Perspective

I was working with Lilian Katz,Phd,  in Lima , Peru last month.

We were leading a RedSolare conference as well as  meeting with teachers and administrators in their schools and giving feedback and inspiration. Everyone we met with was passionate about early childhood. We had many intense  conversations. We toured diverse and beautiful Reggio inspired schools.

At one point, Lilian leaned over and said to me, “…what is it with all the self portraits, and special students, and all about me? I see this wherever I travel.  What needs to be focused on is the ‘other.'”

This made me reflect on my own practice. In a school that values collaboration, how thoughtful and intentional are our/my own practices in developing the “other”?

When I returned, I decided to be specifically aware/observant of the subtleties of language, dynamics, relationships, projects and values that support this idea of development beyond the self within our community.

I love a new perspective to explore. Here are some of the projects I proposed (& will return to after winter break.)

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While contemplating the many directions “perspective” can go, I was struck by some recent very tender moments of a child’s perspective. So I would like to end this post with some stories:

Today, Step Afrika performed a show & workshop for SWS. They are a tremendous and talented group of artists. I encourage you to support this troupe and attend local performances.

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It’s hard to see in the photos, but for part of the performance, Step Afrika put on gum boots/mine boots from South Africa. Before singing and dancing in this tradition, they had an interactive conversation about the tradition.

They asked:

“What is in a mine?

“Coal”, Maddie responded. (Wow, I thought)

And then Kirin raised his hand and said, “A brain.”

He was asked to repeat what he said.

“A brain.”

Silence. And the “Ohhhhh, yes, that is in a MIND. I’m talking about a MINE.” (Wow, I thought again)

Then (PreK) Alexander raised his hand and stated confidently. “A corn mine has corn, so it is called a corn mine.” (He supported his statement so well, once again, Wow!)

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Here’s another story from a child’s perspective:

I had a small group in the art studio working on their Fairy Sculptures. Michaela was having a hard time. Her sculpture kept sagging. I encouraged her to keep on trying, especially since she was not a student last year, this indeed, would be harder for her than the other children present.

She was getting very frustrated and said “I can’t make my Fairy stand up straight.”

This was immediately met by exclamations that “can’t” is a bad word in the studio.

I told Michaela, “I am not going to do it for you. I know this is really hard for you, but I am watching you, and I know you can figure this out. When something is hard, and you figure out how to solve the problem it feels soooo good. You are welcome to ask friends for help, or look at how they got their Fairy to stand up.” She went back to work.

After a while Michaela said with confidence,

“My Fairy will be looking up at the sky. She’s looking up at the sky and saying, ‘Help me Jesus!'”

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I laughed, and we therein referred to Michaela’s Fairy as the Help Me Jesus Fairy with a big smile. What a fantastic strategy for solving her challenge.

Here is my very last perspective story for this post.

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No, Dorothy, a table did not fall on the children in the studio!

In preparation for our annual SWS Solstice celebration next week, the children will be making lanterns. To help them with the concept of celebrating the darkest day of the year, I had them crawl under a covered table, where I lit a candle and read a book, Lights of Winter-Winter Celebrations Around the World, which tells of ancient festivals to current celebrations.

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It was a very overcast and dreary day. After the book and conversation, I asked each child to make a wish for the sun/light or the moon/darkness. So many lovely wishes filled the air.

I wish the sun would always shine so everyone could be warm.

I wish the moon has stars.

Moon, I wish you light.

I wish the sun could shine now and all the time.

…and then we closed our eyes, counted to three, opened our eyes and blew out the candle.

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I love rituals. They add such meaning to everyday things. Last Friday, after  the candle was blown out, when my small group of PreK’s crawled out from the covered table and stood in the darkened room, a miraculous thing happened. Just for a moment, the sun peaked through and spread light on the children. It lasted less then a minute. Everyone exclaimed, “The Sun Came Out!”

It was time for this group to return to their class. We hugged and I walked them to room 12. When they entered I heard Maximillian, “Miss Hannah! We made the sun come out. For real!!!”

