A dynamic forum focused on the experience of childhood and the process of learning

Inspiring News and Events 
from the Reggio
-Inspired Network Of Minnesota

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  • 20 Aug 2020 1:54 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    At St. Paul School of Northern Lights, relationships are fundamental to our work. By developing respectful relationships, our teachers facilitate a deep sense of belonging amongst their class and the entire school community.

    Because children’s sense of connection derives from feeling welcomed and valued, much time is invested in establishing and nurturing safe and positive classroom environments, which contribute to meaningful learning.

    How might this deep sense of belonging be actively nurtured while students are learning from home?

    With schools closed, our school community needed to see the potential in learning from a distance and develop necessary skills and understandings. Our faculty researched different online platforms to find ones they felt would best reflect the values of our school, support our students staying in relationship with one another, and provide possibilities for children to think together. Just as teachers organize learning environments at school to invite interactions, connection and learning among children, we wanted similar possibilities for offsite learning.

    In addition to continued access to academic content, our teachers promoted connection by creating Distance Learning Bags. All SPSNL students received materials to enable them to participate in two community projects – The Bean Growing Project and The Loose Part Project.

    As with the Finnish Education System, our teachers were driven by the desire to “do whatever it would take” to provide authentic experiences. Continuing the values of SPSNL, teachers identified ample opportunities for play and exploration both indoors and out, and sought to incorporate time for student reflection both independently and with their peers.

    Since the launch of distance learning, our teachers have integrated elements from their existing practices that support the value of belonging. Every morning, video messages are posted that include rituals and routines to provide familiarity, connection and belonging, which is especially important during this challenging time. Students can see their teacher’s face, hear how classmates are being genuinely missed, and are warmly invited to explore the learning invitations for the day. 

    But how could opportunities be created for students to feel like they are thinking together, something that is deeply valued by our school?

    Teachers schedule Zoom calls with their students, sometimes as whole class experiences to listen to a read-a-loud or to introduce much loved pets to classmates. Sometimes video calls are set up for smaller group chats where students are able to think together about a particular project or how they are navigating distance learning. Flipgrid is serving as our school-wide community platform where students across classes can think together and hear others’ points of view.

    At SPSNL we also strive to build community through kindness. Even at a distance, students continue to leave birthday wishes, sing songs and create drawings for classmates on Seesaw. They record comments in response to something a peer may have posted. Some students have written letters to each other and to their teacher, sending them through the mail. Others have written poems about kindness. SPSNL children have also shown ways they are extending kindness to others beyond their class community, by putting messages and bears in their windows to warm the hearts of people passing by. Some children have created thank you cards and paper hearts for their parents, recognizing that even their parents appreciate support during this time. 

    In addition to nurturing the relationships between children and teachers, and among the children, our teachers continue to think about how to help parents feel supported and valued during this unprecedented time. As parents and teachers are experiencing distance learning for the first time, we seek ways to be active partners in this new endeavor. Together with each child’s family, our teachers are striving to create learning opportunities to support each child’s growth and well-being while learning from home. 

    As we hope this time of social distancing will soon pass and that those whom we know and love will remain safe and well, we are reminded of the significant value of being part of a caring community and the joy of being able to think together. Forming and nurturing relationships with others contributes to one’s sense of belonging. May we all look forward to being in the physical presence of one another again with renewed appreciation.

    - Kate Arbon

    Learn more about School of Northern Lights here: https://www.schoolofnorthernlights.org

  • 20 Feb 2020 3:02 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)



    Collage and Printmaking with Young Children Gathering

    by Emily Benz

    This January’s Collage and Printmaking with Young Children gathering was a hands-on textural feast in the art studio at The Blake School. Kim Lane, Blake’s lower school art teacher at the Hopkins Campus, led the group through a joyful exploration of collage and printmaking techniques for three hours. As an adult often busy with the responsibilities of life, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be a student in the studio for the morning and became so thoroughly immersed in the process, I could have happily gone on for a couple of hours more.

    We began the morning with tempera paint soaked in felt and simple tools; a textured wheel from a toy, ridged cardboard triangle, a wooden block with string tied around the middle were some examples, and we used these simple tools to create patterns on brightly colored sheets of paper. Some made simple and clean patterns, others made highly complex prints with layered colors. Colors and tools moved from table to table, and people did, too, when they felt moved to try another hue. The process was simple and the results were bright and surprising. I felt bathed in color and light as I saw our prints on the drying rack. It was easy to see how very young children could delight in this kind of printmaking

    Then it was time to cut out shapes to create printing plates. We used white card stock and cut it up and glued it onto cardboard plates to create our plates. Some were experts with the scissors and created intricate patterns inspired from nature, others made bold and abstract work with thicker pieces. I myself cut many different small lines and then let my image show itself to me as I played with the tactile lines on the cardboard. It turned out to be a stick house, inspired by the many similar structures my children built and played in at Dodge Nature Center and Blake.

    Kim then offered trays full of colorful piles of paper individually painted to use for collage. In her studio, children mix these complex colors and paint them onto paper first during one class period. Then, the next session, these same painted papers are offered for collage, giving the work a different depth. Again, scissors in hand, we quietly snipped the satisfyingly textured paper and ideas emerged both abstract and realistic as we lost ourselves in the process. After finishing our own collages, we took the time to see some of the Kindergarten collages in the hall; my favorite was an elaborate collage of an exploding ice cream shop, with many tiny red and orange pieces intricately arranged to fashion the explosion dramatically on black paper. Ms. Lane pointed out, pieces don’t even have to be cut to make collages like this, they can be torn instead.

    We ended the morning seeing some examples of cardboard collage puppet animals, (a lemur in a beret was a standout) and then creating our final print plates by drawing firmly into Styrofoam plates and then rolling them with black ink and pressing them into bright sheets of paper. The process was crisp and satisfying.

    I was struck again and again by the simple materials offered and the visually arresting results that came out of our guided exploration with them. As a parent at Blake of a fourth grader and a first grader, I’ve long admired the projects that my children bring home from Ms. Lane’s studio. But to be a student in the studio myself opened up a whole new appreciation for all of the subtle magic that happens for the children there. To go through that process as as adult, whether as a parent or an educator, is invaluable. It allows us to see the potential for making art with ordinary objects, to savor the gift of slowing down time, and to experience the knowledge through exploration of materials. The time and space and materials to make art – whether in a dedicated studio, a spot in a classroom or on a kitchen table – encourages quiet meditation, critical thinking, collaboration, and playfulness. And as Ms. Lane reminded us very importantly, we don’t need much in the way of materials to create these rich and empowering opportunities for the children in our care.



     

  • 27 Nov 2019 1:06 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)


    The beauty of presenting loose parts to young children is that they invite the child’s powers of destruction and construction in almost equal measure.

    In moving, joining, poking, sorting, naming, stacking, painting, and tinkering with loose parts, the child continually makes and ‘unmakes’ configurations. By adding, subtracting, pausing, persevering, evaluating, revising, concluding, and revisiting, the child increasingly and exponentially expands her/his powers of cognition and personal agency while simultaneously delighting in the fun of open-ended play.

    The surprise inherent to using loose parts in early childhood classrooms is tucked into every individual and collaborative venture: the gift of witnessing the unfolding of a perfectly unique offering.

    - Judy Hodder

  • 24 Sep 2019 2:30 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Wandering and Wondering: Connecting the Joy of Loose Parts To the Early Childhood Setting

    Featuring Carla Gull, nationally renowned speaker on the whys and hows of using "Loose Parts" with children of all ages to support creativity and inquiry.

    • How can we respond to children's interests and needs by offering them open-ended materials?
    • How can we use "loose parts" to make our classroom environments enticing, stimulating and appropriately challenging for children?
    • How can we support children's inventiveness through our intentional, thoughtful presence and planning?

