Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Art, Music and Drama in 2013

Art, Music and Drama at Las Terrenas International School
Our art and music specialist Mercedes has been keeping busy planning many exciting activities for our students this semester. They always look forward to their time with Mercedes and have so much fun expressing themselves through art and music.
Mercedes has brought back her treasured collection of instruments from around the world to share with the classes! Here they practice identifying and experimenting with sounds using rythm Sticks.

Our new drama unit allows the Kindergarteners, First and Second Graders to collaborate, telling and acting out stories with their peers as an audience.  
Below both the Kindergarten and First and Second Grade class enjoy making leaf rubbings with crayon, oil and watercolors.
Listening attentively to the directions.

Painting- fine motor skills!

Admiring the finished products inspired by the nature right outside our door.
Thank you Mercedes! Can't wait to see what else you have up your sleeve for the rest of the year!

What we Learn from...


Ramps, Vehicles and Loose Parts

Last week during morning free play the kindergarteners was able to experiment with ramps and vehicles. Moving around and building with planks, tiles and rocks was a great way to start the day.
Negotiating, using teamwork and cooperating- building important social skills.


Experimenting with different incline angles to see which will make the cars go faster or further is a great way to learn about motion and gravity.

Reading books and learning about different architectural structures for vehicles and how they are built.

This activity also gave us a chance to review vocabulary we had learned earlier (names of vehicles) and discuss our unit on our community (roads, bridges and other structures that vehicles travel on).

The class really got engaged with building and problem solving. It was so much fun to watch the process and see their creations. They sustained attention with this activity each morning for a whole week which is extraordinary. This week we will be looking to build on what we learned, expanding to more structures and institutions that we see in our community.

Snow on Tuesday!

Magical Tuesday
Tuesday was a great day! After a day full of learning and play...
we celebrated our amazing gym teacher Miss. Sabine's birthday by singing the birthday song in FOUR different languages which reflected our diverse student population and then got to eat a delicious yet healthy cake.
Then it snowed in the 75 degree heat of Las Terrenas...
We have been talking about all different types of weather in our classes, including snow, but it's something that's hard to conceptualize for kids living in this climate. Lucky for us, one of Erica's friends from Minnesota sent us a canister of "snow," which we mixed with water and...voila- instant flurries and a magical afternoon of playing in the snow.

What were we up to last few weeks?

And We're Back...
It has been an amazing January! All of us teachers are so excited to see the development and progress of our students after almost five months and we are looking forward to all that we have planned for the rest of the year.
We'd like to share some of our activities from the past few weeks:
Nature patterns


Children naturally seek out and recognize patterns. Their minds work to order and categorize the things they encounter as they explore the world around them. Giving children the language to describe what they are doing and then listening to their thought process is a truly enlightening experience. Here the kindergarteners are working with natural materials gathered from around Las Terrenas including shells, seeds, leaves, branches and flowers. Making patterns becomes a tactile exercise in which children use their five senses to explore the materials. They learn about nature in the process, and then assemble materials using problem solving and observation skills.


The kindergarteners had so much fun doing a science exploration with prisms. Rainbows are a popular topic around here and the children delighted in discussing what makes a rainbow and then experimenting to create our own. We are color pros and practiced writing the words for each color and talking about the order they appeared in the rainbow.
Dramatic Play

The preschoolers have been busy at work learning about whales this week in preparation for the humpback whales yearly pilgrimage to Samana, an occurrence that spans the months of January, February and March. Samana is one of the best places to get close to these amazing creatures as it is here in the warm waters of the Carribean where the whales give birth. We are planning a field trip for February and feel so  lucky to be able to observe this magical ritual from up close. The preschoolers have been reading stories and singing songs (as well as listening to the real songs of the whales) and even had a chance to measure the length of a whale by walking over 50 feet- a great way for kids this young to conceptualize how large a whale actually is (and they weigh anywhere from 23-30 tons as well!). Of course even in the midst of all of their hard work the class still had time to get in some ever important dramatic play. For more information on the whales of Samana visit
Committing it to Muscle Memory
One of the most important things for us at Las Terrenas International School is the learning process. We know that you don't need to make learning fun. Acquiring new skills and information is something that children do and enjoy naturally. Children learn and explore the world around them in different ways, it is just when they are forced to memorize facts and learn with one uniform method that "learning," becomes tiresome for them. All of the Las Terrenas International School teachers strive to teach in different ways, individualizing for each child which empowers students to take control of the learning process. We give them the tools, environment and support they need to learn on their own. Even in First and Second Grade the children are encouraged to get up out of their seats and move, learning songs and physically exploring materials and subjects.
Lots of Literacy
We are so lucky to have amazing First and Second Grade Teacher Milenia De La Rosa, who has graciously stepped in to fill the teaching position. She continues building literacy skills with her class of excited readers and writers!
Outdoor Play
We are making the most of the cozy courtyard in front of the library as we wait for our new outdoor space to be finished. The three age groups have really enjoyed the chance to mingle and play together. Here, we are bringing the cooking and restaurant dramatic play from the classroom into a new environment- the outdoors!
I feel so lucky to be here, working in this amazing school with such a great team. There is so much to look forward to this semester and I will keep updating the blog with our latest endeavors.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013


While home for winter break in Connecticut, I held a fundraiser and was overwhelmed by the support I received from friends and family.

I would like to thank you all warmly from my class and I for your generous contributions of money and supplies as well as your words of encouragement, advice and support.

We appreciate the new materials including: whiteboards and markers, bottle caps and other found objects for counting and patterns, two doctor's kits for our unit on learning about the body, two cash registers for dramatic play and math, scales for our math unit on measurements as well as everyday materials and costs for running the school such as craft items, cleaning supplies, soap, towels, field trip transportation and birthday treats.

