Teachers as Fortune Tellers

April 30, 2014 03:53 by Kristi

“People always want to see the future.  Well I see the future every day.” 

That’s how Ms. Kelly, a teacher of 3 year olds at O2B Kids Alachua, describes her job.  And she’s right!  Not only does she see it, she shapes it.  Now that’s power!  Each day Kelly, and so many other early childhood educators like her, invest in the lives of children, which means they are investing in the future for all of us.  Teaching curiosity, creativity, problem solving, and literacy means our children will have the skills they need to be responsible grown-ups and the future’s leaders. 

Kelly’s prediction for the future?  The class of 2029 will be awesome!  The 3 year olds that she works with every day consistently impress her.  They are bright, engaging, and eager to grow.

But not every child is in Ms. Kelly’s class.  What about all of the other 3 year olds out there?  Research tells us that 30% of kids entering kindergarten are not ready to learn.  30% of children in 3rd grade read below grade level.  30% of children do not graduate from High School.  That’s not a coincidence.  The problem begins before school starts, and that means the solution starts there too.  We need to get more kids into quality early childhood education centers, we need to make sure parents have the resources they need, we need to make sure our kids are healthy, we need to encourage curiosity and creativity – the building blocks for literacy. 

Let’s not wait for Superman.  Let’s encourage more people to be Superman, like Kelly, and work hard to get the class of 2029 ready… for our future.   

Talking With Children About Scary News

December 18, 2012 06:11 by Kristi

As children learn about the scary events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, it will be very natural for them to have questions and concerns.  There are many resources available to help parents, teachers and friends talk with children about the tragedy and their own safety.  The following resources have been compiled by The Early Learning Coalition of Alachua County. 

1. Collection of resources:



2. Talking to Kids About Sensitive Topics



3. Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers



4. Talking with Kids About News: Age by Age Insights



5. Helping Your Children Manage Distress In the Aftermath of a Shooting



6. How to Talk to Your Kids About the Conn. Shooting



7. Video advice from Mr Rogers on how to talk to your children about scary news:

Importance of Play

August 22, 2011 06:12 by Kristi

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.  And it is so important!  Technically, play is open-ended, child-directed, flexible, creative and FUN!  During play, children learn how to explore, pretend, create, solve problems, get along with others, lead, follow, make friends, build, invent, make decisions, try new things, develop skills and find their passion. 
But that’s not just our opinion!  Play is so important to child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a “right” of every child.  The American Academy of Pediatrics says that play is essential to human development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of every child.  Specifically, the Academy states that:
• Play is important to healthy brain development
• Play allows children to create and explore … conquering their fears while practicing adult roles
• Play helps children develop new competencies, enhanced confidence and the resiliency they will need to face future challenges
• Play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills
• Play allows children to practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue
• Play builds active, healthy bodies. 
Most of us do not need the Academy of Pediatrics or the United Nations to validate the importance of play.  We have all experienced the joy and benefits of play throughout our lifetimes.  However, we are facing a cultural shift in how kids play.  Many families no longer feel comfortable sending their kids out into the neighborhood to play, and most schools have cut recess and free time.  This “neighborhood time” is often substituted for technology experiences’ where climbing virtual trees replaces climbing real trees.  The type and amount of children’s play is changing fundamentally.  But benefits are delivered best through traditional, hand-on, hands-dirty play.  Let's make it a part of our everyday!

Child Initiated Learning

April 29, 2011 07:05 by Kristi

Children learn so much while they are playing in the neighborhood!  They learn how to explore, pretend, create, solve problems, get along with others, lead, follow, make friends, build, play, invent, make decisions, try new things, develop skills and find their passion.  Many families no longer feel comfortable sending their kids out into the neighborhood to play, and many schools have cut recess and free time.  But kids have to learn these skills somewhere!  Because The Neighborhood is an important part of a child’s social and emotional growth, we’ve created a place for them to do those things within the safe walls of O2B Kids under the watchful eye of our Fun Crew.  This child-directed play is a time of rich learning, and we’re proud to provide these essential learning opportunities to children in our communities. 

“Play is our brain's favorite way of learning.” - Diane Ackerman, Contemporary American author

Neighborhood Time is a crucial learning time for all children.  During Neighborhood Time, a designated part of the facility is open, and children get to choose what to do while they are there.  Children choose the activity and the action.  Playing alone or with others, they interact with materials freely, in many different ways. 

