Showing posts from February, 2011

Vea Vecchi book

I am devoted to the ideas about teaching, research and education that have come out of the schools of Reggio Emilia. I am very aware that I teach in a different context than the one these ideas emerged out of. How could I not be, in a place where fried chicken, sweet tea and the civil war define the culture, rather than high fashion, reggiano-parmesano cheese and WWII? I am also well aware that I live in the land of the business model of education, the supremacy of standardized tests and a general view of children and teachers that is very top down and about control. 
The reason I hold R.E. ideas out as ideal is because of their integrity.  This work has the children at it's center. It seems that everything that is said and done by these educators represents the ideas and intentions of the children from who all of the observations and reflections stem. Here is a place where teachers are seen as capable of research and societal change through their practice. I have never seen any of…

Another nice gift

Somebody left this ring in a fancy box on my desk today.
I haven't figured out just who it was, but the mystery made
me smile. Thanks, secret friend!

Exploring and Mapping the Basement

The Meadow room children have been thinking about the basement, and the murals which are painted on the wall there. There is one, a picture of a big rabbit, that some people feel afraid of, while others just love making up magical stories about it .

Nolan "Are you brave enough, Oliver, to go to the black bunny, and touch him?"
Oliver "Yeah"
Nolan "Maybe we could go together."

The discussion of the bunny led to theories about how to trap it, and the idea of hanging other pictures nearby -maybe to keep it company, or maybe to keep an eye on it.

Nancy had worked with some of the children to make a model of the basement, to figure out which walls might be available to hang paintings on. This model wasn't quite right, because the children didn't have a clear picture of what the basement looks like. So, on Friday we took a trip down the stairs to work on a map of the basement.

Oliver video taped our tour, and then we went upstairs to draw the map. Refer…

I Admit It, Change Is Hard

Little gifts, left on my desk, like this one from Emerson, make me so happy. 

I've been coming to the realization that the change I've gone through (that all of us Sabot pre-school people have been going through) is bigger than I thought. My friends Sara and Robyn are smart. They said even before school started that this year would be really hard, but I still didn't expect it. I usually love change and am always ready for the next step, whatever it is. I also tend to be unaware of myself a little bit. By the time I notice that I'm really sick, and go to the Doctor, he usually tells me that whatever I had is just about gone. Maybe that explains why I haven't given myself credit for going through something really, really big.

After all, I went from working at a little pre-school, where it seemed like I was building something special with a small group of friends who knew each other's ways, to being folded into a much bigger organization. I went from listening to an…

The Benefits of Making a Plan

Annie came to the studio to make a car. She had made a few cars before out of small boxes, painted and covered in sparkles. She never seemed very satisfied with these cars, which were not very car-like. This time, I asked her to draw a plan, hoping she could form a clear idea of the car she would make before selecting any materials. Left on her own, she drew the shape above. It seemed to me she could benefit from slowing down and thinking more about how to make a car, so I scooted in and asked "I see this plan. Let's think about cars. What does a car have?"
She then drew the 4 larger circles above. "These are the wheels" She said. "O.k. What else does a car have?" "It has a body" she said, drawing the bell shape. I asked "how can you connect those wheels to the body of the car?" Annie thought about it for a minute, and then she drew new wheels under the car's body. Finally she noted that cars have windows, and added them to her dra…

Moving parts workshop

For the last week or so, children have been drilling and drilling in the studio. This nifty green Fiskars drill is easy for them to use by themselves. Drilling is attractive to children who often want to make cars, robots or other machines.

Kara brought a group in to work on thinking about 'moving parts', as a first step toward figuring out how to make robots, machines and vehicles. We looked at Yates' propeller, and the Rainbow roomers made them, too. After that, we were joined by children from other pre-school classrooms, Miles and a visiting Grad student from VCU. Everyone started working with wood making all kids of axles, propellers and bows and arrows.

New studio intern

I am so happy that Miles has decided to use his elective class time to work in the studio. I have known him since he was a baby. He was one of the most curious and tenacious children I have ever met. There wasn't a gadget, gizmo or appliance that he didn't turn over, turn on and off, and try to take apart.  Now, as a teenager, his  mechanical and design skills, combined with his kindness to the younger children are just what we need in the studio. Welcome, Miles!

A Combine, a Helicopter, and the Blooming of Skills

Recently, I have been noticing how a desire to represent something can lead the development of skills. Or, maybe the burgeoning development of fine motor skills leads children to find something they passionately want to represent. 
I'm not sure which it is, but I have seen Owen, MacGuire and Yates, children who never cared much for the studio, itching to get here to draw or make Starwars  stuff, farm equipment, maps or rockets. Sometimes it's like a switch turns on for children, and suddenly they are in the 'making' zone. When this happens, the sophistication of the representations increase exponentially in a short time.
When I was a kid my Mom was known as an amazing teacher, whose specialty was teaching "bad boys" to read. She could reach children who had written off school in favor of football, motorcycles, hunting, or street life.  It is from her that I learned that listening is the most important thing in helping children to learn and to love learning. She…

The Ways a Mind Can Work

Imagine the thought process that went with this interaction between a child and these materials. I don't think I would have ever thought to use tape in this way. I wonder at Acadia's idea --finding the straw, putting the little stick inside it, and then realizing that the hole punch would make a "lid" out of the tape which would fit perfectly over the end of the straw.                      

I am so glad I didn't make any assumptions or ask any questions that caused Acadia to doubt what she was doing, because what she was doing was wonderful.

Young children explore the studio

For these young children, a visit to the studio isn't about making things as much as it is about finding the opportunities inherent in the materials and tools. It is a treasure hunt.