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.

Posts by Diann Gano, M.Ed.

Tool-Time Math

  “Miss Diann, I need a hammer! Look! Look! See? I need a hammer!” Three-year-old fix-it man Jonathan is pointing to a loose wagon screw that needs his immediate attention. We turn the wagon on its side to take a closer look at the wheel. Yes! We definitely have a loose screw. “You need a […]

If I Had a Hammer

  “I did it! Look! I did it! I hammered it all the way down!” shouts three-year-old Gabe with pride. This is our preschoolers’ first day of learning how to hammer nails into stumps. “Playing with dangerous tools” is one of the top six activities that children enjoy when engaging in “risky” play. Risky play […]

Snacking through the Math Standards

  Many parents and early childhood educators are turning to online learning as they shelter in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are many ways to meet your early math standards while engaging in everyday offline activities—if you know what to look for. Since we started out the month of April in the kitchen, […]

Take Time for Comfort Food

Welcome Math Friends! As I write this blog post, the entire state of Illinois is under “shelter in place” orders to minimize the spread of Covid-19. Thank you to our state leaders for doing what is necessary to keep us safe. Thank you to everyone who is out there performing essential duties—from the healthcare workers […]

The Weight of Things

“Look, I can pick up six blocks at once! It’s not even heavy!” It’s pickup time in the block center and now we have a challenge on our hands. I recognize that this has taken on a learning moment that we can’t rush but we can extend. Showing off our muscles and strength is another […]

Inch by Inch

We brought out the tape measurers this week. Ah, nothing like a tool in the hand of young friends to get the juices flowing and the neurons firing up! Playful math! Math that is done for no other purpose than the sheer joy and fun it brings. I don’t worry that they don’t understand the […]

Lessons from the Block Shelves

  Earlier this month, we talked about the math explosion that took place during our block play. I shared the delight of capturing a play buzz to knock out early learning standards through play. To my astonishment, our play buzz continued all the way through our pickup activities and, let me just say, that never […]

Get a “Play Buzz” Going with Block Play!

  One extremely cold morning, PLUS one extremely curious three-year-old EQUALED an unexpected explosion of mathematical concepts being explored in our classroom. Jamison started the movement with a small ramp and a single car. The fever caught on and soon we had ramps and obstacles being set up all over the room by Jamison and […]

Incorporating Math into Your Cold-Weather Routines

  It’s November and, here in Illinois, that means cooler temperatures and winter outerwear. Getting the children dressed for outdoor play is one more way that you can meet your math standards while engaging in everyday activities. Outdoor play in the winter months includes snow or rain pants, boots, coats, hats and mittens. Getting my […]

An Autumn Bounty of Math-Building Activities

  As the leaves begin to change colors and jackets and hats become a part of our days, our math play takes on a whole new dimension. Earlier in the year, we talked about all of the collecting that we do throughout our days here. These collections take on a new significance as we use […]

Invitation to Explore Shapes Through Clay

  A parent recently asked me if we had been working on shapes because her two-year-old was quite knowledgeable about the topic. I just smiled, because we work on shapes all day long, starting with breakfast. Would you like circles (Cheerios), squares (Chex) or hexagons (Crispix)? Math is embedded in many of your daily activities […]

Math Magic with Clay

  Two-year-old Elizabeth screams with delight, “I made a ball, I made a ball!”   Finding the math in a ball of clay Ah, it’s another magical moment with clay. Making shapes, discussing length, adding loose parts or subtracting pieces of clay to share with a friend. There is a whole lot of math in […]

Sing a Song of Sixpence

Whether you grew up with Schoolhouse Rock, Sesame Street, the Electric Company, Romper Room or Raffi, chances are good that you can still sing a counting song that you learned way back then. Ah, there are some really great songs from those days and many a Schoolhouse Rock version is being used to teach “skip counting” […]

The Joy and Importance of Nursery Rhymes

Where is Thumbkin? Where is Thumbkin? Here I am. Here I am. How are you today, sir? Very well, I thank you. Run away. Run away. Ah, kindergarten with Mrs.Smith. I assumed that all kindergarten teachers had a piano and worked on fingerplays and nursery rhymes with a group of children hiding Thumbkin behind their […]

Our World of Schema Play

Welcome back! A repeat visit to see me? Is this a schema? Haha, yes! Come visit me again and again and again. I hope that my last blog left you excited and intrigued about schemas. Let’s look at a few more schemas and share ideas about the ways that we can adapt our childcare environments […]

The Magic of Schemas

When two-year-old Harrison entered our family childcare program, his comfort zone included drains. He was fixated on drains and loved to watch the water swirl around and around until it disappeared down the drain. Harrison loved that drain…and toilets… and bathtubs, and …oh, rotation! Harrison loved all things that included rotation. Harrison was a rotation […]

Creating a Loose Parts Environment for Autumn and Winter Play

The term “loose parts” is all over the Internet and early childhood world these days, and for good reason. I have witnessed first hand how the learning changed when we brought in natural loose parts! Loose parts are so full of math opportunities and problem solving and vocabulary building opportunities. So, what exactly are loose […]

Inside, Outside, Upside Down- The Joy of a Hollow Log

“Look! Look! A log with a hole in it! Can we climb in it?” Our hike had come to a complete halt as the children gazed at the length of the hollowed out tree branch. This wonderful hollow log was just calling for investigation! Being the crazy math girl that I am I knew that […]

Delightful Dandelion Days

Every spring we look forward to the arrival of anything green, growing and grand! We especially delight with the beauty of dandelions; the lovely weeds those gardeners everywhere try to rid from their lawns! Dandelions bring a lot of math adventures to our program and this year succeeded beyond our expectations! Our neighborhood park is […]

Fairy House Families

After attending a math workshop (Do we want to admit this was a Math At Home training?), I received a container of what I would normally call, “Counting Bears.” I generally do not like these so called counting “manipulatives.” They tend to be bears, in primary colors and they are used for counting, sorting by […]

Blocks and Building

posted by Diann Gano I am block crazy. I love blocks, particularly wooden blocks. Block play is so important in the early years to help children understand important concepts in measurement, spatial reasoning, comparison, estimation, symmetry, and balance. It fosters creativity and reasoning skills. Our home runneth over with blocks and we very often take […]

Water, Worms and Measuring

posted by Diann Gano Have you ever seen a child with a tape measure? They are in all their glory! We have small tape measures that sometimes make it on our walks around the neighborhood. We like to measure seedpods, sticks, each other, our shadows, you name it. Did you find a worm? We are […]

The Five Senses of Math

posted by Diann Gano We spend a lot of time outdoors. Playing. That play involves math in such natural ways that it is easy to overlook how often math comes into our lives. Research has found that early math proficiency is a better predictor of future academic success, high school graduation and college attendance than […]

Setting the Stage for Outdoor Math Experiences

posted by Diann Gano As I look around me I see busy, happy children. Avery, Linnea and Anderson are busy seeing how high they can stack their rocks. Maya and Noa are near the sandbox creating a tea party for fairies, while Rowan and Parker are creating homes and meals for the squirrels over in […]