Fiddleheads made a welcome return to the forest this week! The ice had melted and trails had been cleared by Monday, and we were more than ready to continue our never ending exploration of the forest around us. This week we delved into the world of amphibians!
And we also have some exciting news to share about our summer program. Enrollment for summer is now open to current families. There is limited space, and we will open any remaining slots to outside families starting next week. See the news of the week below, and check out the summer program enrollment info at the bottom of this message.
-On Monday, after reading the classic "The Salamander Room," we worked together building “salamander rooms” and creating dark, hidden places for salamanders to rest. A few friends decided to take another route and developed their own safe salamander traps to attempt to attract salamanders.
-On Tuesday, we learned more about vernal pools, which salamanders travel to in early spring in order lay their eggs. We imagined being salamanders making that special, and sometimes harrowing journey. We built our own vernal pool using pine boughs and used our imaginations to experience what it would be like being a salamander traveling to this special place. We dodged imaginary cars, people, and predators that we encountered along the way.
-Wednesday was a beautiful day where we stayed down in the valley near Salmon street. Many friends were very excited to practice their rolling skills so we imagined being “Ricky, the rock that couldn’t roll”- a character from a story in our rock unit. Later, we spent some time learning and playing a predatory/prey game involving salamanders and various predators such as snakes and raccoons. The children had a fantastically fun time pretending to be hidden salamanders and dropping their tail and running away when discovered by the predators! We also learned some new poems about orange newts, amphibians, and Polliwogs.
-On Thursday we had a very focused morning circle time where it came beautifully clear how much everyone has been practicing their skills with counting, days of the week, movement, meditation/body check in, sharing their feelings, sending caring feelings, and singing songs together. Our current class favorite is our “Willaby wallaby” name game. While we enjoyed our snack, we noticed the return of some hummingbirds that really enjoy the large rock wall in the amphitheater. We also noticed that there were many worms in the ground. While we ate, a robin flew down very close to us while hunting for worms and we observed it’s progress while it searched for its lunch. We spent the rest of Thursday learning about the amazing world of frogs and about their life cycle and what the difference is between a frog and a toad. Our class was feeling quite inspired by our salamander rooms we made on Monday and friends wanted to attempt to create “toad rooms” for the toads that prefer land instead of water.
-Friday includes wrapping up our current learning about amphibians as we finish learning about frogs and do a frog pond obstacle course where we collect bugs along the way. Next week, we will be taking a closer look at the world of reptiles and continuing to expand on our circle time practices.
It was a fun week!
And it is time to start thinking about summer!
Come and join the Fiddleheads community as we continue to deepen our connection with nature into the warm days of summer!
For summer of 2021 Fiddleheads will offer a 6 week summer program for families who are interested in providing their child with a fully immersive forest preschool experience during the summer months. We will explore all that the forest has to offer in the abundant summer season. We will be investigating everything we can discover ranging from what’s hiding underneath the mossy rocks, to what might be living in the tops of the tallest trees! As always, we will be play-based in our learning, and will be focusing on social emotional health and learning as well as our connections to the natural world.
This program will be a 6 week program run from June 28th- August 13th and will be available weekdays from 9-1 at Mt.Tabor park. Just like our academic year, we will be enrolling 10 children total, for a 5 day a week program.
The cost of the summer program will be one payment of $1200 dollars which includes a $200 dollar non-refundable deposit due at the time of enrollment. Full tuition will be due by June 15th. Currently enrolled families will have first choice to enroll in this program. We will be offering work exchange for interested parents just as we do during the school year program. If you are interested, please let us know asap and I will send you an enrollment form. We will be opening this program up to outside enrollment starting March 12th. We expect spaces to fill quickly.
I hope that this finds you all well, happy and secure. Last week we finished up January and our unit on winter weather, and this week begins February, and our unit on rocks!
