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

  • 10 Jan 2017 8:52 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Sandy Burwell is offering a children's literature and creative expression class on Saturday, January 14. This class is not hosted by the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota. 

    To Register - Email Sandy at smburwell@gmail.com. Go to the Facebook page titled Learning Together for more information. 

    The class explores the question - "how can we integrate children's literature and creative expression?

    Participants will explore the wealth of books that could inspire writing, storytelling, painting, collage, mixed media, photography, imagination, weaving, dance, color mixing, 3-D construction. 


    South Metro Montessori School (located in Family Christ Luthern Church)

    10970-185th st. W. Lakeville, MN

    9am to noon - $30. 

  • 15 Dec 2016 9:21 AM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Q&A with Jen Johnson as told to Eileen Galvin

    Jen Johnson is the Director of Willow & Sprout in Saint Anthony Minnesota. Last spring they hosted a Saturday Gathering at their center. During that Gathering, Jen talked about the importance of self-care which resonated with those attending. We followed up with her about the importance of self-care in a teaching practice that requires observation and reflection. We separated the conversation into three posts. This is the first of three. 
    How do you define self-care for yourself and your teachers?

    For me, it is about being mindful and intentional to nurture and love one’s whole self - your mind, your body and your spirit. We, the staff, sit down and create personal goals for each of those areas and it is the same thing that we do with the children. We have leading questions – how do you love yourself? How do you notice yourself – your whole self, your mind, spirit and physical body? And then, how do you nurture yourself? How do you love yourself? We separate those because nurturing can be different than loving. I tried to make it as simple as possible. This could be a new topic for some of us and I didn’t want to make it too complicated. 

     One of the things I think about is how do you rest? How do you replenish? How do you find those quiet spaces in your day so you can replenish and get a break from daily rhythms? 

    How do the goals work? Weekly? Yearly?                                           

    We have yearly goals and then every month I do a check-in and then if they need something different in between we can talk about it and change it. Up until now the check-ins have been via email because that was what we all wanted. This year we are going to go deeper into the work with a physical check in vs email only. We need to figure out if email needs to be bi-weekly. With email it is easy to let the work go; with a physical check in there is a different level of accountability. It is vulnerable work.

    Why is it important for a practice that requires teachers to be present and reflective, to have self-care as a priority?

    When I looked at the profession I really saw high turnover. At my first teaching job there was turnover after turnover after turnover. We know from research and best practice that young children need consistency. There are many factors that go into consistency, but one of the things I noticed across the profession was that the teachers are really not looked at as professionals. 
    They need to be treated with respect as professionals and as a whole person... with hobbies, interests and families outside of work as well. 

    We have a huge disparity in how the teachers are valued and seen, not only in their organization, but as a culture. We have some work to do, we need to consider all of the parts that create a caring environment in our early childhood communities. It has to be about holistic living. It has to be about connection. It has to be about the four parts - children, environment, parents and teachers. We need to consider all of those entities. Also, in order to be present and reflective you have to be able to do that for yourself. If you don’t take that time, there is often a huge disparity between what you say you want and desire and what you can actually do. I do like the airplane analogy. Put on your oxygen mask first; then you are stable and you can go and nurture others. Then that becomes the ripple effect and they become as regulated as they can be.

    In the next blog post, Jen will give examples of strategies for self-care the teaching team at Willow & Sprout sees as essential.

  • 03 Dec 2016 11:32 AM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    In another blog post we talked to Kelsey. She is a new teacher grappling with how to balance the desire to plan and live in the now and follow the lead of the children.  

    For another interesting perspective on planning, read this piece from veteran preschool teacher, Tom Hobson from Seattle, Washington, on why rigid planning isn't necessarily in the best interest of the children or the teacher.  

    He writes, "What I was attempting to guard against back then was a failure of everything running off the rails, but how?  After over a decade of playing with children, I've learned that is exactly the "surprise" that lets me know we've been successful.  It's not the plan I've put together, whether on paper or in my head, but rather the "new possibilities" that emerge from us that makes it all worthwhile."  Read more here:

    Blog: Teacher Tom - Teaching and Learning from Preschoolers.                 

  • 03 Dec 2016 11:13 AM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    The following is a "teaser" of a film by Professor Dr. Sabine Lingenauber. The film explores the role of women in the development of Reggio pedagogy as a pedagogical approach. 

  • 17 Nov 2016 5:21 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Kelsey and children with bubbles“I am a perfectionist, but I don’t want to be one,” says Kelsey Lepa, a recent graduate whose first teaching position is at Willow & Sprout in St. Anthony, Minnesota. “I like to plan and I like to know outcomes. I was taught in school that that is what you are supposed to do when you are educating children. That is what teachers do. We write lesson plans. We know where our lessons are going. We know what the children will get out of it by the end of the lesson.” Willow & Sprout is different; their work with children centers on project-based learning opportunities. They believe in the inherent curiosity of children and they give the children the space and time to follow their own curiosity. 

     Kelsey knew she didn’t want to teach within a traditional American educational environment. From the moment of her interview she knew she wanted to be at Willow & Sprout, but being there meant being very uncomfortable as a teacher who was taught to plan. “It was overwhelming, very overwhelming, especially as a new teacher in my first job. You want to do well and doing well to me was writing perfect lesson plans and knowing exactly what was going to happen.” The time spent reflecting on her work and the collaboration with the other teachers helped her get past being overwhelmed. 

     Jen Johnson is the school’s director and Kelsey’s teaching partner. “Jen and the other teachers were very supportive. I kept wanting to go back to lesson plans and Jen would say that I could use lesson plans if I wanted to, but she would challenge me to go without. During the day or during our weekly meeting, my fellow teachers would ask me, how did that go? Or how did that feel? What did you notice? What did you learn?”