    8:00 AM - Registration
    8:30 - Welcome and introductions
    9:00 - Keynote Speaker, Carla Gull
    10:45 - Break-Out Sessions: Choice of smaller group workshops including:

    • Using loose parts outdoors in nature
    • Materials in the classroom: A conversation on getting started
    • Rethinking Nicholson’s 10 Principles

    12:00 - Lunch and networking; Book vendors: Red Leaf Press, Oleanna Books and Debra Fish Library1:00 PM - Group Reflection, Door Prizes and closing

    Location:
    Benilde-St. Margaret’s School
    2501 Highway 100 S.
    St. Louis Park, MN 55416

    Register Online by Monday, September 30, 2019
    Cost includes lunch and CEU’s

  • 08 Jul 2019 9:14 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    By Tam Weiss Rhodes and Heidi Wolf

    Marvel: ​to become filled with surprise, wonder, or amazed curiosity, to feel astonishment or perplexity at or about, intense surprise or interest

    I. Learning in context

    The Exhibit:
    The “Wonder of Learning” exhibit brought a multi-media display to the Madison, Wisconsin Public Library sharing the work of educators and children from Reggio Emilia, Italy with educators, parents and child advocates. The Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota coordinated a study visit to the Exhibit April 12 – 13, 2019. An event on Friday evening framed our experience and helped us start thinking of moments in our lives with children that were moments of wonder. In small groups, we shared a photo or described a moment when we witnessed a moment of wonder in learning.

    Through the exhibit we were offered a deeper look at potential ways teachers can implement and support child-centered learning, and teachers and children can co-construct knowledge around projects.

    Heidi:​ ​Many of the exhibit panels had sentences or paragraphs that I had to read and reread and even write them down to ponder later. One that stood out was:

    “Environments can multiply these marvelings – singling out certain phenomena and ‘amplifying’ them, making them more spectacular.”

    Tam:​ The exhibit triggered reflections and questions on our interactions with children, heightened our awareness of patterns of adult thinking that can hinder us from seeing children and gave guideposts, generated ideas and posed new questions.

    • Where are my “aha” moments, and why?
    • What happens when I see this learning in the children around me? How do I respond now and what can I change?
    • How can I bring about this change?

    Heidi: ​Since seeing the “Wonder of Learning” exhibit, I am making a renewed effort to REALLY observe the youngest in my classroom, to set up the environment with simple materials that engage children and to slow down and let them take in the magic and be in the moment with them.

    I am still learning to observe the toddlers in my care and join in their delight and surprise, and to remember what magic each of these experiences might be for them.

    II. The photograph

    We are standing together at the “Wonder of Learning” exhibit; independently stopping in silence for a long time in front of one particular panel.

    Tam: ​I turn to Heidi and launch into an exchange that seems to continue a conversation begun the night before, during the Network welcome, to launch our work. We are looking together at an image in which children are walking, there are vines tangling their feet, and the teacher appears to realize that something magical is happening.

    What grabs my attention is this moment here. Much of the other work is beautiful, but it seems familiar to me because it is situated within the context of the school and classroom. (I point to the photograph.) But here - here’s what I can’t stop thinking about.

    Heidi: ​I was struck with how closely the teachers watched the children for evidence of learning, especially reading body language since these children are just beginning talkers. This reminded me how important observation is, especially with the youngest learners.

    Tam: ​As an adult, attuning to the emotional lives of children distorts time. I have to slow down to value the child’s frustration simply feeling a vine tangling tiny feet – feet that have just mastered walking. At the same time, I have to speed up to act quickly enough to snap the mental image (or photograph), listen to the child, envision the possible trajectories of this learning opportunity, and ensure the child is safely able to negotiate space once more.

    And so, I’m here. I get stopped right here.

    Heidi: ​When I was looking at the panel and that photo of feet, entangled in a vine, I too get stuck, but in a way that makes me speculate how often I miss moments of opportunity with children when I rush them along, especially the toddlers, in my effort to keep up with the group of older children in our multi-aged classroom. How often have I robbed the toddlers in the group of a moment of wonder or missed a chance to notice a discovery? I stop myself here, asking, how can I remember to SLOW down, and join the moment of discovery and to see it?

    It occurs to me that as adults, as we gain knowledge in life, the routine of daily life becomes mundane. I wonder if we have lost touch with the feeling of what it is like to marvel. Maybe it’s a version of childhood amnesia. With children, especially toddlers, everything is new, everything is magical – a true MARVEL. I think adults forget that the joy and struggle of discovery is more important than the final skill acquired.

     

  • 20 Jun 2019 8:11 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    by Eileen Galvin, Friends School of Minnesota Communications Director

    This March, Marshall Anderson, Kindergarten teacher; Laura Pereira, Art Specialist; and Karen Salter, Music Specialist presented at a RINM Saturday Gathering.

    Their presentation titled Creativity, Collaboration, and The Arts explored how their collaboration deepens their children’s learning, and how their collaboration deepens and energizes their practice as teachers. 

    • What language embodies the spirit of collaboration?
    • What does collaboration feel, sound and look like in your setting?

    "We know from research that the brain’s weakest function is the retention of isolated bits of data. Its strongest function is the retention of pattern, narrative, story and system. The brain is a patterning organ, and it thrives on making connections." 

    – Parker Palmer

    The Arts and Insects 

    Each year, Laura collaborates with teachers from first and second grade to focus on the natural world, and on insects in particular. Through collaboration, this project evolves each year depending on the children’s responses. 

    The children explore insects from many different perspectives and using multiple media: 

    • observing insects outside 
    • looking at pinned insects in a science lab 
    • writing about how they have interacted with insects in their lives 
    • painting watercolors of insects 
    • making 3-D insects out of found materials
    • sharing their knowledge with their older buddy 

    The children reflect on these questions: 
    • “What do artists and scientists have in common?”
    • “How can viewing an object from the perspective of an artist help scientific understanding?” 


    “Artists and scientists both observe, experiment, and discover things,”
    Lola, 1st grade

    “What did you discover? How can you use these discoveries in your paintings?”
    • “What parts exist on real insects?”
    • “Can you create an imaginary insect that uses real insect parts?”
    • “How can you use found materials to imitate nature?”


    Children make deeper meaning when they examine a subject from many different perspectives, in many different ways. The arts provide space for deeper thought, creativity and engagement throughout a curriculum. 

    “The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences. We must widen the range of topics and goals, the types of situations we offer and their degree of structure, the kinds and combinations of resources and materials, and the possible interactions with things, peers, and adults.”

     – Loris Malaguzi


  • 10 May 2019 9:18 AM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Join the Reggio Inspired Network of Minnesota this evening, at Dodge Nature Preschool, at 6:30 pm, to celebrate the year with wine and conversation, and to learn more about our exploration of The Wonder of Learning exhibit in Madison, Wisconsin. It's free!




  • 30 Jan 2019 3:11 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Teaching: A Delicate Balancing Act
    Sandra Burwell

    As teachers working with children, how do we decide when and how to offer support that honors the power of children’s own discovery and learning? My journey with the Reggio Approach is changing the value I place on the children’s own process of learning. I don’t want my perceptions, viewpoint or knowledge to interrupt the children’s thinking. Despite additional intellectual insight from my Montessori study of the child’s competence in self-direction, I am still tempted to “instruct.”

    I have always enjoyed exploring a new topic with children. If I know nothing or very little about it, then I am sure we will learn together, as happened when children began exploring “sewers.” From the very first day, it was evident that this had the makings of a long-term exploration and deep investigation.

    How many times have you walked past the metal grill in the street next to the curb? Did you stop when you heard water rushing through? Did you look down, even get on your knees to look further? I have not. Neither had the teachers with whom I was working. But a group of children in their class were engrossed and delighted!

    At the newly formed South Metro Documentation Lab, our group collaborated on this exploration of sewers, sharing photos, conversations and drawings. During our discussion, we recognized how very little we knew about sewers. Our follow-up research made our lack of knowledge obvious. It is humbling to think that because the children were calling them “sewers” we did too. We realized these were not sewers, but storm drains. We made a plan to offer pictures of different views and types of what the children had seen, to discover more about the children’s knowledge.

    “In order to meet students where they are… you have to know the individual and collective zone of proximal development (ZPD) of your learners. ‘The ZPD is the distance between what children can do by themselves and the next learning that they can be helped to achieve with competent assistance.'"

    -Eileen Raymond

    We did not share graphs showing both sewers and rain run-off drains with the children, but saved them for possible use later. We discussed how we did not want to influence or discount the knowledge they were formulating, nor should we introduce our research and terminology until they were further on in their investigation.

    We continued to observe, listen and think. One particular incident gave us a clue.

    There was a depression near the drain that would fill up during periods of heavy rain and allow the water to seep slowly into the ground. The children talked about this phenomenon:

    Al: We have two sewers in back. We heard water. I keep hearing water going.

    An: There’s water underground in the dirt. It’s brown under there. It goes under the train. Now there’s leaves, not water. Garbage gets stuck and mixed up like a tornado. Sometimes there’s water by the railroad tracks and we can hear it coming down.

    We realized that the children had made the connection between the drains and the water run off in the lowlands and something “under” the train tracks.

    We offered materials: loose parts of tubes, small grates, boxes and fabric so the children could express

    and develop their ideas by building different versions of “sewers.”  They drew map-diagrams and built constructions with blocks and other loose parts.  Increasingly, their focus was on what was underground, what they could NOT see.

    After the teachers thought the children had advanced their work and thinking, we introduced a detailed and uniquely formatted book about all that goes on underground.The Street Beneath My Feetby Yuval Zommer seemed to us to be a resource that could further the children’s knowledge. They became more interested in possibilities other than just rain run-off.

    We gathered the four most interested children to the art studio where we offered tubes, cardboard and other loose parts. We invited the children to represent their concept of what happens underground. There were several discussions and disagreements. At one point the children divided themselves into two groups and created an ‘’upper sewer” and “lower sewer.” Several times when they got stuck, they referred back to the map diagram that A. had drawn, paying special attention to clean water and dirty water and how it is kept separate.

    When considering the teachers’ thinking and choices, one can see these are very new steps in our journey. We see a lot we could have done differently, but we are gratifiedin our realization that we were all learning together step by step. The children’s exploration continues.

    “Observe and listen to children because when they ask ‘why?’ they are not simply asking for the answer from you. They are requesting the courage to find a collection of possible answers. This attitude of the child means that the child is a real researcher . . . Yet it is possible to destroy this attitude of the child with our quick answers and our certainty. How can we support and sustain this attitude of children to construct explanations?”

    -Carlina Rinaldi

    References

    Raymond, Eileen as cited in “6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use With Your Students” Rebecca Alber, TEACHER LEADERSHIP at edutopia.org 1/24/2014

    Rinaldi, Carlina, “Relationship Between Documentation and Assessment” INNOVATIONS Vol. 11, No. 1, Winter 2004

    Zommer, Yuval, The Street Beneath My Feet QED Publishing 2017

  • 17 Jan 2019 7:59 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Reggio-Inspired Network of MN

    Trip to Madison, WI to see 

    “The Wonder of Learning” Exhibit from Reggio Emilia, Italy

    Friday, April 12 - Sunday, April 14, 2019

    Join area colleagues for this unique travel opportunity that includes:

    • the “Wonder of Learning” Exhibit
    • a visit to the Pre-School of the Arts, a Reggio-inspired school in Madison
    • time with colleagues to reflect 

    The “Wonder of Learning” Exhibit will be housed primarily in the Central Madison Library and at the Overture Center, right across the street from the library.  http://wonderoflearningwisconsin.org/

    Register for the Trip

    Click here to register for any part of the trip

    Transportation

    Transportation to Madison is on your own. The Network will gather and share information from participants to help with arranging carpools. 