February greeted us at Fiddleheads with cooler days, some sporadic rain showers, and a whole lot of mud! This week we began our rock unit which has been exciting and full of fun new facts. We are learning all about the different types of rocks and how they are formed, the rock cycle, and so much more! We learned some rock rhythm songs, a rock chant, and explored the big rocks around the creek bed in the lower part of the park near the Salmon Street entrance, which we visited on Wednesday. A new game involving hidden gems has also quickly become a class favorite!
This week we invited our new friend Everly into our class with enthusiasm and joy. We are now fully enrolled. As each week passes we get more and more comfortable in our routine and with each other. Circle time participation is coming along great, and we continue to build our concentration practices with our body check in and sit spot observations. Next week we will continue with one more week of our rock unit as we explore this amazing aspect of nature and all it has to offer!
Some scenes from the week:
It is with great joy and gratitude that I announce that our first week back to in person school since last March has been completed. It has been a long road to here, with a lot of challenges and uncertainty along the way, and I am so glad that Fiddleheads students are finally once again playing in the forest together at Mt Tabor. And it wouldn't be happening without you families that showed up to be part of it. Thanks again for entrusting us with your children, and to so many of you for being willing to go the extra mile to help out on a regular basis and participate in making the childrens' experience this semester as safe, comfortable and supported as possible. I hope that your own childs' health and happiness, along with the joy of seeing the children being together, is at least as much reward as our appreciation.
Arielle writes about the week:We did it everyone! We all made it through our first week of school! This week has been so rewarding and full of immeasurable joy. We spent most of the week adjusting to our new surroundings, getting to know one another better, and learning how to be back at school in general. While our focus was mainly on learning the routine, we read some books about hibernation and touched on the idea of adaptations as we all worked on adapting to our new daily rhythm. Monday, our first day, went as well as anyone could hope for a first day of preschool! Chelsea was our parent helper and we were able to have an introduction to circle time and a hike to the mudslide. Tuesday, we were met with some heavier rain to which we had to adapt more than we did the first day! Rye was our parent helper that day and we persevered by spending our time exploring mud puddles, making forest soup, doing a little scavenger hunting, and of course- we went to the mudslide while it was in full effect. Everyone was thoroughly coated in a layer of mud- a sure sign of a day of forest preschool well spent! Wednesday was much drier. With the help of our parent helper, Sarah, we journeyed to our furthest location yet, and took in the aftermath of the night time storms that swept through the park. We went past one of our favorite hiking spots along the way, including some overturned tree roots referred to as “the cave”. We found some cool nature art left in the park by others, which inspired us to play and create ourselves. We left a little nature art of our own behind for others to find. Thursday we were met with a beautiful, sunny day that was very much enjoyed by all. With the aid of our parent helper Kristin, we did circle time, some tree climbing, and visited another favorite spot referred to as the “friend trees” where we built a small fairy house and saw an abundance of spiderwebs glistening in the sunshine. The fog rolled in thick for us on our final day of the week, but with the help of our parent helper, Cara, we ran our first fully successful circle time, visited the beloved mudslide, and continued our conversations about winter adaptations.
As the week carried on, each day got a little easier, things began to fall into place and we learned how to navigate our day to day. Everyone this week came fully prepared and ready to take on the adventures awaiting. Thank you for the patience and effort that you all put into ensuring that your child has all of the things necessary to be comfortable throughout the day!
Tonight is the winter solstice. It is the longest night of the year, and represents both the end and the beginning of the solar year. It marks the point in our annual journey around the sun where we are tilted farthest away from the sun here in the north, and tomorrow begins our journey back towards the long, light filled days of summer. Tonight is both the darkest time of the year, and the beginning of the return of the light.
At Fiddleheads we spend a week talking about the winter solstice and preparing for our winter spiral ceremony, which celebrates going into the darkness, and bringing the light of our hearts to each other during this cold and dark season. During this challenging year, marking the solstice feels even more powerful and poignant, so we wanted to share some ideas for how to celebrate at home today.