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Back to Peru

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Please send “presenting love” to me during the below conference dates. Whoooo, these things make me nervous.

(Fun part-I get to tour Reggio inspired Peruvian schools in Lima!)

Peru FlyerStories to follow…

Caminante, no hay camino (Traveler, there is no path, the path is made by walking)

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I just returned from Guadalajara, Mexico where I was honored to be  a keynote and presenter  at the RedSolare  Mexico Conference, “En dialogo con el pensamiento creativo del nino” (In dialog with the creative thinking of children.)En diálogo con el pensamiento creativo del  niño(2)

The American School of Guadalajara was a gracious host to educators from 28 states of Mexico, as well as myself from Washington, DC and Juan Carlos Mela Hernandez of Bogota, Columbia. RedSolare co-director Sausan Burshan  of Yucatan and RedSolare representative Ricardo Rubiales  Garcia Hurado opened the conference with a conversation and an invitation to fill the walls with questions.

Tina Carstensen Lopez (also RedSolare), Director of the Early Childhood  Lower School  at The American School,  a kind and visionary leader surrounded by dedicated teachers, opened their classrooms to Juan and myself, and asked for our observations. The dialog was honest and I appreciated their willingness to engage in our ideas, provocations and interventions.

All who gathered were inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach and the culture of their own community. It was a beautiful site to behold. It was a universal affirmation of the work that I am both committed to and challenged/ provoked by.

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Social Constructivism, Relationships, Creativity, and the Reggio Emilia approach are all exhilarating and uncharted paths to walk.

conferenceThe last evening of the conference, Juan Carlos and I were presented with beautiful books of Mexican artists and a precious wooden box with a glass top. Inside sat two handmade leather children’s shoes. On the back of the box the following poem in Spanish is typed, I have also typed a translation.

It is a powerful metaphor. I have decided to adopt it as my song of inspiration.

I have a feeling, you might too.

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Caminante, no hay camino

(Traveler, there is no path,
the path is made by walking)

By Antonio Machado

Everything passes and everything remains,
but we can only pass,
pass making paths,
paths over the sea.

I never sought glory,
nor to leave in man’s
memory my song;
I love the subtle worlds,
weightless and delicate,
like soap bubbles.

I like to see them painted
by sun and spots, fly
under the blue sky, then
tremble and burst…

I never sought glory.

Traveler, it’s your footprints
that are the path, nothing more;
Traveler, there is no path,
the path is made by walking.

By walking the path is made
and looking back
you see the trail
you will never tread again.

Traveler, there is no path,
only the wake upon the sea…

Some time ago in this place
where today the forests a full of hawthorns
you could hear the voice of a poet shout

“Traveler, there is no path,
the path is made by walking…”

Blow by blow, verse by verse…

The poet died far from home.
A foreign country’s dust covered him.
As they left they saw him crying.
“Traveler, there is no path,
the path is made by walking…”

Blow by blow, verse by verse…

When the finch cannot sing.
When the poet is a pilgrim,
when praying will do us no good.
“Traveler, there is no path,
the path is made by walking…”

Blow by blow, verse by verse.

Todo pasa y todo queda,
pero lo nuestro es pasar,
pasar haciendo caminos,
caminos sobre el mar.

Nunca persequí la gloria,
ni dejar en la memoria
de los hombres mi canción;
yo amo los mundos sutiles,
ingrávidos y gentiles,
como pompas de jabón.

Me gusta verlos pintarse
de sol y grana, volar
bajo el cielo azul, temblar
súbitamente y quebrarse…

Nunca perseguí la gloria.

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace camino
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.

