Happy New Year, Julius Caesar!

The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.

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The early Roman Calendar designated March 1 as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months.

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The first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilium, added the months of January and February.) The new year was moved from March to January because that was the beginning of the civil year, the month that the two newly elected Roman Consuls – the highest officials in the Roman republic—began their one-year tenure. But this new year date was not always strictly and widely observed, and the new year was still sometimes celebrated on March 1.

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In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar introduced a new, solar-based calendar that was a vast improvement on the ancient Roman calendar, which was a lunar system that had become wildly inaccurate over the years. The Julian Calendar decreed that the new year would occur with January 1, and within the Roman world, January 1 became the consistently observed start of the new year. To recognize Julius Caesar as one of the primary influences on the New Year celebrations we have today, we created statues of him out of playdoh, garlands, and plastic leaves.

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Telling Time – Bean Bag Toss

Large motor activities should be a vital part of any early childhood program.  Large motor play helps children burn off excess energy, enabling them to focus better in the classroom.  There are also opportunities for building social skills when children work and play cooperatively in games. When children play large group games together, they are working on taking turns and sharing with one another.

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They are also working on developing friendships. Lastly, gross motor skills can provide the perfect opportunity to introduce new concepts that may be difficult for young children to grasp. For this activity, we used bean bags and a large chalk-drawn clock to learn about numbers and time. For each child, a number was written on a whiteboard. The child was then directed to throw the bean bag onto the corresponding hour on the clock.

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Body Clocks

Time is a hard concept for preschoolers.  It isn’t something that they can touch, feel and explore. Without the ability to tangibly interact with time, children need adults who understand the concept to help them learn about time.

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This activity entailed using our bodies to point to different numbers on a clock, indicating the time. We initiated a discussion of this concept by examining what an analogue clock is, and how the numbers on this clock begin at one and end at twelve.

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We then used a large paper clock and directed your little ones to recognize the big numbers within the circle.

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Following this, students used their bodies to point to the particular hour (a numeral) that was written down on a whiteboard.

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Because integrating the concept of hours and minutes is a skill that preschoolers are unable to grasp, they were able to understand that the hour hand moves from one number to the next, and when that happens, one hour has passed.

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Counting Down with Blocks

We spent a lot time having fun with this New Year’s Day counting down activity! Manipulatives such as blocks (that can be removed or added from a group of ten, one at a time) give a visual reinforcement of what a countdown is. Conceptually, the idea of a countdown is too advanced for the preschool learner, unless he has a concrete example with which to associate the meaning with an action.

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We started by piling our blocks on top of one another, starting with one and ending with ten. Once completed, we started removing blocks (one at a time), counting together as we did so. Once we reached one, we shouted, “Happy New Year!”.

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Learning about numbers is a preschooler’s first step toward becoming a budding young mathematician. And in preschool, math learning is all about counting, number recognition, and one-to-one correspondence. This activity reinforced all of these concepts!

Calendar Countdown

Though research states that young children don’t truly understand time concepts until the first or second grade, the use of a calendar can teach of variety of developmental tasks.

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One, is the memorization of the days of of the week and months of the year.

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There are also several meaningful ways to introduce preschool-age children to counting, sequencing, one-to-one correspondence, and simple addition through the regular application of a calendar in the preschool classroom.

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Using a large laminated calendar template, teachers can guide children in learning how to number the days of each month. We also sing a variety of songs to enforce days of the week and months of the year.

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For this activity, we used plastic jewels and real calendars to practice counting from one to thirty and from thirty to one. As each number was called out, students were encouraged to place a jewel on the appropriate number.

Fine Motor Fireworks

Playdough is a staple play material in the early childhood classroom. It provides enjoyable and satisfying experiences for young children, but it is not merely a fun activity.

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It provides valuable hands-on, active-learning experiences and supports children’s growth and learning in many domains.Through this medium early learning standards are addressed as children’s progress is observed in many areas of development.

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The notion that play is a young child’s work”is widely accepted among researchers and educators in the early childhood field. Young children learn best through manipulation of materials in which they can see the effects they have on the world around them. Many of these experiences come through play.

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Creative experiences with materials like playdough offer children many valuable learning opportunities. By combining a variety of materials, students are also forced to come up with unique uses for their items, targeting their ability to apply creativity and divergent thinking.

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For this activity, we continued with our New Year’s theme, and combined beads, jewels, pipe cleaners, and playdough to create fireworks. We initiated the discussion with what fireworks were, and what times of year we may see them. We then talked a little about why we celebrate the new year, and the kinds of parties each child may go to throughout the year. Finally, each child engaged in open-ended play as they added each item to the playdough.

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Bubbles and Fireworks

The most effective sources of early learning are immediate, meaningful, and involve children’s discovery and choice. Bubbles not only involve children in learning, but they are fun, easy to use, and ever-changing.

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In addition, many science processes such as, investigation, discovery, experimentation, observation, definition, comparison, and classification can be learned simply by playing with bubbles.

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Bubbles help children develop self-concept as they learn about themselves and the world around them, and language development is enhanced when children learn new words to describe bubbles, explain tasks, and label and record bubble experiments.

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For this activity, we created New Year’s “fireworks” out of bubbles.

20150105_110037 (1)Everyone enjoyed seeing their bubbles change size, and “explode” from the bowls! By doing so, they explored the concept of density, as they investigated how many bubbles occupied the given space within the bowl. They also engaged is the scientific concept of displacement, as they bubble solution overflowed from the containers. Most importantly, they had fun while doing it!