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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  • 22 Oct 2020 2:44 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)


    Reflections on Retirement: "Nostalgia for the Future"

    by Patti Loftus

    "gestures and dialogues of peace are still possible"

    As friends and colleagues gear up for a new school year, the shape of which, because of Covid, is still being determined, I am happily unhinged from the contingency planning and restructuring. Since the end of May, when my final eight weeks of distant teaching ended and my retirement commenced, my brainspace has been entirely taken up with how to live in response to the death of George Floyd (and many others) and the seismic opportunity for awareness and change that seems to have emerged.

    Although the following piece by Loris Malaguzzi to parents and children in Reggio Emilia is over 25 years old, it’s remarkably relevant this summer of 2020.

    "To the parents and children of the infant-toddler centres and preschools.

    It has been a difficult summer for the world, for Europe, for Italy. Because of wars, sometimes invisible and often "forgotten", because of terrorist attacks, because of earthquakes – "attacks" by nature of enormous proportions – tragedies added to tragedies. In our Countries we are witnessing a human exodus. The rights of many are betrayed... starting with children... starting with the right to life and to safety.

    Those who work and live with children have a duty to renew hope in their daily action: a message of trust we must embed within us, educators and parents, in order for changes to be generated. In fact, we would like to hope, believe and communicate to the children that gestures of dialogue and peace are still possible, always possible, and that these are the foundation of human relations.

    Education to respect for a life and ideas different from one's own, the determination and capacity to dialogue with differences, compassion, and solidarity, are the conditions for a stable peace, capable of halting appalling "holocausts" and giving voice to human reason again.

    At the start of this new school year, what we ask of each one of us, we who are parents, educators and citizens in educational institutions, is a daily commitment to reaffirming the right of every person and every society to life and to a future, to education, to safety, to beauty, to play and to relations; continuing "to give a human and civilized meaning to existence... to feel nostalgia for the future, and for humankind".

    (Loris Malaguzzi). Infant-Toddler Centres and Preschool of the Municipality of Reggio Emilia - Reggio Children - Reggio Children Foundation" found at Sightines-Initiative.com – “Change is Everyday”

    We in the U.S. are in similarly troubled times this summer with the losses and uncertainties that Covid-19 has brought and we are in a time of social earthquakes with renewed calls that “Black Lives Matter,” that racism be named and rooted out. Will this moment of heightened awareness move a critical mass of us to new ways of living so that next generations will no longer replay the same injustices that are still deeply established?

    I believe that educators and parents have the potential of leading the way. Malaguzzi wrote that “gestures of peace and dialogue are still possible”​ ​and calls them the​ ​“foundation of human relations.”​ ​He named educators and parents as having a duty to​ ​“renew hope.”

    So what are “gestures of peace and dialogue?”

    Here is one example.... In our Pre-K classroom, we engaged 4 and 5-year olds in conversations about fairness, skin color, who makes the rules and the big idea that “everyone counts.” I am convinced that if we begin when children are young, we can teach them to “dialogue with differences.” In the book, Nurture Shock, in the chapter titled, “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race,” deeply held but false assumptions about young children are described – that children are color blind and that it’s better not to talk about race but, instead, simply expose children to diverse environments. Both of these have been found to be myths.

    “The same way we remind our daughters, ‘Mommies can be doctors just like daddies,’ we ought to be telling all children that doctors can be any skin color. It’s not complicated what to say, it’s only a matter of how often we reinforce it...Explicitness works.”

    Pre-K teachers at Blake let parents know in advance that, as part of our social studies curriculum, we would be talking with the children about differences and similarities, fairness, inclusion (“welcome” in Pre-K terms) and that no one is inherently better or worse than another because of their skin color. Each year the teachers drew from a lengthy list of book titles and selected those that best led to conversations. We believed it was as important for the white children to engage in conversations about skin color, fairness and civil rights as it was for the children of color. Each year’s work varied and unfolded in ways unique to that particular group and in dialogue with the parents. We shared conversations with the parents in our daily journals, encouraged them to look at the books we read to their children and provided additional titles for parents, particularly those who identified as white, to expand and deepen their knowledge about identity development and U.S. history.

    Malaguzzi’s hope (and mine) for children’s “right to life and to safety” and the “capacity to dialogue with differences” will require of teachers (and parents) the determination to be and remain open and curious, to learn more about the difficult racial history of the U.S. (that we adults did not learn in school,) to introduce books, experiences and conversations into classrooms and homes so that children can grow up to be comfortable talking about differences, race, fairness and inclusion. Malaguzzi described a ​“nostalgia for the future,”​ a yearning for a world better than today’s, which holds the possibility of ​“reaffirming the right of every person and every society to life and to a future, to education, to safety, to beauty, to play and to relations.” ​With a renewed focus on justice and change building in our country, I feel hopeful that a better world is indeed possible for all, if teachers, parents, and children make a priority of having these vital conversations together.