Caminante no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar…

Hace algún tiempo en ese lugar
donde hoy los bosques se visten de espinos
se oyó la voz de un poeta gritar
“Caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar…”

Golpe a golpe, verso a verso…

Murió el poeta lejos del hogar.
Le cubre el polvo de un país vecino.
Al alejarse le vieron llorar.
“Caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar…”

Golpe a golpe, verso a verso…

Cuando el jilguero no puede cantar.
Cuando el poeta es un peregrino,
cuando de nada nos sirve rezar.
“Caminante no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar…”

Golpe a golpe, verso a verso.

Please check out this link to hear the poem, sung by Raúl “pipo” Zerquera

May the words and melody guide you.

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Before and Afters many times over

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I have always been fascinated by before and after images, from fashion magazines to home improvements. I find it especially captivating to view in my school and other schools.

Teacher Tom and his community in Seattle created an amazing outdoor  area in a small space. Take a look. I am going for a water pump with gutters next Fall. And then there is the Blog “Let the children play“. Check out all the amazing outdoor spaces created (ok so there is no before and afters, but it does inspires one to think of their own possibilities for future before and afters.)

In the spirit of before and after.. the Peabpody Outdoor Play Space finally became a reality. Thanks to funding support from Capitol Hill Community Foundation and human power from parents and children, it is a huge success.

Ok, first the before.

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This is from the quarry where I bought the stones (in Rockville, MD,  perfect town name.)

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This is Laila and Dad Kevin, meeting me over spring break to bring “tree cookies.”

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Thanks to Jeff, Miles’s Dad for sawing and delivering bamboo over break.bamboo

Here’s the gang that helped unload my car, wash the stones and help lug them to the area. (Special thanks to Henry’s Mom, Laura and Lucas’s Mom, Charlotte for meeting with me before school to get this project going.)

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The first day I did a guided discovery of the new area with every class and staff member of both Peabody and School-Within-School at Peabody. Mainly safety, storage, and boundaries (i.e. no weaponry due to the sheer volume of kids playing at the same time with 3 foot pieces of bamboo.)

The rules are what you can do:

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What can I say, but this is rewarding to watch. Plus it is all renewable and easy to upkeep.

Rachel Cross, our music teacher says it’s like witnessing all of humankind’s firsts, i.e. first wheel, first bridge, first crutch, first fire…she is so right!

I’ve always believed that all it takes is one small action to create change, and this is ever changing.natureafter

Another before and after happened in the art studio. Bianca’s Dad and Uncle took a simple line drawing that I sketched and put into Bianca’s folder, and then made it a reality.

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Here’s some amazing photos of the magically created Studio Curio. Bianca helped the entire time during installation, even when I offered her alternatives. It was just touching to see her serious relationship with her Dad Charles, and Uncle Stewy, not to mention how hard and precise a worker she was. Heartfelt thanks again!

cherriesMy last before and after is the Washington DC Cherry Blossoms. It is a ritual to have an annual SWS Cherry Blossom Picnic and celebration directly across the street in Stanton Park. Even though this year, we returned from spring break to find most of the blossoms fallen, it was a breathtaking day of beauty, fresh air and genuine community. We are really lucky to live in a place where flowers fall from the trees once a year, but even luckier that the SWS community will jump into the park with all the paraphernalia at a moments notice.(Photo credit to Tony Milatello for the picture of Sara and Chiara)

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And I would be remiss if I did not mention that Camille/Nolan’s Mom, Susan allowed a group of 8 from SWS to invade her home (until almost 10pm!)

with making flowersbranches, glue guns and japanese paper to create the “cherry blossoms” for the annual 13th School-Within-School Jazz Gala and Auction. Please link on and buy tickets, it is a fabulous evening that makes our school’s vision a possibility.

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I am sad to say that this is the first year in 13 that I will miss the event. I have a wonderful excuse… I have been asked to be a keynote and a presenter at the RedSolare (Latin American Reggio Emilia) conference on Creativity and Children, in Guadalajara, Mexico. I am looking forward to meeting a new community of progressive educators and forming new relationships that are sure to inspire.

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I like the idea that my work/art  provokes  non-stop cognitive/ creative before and afters in my brain. For this, I am thankful. paint5