    Where You Can Stay 

    The Reggio-Inspired Network has reserved a block of 15 Standard Double Queen rooms at the Hampton Inn. 

    Address: 440 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI  53703.

    Phone: 608-255-0360.

    Cost: $169 a night for Friday 4/12 and Saturday 4/13 and includes breakfast.

    How to book the rooms: The rooms will be held until 3/15/19,  then released for public sale. You can book rooms for one night or both nights by phoning the Hampton Inn directly, or book online:  

    https://hamptoninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/wisconsin/hampton-inn-and-suites-madison-downtown-MSNBJHX/index.html

    Friday, April 12 1pm--4pm

    Preschool of the Arts, Madison, Tour and Workshop 

    “The Role of Art and Music Studios in Reggio-Inspired Practice”

    Preschool of the Arts, a Reggio-inspired early childhood program in Madison, Wisconsin, serves more than 200 children and employs a team of full-time art and music specialists.

    Come learn about how these teaching artists and musicians collaborate with the classroom teachers to create vibrant, responsive, child-centered studio experiences. In this workshop, we will explore the Reggio Emilia concept of “the hundred languages of children” through conversation, demonstration, participation, and reflection. 

    Address: 11 Science Court, Madison, WI 53711

    Cost: $35.  Advance registration required (Note: we need to have at least 10 people register to hold this workshop).  See registration above.

    https://preschoolofthearts.com/

    Friday, April 12--Late Afternoon

    The “Wonder of Learning” Exhibit is open until 6pm at the Central Madison Library and at the Overture Center, right across the street from the library if you want to see it on Friday. 201 Mifflin St. Madison, WI 53703

    Dinner on your own. We will provide restaurant suggestions

    Friday, April 12--7:30 – 9 PM

    Reception and Orientation to the Exhibit: “Setting the Stage” in the Hampton Inn meeting room. 

    Wine and cheese reception to informally meet with others from the Network who will be touring the Exhibit. Prepare to visit the Exhibit and explore introductory questions together.

    Address: 440 W. Johnson St., Madison, WI  53703. 

    Phone: 608-255-0360 

    Cost: There is no cost for this event. 

    Saturday, April 13--9am to Noon

    Self-guided visit to the “Wonder of Learning” Exhibit 

    We will spend the whole morning experiencing the Exhibit at our own pace, viewing, listening, reading, thinking, conversing and interacting about “The Wonder of Learning.” 

    Cost: There is no cost for this event. 

    Lunch is on your own. We will suggest places to eat within walking distance; we can have lunch together in small groups for further conversation.

    Saturday, April 13--1:30 to 4pm

    Post-Visit Discussion – Meet in the Program Room at the Central Madison Library. We’ll gather to think and talk together about what we’ve experienced.  

    Cost: There is no cost for this event. 

    Sunday, April 14 

    The exhibit is open 1 to 5pm. You are welcome to explore on your own or in self-forming groups.

  • 27 Sep 2018 10:30 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)


    By Barb Murphy

     Over the course of the last year, the Network has spent considerable time engaging with early childhood professionals, parents, and community members-at-large exploring how our childhood experiences shape our values and worldview as adults, and influence the way we view and work with children.  In particular, we asked participants to reflect on questions about where they had grown up; the sights, sounds, and other visceral qualities they remembered from important “places” from their childhood.  How did these “spaces” of our childhoods, in which we existed, and our experiences within those spaces, impact the construction of our adult identities?  How did our own childhood contexts shape our expectations for the current generation of children? We were invited to create a tangible response using a variety of media and materials, which amplified the effect of these exercises and reflections and created a vehicle for sharing our memories with others.

