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November Director Notes

October 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The weather definitely feels like fall, early winter outside! We are heading into November looking forward to watching for signs of winter with the children and enjoying memory making moments with the holidays approaching. Here are a few quick updates and reminders to keep in mind.

Label, Label, Label

Please be sure to bring in weather appropriate gear that is labeled. Snowpants, mittens, hats and boots allow children to comfortably experience all that our Michigan fall/winter season has to offer. Unfortunately, more gear means more opportunities for things to get dropped, misplaced or lost. If you label your child’s belongings it helps teachers get items back to where they belong. Imagine having 42 mittens to track! Labeling can save the day.

Signing In and Out

Please remember to take the time to sign in and out each day. This is a licensing requirement and it is important for safety purposes. Teachers need to know who is coming and going from the classroom, playground, or cubby areas (school-age) at all times. When you pick up or drop off, be sure to document it on the appropriate clip board and communicate with the teacher. Thank you!

No Public School Days

We have two days in November when the Ann Arbor Public Schools will be closed; November 5th and 27th. We are able to care for your school-aged child(ren) during those days. Just stop up at the front desk, call or e-mail us your care needs. We have lots of fun activities planned!

Cell Phones

Respectfully we ask that you please end your cell phone calls before you enter the classroom or playground. Often your child is excited for your attention so they can share with you their experiences that day. Teachers also want to feel like they can approach you to talk about your child. Feel free to finish your conversations in the lobby area.

Contracts for 2014

Contracts will be in mailboxes early next week and are due back Monday, December 2nd. If we haven’t heard otherwise, we will assume that you will be keeping your current schedule and continuing on with us through the next year. Please communicate any changes you may have for your child’s care needs as soon as possible. Thank you.

Closed for Thanksgiving

Just a reminder that we will be closed November 28 and 29 for the Thanksgiving holiday. Safe travels and many memory making moments to you all!

All the best,



The Railroad Preschoolers Wonder, “How Do You Like Those Apples?”

October 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Hello Again!

The Railroad Preschool is truly a wonderful place to spend a little time and burn off a little steam.  It’s jam packed with toys, games, books, art supplies and countless other things that really get the creative juices flowing.  Even so, sometimes, the Preschoolers just need to get out into the world and really breath in that fresh air.  With this in mind,  we busted through the doors, carefully crossed the parking lot, climbed aboard the GH bus and headed out on this season’s first FIELD TRIP!

With Autumn in full bloom, our destination seemed obvious, the apple orchard! The trees were all flushed with beautiful fall colors as we rode in the sunshine out to The Plymouth Apple Orchard and Cider Mill.  We were greeted by a lovely woman who told us a terrific tale of the apple cycle through the seasons, stressing the importance of bees.  To demonstrate this, all the children were given a finger puppet of a bee to help pollinate a makeshift apple tree.  The kids loved this and found great pleasure in buzzing around the scentless apple blossoms. Then the real fun began.

We loaded ourselves onto a gigantic wagon pulled behind a just-as-gigantic tractor, and were pulled out into the orchard.  Once surrounded by apple trees, we were released to go and search for the perfect apple.  It was so funny watching the children carefully inspect each potential snack for bruises and blemishes; they were concentrating so hard.  Once each child had found their perfect fruit, we reloaded, and drove off to find our second destination: the pumpkin patch.

Although the routine was exactly the same as with picking apples, the children exited the wagon with a new sense of fervor and enthusiasm.  They raced into the field, filling the air with laughter and excitement, running joyously amongst the round pops of orange dotting the green field.  They searched as if looking for a treasure, then, with great effort, would reach down and lift their prize into the air and hold it there as if being held up by their smiles alone.  All were in great spirits as we climbed back aboard the wagon and were taken to the overwhelming highlight of the day: snack time.

All the searching and picking and lifting had built up a strong appetite within the children, and if you’re in need of a snack at the apple orchard, there’s really only one viable choice: DOUGHNUTS AND APPLE CIDER.  We ventured into the cafeteria area where two delightfully long tables were reserved for us, filled with these wonderful treats.  The children sat, ate, laughed and recounted their adventures with dramatic descriptions of the treasures they had made their own.  The room buzzed and hummed with spectacular pizzazz as they spoke to one another, each tale besting the one before it.

