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Richland Academy / Articles posted by Richland (Page 23)

Making Thinking Visible – Exploring The Role of Documentation

At the end of Wednesday’s school day, a group of Richland Faculty loaded a six passenger vehicle and made their way westbound to Hamilton to partake in a professional development series on Making Thinking Visible, presented by Seneca Professor, Louise Jupp.The evening’s session focussed on the features of documentation through an inquiry lens.  We examined the following five features of documentation;

  • a specific question
  • interpretation and evaluation of observations
  • use of multiple languages
    making learning visible
  • retrospective and prospective

Louise referred to the importance of the inquiry experience as an instrument to develop a new and different vision of oneself and one’s actions through the use of all our senses. The open-endedness of inquiry learning, as well as the art of documentation, act as catalysts to cognitive development. Documentation facilitates the turning of the pages of the inquiry process, opening the doors to dialogue, and the path to further learning and the layering of knowledge.Our engagement in the marble run activity enabled us to see ourselves in relation to one another. We understood and empathised with the complexity and the depth involved in a child’s learning journey and how they contribute to that learning.As a group, when reflecting on our learning journey, one filled with innovation and creativity, we discovered that our chosen roles and communication styles had an impact on that journey.  We understood the importance of collaboration and social dynamics as we experimented with the materials provided to create marble runs that put scientific principles into practice.

We look forward to our next session when we will be invited to take a closer look at images, and their central role in making learning visible. We will participate in reflective discussions around the roles of documentation, emergent curriculum, and the facilitation of experiences for children.On our next trip to Hamilton our journey led us to an evening of images and working documentation.Why are images so important to documentation? Photographs give us a window into what children see and understand, but words, too, are images.  Both are languages that support and work together to tell a story.  The written sets the context for the image.  A question that arose from us was, “What considerations does the photographer have in mind when taking a photo?”

Building Curiosity, and Other Conversations at OISE

Mrs. Daniel joined over 200 participants, mainly from the Public Schools Boards, in an engaging and thought provoking symposium held at OISE in downtown Toronto (Ontario Institute of Child Studies). Key note speakers were Annie Kidder (Executive Director, People for Education), who stressed the importance of parent engagement in learning; Kang Lee, Professor of at OISE, who focused on the emergence of lying in kindergarten, (“Little Liars, Emergence of Dishonesty in Early Childhood and Implications for Education”), and Charles Pascal, Professor of Applied Psychology and Human development, who shared the importance of listening carefully to children’s learning stories.

Team sessions offered covered such topics as:

  • “Math for young children; tapping into symmetry”
  • “Building curiosity”
  • “Connecting with families through discovery”
  • “Engaging families in a rural setting”
  • “A picture tells a thousand words”

Mrs. Daniel attended the workshop “Building Curiosity”, and enjoyed learning about inquiry based projects from The Crescent Town School.  Projects included investigating buses, trains and trams; creating an iMovie linked to Earth Day; mealworms; trees, and art centres based on learning about famous artists.

Following this, Professor Kang Lee shared his research relating to children and lying, and the importance of moral and social development in children.  He stressed that lying is a paradox, and an adaptive behaviour.  Humans cannot tell lies, nor the truth all of the time, and that there are many reasons for lying:

  • to benefit oneself.
  • to be polite.
  • to flatter. To ‘suck up.’
  • to protect a group.
  • to be modest.

He went on to share that by about four years of age, children are able to understand it is wrong to hide a transgression, and that white lies are acceptable. They are able to verbalise what a lie is, but there is a disconnection between knowing what a lie is and being honest.  He explained that it is practically impossible to tell if a young child is lying from their facial expressions or eye contact, and that children are able look someone in the eye and lie to them. On a positive note, he felt lying was linked to executive functioning, and it was a good indicator that a child had reached a developmental milestone, which involved inhibitory control, working memory and planning. He felt modelling honesty and asking the child to promise not to lie were the best methods to encourage honesty.

Is Inquiry Learning really “Classroom Fads and Magic Beans”?

