December has arrived, and with that comes holiday preparations, gift giving…and, at The International Preschools, the annual celebration of the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice marks the day with the shortest amount of daylight and the longest amount of darkness. Traditionally, the Winter Solstice celebrates the return of the sun, as the days following the solstice contain more minutes, and ultimately hours, of daylight, culminating with the Summer Solstice (the longest amount of daylight in one day of the year) in June.
Curriculum at IPS during December focuses on the concept of light and dark while integrating aspects of the holiday season. Many of the holidays that our families celebrate, from Diwali to Hanukkah to Christmas, cherish light sources such as candles and lanterns; the
se items act as icons of the season. In some cultures, people choose not to use electricity on the Winter Solstice and rather, live by candlelight on this day. Nature is also revered during this season and within the classrooms; traditionally, evergreen trees are decorated because they are seen as the “eternal symbol of life during the dark months of the winter.” They are referred to as Yule Trees or Winter Solstice Trees and are decorated with symbols of light (i.e. sun, moon, star ornaments; candles) as well as pinecones and garlands filled with food for animals during the winter months.
Keeping all of these notions in mind, the teachers at IPS formulate their Winter Solstice curriculum for the month of December. Each age group learns about the Winter Solstice in an age-appropriate way. Natural items such as pinecones and evergreen branches will be available in the classroom Discovery Centers for exploration. In addition to natural items, light sources such as battery-operated candles, lanterns, unlit wax candles, and flashlights will also be accessible. At the easel (or on the art table), children might use branches from an evergreen tree as “paintbrushes” by dipping the branches into green paint and pressing it onto paper. Teachers will use flashlights to display various shadow silhouettes in a fun game, where children can guess match objects with its shadows. Many classrooms will also learn about the sun, moon, and stars, creating projects centered around these celestial objects.
During the week of December 16th, each IPS location will hold its annual Winter Solstice sing-along. For weeks, the children have been practicing light-themed and holiday songs in a variety of languages during music class; these songs will be sung with the children’s families in the school gym. Each child will use flashlights and jingle bells during specific songs to honor the holiday. Afterwards, each classroom will host an international potluck for our school families. It is always a fun, community-building (and delicious) event!