    Kelsey discovered the importance of really listening to children. She also discovered how to be more comfortable with being vulnerable, listening to and trusting herself.  “Teaching is such a giving job. You need to take care of yourself. It is so important to know what you are bringing into the equation on any given day so that you can be ready to listen and learn alongside the children. In the beginning I had a lot of self-doubt. This way of teaching seemed hard and not clear. Checking in with myself and knowing how I feel and where I am coming from helped with the self-doubt and allowed me to become a better teacher.” 

    Kelsey doesn’t feel overwhelmed anymore. She does still feel vulnerable, but knows that that is an important part of teaching. She said that support from her fellow teachers, self-reflection and collaborative reflection help her use that feeling. Kelsey has learned to trust herself and the children. 

    She has also embraced being a researcher – and research is never about perfection. “If an exploration doesn’t work, that is ok, maybe try it again on another day or explore it in a different way if the children are interested.” Now, she feels lucky. “This way of teaching has taught me to be knowledgeable and curious about the whole child. I am so grateful that I get to know each child as the unique and curious person that they are."

  • 24 Sep 2016 3:26 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Reggio-inspired classrooms are often resplendent with open ended materials, inspiration from the natural world and thoughtfully offered provocations. These are some of the reasons they are so well loved, and yet these environments can at times feel daunting when considering one's own context. By contrast, mud is a plentiful, free and rich natural material available to almost anyone. In the case of mud, we have the soil under our feet and the rain above our heads and suddenly a sensory rich experience awaits the children who dare to get messy. The beauty is around us, on a walk outside with the children when the snow melts or after a good rain. What happens next is up to the children and the teachers as they experience this abundant and rewarding material.

      Read these two pieces from the Nature Action Children's Collaborative about two groups of children in different parts of the world (Nepal and Australia), with very different contexts, playing and expressing themselves with the language of mud. 


     The children in Nepal live in an orphanage, and face physical challenges. They did not have extra clothes and were given new "game clothes" to wear for their mud play. One can understand why they may have hesitated before they plunged into the muck! Still, they dared and were delighted. The children at Bold Park in Australia heard about their playing with mud, but also about how the children in Nepal had no extra clothes for this kind of messy fun. This became the inspiration for Bold Park's own Mud Day celebration, both as a way for the children to raise money to help the children from Nepal and as a way for the Bold Park children to experience the joy and wonder of mud themselves. And though these two groups of children come from different backgrounds, one group from an orphanage, the other group privileged and raising money to help the they had the same kinds of reactions to the mud; nervous trepidation, followed by cautious exploration and then fully immersive and messy play!

      As disconnected as we often feel with some having so much, and many more having so very little, there is beauty, too, in the idea of children all over the world playing in the mud on the same day, all connected to the earth together. With many of the children at first hesitating when they go near the mud, it also reminds us of how cultivating each and every child's relationship with the natural world is important as our lives take us farther away from nature. What kinds of play would the children at our schools in Minnesota envision if we invited them to a Mud Day? What have the children in our environments done with dirt and mud? And what could we do to help them envision and create a fantastically messy mud playground of their own?


  • 18 Feb 2016 8:19 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    In this documentation from Westwood Early Learning Center one sees observations, possibilities, and actualities.  In the observations, the reader sees the children’s ideas as they work together.  The possibilities are listed simply; a cluster of post-it notes of some possible outcomes with an invitation to add one’s own idea.  The actualities show the reader what actually happened with the project.  The layout of this documentation makes manifest the middle step, the step of possibility. 

    The consideration of possibilities creates a pause.  This pause creates space to consider what the teacher saw, and to reflect on what he or she might offer next. 

    Too often, the current discourse in American education says one must know the ending before one begins and the only question is, “How well did you get there?”  This documentation from Westwood shows another possibility in the classroom; teachers and students begin a project without a preordained ending, then question, reflect, and look for the answers together.

  • 09 Feb 2016 6:57 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)
      To Make Peace You Have To Talk
      Giorgio, 6.1 years

    The video is meant to be an invitation and a self-invitation to resist war, wars, to always take the side of peace, solidarity, justice, freedom at a planetary level.

    The Reggio educational experience has been trying for 50 years to move in this direction.
  • 09 Feb 2016 6:37 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Raising America is a provocative documentary on the history of early childhood education in this country. It asks the questions, "why do we as a nation, make it so hard for our children to thrive? What can we do better?"

    All of the episodes of the documentary series are streaming for free until 2/15. Click here to go the website.

    If you watch the documentary, what were your impressions of the movie? What made the strongest impression? We would love to know, you can post a comment below, or on our facebook page.

  • 22 Nov 2015 9:09 PM | Reggio Inspired Network of MN (Administrator)

    Sandy Burwell is offering material exploration classes. These explorations are not hosted by the Reggio-Inspired Network of Minnesota. See registration information below or go to the Facebook page titled Learning Together to get registration information.

    The explorations are on the following dates.

    Saturday, December 5
    South Metro Montessori School
    10970 - 185th ST. W. Farmington, MN
    9 to 12am -- $40.

    Wednesday, January 27
    Dodge Nature Pre-school
    1715 Charlton St
    West St. Paul, MN
    5:30 to 7:30 -- $30.

    Both classes for $60.
    Register: smburwell@gmail.com
    Pay with a check to
    Sandra Burwell
    5560 Pillsbury Ave So
    Mpls, MN 55419
    or use

All content and articles may be used for educational purposes with proper citation (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License).

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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