooms

I often struggle with appropriate materials in a mixed-age classroom.  We have 2 – 5 year olds sharing space.  Obviously their need for different materials exists.  I recently witnessed a two year old become extremely frustrated that he could not use scissors properly.  I did not suggest he use scissors, but another child was using them so he wanted to use them.  I also observe younger children breaking or destroying dramatic play items because they are not yet ready to use them appropriately.  On the other hand, I have seen one two year old use items meant for older children children in completely different and creative ways.  I don’t have an answer or solution to this challenge; I will continue to problem solve and think about how to meet the needs of all the children.

Behind Closed Doors

I had the privilege of visiting Tegucigalpa, Honduras for a few days last week.  My guide was Vania, my friend and coworker, who spent time growing up in the city.  The purpose of our trip was to learn more about the status of early childhood education in Honduras.  We visited 5 sites and met with the coordinator of the preschool education degree at the University Pedagogica.

As we were driving around we had time to talk and get to know one another on a more personal level.  I shared some of my background and that I have learned never to judge anyone because “you never know what’s going on behind closed doors.”

This phrase came back to me as I was reflecting on my trip.  One of the things that stood out to me about the city is that everything was built behind concrete walls.  Neighborhood streets were lined with walls with garage doors built into the walls.  Someone driving by really has no idea what is behind that wall and garage door.  It gave me a bizarre, closed-in feeling.

Several of the the child care centers we saw were set up this same way, as they were once homes.  From the outside I may have thought there was no way I would like what was on the inside, but how would I know if I didn’t see it for myself?  I was pleasantly surprised that the centers we visited had sections of grassy areas once we passed through the tall gates/walls.  I value natural outdoor time for children and must remember that the centers have to make the best of the space with which they have to work.  We realized there isn’t much available land in the city; it is built up and the land that is available is expensive.  Therefore, the centers will most likely inhabit an existing building.  Luckily, the children may still have space for outdoor play.

We also observed that although a place may have an attractive sign on the outside of the building does not necessarily mean that is inside is warm and welcoming.  Again, we never know what is behind closed doors.

Here are a few other things I learned about early childhood education:

  • Many families have maids/nannies.  This certainly affects the need for full day child care services.
  • The country is moving in a direction to require all teachers of 4 year-olds and up to have an appropriate teaching degree.
  • There are currently no rules/standards/regulations for children 0 – 3 in group care.
  • The University has about 700 students enrolled in the preschool bachelor’s degree program.  The degree has been in existence since 1983 and prepares teachers to work with children 0 – 6 years.
  • Many of the centers are ordering materials and furniture online and from the United States.
  • Children as young as one and two years old follow a class schedule in group care.
  • Families provide snacks and lunch for their children in care.

During the next couple of weeks I will process more of this information to determine what to do with it.  We want to use it in order to help progress early childhood education in Honduras.

Most importantly, it was a nice reminder that “you never know what’s behind closed doors” and that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”




Learning Through Making Choices

When painting today the children were given a couple choices.

1 – Do you want to paint a rectangle or a triangle?  (I had pre-cut the paper into these shapes)

2 – Do you want to use a  little paintbrush or a big paintbrush?

Rather than having a lesson with young children on shapes and size, why not incorporate the content knowledge into everyday tasks and language?  When given these two choices the children had to think about what they wanted and then respond.  I could assess the children’s knowledge of rectangle, triangle, little, and big through these questions.

I want children to have opportunities to learn in authentic ways.  This is an example of how this can be accomplished.  There is a great deal of research supporting play-based, rather than academic, early childhood settings.  Teachers in play-based centers must be able to cite how children are learning, as I can do with the above example.

“Making Do”


When in Roatan, I often hear of people “making do” with what they have.  I have learned a lot about using materials in new ways and finding different uses for things in my work at Paradise Babies.  Remember, there is no Wal-Mart, Home Depot, or Dollar Tree.  I never know what I may, or may not, find when I go shopping.  For example, I looked for graham crackers two weeks ago without finding them.  This week I found them!

One day last week I made a bubble solution and had formed pipe cleaners to make bubble wands.  We used the wands to make bubbles for a while.  When there wasn’t much bubble solution left, I noticed Sindy (shown in the picture) started using her hand to make bubbles.  Did I think of that?  No, I did not.  What a lesson this was for me!  There are times I am frustrated with a lack of critical thinking skills here on the island.  Then there are times such as this when people like Sindy prove me wrong.  She clearly did not want to waste any of the bubble solution and found a way to use every last drop.  Thanks, Sindy!

Problem Solving

I recently had the opportunity to babysit for three girls, ages 5, 6, and 7.  After spending time with them I was reminded why I am such a strong believer in using the problem solving approach to guidance.

Here is why.

I heard, “Heather, her leg is in the way and I can’t see the TV.”  I said, “Is there a way you can work out the problem?”  It took a few tries before the girls were able to come to a compromise and solve the problem.

Next, I was called upon for the following, “Heather, she won’t share the seat.”  Again, I simply said, “What can you do about it?”

When playing Connect 4, I heard, “Heather, she smashed my finger.”  I said, “Can you tell her something about it?”  The girl just looked at me so I said, “Can you tell her how it made you feel?”  She did and that was that.

My hope is that children are able to solve problems such as these without adults.  Why was I called upon in these instances?  It really stood out to me as something bizarre.  It could be because I haven’t been around school-age children in quite some time.  It could also be because I have been in Roatan and people have to take care of problems themselves.  There is no one to come to your rescue.

Another thing that struck me was that all the girls had to have everything equal and the same.  I took playdough and they all wanted the same amount of each color.  What about the fact that not everyone needed the same amount of each color for what they wanted to create?  Each girl wanted the same amount of chips although all three girls did not want to actually eat the same amount of chips.  I believe being in Roatan did make this observation stand out to me because things are certainly not all equal here, and no one expects them to be equal.  Some people have more than others and that is just the way it is.

By using strategies shared by Eleanor Reynolds in her book and articles, I want children to learn to negotiation, communicate, and solve problems on their own.  What a great life skill to have!  There isn’t always going to be someone else around to solve problems for you.  It was great for me to have this reminder because teaching young children to be problem solvers is often difficult and time consuming.  Oh, how it is worth it, though!