The bulk of the money raised is going towards a scholarship and I am so excited about our newest student. She has been coming to the library and after school programs since she was very young and has so much wisdom and experience to share with our class. The scholarship will benefit her as well, teaching her valuable language skills in English and building her academic skills in math, science and literacy. It is our hope that with the education she gets here she will be able to continue growing and learning so that she will have more options open to her in the future.

Our school depends on donations for our scholarship students, which we believe to be one of the most important parts of the work that we are doing, so I sincerely thank everyone who donated. Upon returning from break we feel renewed with positive energy and belief in the work we are doing here. I am excited about our new students and supplies as well as the support I received at home.

First Semester

Because our school has been up and running for a whole semester so far (and I have just recently started the blog), I would love to update you all on our first semester.
As anyone would expect in the beginning stages of creating a school with limited resources, our year so far has been filled with challenges, rewards and amazing moments.

Here are some of the highlights from the beginning of our school year:

First week of school

After all of our hard work preparing, we were so excited to welcome our students on the first day of school! The first days were spent establishing classroom routines and rules while laying the foundation for our year long curriculum. It was an amazing experience to meet our diverse students and see all of the classrooms open and students and teachers in action. Getting to know our students as individuals and academically was important, as all of our teachers individualize classroom curriculum and activities based on the needs of each child.

Parent Curriculum Night

Parent involvement is an important part of education and we wish to openly communicate and dialogue with the parents at our school as well as provide an environment where they feel that their input and views are welcome and respected. It was rewarding for teachers to share the results of all of our hard work developing curriculum and themes as well as our teaching philosophies. Looking back, parent curriculum night was a successful introduction and laid the foundation for the strong relationships that we have continued to build with parents throughout the year.


Ethno-Mix is a multi-cultural fair that gets the different communities from Las Terrenas together in one place for a festival. Each nationality represents itself with a booth, information and of course- food! There are musical and dance performances that showcase the talents of local musicians and dancers. Las Terrenas International School shared the American booth at the festival and provided facepainting, games and art activities for children. We enjoyed sharing information about our school and philosophy and raised money, collecting donations and selling tickets for a 50/50 raffle. Our students prepared a musical and dancing performance and worked hard with art and music teacher Mercedes on a beautiful castle puppet theater that was a big hit. After a weekend of hard work, our booth took home first place at the festival.

Science Exploration

Our outdoor classrooms, courtyard gardens and pond gave us ample opportunities to follow the lead of the children and study anything that sparks their interest. We were lucky enough to see a caterpillar transform into a butterfly, frog eggs turn to tadpoles and then frogs as well as learn about living things and plants, all by looking right outside our classrooms.


Play is an important part of the educational experience and philosophy at Las Terrenas International School. We know that play has a positive influence on behavior, cognition and social skills and that it should play a major role in an educational institution that respects children and what is developmentally appropriate at each age. Using our knowledge of child development and what is appropriate for  each class we have provided both structured and unstructured play depending on the needs of the children. While Preschool aged students need more free time to explore and navigate social relationships, the Kindergarten and First and Second Grade Classrooms benefit from play that is related to the curriculum as well. In Kindergarten, while learning about food and community vocabulary we set up our own colmado (or small grocery store), where, during dramatic play children could use literacy (making lists, reading labels), math (making money and paying for things) and social skills.

Literacy and Pre-Literacy

The foundation for literacy is laid in preschool by teacher Annette. Group and one-on one reading as well as pre-literacy incorporation into the classroom environment and activities is an important part of the curriculum. In Kindergarten we have been exploring letters and the sounds they make for the whole first semester. We are really trying to get the sounds and letters into our muscle memory while keeping everything interesting and relevant for the class. We act out the sounds of letters with hand and body motions and write with many different types of mediums, including practicing letters with chalk and in salt, sand, shaving cream and flour. First and Second grade enjoyed writing their own books and sharing them with the other classes.


The First and Second grade class enjoyed learning about the world around them, starting small, making maps of the classroom and their homes and eventually each making their own globes as they learned about the earth and seven continents.

Halloween Party

Although Halloween is not usually celebrated in the Dominican Republic, us American teachers thouroughly enjoyed sharing our Halloween traditions and stories with our students. During our Halloween party we performed songs for parents, dressed up in costumes, decorated pumpkin cookies and went bobbing for apples.


We are lucky to have professional sports teachers Željko and Sabine Smičiklas as our physical education teacher. Movement is so important for children at this age, and Sabina works with our students twice a week, doing activities that increase gross and fine motor skills. The benefits of physical activity for children include health and wellness, confidence, increased attention, improved relationships and more productivity in the classroom.

Art and Music

Aside from being an art and music specialist, our art and music teacher Mercedes Henderson is a licensed expressive arts therapist. Her knowledge of child development and psychology influence her work with the children. During the first semester she worked on many projects with each of the classes including telling and acting out stories, dancing, musical instruments and art projects related to the curriculum in each class.

Christmas Party

We wrapped up the year with our Christmas party, which for someone used to teaching in the United States was quite a change (all of our students celebrate Christmas). Although we learned about different religions and celebrations, the children enjoyed preparing for our Chrismas party. It was a tradition, started last year by director and preschool teacher Annette, when the school was only one grade and continued this year, bringing together students, teachers and families to eat, sing and share the gifts the students had made at school.

We learned so much in 2012 and had so much fun exploring with our students. We came back after break with new energy, looking forward to continuing all of our work in the new year.