Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The treasure that is Bev Bos

This is a Tuesday Slice of Life for Two Writing Teachers
Check out their website for many more reflections on teaching.


Roseville Community Preschool
Today, I need to share about the loss of early childhood educator Bev Bos, who died this past Thursday, February 4th. We lost a tireless and passionate advocate for early childhood play. These words grace the walls of her Roseville Community Preschool in Roseville, California:

Our challenge is not
 to prepare children for school,
to prepare schools for children. 

- Docia Zavitskovksy

How to organize for exploration (RCP)
Bev Bos threw open the doors of her preschool and invited others to see how to do this right. I had the delight of attending her week-long "Good Stuff for Kids" conference in summer 2011, just before my new school opened. What a glorious week! I attended the conference with my friend Janise, also a preschool teacher, and devoured ideas and possibilities for my own classroom. Bev and her team showed us ways to set up classroom learning space so that children might easily explore and discover, demonstrated fun science and art activities that emphasized process not product, showered us with great new picture books for read-alouds, gathered us in sing-alongs, and shared so much insight and inspiration about being with children.

Outdoor play at Roseville Community Preschool
Bev taught us to not only think about children but to follow their beck and call, to fill our classrooms and our curriculum with their delights - constructive, interactive, unending exploration of
how things work, 
why things are, 
what does this do, 
why might that be, 
how about this. 
Your hands show that you've had fun!
She recognized the consummate scientist in every child, providing them with unending opportunities to explore with all their senses. Perhaps my favorite Bev quote that my students hear me say all the time,
"If you  go home from school without dirt under your nails, I haven't done my job."

Oh, how she loved children, each individual child! She embraced their storytelling, sitting alongside them in the midst of their play, wherever they were in the classroom, listening, and inviting them to answer, "How does your story begin?"

She was truly present with children.

What do you want to investigate?
She loved to read to children, collecting so many fabulous picture books, and - here's where I just tremble at her respect for little ones - she dared to stop reading if they weren't captivated by a book she had chosen to read, saying "Today, this is not the book they need." (How many of us are this flexible with our plans? How many of us are allowed to be this flexible?)
Sit and play here - Roseville Community Preschool
        Bev never demanded that a single child sit and be present at her read-alouds, her storytelling, or any large group gathering. She figured if they didn't come over, she wasn't sharing anything of real value to them at that moment. Every time I have a whole group gathering, her brazen faith in children crosses my mind as I sadly fail to duplicate it.  Think: most of us in public schools are held to an unrealistic expectation by our administrators that every young child be participating in our whole groups; so many schools have the added expectation that children be seated and quiet while the adult leads.  Shouldn't we question this expectation? Bev would surely want us to do so.

What would happen if we added this to that?
Bev knew our schools were very different than her own and she challenged us to find some part of her approach to recreate. In what ways might we find a little more time outside? More opportunities to muck about, to play with water, mud, dirt, sand?  How can we make our activities more process than product? What loose parts can we bring in, reuse, invent with? 

A labyrinth made from shoes at Roseville Community Preschool
Her inspiration works magic in my classroom each and every day. This past Thursday morning, I looked to see a few of my more solitary preschoolers working together in the block area. I had never seen them work together before; these preschoolers prefer to play alone or alongside their peers rather than 'with.' However, there they were, creating a ramp from pieces of wood - attaching it to the big cozy chair in the classroom, setting its base on a couple of large blocks, funneling the ramp into a succession of three small buckets. They raced a variety of small cars, trying to get these to jump into each of the buckets, predicting which bucket each would land in as it rolled. Though we had guided on many previous days, no teacher was in this center with them. They were on their own and delighted to explore.

Outdoor play materials at Roseville Community Preschool
I heard their happy companionship, the beginnings of friendship - 
"My car goes next!"
"The yellow car is super fast"
"Second bucket! Second bucket!"
"Let's do it this way - how about we try this?"

Hearing later about her death and reflecting on the beauty and surprise of these solitary friends finding one another over loose parts, I wonder,
Was Bev giving my classroom one last embrace, as she left us?

Bev (center) with two of her many groupies - Janise and I

"If it's in the hand and in the body, it's in the brain."  
- Bev Bos


  1. I love the quotes of the children talking about their cars. This is a beautiful tribute. She must have made a difference in many children's lives.

  2. I don't know of this educator and am so glad that now I do, Maureen. There is so much to love in your tribute to her. That underlying faith in a child's choice is so important to their growth, and obviously she knew it and supported it. Thank you for telling about her and your time with her.

  3. A great pioneer and advocate for Early Childhood Education and Children has been lost. The wonderful piece to this sadness is that she left her mark/message all over the world. It will continue to inspire ones such as you, me, and thousands of other educators who believe in the competencies that children are born with, and how they naturally learn. Now it is up to us to continue the journey. Thank you for your post. It left me with many warm memories of dear Bev Bos.

  4. I'm still in mourning but your tribute is lovely. Thanks for sharing her many messages.

  5. Bev Bos was an inspiration and an incredible motivational advocate for children. i was privileged to have met her several times - she was a lovely lady.

  6. Bev Bos taught me so very much in such a short time
    Her respect for children and the way she created a space that allowed wonder . . . music, stories, messy delightful fun, and authenticity. I miss her and wish I could have spent more time with her. Mahita

  7. I was so sad to hear of her passing when it happened! Recently I've been looking for more info on her teachings and I've been very disheartened by how little is on the web. There's no central website, very few videos available, not even a Wikipedia page! It looks like the general public are left to discover her on their own! There's not even a page about her on her own school's website! Just one quote of hers that I could find. Not even a memorial page or talk of what she did to create that school and who she was! I am so sad that this is what is left...There really should be a Bev Bos Foundation! I hope her philosophy lives on in more than just that one school. I hope someone, many people, are still out there spreading her message to others....She had such an amazing message to share.

    I had the good fortune to meet Bev once, years ago, at a workshop she did when I was a young daycare worker. And she left a very deep impression on me that I never forgot. I hope with all my heart that her legacy lives on in many people to continue on sharing with others...