Beginning a Big Project: Listening

There are a lot of things that influence beginning a new project in a school that doesn't have it's curriculum written out beforehand. I'm thinking now about schools that try to have an image of children as capable of designing their own learning experiences, that embrace flexibility, giving time to go deep into an idea, and that try to hold a role for teachers as researchers and learners in their own right. People often ask how projects develop, because I think it's hard to imagine unless you have let go and tried it. There are lots of examples on this blog and others of projects from beginning to end. Projects tend to begin with provocations and discussions. Below you will find some interesting bits of conversation about listening that could lead to something...
4th grade
Xander "The future is unknown, so we can’t say that we’ll never be able to hear sounds as small as a cat or a snail can hear them. So in the future, if we can make something that can pick up soun…

Teacher-research intention

I've been thinking about the way work with materials can create a context for challenge and rigor within projects. On my best days I can think of provocations that activate cognitive conflict or critical thinking for children. It is one of the hardest things I do. I don't think I'm very good at showing this important aspect of an atelierista's job. This year I want to focus my teacher-research on becoming more consistent in planning and documenting the rigor and challenge this type of encounter with materials creates.

Cognitive dissonance is the uncomfortable feeling of encountering an idea that contradicts something you believe to be true. "Cognitive dissonance is a consequence of a person performing an action that contradicts personal beliefs, ideals, and values; and also occurs when (someone is) confronted with new information that contradicts said beliefs, ideals, and values." (wikipedia) Because we want to feel better and ease the mental discomfort of cog…

Umbrella Project 2017

The community at Sabot adopts a big idea every school year. Called the umbrella project, it's part of my job to shepherd it through. Teachers agree to set up encounters with the idea to provoke thinking and discussion. To start with, we spend time thinking about questions and provocations that will help children to shake hands with the idea and bring it into our community. This year’s idea is LISTENING. As social constructivists, we believe that learning is based on dialog and collaboration, and sharing each other's theories is the way we build new understandings. Listening is already part of our school life, but maybe we don't know it as well as we think we do.

My intention is to broaden my relationship with listening, to think about it in new ways. I'm wondering if I can get better at listening with empathy and without judgement. This seems especially urgent right now, here in the former capital of the confederacy, with our friends in Charlottesville just down the r…

Leaving Behind the Given: Searching for a room that isn't there anymore

CeeCee's parents came to school with a question she had been asking at home; Where is the Meadow room? Her (now first grade) brother was in the Meadow room when he was in preschool. But where did it go? CeeCee wanted to know because she is in the Rainbow room, and the Meadow room would be next. But if it's not there anymore, would there be a classroom for her? This is a really knotty problem. Where does something go when it's gone? The four walls that held the Meadow room still exist. Yet somehow the Meadow room isn't there. The problem encompasses time, because brothers and sisters used to be in the Meadow room, and children will be going somewhere next. The Meadow room is a permanent thing in our ideas about preschool, yet it has slipped out of the physical space. That is how we started looking for the Meadow room.

When Hermann Weyl wrote that, he was talking about asking questions in physics and mathematics that are beyond the 'given'. As near as I can under…

Magical Thinking and Alternative Facts

 The 3 and 4 year old children made up a game of 'powers' in which two children stand on a carpet square and then 'psh psh psh' their powers at each other. Other children sit to the side and often draw the action and cheer. After they had been playing this game for a while, we teachers began to wonder how to take the thinking further.

We came up with some questions; What color are your powers? What sound do they make? Could I borrow your powers? We encouraged each child to make a mask, cape and a pocket to hold their powers.

"Real animals don’t have any powers. Stories have powers. Yeah, in stories they have powers. Not any kind of real animals can’t do stuff. Can’t do stuff that powers can do, no. We play stuff but it’s not powers."
Anna Hart, you have powers, don’t you?
Hart "No. I have pretend powers. Just when I freeze stuff, and when it’s dark. It only comes out when I’m mad, or scared."

The back and forth between magical thinking and theory making …

Thinking About Martin Luther King

Last year about this time, Elaine and Lisa sent some (4/5 year old) children from the Rainbow room to the studio because they wanted to make a birthday song for Martin Luther King. Here is a little bit of their conversation as they made instruments to accompany the song:

Charlie "He (Martin) used to be a good-est person of all and he said
'It makes no fair that some children be in a bad school and somebody else’s children be in a good school. I want all my children to be in a fair place. Not a bad place'!"

Anna "What if you grow up and you make speeches into a microphone?'”

Kirsten "I would say ‘Everyone!, you should eat fruits and veggies, and not too much candy, and listen to what Martin Luther King says! No, people! Do not hate people! Love everybody, don’t hate anybody! It’s fair!, it’s fair!"

Sammy "And also ‘don’t kill anybody'!"

Kirsten "Don’t shoot them with a gun!"

Sammy "Don’t kill anybody with a gun!"

Kirsten …

Research in childhood

Research is Sabot school's umbrella project this year.  It's one of the 5 Rs that guides the school. This project will look differently in each group, influenced by the personality and interests of the children and teachers. Some things I am wondering about have to do with children's inborn ways of researching. Is there a methodology children use that I haven't noticed? We know what research in school typically looks like, but what is beyond that? What is behind and underneath? What is research like in its wild state- on the playground or in the forest? Does research ever wear a cape or twinkling crown?

Here are a few pictures that show what research is looking like in some classrooms that I am collaborating with..

"Cal: Right when you’re born is when you become a person. And a person is just one person, but a people is more than one person.
Annabelle: You’re always sort of a person
Kate: When we wer…