You could do some thinking and talking about the solstice. Here are some of the things that we talk about to connect our own social and emotional lives to the traditions of this season and their deeper meaning:
-Have you noticed when it gets dark lately? Think back to the summer, how is it different?
-How do you feel in the dark? Does it ever make you feel nervous? It does for lots of people, because we are daytime animals. We can't see in the dark so well, and sometimes we feel scared.
-What do you do when you feel scared? What are some things that make you feel better?
-Everyone needs to do things that make them feel better when they are scared or lonely or sad. Think about some things that happen right now in this cold, dark time of the year that make us happy. Do you have special lights in your house right now? Do you see special lights on other people's houses? Do you have special treats and give gifts? How do these things make you feel?
Here are some resources that may help to start or support your discussion:
Here is a story about the solstice that we read at school:
Here is a quick story connecting the light of the sun with ourselves and our lives:
Here is a meditation about father sun to help us feel and celebrate the warmth within us:
Much longer than humans can remember in written history, we have marked the solstice with tradition and ceremony. Some ideas for celebrating the solstice with ceremony at home include:
-Bring fresh evergreen into your house. Let it's fresh smell rejuvenate and invigorate you. Evergreen has long represented the steadfast, enduring power of life and growth in the winter.
-Light a special candle to burn through this longest night. When you light it you can send some welcoming thoughts toward the return of the light and the coming solar year.
-Think of any losses in the last year, anything that you need to grieve for, and remember and let those memories go. You can write them down on a scrap of paper and burn them in a candle flame or a fire to symbolically let go and make room for new life in the new year.
-Think of what you want to welcome into your life and the world with the returning light. You can say some wishes and some hopes aloud to each other with an open heart, or you can just hold them in your heart.
-Make a winter spiral if you are feeling very festive. Lay evergreen boughs on the ground in a spiral, and light a candle at the center. Take turns walking into the spiral and lighting your own candles from the light at the center. Set the candles in the spiral as you exit, so that when you are done there are lights shining within the dark greenery.
I wish you all a joyful and festive solstice and holiday season, and I wish us all a triumphant return of the light in every possible way! May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be filled with joy.
As we get ready to launch into winter in our new pandemic world of education and child rearing, things are getting real. Winter in the north takes outdoor learning to a whole new level. We all know that playing outside is the safest way to be this year to see friends and family and to protect ourselves from the virus, so here are some guidelines from Fiddleheads on enjoying and making the most of outside time in winter.
Everyone, but especially children, can feel vulnerable in winter. And their instincts are right! They are. A cold child goes through a very predictable trajectory. They often don’t say that they are cold. They just get grumpy and then start to cry and want to go in, and as their distress progresses, they invariably cry for their mothers. It’s heartbreaking to see, (this is why we prevent getting cold and insist on such strict gearing up guidelines,) but the distress always disappears as soon as they get warm again. Even when we are warm though, winter in the north often means grey skies, rain, snow, wind, and early darkness. In the middle of the day the light can be slanted, muted, and it seems to never get bright. This is psychologically challenging, and affects our mood, our energy level, and our outlook on life and on the day. Winter is a time of challenges. Perhaps this year like no other before.
But because of this fact, it can also be a time of deep and transformative learning like no other. Enjoying ourselves outside, and learning to be comfortable and joyful outdoors during this dark and cold time of year is truly triumphant. It offers us enduring lessons of resilience and teaches us that we can have some control over our own response to adverse situations. These sure are good things to know.
Here are some tips for successful and happy family and school outdoor adventures for extended hours in winter:
As a reminder, we spend 3-4 hours, or more, outside every single day. This is prolonged exposure, which feels very different to our bodies than a quick 20 minute trip to the playground. If you don't generally spend prolonged periods of time outside in all weather, (and few of us do these days,) then please keep in mind that you may not be able to easily judge if your child has the appropriate clothes on, and so it would be best to pay extra close attention to and follow the guidelines below.
