Archive by Author

Learning at Home with Theme Gardens

17 Apr


Enjoy the nice weather by getting out in the garden with the children in your care this spring! Preschoolers can learn so much from gardening, whether it’s the fine motor skills acquired from picking up tiny seeds or the gross motor skills developed through watering plants. However, instead of simply introducing you to gardening with your little one, we wanted to put a spin on it and introduce gardening in a whole new way! Get ready for Theme Gardens inspired by Kathy Lee and Lesli Richards‘ “The Homegrown Preschooler.


Fishbowl Garden:

-For this special garden, you’ll be wetting cotton in the bottom of an empty fishbowl (make sure the excess water is poured out).

  • Sprinkle the cotton with snap pea seeds
  • Make sure the top is covered with plastic wrap and secured by rubber bands
  • Place the bowl or vase near a window so it gets plenty of light
  • The seeds will sprout vines and climb the side of the bowl or vase

-Extra: throw in some jungle toys, like a barrel full of monkies and read “The Jungle Book” with your little one.

Pizza Garden:

-Do your kids love pizza? Then they’ll love growing the ingredients to make their own!

  • Plant onions, tomatoes, peppers, parsley, oregano, and basil in either a small bed or small containers outdoors.
  • Once grown, children can help in the kitchen to sprinkle ingredients over unbaked pizza dough before putting it in the oven to cook and enjoy!

Tea Garden:

-Do your preschoolers love tea parties? Wouldn’t it be even more exciting for them to know their tea was a result of their own hard work? Gardening is a great way to teach children routine as they are responsible for watering and weeding daily.

  • With the tea garden, children grow peppermint, lavender, lemon verbena, rose hips, bergamot, marjoram, chamomile, jasmine, coriander, thyme, violet, rosemary, and stevia.
  • Check with your local garden center to see which plants grow best in your area.

-Extra: You can even make your own tea bags by stitching them out of rectangles cut from coffee filters!

Butterfly Garden:

-Learning about the caterpillar to butterfly cycle is always fun. But letting children see it come to life by creating their own Butterfly Garden will add something special to the lesson.

  • Research the different types of caterpillars that live in your area and find out what plants they are attracted to. In general, the majority of butterflies love heliotrope, Queen Anne’s lace, sweet William, asters, coreopsis, coneflower, butterfly bush, nasturtium, and oregano.
  • Plant your chosen flowers and prepare to identify your winged visitors!

Sensory Garden:

-“The Budding Gardener” is a great resource that offers plenty of suggestions on how to get your children learning outdoors as they understand the importance of going green. One of the many inspiring ideas suggested is series of plants to represent the five senses:

  • Touch: Explore different textures with lamb’s ear (silky soft), silver sage (wooly), and teasel (spiny).
  • Taste: Identify edible plants for your child to experience after they are grown, ideas include peas, nasturtium, swiss chard, and mint.
  • Smell: There is an array of plants that smell wonderful. Suggested plants would be honeysuckle, lavender, rose, peppermint, thyme, sage, chamomile, and lemon balm.
  • Sight: The majority of flowers are displays of intricate beauty, but to really have your preschooler’s eyes popping, try out giant sunflowers, poppy, zinnia, marigold, purple sage, and verbena.
  • Sound: Hear the rustle and whistle of rattlesnake grass, bamboo, and love-in-a-mist.

-Extra: Bring arts and crafts into the mix by having children create plant signs and stakes, designating where each sense is represented.1964782_10152324100253955_3220907759465457708_n

-Did you enjoy making Theme Gardens? Find all of the ideas above and more in The Homegrown Preschooler, a great resource on how to teach children in the places they live.

-Don’t forget, if you want to dive in and get your preschoolers gardening, you can sign up for our weekly book giveaway for a chance to win “The Budding Gardener.” Enter here.


Quote of the Week

15 Apr


Sometimes, it’s as simple as having a dream and chasing after it. Don’t ever be afraid to shoot for something because the chance exist that you will miss. Shoot for something because both failure and success are learning experiences, making us who we are.

GH Author Q&A Series: Paul Young on “Lead the Way”

10 Apr


Are you an after school professional in need of a little guidance?

Then you’re in luck. We were able to catch up with Paul Young, PhD, an expert in the field of leadership development in an after school setting, and talk to him about his latest release, “Lead the Way, 24 Lessons in Leadership for After School Program Directors.” The book provides self-guided overviews to recruit, retain and grow effective leaders. Go behind the scenes by checking out our interview with Paul below:

Q1. You taught 4th and 5th grades and served as an elementary school principal for nearly 20 years. What led you from teaching and leading elementary schools to directing after school programs?

A1: Actually, before teaching 4th grade, I had served as a high school band director for eleven years. When I reflect on that time, I feel that I had one of the best “unofficial” high school afterschool programs around. Our high school typically had 500 students in grades 9-12, and most years at least 30% of the student body participated in band-related programs. There were very few days that many of my students didn’t spend several hours after their school day with me. I learned extremely valuable lessons working with and leading students at that level. Besides the lessons in music that they learned, the work ethic and character skills they developed have enabled them to succeed in their adult lives and careers. That teaching experience influenced my educational philosophy and shaped values that influenced my work with teachers and students in the lower grades.

After two years in a 4th grade classroom (which I dearly loved), I got the itch to do even more and was encouraged by my mentors to seek a principalship. I’ve been fortunate to have relationships with key teachers and administrators (critical friends) that shared their influence and helped guide my professional choices and career path. I hope now, as a semi-retired educator, that I can be a positive example and role model for principals and afterschool program leaders in the same ways others helped me. That’s why I wrote Lead the Way. It is one strategy that I could pursue to share advice and leadership lessons that others taught me that will help others on their career path.

After retiring from the principalship, I worked as Executive Director of the West After School Center in Lancaster, Ohio. It is a community nonprofit organization that several afterschool champions and I developed to support students and families in the school where I had worked. I couldn’t turn my back on numerous community advocates and leaders who had worked so hard to help me. I found the opportunities to work in the “official” afterschool environment to be very challenging, but also extremely invigorating. I loved the freedom we had to be creative.

Q2. What qualities, skills, and talents do exceptional after school leaders have in common?

A2: The work ethic qualities include (1) positive attitude, (2) common sense, (3) competence, (4) grit, (5) initiative, (6) integrity, (7) reliability, (8) respect, (9) professionalism, and (10) gratitude. Without them, you can’t be an exceptional leader in any field. Leaders must possess effective speaking, listening, writing, and organizational skills.

Research is showing that talent is overrated. The most successful and influential leaders we revere might have benefitted from numerous socio-economic and demographic advantages, but nobody succeeds without a strong work ethic, passion, and hours and hours of deliberate, hard practice. Leaders practice. I hope Lead the Way helps outline keys features of that practice.

I left that position when I became the President & CEO of the National AfterSchool Association.


Q3. You give numerous insights and strategies in Lead the Way–what’s the biggest takeaway?


A3: When I interviewed and hired leaders (or any staff position) for our afterschool programs, I sought individuals who possessed a strong work ethic, good character, and people skills.  I could teach program management and curriculum. So can others. Strong leadership makes a quality, effective program. They need visionary leadership. Courageous leadership. Specific skills to support those standards can be developed. Most important, leading an afterschool program requires commitment and hard work. Throughout Lead the Way, I’ve attempted to accentuate key tenets of leadership.

-Did you enjoy Paul’s  interview? Keep an eye on our blog so that you won’t miss the second part of his interview coming soon in our Author Q&A Series! Have questions for Paul? Comment below or tweet your questions to us @GryphonHouse 

-Don’t forget to enter our weekly book giveaway for a chance to win Paul’s book “Principal Matters.”

Biography: Paul G. Young, PhD, worked as a teacher and administrator in Ohio for more than 35 years. He taught 4th and 5th grades and served as an elementary school principal for nearly 20 years before retiring from work in the public schools. As a principal, Young played a key leadership role in the development of the West After School Center, Inc. He also served on the board of directors and as president and CEO of the National AfterSchool Association.

Quote of the Week

8 Apr


-We’ve all heard the “glass half full/ half empty” sentiment, but there really is something to be said about how we approach each day as far as perspective. If you wake up expecting clouds and thunderstorms, you won’t have to look far. But if you can peer through the mist, you’ll see that even water particles combined with just the right amount of dust and sunlight can make something absolutely beautiful. 

Wire Sculptures for Spring!

3 Apr

With weather the little ones can finally enjoy, we thought we would treat you to an activity both you and the children in your care can do outside to say hello to spring! Are you familiar with Wire Sculptures? If not, author MaryAnn Kohl does a great job of introducing them in this blog post. We thought we would get a little more hands-on to show you how every activity can be adapted to the appropriate season! Get ready for:

 How to Make a Wire Sculpture for Spring

What kids will learn:

  • color coordination
  • cooperative play
  • improved fine motor skills
  • creative expression

To give you a visual, we made a tutorial video to show you just how easy having art time with kids can be:

Basic Steps:

  1. Push the pipe cleaners into the base, or wrap around a base such as a rock. If using Styrofoam, push the wires in deep so they will be strong and hold up well.
  2. Bend the wires into designs and shapes, or leave straight. It’s inspiring to cut the wires into different lengths with scissors.
  3. Add decorations! Buttons will thread right onto the wires, and it’s easy to sandwich the wire between two gluey scraps or two stickers. Pony beads thread well onto the wires as do macaroni noodles and hardware “nuts”. Have fun choosing from whatever is on hand. You can always add cotton balls or even lumps of playdough! No rules! Wide open ideas.
  4. Wiggle or blow on or shake or otherwise enjoy the movement of the wires and decorations. Movement = Kinetic.

Note: One of the brain-challenges of this sculpture is bending and arranging the wires so the sculpture will not fall over.

-We hope you enjoyed making spring wire sculptures with your little ones! Feel free to share their art with us on our Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. We would love to see their creations!

-Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway this week for our newest release by Paul Young, “Lead the Way,” 24 Lessons in Leadership for After School Program Directors.




Quote of the Week

31 Mar



One never stops learning, no matter what age. As long as you keep an open mind, you can see the world in a new light every day.

Gryphon House’s Spring List!

27 Mar



-Spring is finally upon us! As a result, we thought we would give you a few To-Dos to make sure you’re not missing out. Take some time for yourself and your kids and go through our Spring List to make the best of the season!

-Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway this week for “Everything for Spring,” chalked full of spring activities designed by teachers for young children. You can enter here.

Finally, if you’re looking for other spring topics, you may want to check these out:

-Spring Cleaning in the Classroom

-Outdoor Learning for Dual Language Learners

-Spring Cleaning in Yourself (Building Resilience)


Quote of the Week

25 Mar



 Turtles may take a while, but they usually get where they’re going; just like students! Children learn through a variety of ways and digest that information at different rates. Just because someone doesn’t catch on as quickly doesn’t mean they won’t capture the knowledge later and use it to do great things! Keep learning, no matter what speed.

Spring Cleaning for the Classroom

20 Mar


It’s officially spring! Spring is known for many things, but one of the more reoccurring themes is renewal. A time to start fresh with new ideas and clean spaces. With the school year already half way over, classrooms can become cluttered with past work and begin to stifle the learning environment. That’s why we thought we would help you out with tips on how to make spring cleaning in the classroom beneficial to you and your students!

1. Purge the Paperwork

-With as many little minds as you have to keep up with, there is no wonder stacks of paper litter the classroom. Spring cleaning will allow you to relinquish the tendency to horde. It will make you think twice about the piles in your classroom and whether or not they are necessary when plunging into the second half of the school year. Here are a few tips from teachers on how to keep the mess manageable:

  • Avoid piles: You’re not alone if you find yourself surrounded by ‘organized’ piles. A great way to avoid this is to have a ‘home’ for every pile in the classroom. Set aside bins for paper and supplies.
  • Recycle what you can’t use: A great idea for surplus material is to recycle the paper! This can be done through regular recycling bins or it can be passed on to an incoming teacher.
  • Use the 1-year rule: One teacher simply suggest that if you haven’t used the material in a year, “Get rid of it!”




2. Re-organize Your Classroom

-How a classroom is organized plays a huge role in how children function academically. If a space is stifling, children can find themselves easily distracted and less prone to pay attention. Here are a few ways to breathe life into your classroom and inspire your students to learn:

  • Personalize the space: A great way to make an inspiring space is to put children’s work on display around the room. This fills  them with a sense of accomplishment and allows the room to feel personalized.
  • Labeled learning centers: Make sure your centers are clearly defined. Centers need to be mapped out and contents belonging to each one should not be scattered around the room but within designated centers.
  • Clear away the clutter: It is important that everything in your room can be easily found by you and your students. Take the time to throw things out like broken crayons, floating papers, and knick-knacks that no longer serve a purpose. One teachers suggested labeling storage bins with pictures of what items inside should look like.
  • Get inspired: Every great classroom has the following elements:  texture, colors, nature, furnishings, displays, elements and focal points. Make sure your students step in and feel inspired!


-Finally, if you’re more interested in the design aspect of reorganizing your classroom, you can read how to design creative spaces and find organizational tips, visual examples and more in the following books:




3. Get Students to help Clean the Classroom

-Finally, we can’t overlook the actual cleaning part of Spring Cleaning! Instead of a drudgery, this time can be turned into a fun hands-on activity for your kids to get involved!

  • Use kid-friendly supplies: Here are a list of kid-friendly supplies you can set your students loose with as they put their boundless energy to good use. Your classroom will be left looking shiny and smelling fresh!
  • Dance as you work: Kids love to move! Turn some music on as they dance while they clean.
  • Play a sorting game: Using the bins mentioned above, students will be more likely to engage in cleaning when there are designated storage spaces. Competition always spurs children to become more invested.




-We hope you found these classroom spring cleaning tips helpful! Join the conversation and let us know how you keep your classroom feeling fresh for the latter part of the year by commenting below.

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Don’t forget to check out our March Markdown Madness discounts on our website. “Real Classroom Makeovers” (featured above) is actually one of our Final Four! Find it here to claim your discount and join in on the madness!

Quote of the Week

18 Mar



There’s nothing quite like curling up with a good book and a hot drink. It makes the cold days more bearable and gives us a break from routine to dwell in our imaginations. What’s your favorite ‘book beverage’?


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