Archive for March, 2012

Riffles and pools

Posted 30 Mar 2012 — by Jennifer
Category hundred languages, observation

My son’s friend Sam studies a tributary of Rock Creek on our walk home from school:

Sam: “That’s a good pool for fish right there, next to the side of that riffle.”

Sam’s dad is an avid angler.  Sam was taught how to read the river, hence, Sam knows where the fish are.

How many secrets could we unlock if we knew how to “read” other languages?

Butterfly Bridge

Posted 26 Mar 2012 — by Jennifer
Category hundred languages


Right in front of Takoma Education Campus a butterfly bridge was installed as part of the 5×5 Project. We took a group of children out to see it today, and afterwards, they drew. Some children invented other bridges for birds and insects, some made a butterfly bridge with a stop light “to tell the cars to stop so the butterflies can cross,” and one child, Tamika (pseudonym) drew this:
Tamika said, “This is a flower garden and this one is left by itself (red flower hanging upside down), and these are all of his friends. He wants to play with them because they are partners.” She counted all the pairs, and then went back to her drawing and added a friend for the red flower…

I like how this shows both social/emotional intelligence (making a friend for a flower who didn’t have a partner) and some great math–odd and even, division with a remainder, sets…





Technology, revisited

Posted 26 Mar 2012 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized

My good friend Anya (Smith 2012!) just was awarded a fellowship at the San Francisco Network Ministries. She will be working mostly in the The Tenderloin Tech Lab–one of the programs run by the San Francisco Network Ministries.

“The Tenderloin Tech Lab is the Tenderloin’s only technology center specializing in adult computer and employment skills training, which aids nearly 1,000 homeless and low-income clients each year in overcoming the barriers to employment and accessing technology.  Through our partnership with San Francisco Network Ministries, we offer free intensive computer classes, one-on-one tutoring, job search counseling and life skills courses, all designed specifically for the learning styles of adults struggling with poverty, addiction, mental health challenges or homelessness.”

I am adding this to our recent study group discussion as another way of looking at children (or adults) who are “raised on technology,” and what can come of knowing this language intimately.




Soundscape Ecology

Posted 21 Mar 2012 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized

Last summer I had the opportunity to organize ateliers for the NAREA Summer Conference at Asilomar. In my introduction (see below) I talked a little about a new field in science: soundscape ecology. The NY Times ran a story about current research this weekend:

My comments to introduce the ateliers, published in Innovations vol. 18, no. 3 Summer 2011:

“A few weeks ago, I was listening to “Science Friday”
on NPR and I heard a story about biologists, who had
created a new field called “soundscape ecology.” In
the past, biologists had focused on the vibrant sounds
made by a single healthy species. But they realized
that in order for a species to be healthy, the landscape
of sounds has to be healthy. There must be – and
I will use a term from Reggio Emilia – a “rich
normality” of sounds. They went on to explain how,
within these soundscapes, creatures learn to sing at
different frequencies, yet sing in relationship to each
other so they can be heard.
Yesterday, Anna gave us a metaphor of “The Wonder
of Learning” exhibit as interconnected archipelagos,
which offer a plurality of possibilities. Children
investigating the Malaguzzi International Center had
the idea to “give to each of the columns their own
originality as if they were a community of columns.”
If you look at the table of stones, which you brought
from your contexts, each one is unique. The stones

are dull, sparkly, smooth, gray, white or black. Each

one has its own personality, history and origin but,

as a whole and in relation to each other, the stones
become something else entirely, and create new
relationships and new possibilities.
I am using these examples as metaphors for the
premise of the ateliers in the context of Asilomar. In
April, Roxanne (Jacobus, California State Parks
Ranger) and I had a phone conference. She touched
on many aspects of the history and significance of
Asilomar, as she did earlier today. In particular, she
said, “Asilomar is about networking, exchanging and
sharing information. The history is of women coming
here to empower themselves and gain self-reliance
and autonomy, and the energy today is still about
improving ourselves but within a community…
through collaboration and team work.”
The experiences you will encounter in a moment are
organized to reflect the relationship between the
individual and the community, to elevate the importance of context in creating a sense of well being, and
to encourage deeper connections to materials as languages. As we enter into the ateliers today, we come
as ourselves with our own contexts and experiences.
What we will generate through our play, as Elena said,
is “a sense of belonging, pleasure and passion.”


Posted 16 Mar 2012 — by Jennifer
Category hundred languages, technology

I’ve been thinking a lot about technology in schools for our upcoming DCREA Study Group meeting. The other day I watched my colleague print out 15 or so pictures, cut them out on a paper cutter, and then file them into a child’s portfolio. I wondered aloud why we are still doing a paper portfolio when a DVD of images (the original work presented separately) would last longer, be more cost effective, and save time. I had mentioned a DVD before in the past and so far, the idea has not caught on.

This is but one example; I often see a resistance to the language of technology. As adults, we must show that we are open to all languages, whether or not we are well-versed. If we are fearful, or reticent to explore a new language, we consequently send a message of prejudice.

See also:

Playing the game

Posted 09 Mar 2012 — by Jennifer
Category image of the child, role of teacher

Yesterday I was on the Walker Jones Farm with a group of children and teachers. It is quite distance from the school, and of course as soon as we got there, Johnequa (not her real name) needed to use the bathroom. We raced over the field, slowly and carefully crossed the street, then resumed our race to the front door. Laughing and panting, Johnequa showed me a bottle of blue nail polish she had in her pocket as we entered the school. I told her how much I liked the color and asked if I could try it while she was in the bathroom. Johnequa was delighted to see my blue nails, and wanted me to tell her classroom teacher that I got my nails done at “Johnequa’s nail salon.” She asked if we could race again back to the farm.

I felt like I was doing something wrong, having this much fun at school. Other classrooms stared at us whizzing by. Did we break the rules? No, but we broke the cultural norm by laughing together, bonding over nail polish, and running like the wind. When it came time to draw the spinach seedlings, Johnequa gave it her all, adding many tiny roots and details. I think she enjoyed sitting next to me as much as the drawing part, and I too was happy to have shared something special, something of myself, with her (I am a runner).

I don’t mean to imply that we should be “friends” with the children. But I do think that we put up a teacher facade that doesn’t allow us to truly form relationships with children. I don’t believe that we lose control from having these kinds of close connections–in fact, I think we gain more respect.  Children know it’s a game, and they can choose to play or not.

From Not Just Anyplace, a video from Reggio…

“So I believe that our work is to stand beside the children, not in front or behind the children but at their side, and to accompany the children on their discoveries about life and their world, to highlight their differences and their subjectivities, trying to give value to their thoughts and their ideas and their theories.”    –Antonia Monticelli, teacher at Gianni Rodari Municipal Infant-Toddler Center since 1992


Posted 06 Mar 2012 — by Jennifer
Category image of the child, materials

I’ve been thinking a lot about this quotation from a recent Washington Post review of the Suprasensorial show at the Hirshhorn:

“But it’s always worth being suspicious of anything that attempts to bypass the intellect through hyper-sensual appeal.” -Phillip Kennicott

I think educators should also be wary about many of the so-called sensory experiences we offer at school–like shaving cream for example. I remain suspicious about the “fun” factor, and am left wondering about the complexity.

See the full review: