26. March 2012 · Write a comment · Categories: School Life · Tags:

Young artists in the early years classroom are expressing their creativity through the use of paint. Exploring different materials is an evocative experience, as it stimulates imagination and creativity.  The thoughtful selection and use of different materials in the classroom, and how we interact with these materials, help to provoke our imaginations. This is 1 of the 100 languages children use to express their ideas, thoughts, emotions, and stories.

Doug McIntosh explains visual literacy as, “It’s not just looking at pretty pictures. It’s understanding how we think – how we connect what we already know about the world, life, relationships and values to those pictures – and then use them to make sense of our expanded world.”Vea Vecchi, author of Art and Creativity in Reggio Emilia, Exploring the role and potential of ateliers in early childhood education , atelierista at the Diana municipal preschool in Reggio Emilia for over 30 years and now  consultant to “Reggio Children” in Reggio Emilia, Italy, shares her thoughts on the role of the arts and creativity in the early years.

Enjoy this Ted Talk by Vea Vecchi which is spoken in Italian and translated below in English.

We are convinced that it is only through education that we can confront the difficulties of our time that have the attention of everyone, that humiliate us as citizens of the world. What is a school and an education of quality?

For one, we give so much importance to the environment. Beyond the right of having a school is the right to have a school that is beautiful and taken care of with an attitude of care so that parents, children, and teachers want to come to school every day. We have in some ways confused luxury with care.

The atelier has brought many materials and techniques, but also has illuminated a need, not only for children, but for human beings to communicate in a way that rationality and imagination travel together. We believe in a multiplicity of languages that are integrated and not separated. We believe that this makes learning and understanding more rich and more complete.

Poetic thought does not separate the imaginative from the cognitive, emotion from the rational, empathy from deep investigation. It lights up all the senses and perceptions and cultivates an intense relationship with what is all around us. It constructs thoughts that are not conformist. And this creates two important elements: solidarity and participation, both of which are the foundation of democracy.

To conclude, we believe that identifying and researching beauty and ethics is the indispensable foundation for a livable, sustainable future that everyone speaks about but that seems so difficult to bring about. It is only with an intelligent heart, with courage and with vision that we can proceed. ~Vea Vecchi

Good evening friends and families of Richland Academy.  I am so pleased to welcome you to our school and to thank you for joining us in celebrating the grand opening of our newly expanded learning facility.

The heavy machinery that had occupied our space for the past 11 months has left,  the trades are slowly vacating our premises, the dust is settling, and as a community we are familiarizing ourselves and getting comfortable in our new home.
We enthusiastically began the 2014-2015 school year with a freshened and renewed energy, and an excitement and passion for the possibilities that lie ahead for us as a vibrant learning community.  This newly constructed and renovated, innovative and Reggio inspired facility is here to enrich the learning experiences of our students , and to prepare them with the skills, competencies and knowledge for today and for tomorrow.Three years ago I embarked on the journey to transform our school environment that would be inspired by the Reggio philosophy and would support 21st century pedagogy.  The investigation into this transformation began with many questions, including how we would create a school that honoured children and their learning, that had a natural curve to it, a  large piazza,  where we could all meet as a community, one that had big, open, light filled and interconnected areas for learning to occur naturally, and would support the curiosity and imagination of our children, staff and faculty.

As we began to collaborate, our ideas were captured on paper and soon, over a period of 10 months a school design was born.  Along the journey of creating our new school, a small team of passionate and dedicated people, my husband John O., our architect Wes S, my colleague, Laura M., and my brother, David T, of Rutherford Contracting, came together to make this vision, this dream…. a reality.  Today, after a year of construction, we stand in the very piazza that was merely an image, three years ago.   I am overcome with immense joy, gratitude and hope. 
On October 11 , 2011, our community gathered in our gymnasium where I delivered the Vision Share speech on the future of Richland Academy.  Much of the presentation was focussed on the future and direction of learning, why it was important to be aware of this direction, and how Richland had not only transformed the way we learn, but was prepared to transform it’s learning spaces.I wanted to share these words with you this evening, because the very words I spoke then, continue to resonate with me today with greater passion and conviction in the belief that our practice as educators must be intentional  and purposeful and always done in the best interest and in the image of the child….our future generation…  a generation that will need to think creatively and in innovative ways, “as their survival in the future will be dependent on this.  They will need to solve problems and deal with the exponential rate and expansiveness of change that they will face”. (D. Culberhouse, September 2014)  Traditional methods of learning and traditional spaces will no longer be capable of coping with a constantly changing world.   During the summer of 2009, I had the opportunity to do some marketing work with a friend by the name of Struan R., who is here with us this evening, with his lovely wife, Danielle.  After hearing the story of Richland, he shared that, “Richland is a love story”…  Tonight I wish to add to Struan’s words by sharing with you why I think Richland is a love story……Richland is a love story because for the past three years I have watched  and experienced how every person who has contributed to its  new creation, directly or indirectly, did so merely because they believed.  They believed in a dream, they believed in possibilities and they believed in hope.

I owe much appreciation to the following people and apologize in advance if I inadvertently miss anyone…..

To the staff, faculty, administrators and families of Richland who rallied and supported every step of the way. Our custodial team who go above and beyond the call of duty.  To the Town of Richmond Hill and its staff under the leadership of our Mayor, Dave B., and our Local and Regional Councillor, Vito S., for their efforts and support. Friends who cheered along the sidelines. Rutherford contracting, under the leadership of Blair C., the site supervisor, Paul B., the trades who crafted with care, and my brother David who attended to every detail of the construction with pride, and a commitment to excellence.  To Wes, our architect who captured the image of the school so beautifully. Laura Murgatroyd, the Martha Stewart of Richland, who offered many ideas and her design sense at every stage of the journey. My dad, the cheerleader, and my sons, who over the years despite the lost hours of time with mom, continue to support and encourage me to be the best I can be.  My mother who guides me daily from above, and last and certainly not least, my husband, John, who without him, none of this could be possible.  His unconditional love, support, encouragement, and belief in the dream, pushed us to where we are today.  I thank you all.The following quote was recently shared by one of our dads, Mr. C.,  “You can dream, create, design and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”  ~ Walt Disney

We believe that our evolving landscape will nurture and develop our young people to be the deeper thinkers they will need to be, who are confident and world ready.My wish for children is to dream, and to dream big, because a dream, a vision that is driven by a purpose and passion, will lead to a future of limitless possibilities.  Futurist, author and lecturer, Joel Baker says, “a vision without action is merely a dream.  Action without vision just passes the time.  But vision with action can change the world.”

Thank you for your attention and for joining us this evening.

During one of our recent Morning Meetings in Junior Kindergarten, where we share stories, information, and the unfolding day as a community, I began to consider and reflect upon the term ‘New Knowledge’. I realized that I had used this term to think about what it means when a child brings something ‘new’ to JK to share with us. Putting this term and my understanding of it into context for 4 year olds began to entice me towards deeper meaning.  As items arrived with the children in various forms and of different materials, a deeper understanding began to unfold.Upon reflection, I realized that this ‘New Knowledge’ concept was working its way into the fabric of our JK community, as each item of interest arrived at school and by the children themselves.  ‘New Knowledge’ was enriching our learning, expanding our thoughts, deepening our questions and affecting us in many ways.

‘New Knowledge’ is taking shape, emerging and extending in our rich environment. The children, as well as their families were becoming completely engaged in our inquiry work.The tale really begins with one of the JK children creating a tiny habitat for one garden snail, which she brought to school one morning, to share with her classmates. In the days that followed, a ‘family of snails arrived’ creating a focus and the possibilities for rich inquiry learning.  These words were shared, “I think this snail is lucky. He is going to have lots of friends.”

Possibilities such as linking our Identity to the family of snails, exploring mathematical concepts such as numeracy, spirals, design of habitats, determining theories and researching about ‘I wonders’, are just a few that are prevalent at this time in JK.As the family of snails outgrew each habitat, the children’s knowledge also expanded and flourished. Their curiosity, their understanding, their documentation and their representations of their ‘New Knowledge’ became of much importance to the children. The needs of these creatures from nature, taking care and ensuring that our garden snails were “safe and happy” were truly honoured by the children.

‘New Knowledge’ comes in many shapes and forms. Each day our palette was created from factual books and storybooks about snails, from feeding the snails ‘tasty bites’, looking closely at these wondrous creatures, and sharing observations about the snails’ behaviours.  All were thoughtful and meaningful for the children.  Each encounter with the snails pushed and poked us to learn more.Much material continued to arrive, as our families became profoundly engaged through their children’s interests and excitement, together with the children, they searched, ventured into the learning and joined us in examining and probing ‘New Knowledge’.  Diagrams, photographs, comments and stories shared by the children continued to arrive in abundance and united us in the pursuit of ‘New Knowledge.’ ‘New Knowledge’ assisted us to gain deeper meaning into this powerful interest of the children.The children are now using the term daily in school and with each other.  “I brought some new knowledge to school today.”  Our families are engaged and building onto the ‘New Knowledge’ by searching together for photos, a diagram, or a discovery about snails. A relevant home task emerged: “Please Google garden snails with Mom or Dad and see what New Knowledge you can bring to our morning meeting or share with us at school.” Facts about our snails’ eating habits were explored, as we discovered that the snails love cucumber: “I brought a tasty bite for the snails.”  Delightful surprises and moments arose daily. One child dug in her vegetable garden and brought baby carrots to school for our snails, leading us into exploring how carrots grow, root vegetables, and how to tend to a garden. Another child used a small cardboard box and a belt to create and attach a snail shell on top of her back, as she morphed into a garden snail.As I shared this piece with a colleague for interpretation and as a critical friend, she led me to her research about ‘Knowledge Building.’

Ms  Pearson shared that, “Knowledge Building is the production and continual improvement of ideas of value to a community, through means that increase the likelihood that, what the community accomplishes will be greater than the sum of individual contributions and part of broader cultural efforts.” More »

The first weeks of Senior Kindergarten have flown by in a flurry of ‘Looking Closely’ at how the children are relating to their new space, materials and each other.

It has been a time at ‘Looking Closely’ at each unique child.  A time to reflect on how the use of their new environment reflects their natural curiosity, and their own unique identity. Slowing down, and “reflecting deeply” has been a personal teaching goal for the upcoming year. “Looking closely” and “reflecting deeply” will be guiding principles for myself and the children, as we journey together through a year of wonderful discoveries.Creating ‘Habits of Mind’ sets a strong foundation for the children, as we take an inquiry based approach to learning.  Looking closely, and noticing the details, is something that I very much want to encourage as part of our collaborative inquiry mindset.Observational drawings are a wonderful introduction to ‘slowing down and noticing the details’.  We will be using many of these over the year, as we look closely at ourselves, and the world around us.Noticing the details is a skill that transfers to all areas of social and cognitive development, be it recognizing emotions of others, or using pictures as an aid for emergent reading. Reflection makes visible the children’s thinking, as well as my own, as we learn together.  Documenting our thoughts, revisiting and reflecting, will guide the emergent curriculum as we cover the Kindergarten success criteria through the interests of the children. I am curious as to where our journeys will lead us forth. 

This posting was contributed to Inquiring Minds by Mrs. Kate Daniel, Senior Kindergarten Teacher at Richland Academy.

Over the past few days, many of the SK children have been drawn to experiment with the mathematical concept of balance.  They have sought out, and used a variety of materials to investigate this idea, including recycled and natural materials, and building blocks. Usually they begin to explore alone, but often another child observes and is drawn in. It involves much problem solving, and negotiation to ensure each new object is placed in a position which does not cause the others to fall.  This activity results in deep concentration and focus for a sustained period of time.  It enables the children to experience both ‘success’ and ‘failure’ through an authentic, and pleasurable, activity.Failure often leads to greater success, as the children persevere and their balanced structures become more complex. In this set of pictures, we see A. and A. at the light table, using cups, mirrors, water cubes, and plastic forks to create an elaborate structure.  No words were used as they worked together.  Their movements quickly became synchronised and decisions agreed upon without speaking.Several times their structure fell and they began again to rebuild it.  The placing of the plastic forks at the top slowly, carefully and delicately carried out.For one child this activity became an entry point into a new friendship.  Through relating to these new materials, for the first time he began to relate to another.  It is a wonderful example of Piaget’s theory that peer interactions play a crucial role in the construction of both social and intellectual competence.

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