In a recent article in the Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente pokes fun at progressive models of learning and touts the simplicity of traditional schooling and the ‘3Rs’ of reading, writing and arithmetic.  Ms. Megan Pearson, a teacher and Inquiry consultant at Richland Academy, challenges Ms. Wente’s article in a letter that Inquiring Minds would like to share with you.

Dear Ms Wente,

I was intrigued to read your article in the Globe and Mail on September 7th of this year.  As an intentional and experienced teacher, I can assure you, I am not “rolling my eyes and pretend[ing] to comply” with the “fads and magic beans” of a necessarily evolving educational system.  As someone who is also deeply entrenched in providing the best possible education to my students, I am well read in the latest research.  Actually, all of my colleagues are, as certainly, we cannot hope to improve our teaching practices by reveling in tradition.  Though there is certainly something to say for tradition, it’s tradition for a reason, after all, and why change a good thing?

It was tradition, that with the threat of the strap always looming, teachers had 30-40 silent children, acting as empty vessels, waiting to be filled with facts and figures.  Regurgitate and succeed. Why have large classroom sizes, corporal punishment and blind repetition gone by the wayside?  Weren’t those a part of a strong and traditional model of schooling?

There is a constant struggle to lower class sizes, create more jobs for teachers and hire more teaching assistants, none of which are part of the “school was simple” model you are touting.  And who are the children who are successful in a traditional model?  In actuality, that model is made only for a fraction of the population:  The high achievers who are going to succeed anyways, and the “middle of the roaders” who have an education system tailor made for them. The students who struggled in the traditional model, well, they still struggle.

Immersed in the Wonder of Messing About: The Canadian Opening of the Hawkins Exhibit

Our days at Richland Academy are awesome – full of discoveries and connections among our students.  This weekend was no different – only this weekend it was the Faculty and Staff who were making incredible discoveries and connections at the Canadian opening of the exhibit, Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child: The Philosophy of Frances and David Hawkins.

Friday evening over one hundred guests gathered at Richland Academy for the opening reception to hear Dr. Ellen Hall, colleague of Frances and David Hawkins and Founder of the Boulder Journey School in Colorado; deliver the keynote address.  The energy and passion for science and learning permeated the school, and new friendships were formed among the guests almost instantly.Dr. Hall’s keynote speech touched upon the history of the Hawkins Exhibit, as she shared the dedication and approach of the Hawkins’ to science and learning.  The work of Frances and David Hawkins is not limited to their own personal research, but is rather an approach that we are all capable of embracing – a philosophy akin to that of Reggio Emilia.  Connections were drawn between David Hawkins and Loris Malaguzzi, about their shared belief that children are curious and capable.  This idea resonated with the many Reggio-inspired educators, keen to learn more on the Hawkins’ concept of Messing About.Saturday morning delegates gathered once again at Richland to experience a series of Messing About workshops and presentations.  There was a room dedicated to exploring light, exploring our inventive nature, another dedicated to balance, one to outdoor spaces, one to natural materials, and even one to tomatoes!  Each room was alive – sparking inquiry and discovery – facilitated by passionate educators.

As the day drew to a close, and was reflected upon by Dr. Hall, it became apparent that the Messing About had only just begun.  The inspired group was left to consider one question:

How does your road lead to Hawkins?

Here are some of the inspired tweets and reflections from the Conference’s attendees:

“What an inspirational, thought provoking and mind challenging experience it was.  To be in a place with other passionate educators, who had come with open minds; to listen, reflect, dialogue, and wonder at all the incredible work so many were so willing to share.  Ellen Hall opened the Hawkins ‘living room’ to us all.  A place where educators could con-construct a curiosity based vision for education.  The “Messing About’ exhibit challenged us to follow a curriculum, where the understanding of math and science happens naturally as children become deeply engaged through project work.  It gave us an opportunity to ‘mess about’ with materials, as children do, and learn through those experiences.  We experienced the scientific and creative ‘languages’ of light, loose parts, balance, ramps, forces and motion.  It was a wonderful opportunity to experience the joy of a child naturally exploring and making meaning of his world.” – K. Daniel