May 12, 2017

How to Keep Wonder Alive  By Heidi Kutchin, Nature Atelierista and Pedagogy Specialist

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”   Rachel Carson

In the Nature Atelier, we take this responsibility to heart.  Every day we encourage, inspire and support your child’s interest and exploration of all things natural.  As we come to the end of the school year, Wendy and I reflect on the growth of the children with whom we have spent the last nine months.  We have celebrated a child conquering their fear and marveling, and sometimes giggling, at the acrobatics of a worm held in their hand.  Weeks of practice resulted in young hands gently planting transplants with stems intact!  Hours spent in the outdoors developed observation skills nurturing the innate sense of wonder about which Rachel Carson spoke so eloquently.

So, Wendy and I hope that the summer months continue to provide opportunities of inspiration from nature.  We may not be the constant companion to share in discoveries, but you can provide the support.  Dallas and surrounding areas provide multiple possibilities for exploration and discovery.  We encourage you to share the joy, excitement, and mystery of nature with your child this summer.

Summer Outings

Texas Discovery Gardens: a botanical garden including an indoor butterfly house with hundreds of free flying butterflies.

Trinity River Audubon: a natural conservation area just minutes from downtown Dallas including a learning center and walking trails.

Cedar Hill State Park: state park located 10 miles from Dallas includes hiking trails, barbecue grills, diverse flora and fauna, and an agricultural center displaying local Texas history.

Fossil field trip:  this link provides information about local DIY outings suitable for children.

 The Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary: a conservation and preservation area in McKinney, Texas including trails and an animal sanctuary.  Plan your visit right and you can arrive for the snake feeding!


May 4, 2017

Bringing Israel Home, Morah Claire Rachman, Hebrew Immersion and Judaic Atelierista




Each day, when a child enters the doors of ECEC, our goal is to immerse him or her in learning opportunities.  As much as possible, we do this through experiential teaching.  Jewish education at ECEC examines Judaism as a culture with a history, literature, language, social organization, social and spiritual ideals, and values.  We envelop the children in a rich environment that leads to exploration of the various aspects of Judaism that collectively form our civilization. 

As the Hebrew Atelierista,  I consider myself lucky.  The Hebrew language and Israeli culture are particularly vibrant and lend themselves extraordinarily well to engagement.  When Israelis speak, they don’t simply communicate with their words.  Rather, they gesticulate and make exaggerated expressions during conversation.  It’s such fun watching the children not only imitate Hebrew words, but also my corresponding gestures and animated face.  

Yesterday, we celebrated Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, by bringing Israel to ECEC.  This holiday provided the perfect opportunity to surround our learners with tastes, smells, sights and sounds reminiscent of the 69-year-old Holy Land!  Just as Israelis do, the children ate falafel, ground chickpeas and spices fried in oil and ate salad street-car style.  The children walked along an Israeli “shuk” (outdoor market) and tasted fresh olive oil while teachers juiced fresh oranges for them.  Our learners built a Kotel, “brick-by-brick.”  The Kotel, also known as the Western Wall, is often considered the holiest site in Israel.   They designed their own Marc Chagall-inspired glass windows and practiced Israeli dance steps.  We sang songs and marched with blue and white Israeli flags.  Humperdink, a live camel, even joined the party! The celebratory energy reverberated throughout the building!  

In honor of the anniversary of Israel’s independence, I would encourage you to do something in Israeli fashion today!  Just as your children did yesterday, eat fresh food, create artwork, sing or dance!  Embracing life fully and passionately is a daily practice at ECEC and one way we weave Israeli culture into our curriculum.  

April 20, 2017

The Importance of Play, Amanda Cobbel, Afternoon Atelierista

Have you ever wondered what your child does all day at school? Have you ever thought “what did my child actually learn today?  Why do they always talk about play?”  Play is an important part in each child’s academic career.  Through play, children are able to develop social, cognitive and motor skills.

Our classrooms are purposely set up to promote an inviting environment to play.  Provocations are designed to provoke the children’s interest and skills and Centers showcase countless opportunities for children to freely play around the room.  We are intentional about making sure each child has ample space to explore and discover themselves through their imagination, creativity, and senses.  As the children’s interests grow and evolve, the room does as well. 

When the children are playing in the Building Center there is more happening than what meets the eye. Yes, you see a large castle in front of them but how did it come about?  Through this process, children envisioned their structure, developed a mental blue print, and then assembled it.    This type of play generated teamwork, expressive language, imagination and ways to problem-solve. 