This is what your child MUST arrive wearing or bringing to school if the forecast is in the 40s or below (which it likely will be soon and for the rest of the winter):
-A warm winter hat
-Gloves or mittens, preferably wool or wool blend. Your child should have two pairs of mittens or gloves to wear every day, in case one gets dirty or lost. Please consider investing in wool gloves or mittens, as this is the only material that stays warm when it is wet. I'm sorry that so many mittens and gloves disappear. It is the way of the world. You wouldn't believe how much time teachers spend trying to keep track of everyone's things. Clippable gloves or the good old fashioned stringed mittens that go through the inside of the parka can be helpful. We also coach children that if they are warm and want to take their gloves off they should put them in their pockets, which may be a good thing to encourage at home as well. Waterproof mittens and gloves are great if you can find any that are comfortable enough to wear.
2 layers on the bottom if it's dry
1. longjohns or leggings
3 layers on the bottom if it's rainy or wet
1. longjohns or leggings
3. rainpants or rain suit
3-4 layers on the top
3 layers equals=
1.long sleeve shirt
2. sweatshirt or sweater
3. winter weight snow duty parka
4 layers equals=
1.long sleeves shirt
2. sweatshirt or sweater
3. fleece or light coat
4. light parka
If it is raining a fully waterproof layer must be worn over the top of these other layers. It cannot replace the above layering, just add it on.
If it is dry and highs in the high 40s to 50s it is fine to wear sneakers or hiking boots with 1 pair of warm, heavy socks.
If it is wet and highs in the high 40s to 50s it is ok to wear rain boots with 1-2 pairs of warm, heavy socks.
If the highs are below the mid forties and dry, please wear insulated winter shoes and one pair of warm, heavy socks. You can also try wearing rainboots, one to two pairs of warm heavy socks, and fleece rainboot liners. LL Bean makes these in children sizes.
If the highs are below the mid forties and it is wet, please wear WATERPROOF, not water resistant, insulated winter shoes and one to two layers of warm, heavy socks. Here you can also try wearing rainboots, one to two pairs of warm heavy socks, and fleece rainboot liners.
Once we get to highs in the low 40s and 30s, then switch to full snow gear, but please don't send snow gear for wet fall weather. It is heavy and most brands are not waterproof for rain.
Whew. Thanks for your attention and dedication to ensuring that your children are dressed appropriately so that they can fully appreciate and enjoy their outdoor school experience!
Here is an incomplete list of good gear brands, just to give some ideas for where to stock up if you need effective, durable items:
Recommended rain gear brands:
The North Face
Wool socks and mittens-
Fox River Double Ragg
Boots and rainboots-
Hello Fiddleheads families,
I hope that this finds you all well, secure and happy. After much consideration, research and discussion, we have decided that Fiddleheads will be reopening in January as a reduced, modified, fully outdoors program. It has been a long road from our sudden and supposedly temporary closure last March to this decision now, and we have had to make many adjustments in how we will conduct our program this winter/spring, so please read this message carefully while considering if you will choose to participate. We are currently re-enrolling previously enrolled families, and we will open any remaining slots up to our waitlist and new enrollment in early December.
After avidly following the reopening of schools this fall, it appears that when following clear public health guidelines, schools and childcare centers are relatively safe and have not been a significant cause of outbreaks. Multiple studies now continue to support this evidence. We will be following all required and recommended guidelines and we are working to further reduce risk as much as possible by keeping our group size small and steady, and committing to a fully outdoors program this winter/spring. Preschool age children are not required by state law to wear masks at school, but we will be encouraging mask use as much as possible, and we will practice mask use with the children when hiking on trails or in any other situation where social distancing with anyone outside of our group is not possible. (I have been working at a private school in Maine this fall that reopened with small class sizes in a mostly outdoor program with masks required and social distancing attempted to be maintained. I work with 5-7 year olds. I just want to be clear from the trenches here that although we will be encouraging social distancing when possible, we will not be requiring it during free play time, because that is just not possible for young children. We will be encouraging masks, even during free play, but mask use for many children under the age of about 6 or 7 is imperfect over longer time periods. Staff will be masked at all times when near children, and will support them and model for them, but please just be aware that this is the reality.) If we stay outside, keep our group small and stable, and if we all practice caution and accountability within our own households and transparency with each other, we believe that we can confidently and safely reopen for regular programming.
