Parent Newsletter, Robots, TED Talk

One of the hardest things this school year has been communicating with parents.  That all important face-to-face greeting and conversation, every day at drop-off and pick-up, is limited to distancing in the school lobby while wearing masks.  We Zoom, write a lengthy daily note, and a few times a month write a more in-depth email about what is happening in the classroom.  Here is the latest, which includes a fabulous TED talks:

Hi Families,

In the fall, when your children came together as friends and began to play in earnest, we wrote to you about the importance of play.  The video we captured of your children playing Ring Around the Rosie, and falling down together while holding hands, was a perfect example.  Now that the school year is half over, it’s time to take play a step further.  Play is the primary foundation for learning, therefore how we play and what we play is incredibly important.

Here is an example of our play this week:

We have started to learn about robots.  Children enjoy watching a robot video from time to time that was created by Boston Dynamics.  It was perfect to to watch again and begin to really talk about robots.  We collected as many recyclables as we could find at school, and we built our own life-size robot.  This was both difficult and fun, as we had to design something that actually worked to stay together.  Size and shape mattered.  So did smaller elements like antenna and face parts.  Would it stand?  Of course we had to give the robot a name after all that hard work.  Meet Atlas, who incidentally has the the same name as one of the Boston Dynamics’ robots.

Next, we wrote a class story about the robot, put the children’s words onto big chart paper, and added illustrations.  Here is the story:

“It happened like this.  There was once a robot named Atlas who was hungry.  He had to go home and eat pancakes.  He ate 100!  He had a tummy ache, so he drank water.  He went to find the doctor to get better.  Then, he went to make rainbows.  When we grow up we can build robots like Atlas.”

These group activities are important.  But, what about individual activities?  We not only guide play, we scaffold learning, adding new challenges as children grow and develop.  We also help children navigate the all-important waters of social and emotional development, being there to help them problem solve and build friendships.

We connect with children.  We talk with children.  We play with children.  We provide a healthy classroom.  We are a community, the Aqua Room family.

These five elements build the brain and give children skills for life.  You can do this at home!  When you connect with your child, really playing and talking (and reading aloud), it is a magic wand, a golden key to, well, life.  It’s how every child can thrive by age five.

Here is seven-year-old Molly Wright on a TED talk explaining how important this is, and how it works.  Yes, a game of peek-a-boo can change the world.


P.S. I’m mailing the robot story to Boston Dynamics!

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Imagination, Inspiration, literacy, picture stories, Teaching young children, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

74 Responses to Parent Newsletter, Robots, TED Talk

  1. Jennie, Isn’t Molly amazing??!! I’ve been sharing this with lost of people. She’s must have had an early childhood teacher like you!

    • Jennie says:

      Hi John. Yes, she is amazing! I only wish she had included reading aloud when mentioned talking. Did you see her at the end when she was hugged by her parent in the audience? Thank you!!

  2. Norah says:

    Wonderful letter, Jennie, though I think something was omitted in the first paragraph.
    Atlas is fantastic and I’m pleased you’re going to send the story to Boston Dynamics. I hope you hear back from them as you did last time.
    Molly is amazing and her message is spot on.

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Norah. I’m trying to figure out what was omitted. The first paragraph (in italics) is a lead-in to the parent newsletter. Can you tell me more? Thanks so much, as parent communication is challenging with all the Covid restrictions. I will let you know if I hear back from Boston Dynamics. Yes, Molly is amazing! We both have shared this!

      • Norah says:

        Hi Jennie,
        The omission wasn’t in the italics but in the first paragraph of your letter. Strangely, it’s disappeared now. I can’t even find where it was. I know there was something missing after the word ‘show’, which doesn’t appear to be there now. Must have been something weird at my end. Sorry.
        I look forward to news of Boston Dynamics. I’m sure you’ll hear from them.

      • Jennie says:

        Thank you, Norah. Another blogger gave me the same heads-up yesterday, with specifics. Thank goodness. The very end of the sentence, after ‘show’, somehow dropped off. So, I repaired the sentence. Please let me know if it now reads okay. Yes, it was in that first paragraph to parents. Boston Dynamics’ reply email to me when I told them about the story was ‘awesome’. I will let you know if the children receive a letter back.

      • Norah says:

        It’s all good now, Jennie. 💖
        I do hope the children receive a reply. 🤞

      • Jennie says:

        Thanks, Norah. I hope so, too!

  3. Dan Antion says:

    This is an amazing story, Jennie. It’s so good to reflect on progress mid-year and to know that what you’re doing is working.

  4. Atlas is fab, and the story! Well done to all!

  5. Darlene says:

    A great letter to the patents and a super video. What an amazing child Molly is. I once had a reviewer tell me that my twelve year old character, Amanda, sounded too adult at times. Obviously they had never met a child like Molly.

