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INSIGHTS • Upgrades to the ELC space and program

Zac Oldenburg, ELC Lead Teacher, Site Supervisor, and Emotional Intelligence Coordinator

INSIGHTS is an ongoing series of blog posts published by members of the PBS faculty, providing a lens into how the PBS faculty thinks about curriculum development, teaching and learning, professional development, and other topics central to executing the school’s mission every day. In this multi-part series of INSIGHTS articles, PBS faculty will share updates on important school-wide initiatives, including the annual Curriculum Deep Dive and Phillips Brooks Summer Institute projects.

Hello to the PBS community!

Mr. O here. I’m writing today to catch you up on what all has been going on with us over in the Early Learning Center (ELC). As you may or may not know, we’ve been in the midst of some transitions over the last couple of months – both inside the classrooms and out on our playground.

The first thing you will notice if you are walking by – or, better yet, visiting – the ELC is a lot more green! We’ve worked with the administrative team to transform our lower play space into one that will still allow for a whole lot of running and wagon pulling, with some added gross motor opportunities for our students. (Get those monkey-bar muscles ready!) The additions include a dramatic play/climbing dome and some lush new grass turf. We are also developing ideas to better utilize our upper play space and will be trying some things out up there as our team experiments with the opportunity that space presents us.

Speaking of our team, it’s going to look a little different to our returning families, and we are very excited about the energy and ideas our new team members are bringing to ELC. You’ll see these new faces in the ELC this year:

Andrew is joining us from the 1st-grade team, and if your child is enrolled in our Extended Care program, you will see a lot of him. Calla, Krystal and Nina are just starting at PBS, and in the short time we’ve been working with them we can already tell that they are going to be a great fit in the ELC.

In our first week together, PBS brought back Todd Wanerman – an early learning specialist who provided invaluable consultation during the reimagination of the ELC several years ago – for two days of intensive workshops with our team. Todd is great at getting to the “why” of the “what” you do in your program, so we were able to share our variety of approaches to education and really come together around our shared passion for working with students of this age to define our vision for this school year.

These three new teachers, along with Ms. Floriani and Mr. Mars, attended the Opal School Summer Symposium in Portland this summer where they got to take in some of the latest and greatest ideas in early childhood universe. They’ve come back inspired, full of ideas, and ready to help us refresh our ELC program, as we always look to grow where we can in how we can best facilitate an amazing learning environment for our students.

Some changes you will immediately notice in our ELC environment are that our classroom locations have been swapped around. The preschool classroom is leaving the space it has occupied since we expanded to three distinct classes in the ELC to its new home in the central classroom of our building. This larger space will allow for the preschool team to find new opportunities to help our youngest learners discover a love of learning at PBS and give them a little more room to grow.

This move will also mean that both Pre-K classes will now have uniform classroom spaces – at least when it comes to shape and size. Ms. McVicker and Ms. Kennedy are, of course, bringing their distinct styles to the program to try something a little different when it comes to how we use those spaces. Each classroom will have all of the traditional areas you’d find in a great early learning space, but we are hoping to give those experiences a little more room by enlarging certain activities in each classroom. Pre-K students will have the opportunity to explore both classrooms and our ample outdoor space during joined exploration time. We will facilitate coverage of this time by having only one classroom open at a time, letting students have more autonomy to create their own experience in learning.

We are very excited about this new school year, especially with all of the opportunities for innovation sparked by our newest team members, spaces, and exploration ideas. We can’t wait to see you and your students in the ELC.

Zac Oldenburg is an ELC Lead Teacher, the ELC Emotional Intelligence Coordinators, and one of the ELC site supervisors. Mr. O joined the PBS community in 2015 as an associate teacher and learning specialist, and he has more than a decade of experience in early childhood education. When he’s not teaching, he is most likely watching a movie, playing games, rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals, or being a foodie with his wife, Amy.

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