We will be conducting a full semester from January 11th through June 11th, barring any changes in regulation that might affect our ability to operate. We will be reopening as a recorded program with the state of Oregon, and will run programming from 9 am-1pm. We will not have aftercare this winter/spring. We will be fully outdoors. Pickup and dropoff will be at Mt Tabor Park. According to emergency childcare guidelines during the pandemic for a recorded program, we will have a capacity of ten students total, and we will be offering a single price, five day a week program only. This is the biggest change and I’m sorry if it will be inconvenient to some, but because of our reduced capacity, we can’t conduct the program in any other way right now. We can't honor previous tuition contracts and enrollment schedules, and we will only be re-enrolling families who can commit to this new schedule. (To be clear, we do not require that children attend all 5 days, but since we cannot enroll more than 10 children total in the entire program, the fee, which reflects a 5 day a week price, will be the same for all enrolled families.)
We are also changing our pricing structure from last year. It will now be a flat fee of $5300 for the semester, which is $800/month per child after the deposit. The change in price reflects the required additional regular cleaning, sanitizing and prep hours outside of programming, and additional materials required for the school to operate according to necessary guidelines and procedures during a pandemic, and also higher pay for staff working during the pandemic.
To keep us all safe, and to be in compliance with state guidelines, all children will need to have their temperature taken upon arrival at school, and parents will need to sign a waiver agreeing that their household is symptom free and low risk. We will be making some behavior requests for participating families. We will request that if any household member is ill with any of the following symptoms: cough, headache, runny nose, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, that all children from that household stay home until symptoms are passed for 72 hours, and if two or more of these symptoms are occuring at the same time, all family members stay home until they can demonstrate a negative covid test. We request that all families with any household members travelling out of state quarantine for two weeks before returning to school, or alternatively quarantine for one week and demonstrate negative covid tests for the household. We request that all families limit travel on public transport as much as possible, refrain from attending any large indoor gatherings, and if they attend small indoor gatherings, to do so with caution and discretion.
Because we will be conducting an entirely outdoor program beginning in January, it will be imperative that children are attired and prepared for the weather. We have detailed guidelines for clothing and gear, outlined below, and we will complete a gear check each day at dropoff. In the past we have had spare gear on hand and have dressed children as necessary with it at school if they were unprepared, but due to the pandemic we will not be able to clothe children this year unless it is an emergency. Thus they will need to be reliably prepared with their own items.
Clothing List for the winter:
Children will need to be attired in this full list of gear every day, and also bring the appropriate additional clothing daily, like extra gloves, socks etc, in sealed, waterproof bags. We can always remove layers if it warms up, but it is necessary to be prepared. We will be conducting a daily gear check along with our temperature check at morning check in time
Warm Clothing Layers:
-Long underwear tops and bottoms (preferably wool or fleece)
-Long sleeve shirt/sweater
-Easy to move in pants, like sweats
-Wool socks (send 2 extra pairs)
-Wool or waterproof gloves or mittens (4 pairs)
--Scarf or neck protector (recommended but not required)
-EITHER fleece AND a light parka, OR a heavy winter parka
-Waterproof Outer Layer worn over the top which is either a full body rain suit OR rain jacket and rain pants OR snow pants if it is snowing or there is an expected high under 40 degrees fahrenheit
-Insulated, fully waterproof boots
In addition to the gear above, each child should bring an extra set of the following clothing:
-Sweater or sweatshirt
Thanks so much for your attention and consideration, and your continued interest in and support of Fiddleheads. We appreciate it, and we look forward to hearing from you. And we really, really look forward to being able to have regular school together in the forest again! May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be filled with joy.