When we finished eating, we headed outside to see some farm animals and, before long, found ourselves climbing back aboard the GH bus and heading west, back  to our center.  The morning’s expedition proved true that sometimes you really just need to get out and breathe in the fresh air, especially if that air smells like cinnamon doughnuts.



October Director Reminders and Updates

September 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Happy 10th Anniversary Gretchen’s House – Dhu Varren!

We are excited to celebrate our 1oth Anniversary on October 1st. We have happily served 944 families and cared for over 1300 children during this ten-year stretch. I, Jinell Warson and Karen Clark have been at the Dhu Varren center since it opened in 2003. Many staff have made their mark at our Dhu Varren center and then transferred and/or were promoted through the years to other GH centers.

Please join us in our celebration.  We will share delicious apples from Gretchen Preston’s home as well as donuts and cider at pick up time on Tuesday, October 1st. We are excited to start our journey into the next decade of caring for children and families here at Dhu Varren.

Curriculum Night

We have had our Pond Wing Curriculum Night and our Railroad/Farm Wing Curriculum Night will be October 3rd. I was able to share a video clip that has been very well received called Get Ready for School. Many parents and teachers found it to be very interesting as it focuses on the foundational skills children need to be ready for formal learning in a typical school setting. Here is the link to the video as well as the notes:

Get Ready For School video notes

Teachers have been so excited to have you visit their classrooms and to have the opportunity to walk you through our HighScope Curriculum approach. It is important for you to know their intentional teaching strategies and practices as they care for your child each day.

Fall and Halloween

We are looking ahead to plans for Halloween, and we wanted to clarify our Fall activities with all of you. As with other times of the year, we will focus on children’s interests and age-appropriate activities that promote healthy social interactions. We know some children may be hearing about Halloween from older siblings. We anticipate that they may be interested in more storytelling and books about the fall season as well as the many foods that they have helped in harvesting from their field trips and gardens at home.  We will make sure our book areas are enriched with various types of stories and incorporate more imagination storytelling and posting of those stories.

We will not organize a parade or have a “Halloween party” or celebrate Halloween in the way that you may remember from elementary school. In the past, we have incorporated costumes and parties into our plans, and we have found the activities to be inconsistent with our philosophy. The abstract concepts of Halloween are lost on many children. After they experience the event at home, then they have a more concrete idea of what Halloween is all about.

We invite your child to bring in their costume after Halloween to enhance the dramatic play that naturally happens in our room, if they would like to do so. We will not have a formal “dress-up time,” but children may show their friends their costume and play with it during our work time. Keep in mind that other children may hope to try your child’s costume with him or her, so you should only send the costume if it can be shared during dramatic play. If you are at all concerned about not ripping the costume or getting paint on it or if the costume is too elaborate to play in, or if the costume is particularly scary, please do not send it in with your child. The children are encouraged to run, jump, climb, explore and paint while at Gretchen’s House and it can be difficult to undertake these tasks while worrying about not getting dirty or ruining a special costume. Thanks in advance for considering all of this!

Finally, because we serve many children with food allergies, we want to remind everyone not to send in candy and other treats. Thank you for your understanding and please let us know if you have any questions.


Director Updates and Reminders

September 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Fall brings a lot of exciting changes to our center. We have returning families and new families joining our classrooms. Here are a few things we need you to know or be reminded of regarding health and safety at Gretchen’s House.


Recently we noticed that many children are finishing their breakfast from home as they arrive at the center. It is important that all food from home be eaten before your child comes in the door. This matters not only because of the many children attending with food allergies, but also it shows respect to the other children who may find what your child is eating desirable.

Snacks at pick up time can also be a problem. Please be sure to offer your child their afternoon snack after you are out of the building. Finally, please do not store the snacks intended for pick up in your child’s back pack or cubby. We have found some ‘sneaky cubby munchers’ that just couldn’t wait!

Parking Lot

It is dangerous:

–          To leave your car running unattended in the parking lot

–          To leave children in the car unattended (car running or not)

–          To allow your child to ride in the car without a properly installed cars seat or booster in the back seat of the vehicle


The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office has stated that if they are patrolling parking lots and see any of the above scenarios, they will ticket the driver.