    Books for Children, including books about “change makers”

    One​ by Kathryn Otoshi

    We Are All Alike We Are All Different​ by Cheltenham Elementary School

    Kindergarten

    The Colors of Us​ by Karen Katz

    All The Colors We Are​ by Katie Kissinger

    Skin Again​ by bell hooks and Chris Raschka

    Whoosh​ by Chris Barton

    Mae Among The Stars​ by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington

    Ron’s Big Mission​ by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden Wilma

    Unlimited​ by Kathleen Krull and David Diaz

    Queen of the Track​ by Heather Lang

    Dolores Huerta​ by Sarah Warren

    A Splash of Red​ by Jen Bryant

    Wonder Horse​ by Emily Arnold McCully

    My Brother Martin​ by Christine King Farris

    Back of the Bus​ by Aaron Reynolds and Floyd Cooper

    Fly Bessie Fly​ by Lynn Joseph and Yvonne Buchanan

    Ruby Bridges​ by Ruby Bridges and Grace Maccarone

    In The Garden​ with Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby and Nicole Tadgell


    Resources for Adults

    Waking Up​ White Debby Irving

    White Fragility​ by Robin D’Angelo

    Stamped From The Beginning​ by Ibram X. Kendi

    Note: May, 2020 marked the end of Patti's 36-year career in early childhood education - 28 years as a Pre-K teacher at Blake School in the Twin Cities area and eight as a Montessori and ECFE teacher. Patti’s status is “retired” but she is available (at no charge) to share resources and ideas with anyone interested.​pattiroseloftus@gmail.com

  • 24 Sep 2020 2:52 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    The changes that have come with the Corona virus have disrupted everyone’s lives, relationships, routines and expectations. President of Reggio Children, Claudia Guidici said (regarding COVID), “This completely unknown and unforeseen situation obliges us to rethink our daily way of life, our work and our relations, our way of seeing others and everything that surrounds us.” Uneasiness increases when we add inequality and civic unrest.The structure of care and education for the coming year is uncertain, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

    While there is a plethora of sources for parents and teachers to access to support relationships and learning for both children and adults, we have been moved by the civic generosity of Reggio Children in making their current work freely available and translated into English. There are several kinds of offerings. 

    The first, via Reggio Children, offers a collection of small proposals “to develop ideas and initiatives, for us to stay together, play together, and make school together.” The accessible provocations are loosely organized: stories, sounds, drawing, number, digital, etc. 

    https://www.reggiochildren.it/en/athomewiththereggioapproach/

    For many years we have wanted to better understand the work of the teachers in Reggio. While inspirations from Reggio Emilia are not intended to be copied, educators from Reggio Emilia are regularly making distance learning experiences visible, which serve as powerful examples. The Reggio Children – Loris Malaguzzi Centre Foundation (Fondazione Reggio Children Centro Loris Malaguzzi) promotes the Reggio Approach around the world.

    "These are proposals that, despite the difficulty of not being able to attend school, going out, meeting friends or playing outdoors, allow children to investigate, think from different points of view, graphically represent, explore with the imagination to support their curiosity and desire to know."   

    These online documents give us a glimpse into teachers’ thinking and planning which deepen experience, not only in the context of the digital environment. They provide intriguing starting points for distance learning.



    https://reggiochildrenfoundation.org/onlineactivities/?lang=en

    Please regard these online provocations as a framework and consider how they might affect your planning. The breadth, depth and accessibility in the workshop design are remarkable. 

    Reggio Children is also offering, for the first time, live webinars at relatively modest tuition, presented by teachers, pedagogistas and atelieristas sharing narratives, images and videos of projects from their educational project. The webinars are structured very much as presentations during Study Tours. Webinars are in Italian with simultaneous translation voiceover in English. There will be a new schedule of events for the fall. 


    https://www.reggiochildren.it/en/e-learning/webinar/ 

    We would like to encourage everyone to document and reflect on your experiences as we adapt to our current circumstances and would love to gather traces and reflections inspired by Reggio Emilia. We are interested in working via any of the distance platforms with you, at any step along the way. It’s a fresh opportunity for collaboration. Contact Lani Shapiro at lani.shapiro@gmail.com and/or send an email to reggioinspiredmn@gmail.com

     -Lani Shapiro

  • 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

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