It has been a joy to continue our unique curriculum with families this fall safely through our online program. We have learned about squirrels, seeds, spiders, leaves, trees, and we are moving on to forests and welcoming winter as the semester deepens into the season change. We are so grateful for the families enrolled in this pilot program, and in the wonderful support and feedback that we have received. Here are some scenes from Fiddleheads online learning.
A sit spot practice is a simple way to enhance our observational skills, learn about our surroundings, make discoveries, come up with questions, and connect ourselves and our daily lives with the natural world around us.
Other creatures are living their lives all around us all the time, and the changing light and weather patterns are constantly sending us helpful information. As we become more aware of nature, especially our immediate surroundings, we become more connected to the other beings we share the world with, and also this dynamic inanimate world that we share with them. Though it may seem obvious, these animals, insects and plants are individuals with their own temperaments, territories, families and routines. To some extent, we can become participants in their stories, which are perennially unfolding on the landscape. And we can recognize them as influencers in our stories as well.
The way to start a sit spot practice is simply by spending time outdoors sitting in quiet awareness, usually in a particular place in nature that we visit over and over again. By visiting the same place in nature many times, a relationship is developed; you get to know the place in all kinds of weather, many times of day, throughout the seasons, and from a variety of your own states of mind. At Fiddleheads in-person school we practice a communal sit spot every morning at snack time in our regular snack spot. It is a quick daily practice with young children and their short attention spans, but over time it adds much depth and richness to all our other studies. This practice, perhaps more than any other individual activity, effectively builds an emotional bond between our students and the natural world.
Now as we continue at Fiddleheads this fall with online only learning, I am happy to find that sit spots are a practice that easily translates to at home learning. A sit spot practice can be a great practice for families to take up at any time, but the benefits of perspective that a regular practice brings seem especially poignant these days. A sit spot can become like an anchor in your life - a place to settle down, cultivate present-moment awareness and a quieter mind, and to observe the flow of reality occurring around you. It is powerful to watch the cycle of the seasons unfold from a place of continuity. It is engrossing and enlightening to get to know your non-human neighbors. There are complex layers of life and activity around all of us, even in urban neighborhoods. From my yard in SE Portland I have become familiar with the daily and seasonal lives of a pair of Anna’s hummingbirds, a family of raccoons, several squirrel dreys, a pair of great horned owls, a population of crows, a pair of red tailed hawks, a solitary cooper’s hawk, and a great numbers of other birds that pass over and through each season. I watch the blooming schedule of the spring flowers and observe the plethora of pollen and seed events unfolding. I follow the winds and witness the weather. I could go on and on. There is a lot that we can learn by spending a few minutes a day sitting quietly in observation even just in our own back yards or on our porches and stoops.
To begin a sit spot practice with young children, we want to present some simple guidelines. Role modeling has an incredible impact. It is best to plan to do this practice with your child. A sit spot practice with young children only takes about 5 minutes a day, so it shouldn’t be a big burden to incorporate in, especially with a little planning.
Sharing! We also like to take the opportunity to share the things that we find in our sit spots and see and hear about what others are noticing in their practices. The facebook online learning group is a great place to do this. It’s so fun and inspiring to share these discoveries!
In lieu of a graduation, some special little presents went out to the Fiddleheads Class of 2020 today.
May they be happy, may they be healthy, may they be peaceful, may they be filled with joy.
I hope that this finds you well and secure. The pressure is certainly on us all this summer, and I hope that everyone is finding some time for peace and levity and appreciation of the enduring beauty and order of the natural world.
I have some important news. I have decided that Fiddleheads in-person school cannot happen in September and we will instead continue with improved, more comprehensive online programming for those interested in the fall, and will delay to a planned January start date for in-person school. It has been very, very challenging for me to come to this decision, but there are three main factors influencing it and I want to explain how I came to make this call.