The Dramatic Play center is a place for the children to produce their own plays.  When playing in this center they are creating character roles and scripts. They are building relationships through expressing their feelings and emotions.  Their imagination drives this type of play by letting them act out their own stories. 

 At the sensory table, the children are exploring and developing their senses.  Working with different textures like water, sand, clay and paper allows the children to strengthen their fine motor skills and take risks.  While playing in the sand using a paint brush, they are developing letter concepts and prewriting skills when drawing shapes and letters. 


The Tinkering Center is where the children play with loose parts, recyclable materials and tools. This play is constructed by manipulating various materials together to create a product.  This is a perfect example of trial and error, cause and effect and science.  When playing with popsicle sticks, cups and wooden pieces they are discovering concepts of gravity, weight and balancing. 

So in the end, we love to share how your child played at school because play is much more than play.  Play is how your child learns.  Play molds your child into the leader, engineer, artist or writer they will become. Play can happen in many different ways and it is the teachers’ goal to create an atmosphere that is fun and exciting that fosters their educational growth. 

 “Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” - Joseph Chillton Pearce

April 13, 2017

A Little Music with your Matzah

Julia Geffen Rogers, MT-BC, Music Atelierista


            Chag Sameach ECEC families! We are currently in the midst of the week long holiday of Passover.  As I chew upon my matzah and celebrate the Jewish peoples’ freedom from bondage in Egypt, I like to have some music to accompany me. Every year, my family sings traditional Seder songs at our home. In addition, I get the honor of teaching and singing ECEC songs that tell Exodus story with your children. But what makes this year different from all other years? This year, I decided to look a little deeper to find some new and/or interesting music that I can recommend to you to make your holiday a little more festive. On my quest, I discovered that Passover and the story of the Exodus have inspired music from many, even some unexpected genres! Whatever your musical preference, there is most likely something that will entertain you. In the following paragraphs, I have provided some links of websites and videos for you to explore.  If you know of any other songs, websites or videos that you find interesting, I would be so pleased if you would email me to share them.


Children’s Music:

            Some of Judaic children’s music artists that most inspire me have recorded Passover songs or CDs. The first one I always think of is Shira Kline’s ShirLaLa Pesach! It is a lively and informative CD and has many of the songs that we sing at our school Seders and in the Music Atelier. Other great artists that always come to mind are Ellen and Peter Allard. They have Passover songs on several of their albums, including Little Taste of Torah and Bring the Sabbath Home. Ellen is additionally the composer of many songs that are covered by various Jewish musicians. I also recommend Mama Doni who brings such joyous energy to her songs. My favorite Passover songs by her are “Rasta in Pasta” on her album I Love Herring and Other Fish Shticks for Kid and “Bluegrass Dayenu” from The Jewish Holiday Collection. There are so many other artists, but for if I had to choose just one more I would recommend Doda Molli who has an album called Passover Party. Here are some links for you:


Shira Kline:

Lotsa, Lotsa Matza


Ellen and Peter Allard:

Ten Plagues in Egypt Land


Mama Doni:

Rasta in Pasta

Bluegrass Dayenu

Doda Mollie:

Don’t Sit on the Afikomen” 



A Capella:

            You may already be familiar with the fun family friendly videos from the A Cappella groups The Maccabeats and Six13. It seems that almost evert Jewish holiday they create songs and videos, often song parodies.  I highly recommend you peruse their websites and check out past years’ songs. I have included links to my favorites.



Uptown Passover” (an “Uptown Funk” for Pesach)


The Maccabeats:




Additional Genres:

            Below I have listed links to songs and videos from additional genres. Some may be just for your entertainment and some you may feel are appropriate to share with your children. Happy listening and Happy Passover!


Pop –

The Adele/Bieber Passover Mashup

Passover Rhapsody - A Jewish Rock Opera


Oldies- Mah Tovu  

Pharoah Pharoah


Jazz- Louis Armstrong

Go Down Moses


“Jew-Age” Music- Craig Taubman

The Order of the Seder


Reggae/Rap- Alan Eder



Rap- Matt Bar

Moses Rap


Dub- David Solid Gould vs Bill Laswell

Dub Questions





Techno- Rocky the Rabbi

Ma Nishtana


April 6, 2017

Bringing Art Outdoors, Susan Stein, Art Atelierista

Artmaking takes on a different dimension when you are outdoors. We dont worry so much about the mess, children have more space to move around, and we can create with things we find outside. 

Summer is the perfect time to bring art outside, whether in a kiddie pool, on the patio, on the sidewalk or driveway, in the sandbox, or in the backyard. Many art activities that incorporate sensory exploration and gross motor skills are ideal for warm weather fun. Exercise your childrens social skills making collaborative art with friends and neighbors.

