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What Happens in the Afternoons in the Trees Class?

May 17, 2023 | Emily Ford Sytsma

During the afternoons in Trees Class, we are focusing on having fun while learning.

We start our afternoon by going out to the park for a second recess time.  We usually go out to the grass field. Some children dig a hole for ants, set up a rocks and sticks store, or make a dust cloud.  

Some children run around to kick a beach ball or throw a frisbee.  We learn and practice taking turns, welcoming everyone and being kind to each other while playing.

After the park time, we have lunch.  We often play “Would You Rather” or “I Spy” games together while we eat.  Sometimes we have conversations. 

Then we have a story and Quiet Time.  During Quiet Time, some children fall asleep but most children look at a book or draw a picture.  This time without stimulation helps them rest their body and mind. When it’s time to get up, we all stretch together.  We’ve been doing yoga poses or following some books which teach movement.

Next comes a second Activity Time.  Like in the morning Activity Time, we have tables set up with board games, math activities, and art activities. Students may play with various building activities, the light table, in blocks and floor puzzles.  Children choose which activity they want to do and they are also invited to a teacher table to work with teachers on skills. Children practice how to use words to express their needs and to collaborate with others navigating activities.

Every Friday, we have art with Mr Johnson, which children look forward to all week. 

At the end of the activity, we play gross motor games.  We enjoy musical chairs, jumping beans, freeze dance or the “clean up the yard” game.  This is our favorite time of the afternoon and then we need a water break!

Finally, we are ready to close our day. We always have a pile of work to share.  It encourages us to work hard, so we have a beautiful product to share with the class.  We practice how to hold a drawing or work and how to present it.  This is the beginning of learning the presentation skills we all develop at Mustard Seed School .  In time, the children will grow to be excellent presenters.  We also learn how to keep our eyes and ears on the person who is sharing. 

We light the candle and pray all together to finish our day.  We often share what was hard and what we enjoyed.  It is a peaceful reflection time.   What a busy afternoon!


This post was written by Hwa Young Gluckow.

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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