Thursday, October 30, 2014

pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere

This has been a week of pumpkins.  Yesterday the afternoon class made pumpkin cake in the studio.  And Belle made paleo pumpkin muffins with the Toddlers.
Brooke came in this morning to make mini pumpkin muffins with the morning 440 class.
And Griffin was in Ward-Hobbs carving jack-o-lanterns with some very engaged children.
The shelves have evidence of autumn with works designed to support the children's interests and questions about pumpkins.
The toddler teachers created these incredible chalk paint pumpkins that were a huge hit with the children and teachers!
And the toddlers spent the day investigating the gushy, messy innards of pumpkins.  The enjoyed the salty crunch of toasted pumpkin seeds and the gentle light of a jack-o-lanterns.  It was a school wide collaboration, celebrating the changing seasons and the fun of being together.

Five Little Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one said, "Oh, my it's getting late!"
The second one said, "There are witches in the air!"
The third one said, "Well, I don't care!"
The fourth one said, "Let's run and run and run!"
The fifth one said, "I'm ready for some fun!"
Ooooo went the wind and out went the lights
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

what's going on out there

I love being an adult in a school of children who are eager to share the wonders of life, moment by moment, as they are discovered.  Yesterday morning, while standing in the outdoor environment, I found myself surrounded by children excited to share their newest discovery... FROST.  The fallen leaves were adorned with delicate icy patterns.  This prompted us to investigate the leafy beauty on all fours, crawling carefully across the grassy expanse, astonished by so much beauty.
The children were quick to tell me that I was seeing frost and not snow.  Snow was different and would be here soon but not yet.  For now frost was covering the leaves like "a cold breath".

Monday, October 27, 2014


Our resident mud specialist, Amy, spent last week in the studio while I was attending an amazing symposium with Carlina Rinaldi, Mary Catherine Bateson and forty inspiring educators and big thinkers.  I am still assimilating much of the information from the week but promise to offer some of my insights here, once they are fully formed (please stop by the studio if you'd like to find out more or join me for the next Mindful Dialog on November 20th).
Amy is a remarkable artist, person and co-researcher alongside children.  Building on our experiences with grapestomping, Amy added a mud stomping station where children could revel in the tactile experience of clay.

Amy shared with me how collaborations with clay emerged as children explored manipulating clay into shapes, buildings, roads, castles, cities and more.
As the children worked, several formed thoughtful partnerships to realize big ideas and plans.  F and L worked together over the course of two class periods to create several interconnected castles and then used flattened clay balls to surround their structures with "earth".

The studio was still overflowing with generous inspirations from the natural world and several children explored clay with these tools in a variety of ways. In the words of J, "Nature gives us fancy tools!"
Clay is now permanent language of expression in the studio and will be available for use in the weeks and months ahead.  We look forward to seeing and hearing what the children have to say.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Toddler leaf explorations

"Come little leaves said the wind one day
Come over to the meadow with me to play
Put on your dresses of red and gold
Winter is coming and soon it is cold"
- Autumn Song
The toddlers explored an assortment of fall leaves in the studio on Friday.
As is often the case, object permanence and peek-a-boo was a big point of interest.
The toddlers also did something I wasn't expecting, but their teachers (who have more day to day experience with them nodded knowingly)... they sorted.  They sorted leaves into color categories and they arranged piles of sticks and pinecones.  They discovered that some leaves were dry and crunchy while others were soft and pliable.
Together we learned a lot about the properties of leaves and other seasonal discoveries and the children brought the characteristic joy and enthusiasm of toddlers reminding me to have FUN!

Leaf explorations with wire

To extend the leaf explorations and deepen our conversation I introduced wire, as a tool, to express our ideas about leaf shape, size and more.
 In a short time I realized that something was amiss.
Many of the children were working with wire but it felt forced and there were several comments of: "I can't do this", "Angelina will you do it for me",  "It won't work", etc.  That doesn't actually happen often in the studio.  And then I realized what I had done.  I had introduced a new media (which is a new language) for the first time, with an intentional expectation for it's use.
I know better!  What the children needed was an opportunity to just "mess about" with wire, exploring it's properties and uses before trying to link it with leaf representations.
 Patient as ever, the children still delivered some gorgeous interpretations of leaf and tree.
 And offered me another powerful reminder to SLOW down.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Someone recently asked me how I view teaching these days from a Reggio perspective and I answered, research. And research can look like this: first observe the children, second document those observations with photos, video and transcriptions, third reflect on those observations with children, coworkers and families, consult current literature on early childhood and learning as necessary, fourth adapt the environment (laboratory/experiment) to accommodate new understandings, questions and ideas. REPEAT the cycle.

And in the spirit of research, it would be hard to miss that children are naturally interested in seasonal shifts and the colorful cacophony of LEAVES twirling against blue autumn skies.
After spending a week with leaves, I wanted to extend the investigation with the oldest children by bringing in some supported observational drawing opportunities.
The results were beautiful and the children were engaged, focused and busy discovering and communicating the brilliant colors unique to each leaf they selected.
To find out a little more about observational drawing techniques from a past study, click here and here.  Otherwise enjoy some of these images: