Archive for April, 2011

Share #7-Shad are in!

Posted 27 Apr 2011 — by Jennifer
Category shares

Something that has become more apparent to me in recent years is the importance of context. What makes a school, a neighborhood, a city–a community? What is particular to a place, and what impact does history, culture and tradition have on everyday life? What values does a community hold, and do they contribute to a sense of well-being?

When I think about where I live-Washington, DC, what I identify with-what makes this city mine–I think about Rock Creek Park. My runs, hikes, bike rides through, and the view from my windows of the park make me so happy to live here. What impresses me is the wildness of the place, in the middle of the city. In one afternoon we caught 5 species of fish (including an American eel) in the creek. There are fox, deer, owls, hawks, coyotes, turtles, frogs and more right in my back yard!

I wanted to post about a unique annual happening-the shad run on the Potomac River, but also in Rock Creek, because it is something I look forward to every year. So…

The shad are in Rock Creek at Peirce Mill in DC today–if you are local and you haven’t seen this awesome spectacle–get down here today or tomorrow! Three years ago obstructions were removed and a fish bridge was installed at the mill to allow the shad to make their annual run to spawn. It is really a beautiful sight, and the history of the shad in this country is very interesting as well. A favorite author of mine, John McPhee, wrote a great book called Founding Fish if you want to read more.









suggest the title for this one…

Posted 25 Apr 2011 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized

National Gallery of Art, DC Canaletto exhibit

Activities and Languages

Posted 12 Apr 2011 — by Jennifer
Category materials

This is a very small example of a very big idea. Children in a classroom at Walker Jones Education Campus became fascinated with the books of Eric Carle. They liked looking at his image, and recognizing his style of illustration from book to book. The class went on a field trip to the National Gallery of Art, where docents read Carle’s book “The Cloud” and then children looked for artist’s renderings of clouds in the museum’s collection. There was also an experience with materials connected to this field trip. 


After the field trip, children came back very excited about clouds. They went outside looking for  and observing clouds:

They had a conversation about clouds (one of the first conversations this classroom has had):

Teacher: What is a cloud?

J – a cloud look like white

N – a cottonball

J- a bowling thing

T- it look like a pizza

E – A dinosaur

S – it’s a … a big furry cloud is made of candy

M – look white

M- it cover the moon

J – a dentist toy

K – race car

J – it looks like a race car. it’s like a giant big cloud. You get another cloud and another cloud and another cloud

L – a cloud look like a hat that you have on

J – A cloud, it covers the stars


Adults met and  talked about what to do. We re-read the children’s words and made hypotheses and assumptions about what they were talking about. We organized, planned, discussed and gathered materials for what would happen next. We decided, based on both the conversations children were having outside on the playground looking for clouds–a lot of pointing out how the cloud was first a dog, then a princess, then a hat, for example–and based on the above small group conversation, that the transmutability of clouds was important–captivating–to the children.

We decided to try to capture this element of cloud-ness using materials. But which ones? Clay? Wire? Pencils? Shadow screen? We decided to create a provocation with sand (a material the children knew well) on a glass panel–where children could draw into and sculpt  the changing cloud forms. 

These materials captured the spirit of what the children were expressing about clouds–that they change from one shape to the next. Their sand drawings evolved from a pizza to a race car to a ‘dirty cloud’ (see below).
I think that this mini-episode captures a little bit of the essence of what it means to use materials as languages–the choice of the material is considered and specific, and it communicates the message and magic of what is being expressed.