During this non-scripted play, children gain essential skills.  They have the opportunity to: 

• Practice problem solving
• Understand consequences
• Develop social skills
• Gain independence & self confidence
• Learn to be responsible
• Gain physical fitness
• Create leadership skills
• Practice self-regulation
• Use their creativity

What Grown-Ups Can Do!

To support child initiated play and to maximize the enrichment, our daily goal is to
• Set the stage
• Supervise safe play
• Expand upon learning opportunities!

We discuss what parts of the building or classroom are available and what activities the kids want to do when they get there.  What will they try to get better at?  Who will they play with?  How will they make it fun and exciting, or calm and relaxing, or energetic and heart-pumping? 

The building changes!  Each day we make sure there is something different to stimulate play -- building blocks, bowling pins, connect four, costumes, cardboard boxes, yarn, walking sticks, bubbles, paper, cloth, tubes, etc.  Each thing stimulates play, and changes the child’s interactions from one day to the next. 
Child initiated learning is not a matter of chance.  We think about the child’s development and intentionally prepare an interesting and rich environment that offers choices. 

Did we just finish a unit on physics?  Then we add cloth and a vacuum cleaner and see if kids can make a kite.  Did we just learn about Shakespeare?  Then we add hats and robes and see if they create a play. 

We observe children, ask open-ended questions, and make suggestions that will extend children’s play and support their learning. 

We ensure it is Safe Play!
• Engagement, Engagement, Engagement!  We offer choices, and create opportunities for learning, creativity and growth.
• Be proactive.  We look for mad, sad or confused faces on children and ask questions before a problem occurs:  Are they sick? Scared? Tired? Hungry?  Worried?  Bored?
• Take the time to connect with each child, every day.  We look them in the eye, and listen when they talk.
• Set limits and consequences in advance whenever possible.
• Be consistent, kind and firm with limits, consequences, rules and expectations.
• Keep it simple, have as few rules as possible and discuss them often.

"Do not…keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play." ~ Plato

TED on Education

March 2, 2011 09:11 by Kristi

Now here’s an idea worth spreading…. TED is going to focus on education.  Wow that’s exciting!  TED.com is the place to go for inspiration.  It is the place where great minds of the world have 18 minutes to share an idea that will inspire, energize or change the world.  It is a place of tremendous curiosity, power, creativity, and genius.  These people love what they do.  And when someone loves what they do, and has 18 minutes to share that passion with us, it can be magic. 

There have been tremendously inspiring TED talks about education over the years.  Now, TED is announcing TED-ED.  Very exciting!  Great minds working together on one topic – the one we care about the most – will certainly generate debate and energy and attention and a productive focus on education that is much needed.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with!  Check it out:  http://education.ted.com/

Kids Thank Ms. O2B at Odie Awards!

December 17, 2010 07:36 by Kristi

We just celebrated the Annual Odie Awards - a time to honor the great work that O2B Fun Crew do all year!  Awards are handed out to employees at each location who represent the four parts of our Mission Statement:

  • Educator of the Year, awarded to the person who Touches Every Child's Life:  Tiffany Poster, Lynne Newsome, Debbie Perry, Vicki Sumner, Vesper Tierney, Elizabeth Kitchens
  • Service, awarded to the person who Discovers Every Parent's Goal:  Jill Parent, Meridith Patten, Katie Southard-Padget, Richanne Lamb, Lindsay Avery, Sarah Myers
  • Coach, awarded to the person who Makes Coworkers Successful:  Mary Greco, Marissa Mackritis, Kearron Grant, Brea Archer, Jane McNaughton, Flavia Avelino
  • Chief Fun Officer, awarded to the person who helps each of us Have Fun!  Chris Hencher, Mimi Lewis, Faith Nobles, Janet Hunt, Valerie Watkins, Jamel Sellitti

Congrats to all!  The Odies also honors one person who exemplifies all parts of the Mission Statement and who serves as a leader, mentor and teacher for us all.  This year Ms. Odie was Lieba, Director at Midtown.  Congratulations, and thank you so much for all that you do!

On the Monday after the awards ceremony, one of the after-school counselors told his group about it, and shortly after Lieba received a little stack of letters....



Thanks Mom for Writing it Down!