1. Community transmission rates and the effectiveness of the state's current response in tracking and containing the virus. I receive daily updates from OHA (Oregon Health Authority) and our state representatives and I have been studying them closely since March. We all know that this virus has the capacity to spread exponentially. I have been watching the Multnomah County numbers of daily cases increase every week over the last month from the 30s to 40s-a-day range up to the 70-90s-a-day range. The OHA acknowledges that for every case confirmed or presumed, there are 7-10 more that go unreported. This increase and the sheer volume is troubling on its own, but that combined with the testing and tracing situation gives me pause. Testing capacity, availability, and testing rates are failing to meet the necessary threshold to contain the virus without exception in every state in the US, including Oregon. Another very concerning factor is that Oregon's contact tracing efforts have so far been a failure. Senator Michael Dembrow acknowledged in his daily newsletter yesterday that now community spread is the main driver of new infections, and in most cases people are not sure how and where they are getting ill and the virus is not being effectively tracked and contained. Oregon's efforts and success at fighting the virus has certainly been much better than most states, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be stopping us from being in a very questionable place to start school again. The state released a model a couple of weeks ago that was circulated by the OHA and our local representatives. It projects Oregon possibly reaching a dangerous threshold with the virus in the next couple of months. You can download the study here https://lnks.gd/l/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJidWxsZXRpbl9saW5rX2lkIjoxMDYsInVyaSI6ImJwMjpjbGljayIsImJ1bGxldGluX2lkIjoiMjAyMDA3MTEuMjQyNDk2NTEiLCJ1cmwiOiJodHRwczovL3d3dy5vcmVnb24uZ292L29oYS9QSC9ESVNFQVNFU0NPTkRJVElPTlMvRElTRUFTRVNBWi9FbWVyZ2luZyUyMFJlc3BpdG9yeSUyMEluZmVjdGlvbnMvT3JlZ29uLUNPVklELTE5LVByb2plY3Rpb25zLTIwMjAtMDctMDgucGRmIn0.HfXtKxQefZAF_2AwGb52ol9XDFEXedi6KyXJ4QvEgKU/s/685836080/br/80943110947-l. This local situation of increasing, uncontained and untraced community spread is an insecure and risky situation to be in for entering into a routine of gathering groups of children together for close activity on a daily basis.
2. What we don't know. There are some encouraging studies about viral spread in children, and the most recent ones continue to support the conjecture that young children get seriously ill less often and spread the virus less effectively than older age groups. They do still get ill though, and they do still pass the virus to others, and there are many unanswered questions about the long term effects of the virus on children's health, so there are still many reasons to be cautious. There is little to no hard data concerning outdoor transmission, but it makes sense that the virus is much more difficult to pass outdoors, although we can't say that it is impossible.
I want to outline the details of reopening preschool. All childcare and preschool facilities in the state are certified by the Oregon Early Learning Division of the Oregon Department of Education, which I will refer to as the ELD. The guidelines for reopening and operating during a pandemic are put out by the ELD and are informed by the OHA. The ELD guidelines are designed to make childcare safer and to guard from large outbreaks in childcare facilities. But childcare facilities are necessary for the economy to function, so the guidelines are not designed with the objective that no one will ever become ill at daycare, they are designed to help childcare facilities stay open and to contain and isolate infections before they spread to the entire facility. You can study the documents here if you are so inclined. These are the basics of the changes and requirements for operating during the pandemic:
-Children must be contained in small groups of 10 or fewer. These groups cannot change or vary. They must have one teacher that is their main teacher. They cannot share space indoors or out with other groups and must remain separate at all times.
-There can be no volunteers or outside visitors in the classroom.
-Children exhibiting any sign of illness cannot attend school. Temperature checks and intake questions are required at check-in every day.
-There is a specific cleaning regime (which is not really very different from a normal cleaning regime for childcare).
-There is a square footage per child requirement for indoor space.
And there are additional guidelines for reporting illnesses etc., and some additional paperwork. That is pretty much it, though. At Fiddleheads we would of course follow these required procedures and can meet their guidelines, and we would go beyond them to spend as much time as possible outdoors. But that doesn't change the fact that children will be gathered together, playing in close proximity for hours a day, and given local infection rates and what we don't know about outdoor transmission and the overall long-term health effects of the virus on children, I see risk gaps in this plan that definitely give me pause right now.
