Monday, September 15, 2014

The Way We Spend Our Days

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

Annie Dillard

This quote holds such wisdom. Time may be the most valuable commodity that we have in our lives.  There are obligations and expectations that demand our time. We prioritize and  remain anchored to our vision for our family and life but often drift off course and find ourselves committed to things we do not value. 

The way we spend our days in our classrooms shapes the habits of learning and engagement in our Kindergarten community.  How do the children respond to the provocations, experiences and rhythm of the day?  We  protect large spaces of time and limit transitions so the children may dive deep into their imagination and connect to others. Managing our time in the classroom conjures the image of piecing together an intricate puzzle. 

In early September, the children are acclimating to the flow of the day. What comes next? When do we eat? When do I see my mom? Their  bodies are also adjusting to the schedule, The routine of the day reveals the priorities of our classroom ...time to play, time to sketch, time to build, time to read and be read to, time to count and time to collaborate or play in the forest. 

The work of each day presents challenges and  opportunities for inquiry. We observe children communicating ideas with clarity, creating and innovating, applying their understanding to the obstacles they face and striving to do their best. As we catch them in the act we name what we see them doing and encourage them to notice these behaviors in their community members. As teachers we consider what provocations might best develop these propensities. 

Listening to others as we sketch the sights of a city provided an experience with flexibility of thought. As we tour our school, we realized that we were a part of a larger community and felt empowered by the energy. 

How we spend our days listening to others and existing in community is of course how we spend our lives listening and existing in community.

Acquiring and practicing languages of expression has supported children to  bridge gaps in their understandings and  share their thinking with their community. The children capture their stories and thoughts in collage, drawing, and building (and many more).

As we immerse ourselves in these languages we become more proficient. 

How we spend our days expressing and communicating, is of course, how we spend our lives expressing and communicating.

The children are deeply engaged when the environment and experiences are open and yet layered with sophistication. Games appeal to children because they are fun, social and offer opportunities to think strategically. The children persevere and working through conflict to continue the momentum of the game. 

How we spend our days persevering and collaborating is how we spend our lives persevering and collaborating.

How we spend our days connecting to others is of course how we spend our lives connecting to others. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Our Richmond: The 2014-2015 Umbrella Project

What is an Umbrella Project?

Each year our school selects a cross grade exploration of a single idea that spans a year.   The Umbrella Project offers  inquiry for all students preschool to middle school age. Grades, groups, and individuals develop their own journey researching and investigating the project but are supported by the faculty and studio teacher.
This year our school is venturing into the city of Richmond. The 2014-2015 Umbrella project entitled Our Richmond will bring Sabot at Stony Point students into the city and ask them to observe and document their experiences.

 The children will begin to see themselves as citizens and community members of their city. What do they perceive as their responsibility to the city? What parts of the experience will ignite their interest and imagination? How will they develop a voice so that their ideas and thoughts are expressed, heard and considered. 

Our Richmond is a long-term documentary research and design project in which children use photography, writing and graphic design to learn about and become advocates for their  community. 
Where to begin such a venture? 

Anna shared a story. In the story, a young student was asked to describe the place where he lived. He drew a map of his home, a nearby park, the location of his violin lessons and his favorite pizza joint. Our Kindergarten was intrigued. 

The children began to create a map beginning with what they know and in a context that had meaning.  Many of us joined Anna in the studio (others followed the next day).

Just a small sampling of the maps of the places that have meaning to the children.

These are angry birds. This one has a helmet on. They are following the marble run. This is my house and my preschool and my Dad words next door in the tall building. I park my car in the parking ramp.

This is my garden with my purple flowers. These are the stairs to my garden. This is my big red house with red bricks. This is the big pool. This is the deep end and this is not the deep end. Those are the stairs into the pool. This is the hot tub.

This is Papa Johns. This is my grandparents. We are getting some pizza. My dad is watching tv and my brothers are sitting around. I am playing. My mom is doing laundry.


Building contagion in Project Circle
The next day we shared the maps that were created by the students during our project circle. The children asked many questions of the young cartographers. There was contagion and so many children elected to create another map.

A problem begins to bubble.

Evan, Miles, Nathan and Reed left the circle with the intention of making one collaborative map of New York City. They began to add a marble run, a Yapple soft serve yogurt shop, a large sign for the city name, a sunset, people with babies and a robot dispensing money. Nathan felt strongly that he had never seen robots on the streets of NYC. Reed shared that his mom had seen these robots. 

Nathan: This map needs to be true. We can't just add anything to this map.

Miles: Yapples are everywhere. There is probably one in New York City. 

Ethan: It is true that there is a moon and a sun in New York City.

Reed began to sketch a picture of a train and declared that this signified the landmark Grand Central Station. 

Nathan (with a relieved look) That is definitely in New York City.

When creating a map can we only include the landmarks, people, foliage, animals and birds that exist and live in the area?

As teachers we eagerly listen for questions like this. These questions generate disequilibrium...a precursor to learning.

We will bring this question to circle and consider the thoughts of our community members.