More Than Just Likes and Followers: Using Social Media in Your School

About two years ago, I began to hear a common concern from families that were attending our program.

“It looks like they ‘play” a lot at your school….when do they learn?! And how will you prepare them for kindergarten if all they do is play?”

Obviously, statements like this frustrated staff. We understood the importance of play based learning, and I believed that most of our parents did as well. However, outside pressures, talk of statewide testing, the constant focus on academics for children younger and younger each year…left parents feeling….well, confused. They knew that their children should be playing at school, but they didn’t know why. And they knew that their children were learning, but they didn’t understand how.

This is where social media came into play. I was already using a wide range of parent communication strategies. Newsletters, emails, parent/teacher conferences…however, I needed a constant stream of visual evidence to help them understand what we were doing in the classroom and why it was important.

Instagram was an obvious choice. Instagram provides a visual feed that is easy for parents to access, beautifully presented and most importantly….FREE!

Before I began I made a couple of important rules for our Instagram page…

  1. No photos of children’s faces. Our page is public and this was not something I felt comfortable with. Our parents all sign photo release forms, however, I still don’t post picture of direct faces or use the names of children.
  2. Our Instagram page would have one voice. Although the teachers are responsible for taking all pictures, I am the only person who has access to our IG account. This ensure that the content and voice of the page are consistent…which is important!
  3. Quality of Content! Everything I post is carefully edited, proofread (I still make some errors…) and thoughtful. It is important to me that the content we share is beautiful and accurately tells our story. Our Instagram page is a resource and source of inspiration for many, but it is also a simple way for prospective and current families to learn more about program.

Since creating our Instagram page I have seen a dramatic increase in interest in our school….but more importantly, parents understand our curriculum and choose our school because of it. Before families even walk in the door they have an understanding of our program, they speak our language and they want their child to learn through play.

If we know that a picture says a 1000 words, than the power is in the picture….so use it!

When I post a picture to Instagram, I first make sure it is of value. I then focus on one element of learning to explain in the caption. Here is an example of a great photo, and the different elements I could highlight in the caption:

If you have any questions about how to successfully use social media to help your community understand your curriculum, please feel free to comment below!

 

Bringing the Outside In……

Our curriculum has always tried to find new and unique ways to connect children to the natural world. By providing opportunities for children to touch, manipulate and explore nature we can help them better understand and appreciate it…..however, at The Learning Loft our urban setting can provide some nature challenges.

This is why we have to find ways to bring natural elements into our everyday activities. Children can’t just touch a pinecone once and then appreciate the forest. They need to be constantly immersed in nature…touching, smelling and manipulating it.

These are some of the ways we bring nature into our play based learning environment….

 

Flower soup! Providing students with different natural materials and a bowl of water is the simplest activity, with a huge impact! Children can manipulate the items using scissors, tweezer, scoops, food coloring and water….to of course create Flower Soup

 

Great fine motor practice too!
Our students will enjoy this activity all week….each day new materials, colors, tools and recipes are added to extend the learning. Some of our older children will write their recipes, practicing early math and literacy skills!
A great activity for practicing scissor skills with a nature twist!
Pumpkin Dissection! If we want children to understand and appreciate fruits and vegetables, we need to give them hands on experience with them! Our students love using different tools to manipulate (nice word for smash and destroy) different fruits and veggies!
Nature identification table! Giving scientific tools to children forces them to take a closer look at the nature that surrounds us! 
We want our children to develop early literacy skills by practicing handwriting skills….but who says it needs to be on paper!?! 
Seashell and marine figurines sensory table!

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Adding tree cookies (yes, that is what those mini logs are called) are an easy way to provide a natural element to an activity. These students are using the math manipulative combined with a sensory element for sorting, counting and small world play. 
These individual sensory bins create a small world fairy center using dirt, rocks and tree cookies! 
Seed sorting! More hands on exploration of fruit and veggies!
This time the teachers took the vegetable investigation into another direction….construction! Students are encouraged to hammer nails and screw screws into the squash. One of the MOST popular activities all year!
Brining tree branches into the classroom to allow children a closer look….remember in order for children to truly appreciate and understand nature, they must enjoy it with all their senses. By making the branch accessible to them, they can deepen their understanding and appreciation. 
Using rocks as a morning check in station! 
A simple counting activity where the teachers simply replaced plastic counters with natural items. Children can now count, sort or graph the different items from nature.