Monday, March 20, 2017

The ART of Discovery

It doesn't take long, just one morning with the toddlers, to become a lifetime advocate for the power of wonder and everyone's right to it.  As adults, we have seen and experienced a lot.  We understand many of the basic principles of our physical world and often approach them with a dry "yeah-yeah" or become so habituated that we no longer notice them at all.  We must remain vigilant to this tendency in ourselves, otherwise we might just rob ourselves AND others of the opportunity to DISCOVER something for themselves... which is the equivalent of robbing the Fort Knox of WONDER.  Here is an example from a single morning spent with the toddlers and what they learned speaks for itself.   I didn't tell them anything about the materials.  I just put them out and watched them explore.
Sand, glorious SAND.  "It's soft".  "Feel it".  "I'm at the beach."  "It feels good." "This is my mom and my dad and me and my brother and my sister and this is school".  "She feels sad.  WAAAAAAhhh Mommy?  Mommy's here." ... the conversations and play went on for quite awhile.
And then the discovery that you can make marks in the sand!  Drawing!!!  And this led to a lot of exploration and exclamations!
 Next, they discovered the colored transparent materials.  
First they were sorted and there was a great deal of discussion about how best to organize them.  It was decided that color sorting was the way to go.
 WHOA.  Wait a minute!  If you lift them over your head they make colors on the wall.  How?
 SAY WHAT?!!!! If you put them on this bright contraption they cast an image on the wall.
 That's amazing! (Insert lots of whoops and hollers and jumping up and down)
 And you can look through them too and things look different when you do?
 What?  Seriously!!! You try it!  (Which of course I did!)
(A slight scream) and a new discovery.  A tiny bug.  The first impulse to kill it was waylaid by me and then a wonderful process of inquiry unfolded.  What is it? Where does it live? Does it bite?  Look how small it is.  Look how BIG we are.  
 The bug remained, more or less, unimpressed.
NOW tell me... the next time you eagerly rush to teach something that a child might discover on their own with a little scaffolding on our part and even preparation, what will you do?  I have witnessed how we, as grown ups, become thief's in the night/day and steal away the enthusiasm of discovery.  It's not intentional.  I do it myself.  It's the desire to share our understanding BUT the cost is great.  SOMETHING discovered for the first time is a miracle to behold. Every time I witness it I am astonished by the breathtaking beauty inherent in the simplest of things. I am reminded again and again by these great teachers, to suspend my lifetime of "knowing" and indulge my capacity for wonder in this moment...and this one... and this.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Celebrating Connections

As most of you know my research question this year involves developing connections, relationships and community.   The toddlers are such wonderful teachers for me about so many things and this is no exception.
In the midst of toddler studio day, this child coyly smiled at me through the glass separating her classroom from the studio.
 In no time another child had noticed her playful invitation from the other side of the glass and hurried over to engage.
The glass became a point of connection and soon a game of peek-a-boo was set in motion.  Their enthusiasm upon seeing one another through the glass and then around the door frame was contagious.
 And other children joined in.
These little moments matter.  They are some of the many ways humans build connections, relationships and a foundation of belonging.  I wonder if we as adults might adopt more of the toddlers playful, open attitude toward one another and welcome the everyday opportunities for connection, so easily overlooked, but so deeply needed.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The perks of my job, Primary, XP

There are many reasons why my job as a studio teacher in a Montessori school inspired by the philosophies of Reggio-Emilia is so fantastic.
This classroom vignette provides an ideal example!
Our Montessori classroom environments are prepared to support the children in countless ways, many of which develop self expression and the use of creative media.  When observing in the classrooms you will see lessons in cutting, pouring, color mixing, pincer grip, language acquisition and more.
I happened to pass through Ward-Hobbs while Vida was demonstrating an extension of the Montessori Color Box III (a material designed to support a child's visual discrimination of color shades).
 The lesson illustrated how different colors could be mixed with white to create variations in hue.
I was so excited!  And so were the children. Lessons like this are happening all the time and support a child's understanding of light, shadow and color gradation.  It's no wonder that the children arrive in the studio ready to CREATE!

Friday, March 3, 2017


Deanna and Lauren from Wild Wings Education brought four marvelous owls to share with us.  A barn owl (valentine owl) named Cupid (because of his heart shaped face).
 A great horned owl named Sophie
 A screech owl named Bugsy (because he loves to eat bugs).
 And a small burrowing owl named Sage.
Some interesting facts we discovered about owls include: 
Many owls have ears that are asymmetrical on their heads (one high and one low) allowing them to triangulate their hearing... and hear if prey is to their right or left and how high and low.
Owls have four toes and sharp talons to catch prey.
Their feathered tufts on the heads of certain breeds are called plumicorns.
 Owls can rotate their head 3/4 of the way around to better see with fixed eyes.
They have super soft feathers which allow them hunt in silence.
We learned more facts!  So ask your child what s/he remembered.  There's also a fun and brief youtube video to watch if you want to learn more.
Have a wonderful weekend and be on the lookout for owls in your backyards and beyond.  If you find any, please us know.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mangia! Mangia!

Mangia! Mangia!  As a child, my heart did a somersault whenever I heard my Italian grandmother intone Mangia! Mangia!, usually accompanied by a stream of Italian sweet nothings and the aromas of another delicious meal.  

Several months ago the children and I began talking about our favorite food memories. We discovered that many of us have a fondness for Italian cooking, particularly pasta.  Soon the children were clamoring to make spaghetti and meatballs in the studio.  Weeks passed but I didn't forget.

On February 28th, we celebrated our Italian gustatory infatuations with a delicious day in the studio.  The experience was complete with Italian music, red-checkered tablecloths, flickering-battery powered candles and all the fixings to create your own spaghetti masterpiece. (We called them nests in honor of our ongoing bird studies.)

It was a huge success!

A heartfelt thank you to Caity Barton who generously prepared meatballs for the whole school to enjoy and donated all the fixin's for spaghetti-nest making AND a second helping of gratitude to Nikki who donated an additional batch of gluten-free pasta for those of us with food sensitivities.

If you would like to try it at home, Caity shared her meatball recipe with us:

Gluten Free, Pork Free Egg Free Recipe

1/2 pound of ground beef
1/3 cup gluten free bread crumbs
1/3cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried Basil
1 teaspoon dried Oregano
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Traditional Meatballs

1/4 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
1 egg
1/3 cup bread crumbs with Italian seasoning
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano 
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Bake in a preheated oven at 400 for 20 minutes.
Buon Appetito!