Local authorities have also reported incidents of thieves targeting child care centers. They break into cars to steal purses, lap tops, etc. when parents are dropping off their children. There have been instances where children were in the car when the robbery happened. In some cases, where older children were involved, the police asked the child to describe the thief! That is scary. We want everyone to be safe.

Contracted Times

Upon enrollment, families choose their contracted times to have their child(ren) at the center. This 9 ½ hour time frame aids us in determining the teachers’ schedules. We need to maintain safe ratios that allows us to provide the quality care you should expect from Gretchen’s House. If there is an occasional situation that requires you to deviate from that schedule, please let the teacher know so we can make adjustments as necessary for that day.

Emergency Cards and Health Insurance info

Many of you have already filled out the new Emergency Cards required by the state of Michigan. Thank you. One of the things that they omitted on the new card that is still required for us to have is the Health Insurance Number. We are asking parents to bring a copy of their card to the front desk so we can make a quick copy. If you haven’t filled out the new Emergency Card or provided us the insurance card, please do so by the end of the month.

Thank you for partnering with us in our mission to keep children healthy and safe.



Railroad Preschool Gets Gro0o0o0o0vy

July 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Monday, Leah’s mom, Christina Cort, strolled into the Wabash room with an armful of empty miniature water bottles, some food coloring, a giant jug of vegetable, a handful of antacids and a pocket full of magic to spread around to the kids.

Each child began by taking a water bottle and filling it about a third of the way up with water.  Next came the hard part as four colors, purple, green, red and blue, were placed in front of them and they had to choose which was their favorite.  (Red was the clear winner, although blue wasn’t too far behind.) The children then abracadabra-ed their water into that color with a little bit of fairy potion commonly called food coloring.  The steady hum of excitement was clearly building and became a full blown roar as we filled the rest of the bottle with vegetable oil.

Since the oil and water aren’t chemically capable of mixing, the two began dancing around one another in terrifically bubbly swirls.  Oohs and aahs resounded throughout the room at such a beautifully psychedelic sight.  However, we were shooting for something a little more far out.  Cue the antacids.  Dropping the tablets into the already brilliantly hued concoction only made it glitzier and more intense.  It fizzed vibrantly, as if to match the awed faces of the kids.

The final step to our morning’s terrificness was to take a flashlight, and shine it upwards through the bottle and its vivid bubbles.  That’s when it could be seen for what it was, a perfectly constructed, homemade lava lamp.  It may not have been the brightest lamp we’d seen, but it really worked wonders and lit their faces up.



Director Updates and Notes

July 24, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Thank You!

I would like to thank all of the families for your understanding and great response during our power outage last week! It was a difficult situation without phones, AC and a timeline for restoration during our hottest week of the summer. The teachers and I really appreciated how supportive everyone was during this time and how quickly parents, grandparents and family friends responded and came to pick up the children. Because we didn’t have phones, teachers used their personal cell phones to update everyone. Moving forward, I would like to ask you to respect the teachers privacy and not contact them on their cell phones. Thank you.

Contract Reminder

As part of the contract process, parents are asked to choose a 9 1/2 hour time frame for your child(ren) to attend. We base our staffing on your schedule so we can always be within the required staff-to-child ratio. We want to avoid having families go over this time frame on a regular basis. It makes for a really long day for your child and can be a scramble for the staff to cover the classroom. We know things come up, so please let us know if there will be a time you need to exceed your contracted time. Often we can tweak things to accommodate a special circumstance. We appreciate your support in helping us provide quality care for you child.

Fire Safety DVDs

We were able to sell 50 DVDs and provide the Ann Arbor Fire Department with a check for $50. The Garden Preschool classroom took a field trip to the Fire Station and presented it to the fire fighters themselves. They were very appreciative of the support. We have more available if you are interested in purchasing one. See Jinell at the front desk.


The Railroad Preschool: Greetings and Goodbyes

June 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A wave of sadness struck the Railroad Preschool today as it was the last day we would be sharing our space with Clara Bailey.  Clara has blossomed into a flower that is a little too big to fit in the teeny flowerpot that is the Wabash room, and will be uprooted and transplanted down into the young fives room for summer camp starting next week.  Sadly, Clara is just the first of our classmates to leave us, as we have a good handful of familiar faces that will be parting ways with us in the coming weeks.

