Happiness– Self Portraits and Poems

Each week we curate an email subscription of themed stories, activities, videos, conversation points and more! Both last week’s and this week’s subscriptions include beautifully illustrated picture books about feeling Happy. 

We invited children to make a nature collage self-portrait and to write their own happiness poem , offering prompts to consider  what they love– people, places, play, favorite foods and more!


Children’s Picture Book “Fry Bread” Dispels Myths and Counteracts Stereotypes

In honor of Indigenous People’s Day, check out this illuminating interview with Kevin Noble Maillard, author of the wonderful picture book, Fry Bread, A Native American Family Story. 

In this interview, Mallard’s 7 year-old son reads a portion of the book his dad wrote with him in mind! 

  Listen to Maillard read Fry Bread.       Borrow Fry Bread from MCL.      Purchase Fry Bread.

Growing Tree-Lovers: Visitor Joins Us to “Talk About Trees”

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.“- author unknown

We hosted our first in-person small group activity of the year! Joan from Talk About Trees (Oregon Forestry’s Education Program), meets with four different groups in the grassy area adjacent to our play yard. Thanks to the stewardship of the good people at Common Grounds, the area is full of majestic trees. 

Upon arrival, children joyfully greet each other. Some run down the steep grassy slope, taking big, deliberate steps to make their way back up. Some collect needles, twigs and cones to build a “nest.” Others run circles around the giant needled tree that we are soon to gather under. Unsolicited, one’s child joy is contagious as she invites us to “hug a tree!” 

After a short stint of free play, we gather to see what is in Joan’s tree-patched pouch. Joan pulls out treasurer after treasure- laminated maple leaves of various sizes, seed pods and cones… and on.  




Joan encourages us to notice the trees close by. Some have leaves while others have needles. We use our bodies to mirror what we see happening with the surrounding trees surrounding. We spread out our fingers to mimic trees with leaves, and we use our pointer fingers to mimic trees with needles.

Now it is time to survey the area and get to know trees up close. As we walk the grounds, Joan invites us on a scavenger hunt– similar to what we’ve been doing in our virtual classes. This time, instead of finding objects from our homes to share, we get to find specific tree treasures: A fallen red leaf, a helicopter seed pod to fly, a giant ponderosa cone. 


One child sprints away from the group to a tree that had been topped. His mom relaxedly values his interest and lets him check it out.


We learn that Cedar trees are super soft and splinter-free. So we pet one!  We venture to an enormous Ponderosa Pine towering above us. 

Then Joan gathers us beneath a huge Doug fir tree. She tells us a story that will help us identify Douglas fir cones. Douglas the mouse helps his mice friends escape the clutch of a hungry coyote. Each time the coyote is close, Douglas coaches his little rodent friends to run away. After running and running, they hide inside a cone–a final hiding spot. The coyote cannot find them and heads home to have some macaroni and cheese instead. The mice are safe!

Joan encourages us to look closely at the cones beneath the Doug Fir tree. We can see the pointy mouse claws or mouse tails poking out. This lets us know the the tell-tale sign of a Douglas Fir cone versus other cones with rounded sides. 

What a joy it is to be together again! And even more so outside among the splendor of these gentle giants!

Thanks to Joan and Talk About Trees Program.

HFP’s Susan Eisman Leads the Charge in Teaching Social Justice

pjaureliareadingWe’re making progress putting books in front of our children that emphasize under-represented groups.  Maria Russo of the The New York Times recently posted an article recommending some of these books that “tackle” race and ethnicity. Reading Ms. Russo’s piece immediately reminded me of HFP’s lead teacher and director, Susan Eisman, whose passion is to use books as a tool in teaching social justice. When I asked Susan about her stance on children’s books, she shared:

When you look up a list of the most popular children’s picture books, and you put aside the wide array of books featuring animal protagonists, you’ll likely find an abundance of stories featuring white, male, able-bodied characters.  When it’s not explicit, it’s likely assumed that these characters live in a nuclear family.  While many of these classics are wonderful, the repetition of stories from a single or limited perspective inadvertently reinforces biases and stereotypes.  That’s why we prioritize diversifying our children’s library at HFP, an essential component of our anti-bias curriculum.

Susan has the opportunity to bring this discussion of diversifying classroom libraries tosusan_eisman other educators as she co-facilitates a workshop titled “Analyzing Young Children’s Picture Books with an Anti-Oppression & Anti-Bias Lens” with Laura Cznarniecki at both the OAEYC (Oregon Association for the Education of Young Children) and the NWTSJ (Northwest Conference for Teaching for Social Justice) later this month and beyond. More details on what, when, and where below!

Speaking of books and authors that promote social justice – we like this interview from Sherman Alexie. We think you will, too. He authored Thunder Boy Jr, one of our most recent purchases for our classroom library, and was featured on NPR.

Ms. Russo reports on the shift toward more diversity in authors and protagonists,

We Need Diverse Books is the unofficial home of the movement, and their web site is a good resource for reading lists and other useful news and information.

And to give credit where credit is due, you can find the New York Times article by Ms. Russo here — Children’s Books That Tackle Race and Ethnicity.

Susan’s Trainings

  1. Oregon Association for the Education of Young Children on Saturday 10/15, 10:15am-12:15pm. Clackamas High School, 14486 SE 122nd Ave, Clackamas, OR 97015.
  2. Northwest Conference on Teaching for Social Justice on Saturday, 10/29, 12:45-2:15pm. Madison High School, 2735 NE 82nd Ave, Portland, OR 97220.
  3. Threads of Justice Early Childhood Education on Friday, 1/27/17 and Saturday, 1/28/17.  Wild Lilac Child Development Center.  https://www.wildlilac.org/threads/
  4. PCPO Parent Child Preschools Organization Annual Conference on Saturday, 3/18/17. Clackamas High School, 14486 SE 122nd Ave, Clackamas, OR 97015 http://www.parentchildpreschools.org/conference 

Sneaky Raccoon Pizza Party!

This week children made a special snack– Pizza!  We have been getting a big kick out of  the book Secret Pizza Party* by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri.  In this silly story, raccoon longs for the cheesy goodness of pizza, but is denied access to it because raccoon is an animal.  Children can relate to wishing for something they can’t have and they enjoy the outlandishness of a raccoon munching on one of their favorite “people” foods.

The more we read together, the more children talked about their shared enjoyment of pizza.  So we decided to have a pizza party– raccoon-style. The easel was set up for painting pizzas, and there were felt raccoon tails and face paints available for anyone who wanted to get into character.

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Parents provided all the fixings and the dough for everyone to make a masterpiece good enough to eat!

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At circle, Susan and Matt appeared as singing slices of pizza while singing “I Am A Pizza” by Charlotte Diamond.

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Making pizza  was AWESOME! And so was eating together.

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* When reading Rubin’s book together, we opted to shift the focus slightly, replacing “Secret” with”Sneaky Raccoon,” as we intentionally teach children not to keep secrets in an effort to support safety.

*Giant Pizza Slices created by local artists Drew Laughery and Elisabeth Tschalaer.