Students explore the wonder of natural sciences at Valley Pre-School

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By Jodi D’Angelo

From learning how plants store energy to make food, to examining skulls to determine what different animals eat, each month unveils another chapter of the natural world at Valley Pre-School.
“My goal is to inspire curiosity, develop observation skills, expand the horizon of a young child’s view, and create an ongoing connection with the natural world,” said Nannie Brown, the natural sciences teacher at Valley Pre-School. Although Brown retired as a lead teacher at the school, she comes into the classroom over a two-day period each month to teach the students about a certain topic.
At the beginning of school in September, Brown took a walk in the neighborhood with the students and teachers to explore the season of Fall, explaining that autumn is a “million-dollar word” for Fall. “I call it a million-dollar-word because it is precious and rare and many people don’t have it in their minds,” Brown said. The children also learned the million-dollar words narcissus, the commonly known species of the daffodil, and Muscari, commonly known genus of the grape hyacinth.
In October, Brown taught the children about preparing bulbs and begonias for winter. She explained how plants have the ability to make food in their green leaves in the summer and then store the energy in the bulb for next years’ growth. Begonias survive in the warm summer months in Connecticut, but die during the first frost. Thus, to save the begonia plants that they examined each student potted their own plants and took them home to put in a sunny window.
The children learned how wild seeds find new places to grow during the month of November. As one example, Brown taught that a “hitchhiker seed” hitches a ride on a passing animal or person. Then, in December, the children explored the evergreens and their cones. The children made a special treat for the birds and squirrels with a cone they learned about from a white pine tree.

In January, the children potted up spider plants to take home. Brown provided the opportunity for the children to be self-sufficient by asking them to water the plant everyday.
Around Valentine’s Day, Brown taught the children about the real heart that all animals, reptiles, birds and fish have. The students were able to listen to, Socrates, the class Guinea pig’s heart beat with a stethoscope, as well as their own heart beats.
In March, Brown taught the children all about teeth (herbivores, carnivores, omnivores) while examining skulls and trying to guess whether that animal was a carnivore, herbivore or omnivore. The children had the opportunity to do many activities to show how the different teeth work. For example, the children tore Playdough away with a classroom tool (a staple remover) that resembled the canine teeth of a coyote or a bobcat.
During April and May, Brown will continue to engage the minds of the students with the wonders of natural science.
Known as the “boomerangs,” Brown is one of four retired Valley Pre-School teachers who return to the school to share their passions and enrich the pre-school program. The other boomerangs include: Melissa Reinauer, writing workshop teacher; Peggy Shaw, music teacher; and Mary Alice Stielau, movement teacher.
Valley Pre-School is now accepting applications for the 2016-2017 school year. If you have any questions, please visit the Valley Pre-School website at