Welcome to our blog!

View posts by our current and past bloggers to gain valuable insights into the developing brain and learn about activities that you can easily incorporate into your early childhood curriculum to foster the development of early math skills in young learners.

Check back often throughout the year so you don’t miss a single blog—and join in the conversation by asking questions or leaving comments at the end of each post!

About our blogger Diann Gano, M.Ed

Diann Gano, M.Ed.

Diann Gano, M.Ed

Diann Gano—who opened her family child care program, Under the Gingko Tree in 1986—has long believed that “the earth gives us what we need to learn” and that nature is “the perfect environment for little brains to grow and learn in every day.” While conducting research for her master’s thesis on outdoor learning in early childhood settings, she learned about the Nature Explore Classroom Certification Program, which recognizes schools and other organizations that have made a commitment to providing outdoor classrooms and comprehensive programming to help children use the natural world as an integral part of learning. She enrolled in the Nature Explore Classroom certification program after completing her master’s degree in 2010, and Under the Ginkgo Tree was certified as a Nature Explore Certified Outdoor Classroom Program in 2011.

A member of the Erikson Family Child Care Portal Project Advisory Board, Gano has also participated in the Erikson Institute’s Early Childhood Leadership Summit and served as a webinar panelist for Town Square Illinois, an online resource and professional development tool for home-based providers. She has presented at the local, state and national levels on topics such as indoor and outdoor learning environments, the importance of loose parts in early math education and the impact of immersion in the natural world on brain development in young children. In 2016, Gano was honored as a recipient of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Child Care Innovator Award for creating a school environment that inspires children to become more active and engaged learners. In May 2019, she received the prestigious Terri Lynn Lokoff/Children’s Tylenol National Teacher Award, which honors 50 outstanding early child care professionals across the nation each year for making a lasting difference in the lives of the children they serve and setting them on a path to success in school and in life. She received her BS in liberal arts from Western Illinois University and her MEd in education from St. Mary of the Woods College in Indiana.

3 Pigs + 1 Wolf = Math Play

  “I think that wolf should go in this row, with the pigs,” protests five-year-old Harper.  “What? Why? He’s a wolf, not a pig!” insists Harrison. “And he’s not pink!” chimes in three-year-old Evelyn.  “The wolf will go with the pigs in this row for ‘Stories,’” explains Harper. “You know, like in that book, The […]

Obstacle Course Math

  “Go around the tree, through the tunnel, over the rocks, under the parachute and onto the swing. Then throw a beanbag through the hula hoop and run and touch the fence. The first person to do that WINS!” I listen as five-year-old Juan walks his eager friend through the steps of the obstacle course […]

What’s in YOUR Pocket? Collections in Early Childhood

  Do you have collectors in your midst? Those young children who can turn a five-minute walk into a 15-minute treasure hunt? The children who fill their pockets with treasures and then load up your pockets with the overflow?  I love these kids. They can wreak havoc with our daily schedules, but they help us […]

Playful Math

  “Can we play with those counting things today?” Two bubbly three-year-olds are standing in front of me with expectant smiles on their faces. I have absolutely no idea what they talking about—or what’s going on in those busy little brains, which I can almost hear whirring with activity. “What counting things are you looking […]

STEM Dolls for Character Play

We recently learned about Surprise Powerz STEM dolls, which can be used in early childhood settings to encourage young children—especially young girls—to engage in STEM play.   Research shows that preschool teachers often lack confidence in their ability to teach STEM topics—and some harbor gender-based assumptions about STEM learning. These attitudes and biases can be […]

The Magic Tree

  “Do you know about our Magic Tree?” four-year-old Rowan asks Alex. She pauses dramatically before passing on the secret of the beloved old tree that has long been a source of delight and inquiry for the children in our early learning program. “Watch, Alex!” she instructs. “I will push this stick into the tree, way […]

STEM Soup!

  “Who wants soup? I am making soup for lunch today!” Eleanor shouts to anyone willing to join her as she “cooks up” her concoction. Eleanor is our concoction wizard. She can often be found adding loose parts to a large pot of water, mixing away while she muses about the ingredients she needs to […]

Spring Dandelion Day STEM Adventures

Each spring, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of the growing season—from the greening carpet of grass to the buds bursting into blossom on the trees. We especially delight in the dandelions that can turn any grassy area into a STEM wonderland! Dandelions introduce so many math adventures into our early childhood program. The neighborhood park […]

Tapping into the Different Types of Intelligence

  I watch as two-year-old Thalhah works his way through a 60-piece puzzle. I’ve seen this child spend hours quietly working his way through puzzle after puzzle—which leads me to wonder if some children are just better at solving puzzles than others. Is puzzle-solving an innate skill? Or can any child become a puzzle master? […]