I also want to talk about the wearing of masks. Although masks are not required by the ELD in childcare and preschool settings, it is definitely safer to interact with masks. But for young children this poses many problems and I am not considering using them routinely at Fiddleheads at this time, and I want to explain why. First of all, it is developmentally inappropriate to expect young children to be able to wear masks all day while playing with friends. Some children can do this, but most won't be able to. Masks will get taken off and it will be a challenge to keep them from getting lost, wet, dirty, and mixed up with other people's masks. Not only would it be physically challenging for them to try and deal with masks, it would be emotionally challenging and potentially detrimental. Young children need the social cues that they get from seeing their friends' and teacher's faces. Having everyone's face covered would be disorienting and would disable some of the important social learning that children need at this age. The emotional impact of this could be significant, and not in a good way. Requiring children to wear masks for extended periods of time and to manage themselves socially without those facial cues, and thereby asking them to do something developmentally inappropriate, something which is outside of their natural range of ability and which goes against their social and emotional needs, can be psychologically damaging to children and this is not something that I am willing to undertake at Fiddleheads.
Even with the state's guidelines and all of our additional efforts and considerations at Fiddleheads, the major weak link that I see in any current reopening effort is the fact that children will be playing at close range, and will be interacting closely with teachers, all without masks, at a time when community spread is rising and uncontained, and we don't know definitively how being outdoors protects us. If we knew that outdoor transmission even without masks on was very improbable, if community spread wasn't what it is now, if daily infection rates were at a steady or a decreasing number, if the virus was closer to being efficiently tracked by testing and if contact tracing was more effective in Oregon, then I would feel fine about the risks involved in reopening Fiddleheads. Nothing is risk free, but there is good reason to believe that we can conduct a safer school experience than most by staying outside as much as possible. What we cannot do is create a wall against what is happening in the larger community. The local situation is not favorable for reopening now, there are some major unanswered questions about the virus, and there is so much at stake with the health of all of our students and families that I don't currently feel comfortable taking even the diminished risks that we have at Fiddleheads as an outdoor school.
3. Community sentiment. I heard from about 70 percent of enrolled families on our survey, and some others reached out to me individually. Over half of the families that I heard from are probably or definitely not ready to send their children back to school this fall, and even among those that are, many of you have some understandable trepidation. In a small sampling I am finding similar sentiment among our waitlist. In order to operate at this time we would need to be licensed as an emergency childcare facility, which would be possible to do as I previously outlined, but the reality is that we are not an emergency childcare facility, we are a community school. If I am having these doubts and concerns, and most of you are, too, then it is not yet the appropriate time to reopen.
The plan is to re-open for in person school with an early January start date.
I am so sorry for the disappointment that this will cause, and believe me, I doubt that anyone is more disappointed on more levels than I. There are several options from there, though, and I will need to hear from you about which way you want to go.
1. Let me know if you would like to be part of online learning this fall. You can read more about the program here. Your original tuition deposit will count toward the fall semester tuition. If we have enough enrollment, we will open up other options for circle time, too.
2. Let me know if you would like to wait and save your place for a January start date. If you want to do online learning in the fall and start in person school in January, then as I mentioned above your deposit could go toward the lower cost of online learning in the fall and you wouldn't owe in person tuition until January. If you want to skip online learning and just wait for in person school to start again, that is fine, just please confirm your place with me. Your tuition deposit will still go toward your annual tuition, the first payment of which would be due in January, and the tuition will be prorated to subtract September through December fees.
3. If you need to look for something else and Fiddleheads isn't going to work for you at all this year, please let me know that, as well.
Thank you so much for sticking with me through this very long research paper/persuasive essay/tome of an e-mail. I look forward to and I wish you all well. May we all be happy, may we be healthy, may we be peaceful, may we be filled with joy.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.