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Parent Volunteers

June 17, 2020 | Emily Ford Sytsma

Chaperoning a class walking trip is not the only way to participate with your child at school here in The Nest. We also welcome parent volunteers into the classroom.

Parent volunteers provide extra hands as we zip jackets and put on mittens, helping the morning move along quickly so that there is more time for fun and learning.
Parent volunteers chat with children at snack time and may read stories to small groups of children.

Parent volunteers sometimes come for specific tasks, maybe to act as experts and to answer questions when we are engaged in a study. Or to support the sophisticated work of students in culminating events.

There are many activities that children enjoy but in which they cannot engage fully without the support of an adult. Board and card games fall into this category.

In the recent past, Dr. Paul Yellin visited with teachers and explained that each child has an active working memory where she holds on to all of the necessary information for completing a certain task. Some children have a larger capacity for this kind of memory than others. But for all, before skills become automatic, the steps must be maintained in the active working memory during an activity. It is like a countertop or desktop where you can see all of the information you need to do what you are planning.

When playing a game, a young child must remember the process of the game while playing. So, in a Memory game, he must remember that when it is his turn, two cards will be flipped over. He needs to remember to check the cards. And then remember the last step of flipping the cards back over or taking a match. The steps are held in the active working memory.

At the same time, the child needs to remember the rules of turn-taking in general. To remember whose turn it is now and whose turn comes next. This is also being held on that countertop of memory.

And simultaneously, the child needs to remember what she is looking for, the objective of the game. In a game of Memory, this is compounded by a need to remember where each card is hidden in order to successfully recall it again when it is needed.

There is also a need to remember how to cope with disappointment and frustration. Words to remember to help solve problems.

This is a lot to hold in active working memory. The countertop can get too full and pieces begin to fall off and out of mind. Young children need help with this often. An adult working alongside can take care of some of the remembering and offer reminders and other support.

We hope that perhaps you will find a time to volunteer with us before the end of the year. Many parents find that it offers some insight into their children and also into the school experience. Talk to the lead teachers anytime you are interested in joining us.

Sometimes parents with young children will do a babysitting swap to allow each other to volunteer without hiring a babysitter. Let the teachers know if we can help make a connection. Or if you have any special gifts or expertise you think might be valuable in the classroom.

Emily Ford Sytsma

Early Childhood Director

Ms. Sytsma began her career as an educator working in inclusive classrooms in the state of Hawaii but found her roots began to grow here at Mustard Seed School when she came to teach in 1996. She joined the preschool team in 2007, after teaching for many years in the Middle School. She finds delight in the preschool’s approach to teaching and learning, inspired by the preschools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. As Early Childhood Director, she seeks to support teachers in their work helping children learn about thinking and creative expression.

Ms. Sytsma’s the mother of a MSS alum and a current student. When not at school, Ms. Sytsma enjoys traveling with her husband and two children. She tends a very simple rooftop garden in Jersey City Heights and on long Saturday mornings, she may be seen taking long walks along the Hudson River and listening to audiobooks or podcasts while organizing her thoughts and getting her heart rate up.

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