Tomorrow, the 12 of June, Cecilia DeGuzman with be taking her sweetness away for the summer before starting in kindergarten in the fall.  The same goes for Sunje Kim on Thursday and Madeline Quint on Friday.  Jackson Rife will be leaving us to join Clara for summer camp on Friday, and Angelina Crosby will be taking the summer off before reuniting with the Gretchen’s House clan in the Young Fives fall.  Next Friday, June 21, Andrew Chen will also be singing his goodbye as he will be moving to another school.

We will miss all these friends.  With their absence, however, we were able to call up some new friends from the toddler room.  Quynh Song, Lukas Su and Ana Schiopu-Elwell have already begun carving out their own own little niche in the preschool, and as of next week, they will be permanent fixtures in our classroom.

It’s never easy watching people you’ve grown to know and love move on and out into the world without you, but here in the Railroad Preschool, we’ll hold tight to the memories we’ve made with them and look anxiously forward to the new, warm memories to come. :)


Parental Invasion of The Railroad Preschool, Part 1: Fevers, Felines and Fancy Nancy

June 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A few weeks back, we posted a calender outside our door inviting parents to come in and do an activity with the children. The Railroad preschool parents have reacted as if we were flashing the Bat symbol at them! They’ve been swooping in with a continual wave of excitement and splendor for the children.

Back on Thursday, Palak Choksi, Vyaan Chopra’s mom, stormed our classroom with an armful of doctor supplies and gave a stunning demonstration of how much fun the doctor’s office can be, and why we should be eager to visit them instead of being scared of their appointments.  Then, the very next day, Laksmi Raman, mother of Meena Pradeep, brought in a very special guest,  Freya, their gigantic house cat.  It was a very friendly cat, and the children loved getting to pet her. And today, Roselyn DeGuzman, showed up armed with her daughter Cecelia DeGuzman’s favorite Fancy Nancy books, which the children all huddled around her to enjoy.

Its been a great run of visitors so far, and with many more signed up in the coming weeks, we eagerly await the next adventure.



Puff, Puff, Toot, Toot! Goes The Railroad Preschool

May 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Good days are falling like dominos in the Railroad Preschool, one after another.

Today, at Large Group Time, we had a very special visitor.  Lisa Koch, mother of current preschooler Paul Koch and alumna Audrey Koch, dropped by to read us some very entertaining stories about trains.  With trains being a current interest in our classroom, all the children sat riveted and engaged while hearing all about The Little Engine That Could and The Little Red Caboose. Eruptions of applause and excitement rang out at the end of each book.  The fun didn’t end there, though.

To further our entertainment, we became the train.  Each child chose which part of the train they’d like to be and we began choo choo-ing our way around the classroom.  We even built a tunnel to ride beneath by draping a blanket over a table.  We had a blast and were very thankful that Ms. Koch could come and share some of her time with us.

If anyone else is interested in coming in and spending some time with us in the preschool, just let one of the teachers know.  We’d be overjoyed to have you.

Have a super duper day!

Book Knowledge

Pretend Play



Railroad Preschool’s Parachute Party!

May 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Greetings Railroad Preschool Parents!

Jerod here, and I just want to take a quick moment and regale you with today’s tale of spectacularness.

The sun spilled its rays magnificently upon our playground today, flooding it with terrific warmth and light.  However, after much running and playing, we found ourselves seeking shelter from that same terrificness.  Without much shade upon our little playground, we had to improvise.

After acquiring our gigantic parachute from the gym, we carefully draped it over the monkey bars to create quite the magnificently colored corridor for the children to spin, dance, read or simply cool off beneath.  The children loved this.  There were few moments when our makeshift walls weren’t bulging out to hold in the growing crowds within.  The real treat, though, came when the wind would pick up, grab hold of the sides of  our dazzling little dwelling, and shake it up with the most brilliant of breezes, both cooling and pleasing to everyone underneath.  It truly was a splendid morning.

Building Relationships; Body Awareness



Gross-motor Skills; Cooperative Play

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