Here is a list of outdoor art activities to spark your imagination. So put your children in bathing suits, let them get messy, and just hose them off afterwards!

Painting (washable tempera paint)
finger painting
splatter painting
paint with water - use paintbrushes or sponges
tricycle painting - ride through paint or paint the tires and ride
ball painting in a plastic kiddie pool - roll balls or water balloons in paint and throw them in a kiddie pool over paper - hold the edges of the pool and roll the balls around
pendulum painting - build a diy pendulum
tire swing painting - lean on your stomach on the tire swing with a paintbrush, put paper on the ground
paint on (unbreakable) mirrors on the grass (the mirrors reflect the sky)
paint on trees
paint on a playhouse or large box
make your own chalk paint in squeeze bottles
put watered down paint or colored water into spray bottles
bubble printing
splat painting - fill water balloons with paint and toss them around
feet painting
body painting
outdoor easel painting
paint the fence
hang a sheet or plastic shower curtain on the fence or clothesline
paint on a sheet on the lawn
paint clay pots then fill with plants
leaf rubbings
drawing with soft pastels and chalk
draw in the sand with sticks
draw the outline of your body lying on butcher paper
draw on a long piece of paper taped to the slide while sliding down
observational drawing from nature
set up a still life of summer items and draw it
place a natural item on paper and use it as part of a drawing
shadow drawing - put a natural item on paper and draw its shadow at different times of the day
natural items sculptures or mobiles
sculptures with stacked rocks
cardboard box sculptures
Clay / Playdough
nature prints in clay - create textures
create faces in clay with natural items
spread clay on trees and sculpt
natural items pressed into clay
pour sand into various containers and sieves
sandcasting with plaster in the sandbox
colored sand play
sand and water - sandcastles
Nature Art
make mandalas with natural items
leaf and rocks art - make circles, lines, shapes
flower and leaf printing with stamp pads
paint rocks and sticks
leaf rubbings
paint on leaves
hammered leaf and flower prints
use a hole puncher with leaves
nature weaving
observational drawing and painting
flower petal art
arrange flowers in a child painted vase
Water Play
wash toy cars and dolls
pour water into variety of containers and sieves
ice cubes in the kiddie pool
colored ice cubes sculptures
make large ice cubes by freezing water in plastic bins
make boats for the kiddie pool - sponges, wood pieces, milk cartons
Other Ideas
shaving cream play, add paint
play snow mixtures
potion making - small plastic containers, muffin tins, soil, sand, spoons, water, etc.
sun prints
make concrete stepping stones and put them in your yard
string a clothesline across the yard to hang your childrens artwork
make wind chimes and hang outside
make suncatchers
make goop, flubber or slime
make and fly paper airplanes
blow bubbles - mix with watercolor and watch them land on paper
make your own outdoor games - bowling with tennis balls and two liter soda bottles, horseshoes, ring toss
 Try a few of these ideas as the weather gets warmer. Spontaneous outdoor creativity, without much of the directions and restrictions of indoors is not only super fun and engaging, but also encourages exploration, curiosity, inventiveness, social skills, physical development, and positive feelings about new experiences.


March 30, 2017

Making Sense of Sensory Integration, Jessica Frank, Learning Specialist

Sensory Gym

What is sensory processing?

Sensory processing is an integral part of our neurological system and allows our bodies to perform various tasks. Sensory disorders make it difficult to perform academically, socially and physically in typical classrooms. Everyone, regardless of whether or not they have a diagnosed sensory processing disorder, requires various sensory stimuli.  While some of us require sensory input others require motor output.

Why is sensory integration important?

Sensory integration allows us to perform everyday tasks with ease.  When a person is fully regulated, they are able to sit down to dinner, have a conversation, watch a movie or play a game naturally, without even thinking about it.  For individuals who are dysregulated, it is important that we provide them with necessary tools to help them be successful both socially and academically. 

While we all have various sensory needs, it is important to recognize how those needs can impact young children.  For a child with limited core strength, sitting through a story can be difficult.  As the child begins to squirm, it is easy to confuse this movement for inattention and disinterest, when it is possible they are just not physically capable of sitting upright for long periods of time. 

Sensory basket

What do we do at the ECEC?

Here at the ECEC we have invested time and resources into helping to meet the needs of all of our children.  In the past, we have had materials such as weighted lap animals, wobble seats and squishy hand fidgets that teachers could utilize in their classrooms.  This year, thanks to a grant from the Gayle Forman Foundation, we were able to provide each class with Sensory Baskets.  These baskets contain age-appropriate items which are used to meet the sensory needs of the children in that class.  Items include cool down tools such as breathing balls, squeeze balls, and body sox.