  6. Kudos to the Aqua Roomers on the planning and construction of Atlas! I particuarly like his flowered mouth. From reading their story, I would say that another valuable lesson they learned was that entering a competitive eating contest later in life would be a bad idea.

  7. willedare says:

    Hi, Jennie: I LOVE this blog post and have shared a link with all of my Music Together families. Molly articulates many of the things which we do in MT class — put down our electrical devices and connect with our children, play, accept and include… the list goes on and on. Regarding what is missing in the first paragraph of this blog post, you have a sentence that says “The video we captured of your children playing Ring Around the Rosie, and falling down together while holding hands, showed…” and then it ends without articulating what the video showed. On another note, I woke up this morning from a dream in which I realized that a school I was visiting in the western suburbs of Boston was YOUR SCHOOL (I recognized the trees in the play area) and then I found YOU with a bunch of your fellow teachers meeting behind the school, and I cautiously interrupted your meeting to say “hi” and tell you how excited I was to find you and your school before I hit the road to ride my bike further west… You have made it (happily to me) into my subconscious!!!

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Will! Thank you for sharing this with your MT families. And, thank you for telling me where my sentence dropped off the face of the earth. That was terrible, and you came to the rescue. Aren’t dreams fascinating? How wonderful that my school, and I, ended up in your dream! I feel like an honored guest. Really. I tell my parent who is passionate about MT and taking her courses, all about you. She is also an established musician and singer… but I don’t know details. See, we can’t be together with parents, which is frustrating. I know you feel the same way. How do you do your classes in the winter? As soon as spring arrives, it will be much easier. Yahoo! Thank you again, Will.

  8. The Robot Atlas is fantastic! Your kids sure are learning a lot in your classroom! I bet the folks at Boston Dynamics love this story and your robot!!

  9. Wonderful TED talk. I’ve seen that before and it never ceases to engage.

  10. quiall says:

    When play becomes work it’s no longer fun. When work becomes play it is far more productive. Adults forget the lessons children learn young. And that is a shame.

  11. This robot building exercise looks like great fun, Jennie. I built a robot out of wood with my boys when they were little.

  12. beetleypete says:

    The parents with children at your school get a great service indeed, Jennie. I am not sure that happens in the State School system here. Maybe in those schools where the families pay for private education, but I have no facts about those.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  13. Ritu says:

    So lovely, Jennie!

  14. Great stuff, Jennie. Thanks for sharing it.

  15. CarolCooks2 says:

    I have seen that TED talk its marvellous…I wish I had received a newsletter like that when my kids were at school it is so lovely 🙂

    • Jennie says:

      I can’t get enough of that TED talk, although I wish she had included reading aloud in the talking section. I never received newsy emails when my kids were little either. I think they help parents to become better parents.

  16. Don Ostertag says:

    Great post, Jennie. You will have to let us know if you get positive feed back from Boston Dynamics.

  17. A 30 year old in a 7 year old body. This was very impressive. It moved me so much. The robot experience looked like great fun for the kids and you. These kids are all well ahead of the game.

  18. cathkalcolor says:

    Impressive talk and the robot is such a great learning lesson since you use a lot of recyclables.

  19. petespringerauthor says:

    What child doesn’t like robots? How fun for them to get to share in this experience! I couldn’t help but see they’re modeling a Jennie story, “It happened like this.” I’ve got to imagine the folks at Boston Dynamics will be impressed. I remember my kids writing a giant letter like this and delivering it to a neighboring classroom. Of course, they first had to make an enormous envelope for it and learn how to address an envelope, and include a stamp. Having fun while learning—a win-win in any lesson. Well done, Jennie!

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, everyone likes robots! As of today, children are giving Atlas spontaneous hugs. I thought it was pretty cool that they wanted their story to begin like a Jennie Story. I emailed Boston Dynamics yesterday to tell them about the story, and how the children wanted to send it to them. “Awesome” was their immediate reply. So, it’s rolled up in a tube (no folding), and will be mailed in the morning. Tonight I write my accompanying letter (my favorite thing to do.). Stay tuned!

      Your class wrote a giant letter, too? I’m smiling but not surprised. Making the envelope and learning how to address it- I know this was great fun and a terrific learning experience for your class. Honestly, I don’t understand why teachers don’t do this because it is such a win-win all the way around. Thank you, Pete!

  20. Jim Borden says:

    I think play is the most important thing for children to do at school during the early years. and I love that TED talk..

  21. Its amazing to read about all your efforts and ideas to keep the youngsters interested. Thats great, and honestly i can not remember similar from my days at school. The whole world will need you virtualized as a robot. 🙂 Best wishes, Michael

  22. swamiyesudas says:

    I thank God for teachers like You!

  23. Molly Amazing Jen. I found out from your post.

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