October 21, 2010 08:14 by Kristi

My mom is going through a huge box of letters from back in the day, when she was a mom to two toddlers.  The letters were typed using carbon paper, the originals sent on to friends around the country, the remnants on see-through paper with purple carbon words, neatly tucked away, documenting our lives. 

What treasures she has found there!  A letter she wrote to President Ford, kind condolences to a friend she can’t quite remember now, and lots and lots of stories about her family. 

Today she sent me this bit from a letter she wrote in 1972:

  • My two-and-a-half year old daughter got on the bathroom scale and asked, “How old am I?”  Then she told me to get on the scale, and asked, “How high are you?”

A small moment, otherwise forgotten! 

I am so touched, 38 years later, to know that my mom chuckled at our young minds, that she shared stories with others, that she documented moments of growth, frustration, humor and wisdom.  I’m grateful that she captured a bit of who we all were back then.  We certainly wouldn't remember otherwise!  We now have a treasure chest of stories....

Thanks Mom, for writing it all down! 


Learning from Gator Football

September 27, 2010 08:43 by Kristi

Our philosophy is that we learn a whole lot more when we’re having fun!  

So, what would you expect 4 year olds in the Gator Nation to be talking about during football season?  You guessed it!  Check out Ms. Valerie’s VPK room:

All of Florida’s players are on the wall and each day a new one comes down and joins the class during circle time.  They memorize his name, number and position, and then review all of the other players they’ve learned so far.  We’ve got math, letter and number recognition, reading, comprehension, memorization, and more!   The kids sure are paying attention, and must really impress their parents when they watch the game together on Saturday!  (Well, except for the one dad who’s an Alabama fan, he may wish we were doing something else!)  

Learning sure can be fun!
Go Gators!


Tolerance Part II: Wisdom from a Child

September 23, 2010 05:46 by Kristi

One of our teachers told me that, on the Monday after the proposed 9/11 Koran burning, one of her 3 year old students came in and said with great concern:
"Why do some people not like to color?" 
"Hmmm, what do you mean?  Who doesn't like to color?”
"I don't know, but my dad had to work this weekend because he said someone was going to burn the Crayons."

Oh, how sweet young brains are!  This little guy was trying his best to understand our grown-up world, and it just didn't make any sense.

He went on to say, "They should come to school with me because then they would learn to LOVE to color!" 

What a great little problem solver!  His teacher agreed.  After all, we color everyday, and when we do we are learning about creativity, friendship, diversity, sharing, variety, boundaries, opinions, acceptance, teamwork and more.  So yes, this little guy is on to something.  Coloring and playing together can help our kids grow into responsible, respectful future citizens of our world.  And maybe grown-ups can benefit too.  Let's pick up some crayons and color together.  

Teaching Tolerance

September 10, 2010 10:10 by Kristi

O2B Kids is born and bred in Gainesville, Florida.  It’s a wonderful place to be!  Gainesville is home to innovative thinkers, kind-hearted souls, beautiful scenery, and plenty of fun!  But right now our town is in the news because of something very different - a small group of people demonstrating intolerance and disrespect.  That’s not who we are, or who we want to be.     

As I look over what O2B Kids believes in, I see consistent messages of respect, tolerance, acceptance, kindness and compassion.  In fact, that’s why we were created in the first place, and what we hope to accomplish every day. 

We have two rules: 
(1) Respect Others
(2) Have Fun

Our Manifesto:
We believe a child’s job is to learn how to become a responsible, respectful future citizen of our world….Different is beautiful….We believe in respecting others…. We each control our own actions, thoughts, and words.  Nobody else.  Exercise this freedom with respect….We believe in love…. Make good choices….

Our Core Purpose:
O2B Kids is a place that opens minds….  O2B Kids encourages kids to try new things and teaches a respect for people, property, and ideas…. We willingly participate in the care and development of every child.  We believe in a united community and promote the interdependence of our world. …  As an organization, we strive to positively impact every community we serve.

We are reminded now that, as grown-ups, it is our responsibility to teach our kids how to have an open mind.  Let’s talk to our children about different beliefs in this great big world.  Let’s talk about choices we make and the consequences of them.  Let’s talk about acceptance, tolerance, and love.  Let’s explain that we don’t have to always agree, but we need to know how to work toward solutions.  Let’s teach that different can be beautiful, that there is more than one good idea, that we are all equals even if we don’t always understand. 

The building blocks for tolerance and respect begin with our children.  What will we teach them today?