    As a board member, I have had the opportunity to participate in this exercise several times. My initial response, which echoed the responses of almost all participants, were memories of being outside, being able to make choices about what to do, and having connections to trustworthy adults and peers. The predominant themes were of unstructured time vs. structured time; adult-centric constraints vs. personal freedom; in-school time vs. out-of-school time; positive social connections with peers vs. negative; and adults who “saw” children and valued them vs. adults who didn’t pay attention.  As I pondered the important places of my childhood for a third time at our January gathering, I tried to go beyond the happy, cherished memories of time spent in my favorite tree reading a book, playing “horses” in the field behind our house with a group of neighborhood children, packing a bag lunch and heading to the small neighborhood “woods” with my best friends to go exploring and have a picnic, etc., all memories that make me smile and feel a warm, nostalgic glow of “happy.”  These times of freedom to play outside after school and in the summer helped to shape who I am as an adult and an early childhood professional who values relationship-based teaching, play and time spent in nature for all children. However, I was struck by the overall lack of memories and responses from the group that identified adverse or negative experiences. Surely, it is not only our happy childhood experiences that influence our worldview, our values and help to shape us in positive ways.   I have always “known” that those eight years in Catholic school were the catalyst for my desire to find a “better way” to educate children than I had personally experienced. Not only were most of my classes overcrowded, with 50 – 60 children and one nun to keep order and see that we were “learning” by diligently taking us through our workbooks, but also the primary behavior guidance methods were smacking hands with pointers, standing children in the corner, and berating children who struggled to read or finish their workbooks problems. We sat at our desks all day; our only respite from workbooks and worksheets or tests was group instruction and oral recitation. 

    As I thought about these things I felt a clear sense of urgency to craft my response with a focus on my elementary in-school experience. Those eight years of elementary school were extremely adult constrained with little to no recognition of individual children within the class or adult concern or caring for children as individuals. There were no opportunities to play or think creatively. The spaces of my classrooms were all identically dull and uninspiring.  

    As I chose the materials to represent my thoughts, I began to construct a 3-dimensional portrayal of the restriction and monotony that filled our days; the uneasiness that we felt at the lack of compassion for children with any type of exceptionality; and the pent-up angst that we kept under control until the bell rang. 


    As disturbing as this “childhood experience” may seem, it was clearly the foundation and catalyst for my lifelong passion to work with children. I saw how the school operated, doing harm to individuals by demeaning them and controlling signs of individuality and sparks of creativity. I know that this experience shaped my worldview and my values regarding children, parents and teachers as equal partners in the educational dialogue. It fueled my passion for playful learning and immersion in creative pursuits. It inspired me to carefully get to know the children in my care and “see” who they are. I want to know them, honor and respect them, and help them become their best selves. I want to assist parents to do the same. 

    In the weeks following this gathering, I kept my piece of responsive art on the table in my Director’s office at our school. As parents, teachers and children came in to the office, their responses upon seeing the piece were immediate and enthusiastic. I was asked repeatedly to explain what it was; who made it; what did it represent? The children wanted the detailed story behind the mad faces. They knew it was a story that was not happy. But I could share myhappy ending. The parents’ responses were unexpectedly emotional. Several teared-up and thanked me for being here to make a difference for their children and for all children.  Their response to my depiction of my early school years was remarkable. I could clearly see and appreciate the power of sharing our stories to bring about a feeling of connection and the possibility of opening up to new viewpoints. There is impetus to share the story of The Geography of Childhood Projectwith our families and reflect together on our shared values for our children. When we truly listen to one another’s stories, we can become aware of how similar we all are, no matter where or how we spent our childhood years.  And this can bring about positive change on many levels.

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Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota is a 501(c)3 non-profit located at 525 Pelham Blvd. N., Saint Paul, MN 55104 

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