While sensory baskets are helpful for while children are in the classroom, some children require extra support.  Last year, the Parents’ Association funded the establishment of a sensory gym on our campus.  This space is used by children, in conjunction with a licensed therapist, to work on specific goals that help keep them regulated.  This room consists of crash pads, swings, a climbing wall and more. 


March 23, 2017

Jeanne 3-23-17

March 9, 2017

Purim: A Time for Noshing

Cheryl English, Taste Atelierista

Purim is a fun filled holiday where the children in ECEC learn about bravery and standing up for what is right.  In the Atelier of Taste, we celebrate the holiday by baking hamentashen.  Hamentashen are a traditional shortbread cookie shaped in a triangle to represent evil Haman’s hat.  The center is filled with yummy jelly, fruit or even chocolate!  The children learned about baking and that when we bake, we must follow a recipe and measure exactly.  They were amazed how the dry and wet ingredients mixed to form a dough.  They kneaded, rolled and cut circles.  Then used fine motor skills to shape a three pointed triangle out of a circle!  The children helped make the hamentashen for the entire school (400!) for the Purim Extravaganza.  They love feeling like a part of the community and are so proud when making food for others.  Here is the recipe we’ve been using, try it at home!

Whole Wheat Honey Hamentashen


1 cup unsalted butter

3/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons whipping cream

Rind of one orange

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoons baking soda


1 C Dried Apricots

1/4 C Apple Juice

½ C Prunes or Raisins, chopped

Lime or Lemon Zest

Cook everything together until soft and thick, then puree.


1)  Preheat oven to 325˚. In a mixer, combine butter and honey.

2) Add cream and orange rind and blend.

3) In a separate bow,l stir together flour and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and blend.

4) Use flour on parchment, rolling pin and cookie cutters.  Roll out to a thickness of about 1/4"; cut with a 3” circle cookie cutter.  Fill with 1 teaspoon filling.  Fold over 3 sides to make a triangle.  Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet 10 to 12 minutes and cool on a rack.


March 2, 2017

Animals are Teachers; Hoo Knew?

Heidi Kutchin, Nature Atelierista

ECEC’s approach to nature based learning does not stop at natural materials in the classroom or planting and harvesting in the garden.  Our children also experience rich learning from engaging with our school animals.  The Nature Atelier is home to ten live animals and a large community of Madagascar Hissing cockroaches. 

A growing body of research indicates that young children benefit from early interactions with animals. During the early years, learning happens through sensory and direct experience, therefor animals are important resources for the learning environment.  All cognitive domains are supported:

  • Math: how long is the lizard?

  • Science: is the hedgehog an omnivore, herbivore, or insectivore?

  • Geography: in what part of the world do chinchillas naturally live?

  • Literacy: what words describe a ferret?

Equally significant is the social-emotional support offered by engagement with animals.  Our ECEC children develop a strong capacity to nurture and have a heightened sense of how their behaviors impact others.  This happens because of the consistent interaction with animals.  Children must learn to use gentle hands and quiet voices.  Calm bodies and impulse control create an opportunity for animal and child to become friends.

The threes and PreK children spend one day a month performing the numerous tasks required to keep our school animals happy and healthy.  On Thursday, they know that they will arrive in the Nature room and find their name tags.  Each name tag has an assigned animal and task.  The caregiver may be giving pellet food to the rabbits, hay to the guinea pigs, or fresh chopped vegetables to the bearded dragon.  Water bottles must be filled.      

Each work day, the zoo corral has one or two of the animals out for exercise and a close up view.  The zookeeper is responsible for reminding all visitors to keep their hands out of the corral and to use soft voices.  Often, the zookeeper will present books that provide additional information about the specific animal.

The children demonstrate responsibility, caring and knowledge about the needs of each animal.  They wait with great anticipation to see if their animal will eagerly eat the food which they provided.  There is great pride taken in doing this important work.

Even our infants and toddlers have opportunities to connect with our animal friends.  The Nature Atelier teachers visit classrooms to begin establishing a caring and comfortable relationship between the child and the animal.  We help each child learn how to gently touch the visiting animal, and if needed, overcome any apprehension.  Teachers are also invited to take an animal from the Atelier for a personal classroom visit.

Incorporating animals into our learning experiences results in an early foundation of inquiry, acceptance of responsibility and expanded vocabulary.

Moreover, building personal relationships with our school animals supports a sense of respect for all creation:  Ohev et HaBriyot.


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