Showing posts from December, 2009

The Examined Life

Driving home from a visit to my Mom, I had the good fortune to hear the radio program 'On Point Radio', and a discussion of the documentary film "The Examined Life". The film is directed by Astra Taylor, and in it she brings philosophers out into the world, asking them questions and getting their thoughts on everyday sites and sounds in New York city. The host of the radio program, Tom Ashbrook, was asking the questions "Do you live the examined life? Do we need our philosophers to climb down with us, into the streets? Is it time for Philosophers to come out of the ivory tower and come outside and give their views in public?"
As I was driving and turning the radio from stations in Harrisonburg, VA to one from Charlottesville as the signal faded in and out, I was struck by those questions and what they mean for teachers who are influenced by the Reggio Emilia approach.

One of the things that most inspires me every day is living with philosophy, actually putti…

Do girls build differently?

Here you can see a group of girls in their classroom building with big blocks and these funny blue things we have that have the hook side of Velcro on each end.  The blocks represented a ship. there were 'bad guys' on the other side of the room. The blue things were water, then food and money (when they put them inside of a block). Did the points represent waves? It strikes me that within this group of girls, at least three (if not all five) of them have strength in spatial/mathematical thinking and interest in engineering -building, making gadgets and folded paper constructions.

In all the years I have observed children playing with these things, I have never seen them used in this way (with the pieces placed like points or arches). It seems to me that girls, in general, use three dimensional building materials differently from boys. It also seems that girls who come to master these materials often posses a unique aesthetic, and can lead the way to new discoveries for other c…

Place at the Pre-school

Our work on Place continues. The investigation of children's concept of place has taken different forms in different classrooms. For instance, in one of the Forest rooms, it seems that everything they do has to do with the children's growing knowledge of our place, the school.
I have been working with groups of children from the Meadow and Garden rooms to provoke thinking about place and memory, by asking "What will you want to remember about this place, after you have moved on?"

We have another school-wide intention that complements the investigation into the concept of Place, and that is to look more closely at how children use photography. Here are some examples of  the children's drawings of important places, and some of the photographs the children have taken of those places.

Inspiration from artists

A group from the Meadow room has been interested in horses all year. They have studied horses through drawing, stories and dramatic play. They became interested in what was inside of a horse, asking "what does it look like inside a Horses head?" This interest in Horse anatomy reminded the Meadow room teacher Nancy and I of Deborah Butterfield's horse sculptures, with their skeletons of sticks and metal scraps. We talked about taking the children's interest further with a provocation. Nancy brought in a book of Deborah Butterfield's  horse sculptures, and soon Sam and Lily came to the studio to make clay horses. The use of sticks with the clay made a much studier form. Often children's clay work (at least in my studio) has to be flat or very low (with short, stocky legs) in order to hold together. Use of sticks acted like a visible armature for the clay, making for a much more successful horse than I have often seen.

Moving children forward in their learning is…

"The rules I start with are not binding"

I have been mulling over this quote from artist Oliver Herring; "most people are much more unusual, complicated, eccentric, playful and creative than they have time to express."

The young children I teach show their unusual, complicated, eccentric, playful and creative sides as a matter of course. I enjoy the conversation around the studio table, which can range from an earnest explanation of tachyons, ("NOTHING. NOTHING is faster than a tachyon"), to how someone knows a real rocket, to talk about crying and whether its OK to cry when you don't win a race, to Zebras and if they can have different colored stripes or not.

Over the years I have noticed that people often exceed my expectations of them (expectations that grow out of my own stereotyped assumptions and attitudes). People are often more unusual, eccentric, creative and much, much funnier than I have time to notice. It is one of the things I love about my school community -I get to know the people over ti…