Archive for February, 2013

Slowing down, a new definition

Posted 26 Feb 2013 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized

Often when I talk about slowing down, people really slow down…I mean..they put the brakes on…sort of stop the action. I would like to offer a new way of thinking about “slowing down”: slowing down can be seen as increasing complexity and layers of experience.

This implies taking time to analyze and project, taking time to prepare materials and environments, taking time to revisit and assess, and it also implies a simultaneous action and movement forward to deepen experiences.

Slowing down is the opposite of inaction-it means attention to quality processes and increasing complexity.

Smithsonian Magazine’s Light Issue

Posted 26 Feb 2013 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized

March-Phenomenon-Alone-in-the-Dark-1Here is a link to the website, but if you can get your hands on a printed copy, seeing the articles all together lets you see the breadth of ways of looking at this topic.


Are we shrinking from challenges?

Posted 25 Feb 2013 — by Jennifer
Category role of teacher

Jay Matthews, in his Washington Post column “Missed Challenges More Worrisome Than Tests” makes a good point:

“As a society, we shrink from giving children challenging lessons.”

Matthews referenced Ken Bernstein’s recent popular article which “apologized to college professors for our high schools’ failure to prepare students” for, as Bernstein states,  “the kind of intellectual work that you have every right to expect of them.”

I often feel that as educators, we don’t set the bar high enough where it really counts, and I don’t mean test scores. I think we shy away from situations where children are out of their comfort zone, or where they claim boredom when really they are afraid of taking risks. I think we don’t challenge enough because we are, in some way, worried that we will damage them by interfering with their “creativity.”

In the Reggio Approach, following the interests of a child/children does not mean abandoning the role of the teacher as instigator and provocateur of complex, challenging and stimulating opportunities for growth and learning.





Gunnar Kaj

Posted 22 Feb 2013 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized

kajLast night I attended an artist’s talk by Gunnar Kaj ( at the Swedish Embassy. Kaj is a floral designer best known for his work as the lead floral designer for the Nobel Prize ceremony.

Speaking about his creative process, he explained that “Nature can do everything itself, but it is about new arrangements.” His work involves combining new things, and as he explained, “I did the wrong things, things that were not proper, not the expected things.”

He also shared that his work is about meticulous planning in order to create beautiful results.  He highlighted collaboration and having a framework (“an idea to work towards”) as important factors in developing his vision.

Some connections I made with my own work:

-the blending of art and science

-the value of collaboration


-importance of planning, even/especially for “creative” processes

-wonder and the unexpected


And just some inspirational quotations:

“When I do something and it is beautiful it aches right here (pointing to his breastbone).”

“There are always enough ideas.”

About springtime in Sweden: “It is a wonder every year. You can die for the flowers, when they’re suddenly there again.”

“My work is about ‘alive,’ and the danger of dying. The danger of dying makes them (flowers) carry all the things we want to say.”

“We love flowers because we identify with them. We see ourselves in them in some way.”




For the love of drawing

Posted 19 Feb 2013 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized


The other day I was having a conversation with a group of children about “fastness,” and the focus of the conversation turned to their shoes–the stripes or the “bumpy things” make shoes fast, and certain kinds of shoes, and colors of shoes, in their opinion, make one run faster than other kinds of shoes. I invited the group to draw “fast shoes.” They all sighed at this, and, frankly, declined. Curious, I asked why they didn’t want to draw and one child said, “because it’s hard.”

I have been thinking about this comment a lot. Drawing from life is difficult, because it requires communication and compromise, among other things. The child who said drawing is hard is correct –but why do we shy away from things that challenge us, both adults and children? What atmosphere are we creating at school or at home that does not encourage children to want to tackle things that are hard, challenging, or complicated?

I remember when, many years ago at my first school, the Model Early Learning Center, children did not want to draw. Teachers and Amelia Gambetti (our mentor/consultant) decided to confront this problem head on. We added drawing materials to many areas of the classroom, the construction area, the library, the house. We invited children many, many times, to remember experiences we had together through graphic representation. We, the adults, changed our attitudes towards drawing in order to support pleasurable, joyful time together with drawing as the center of the experience. Drawing became the norm, instead of a dreaded and pressure-filled aspect of our work.





Why We Love Beautiful Things –

Posted 17 Feb 2013 — by Jennifer
Category hundred languages

Why We Love Beautiful Things –

This article raises interesting questions about the nature (and nurture) of creativity.

Same process, different media

Posted 17 Feb 2013 — by Jennifer
Category hundred languages, materials, technology

Yesterday Will (my 10 year old) was working on creating a loop in Garage Band. He recorded via synthesizer a segment or phrase, and was trying to loop it, but he was having difficulty because he realized that in order to make a loop, you have to leave halves at the ends, so when they merge you don’t get a repeat at the beginning. Here’s his loop after a lot of trial and error (my title):

tuba loop

I was fascinated because it is the same process textile or wallpaper designers use in order to make repeat patterns. See this detail, below from:


1. Background Rectangle – In this method, the rectangle is placed below all other objects, so that all elements stay within its borders.



2. Dividing Objects – To crop the pattern, create a rectangle on top of all objects to match the tile. Now you have two options: either select all objects and press the Crop button in the Pathfinder panel, or select the top rectangle and go to Object > Path > Divide objects below and delete the leftovers. Now you can save the perfectly cropped pattern.



3. Invisible Borders – This method is the most advanced and popular. Create a rectangle matching the tile borders, make it NO fill and NO stroke (dark rectangle on the image below) and send it to back of the entire stack (Shift + Command+ [). This invisible shape will define the pattern borders, this way you can avoid dividing objects.






And the same process block printing with a repeat:


Same concept, same process; different media, different languages.

Lessons From Parkour

Posted 13 Feb 2013 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized


My son had his second parkour class today.

Gem #1 from his teacher, Mark at Primal Fitness:

“It’s amazing what you can’t do when you don’t let yourself.”

Gem #2 from Mark:  “The whole team has got to make it.”

Something I didn’t expect from this experience is the collaborative decision making based on individual strengths in order to construct group challenges.

Setting up an obstacle course and gradually making it more difficult by removing pieces, the team had to find a way to get everyone across.  This means they had to know each person’s strengths and weaknesses and consider those competencies in order to make the course challenging but accessible to everyone.  In order to accomplish the goal they had to think about other people, in relation to their own contribution to the group. It was very interesting to think about this in connection with the culture of the classroom and the predominant focus on the “I” in education.  

The Power of Visual Information: Science Friday Instructional Video

Posted 01 Feb 2013 — by Jennifer
Category Uncategorized


I like the way information is communicated

visually in NPR’s Science Friday video, How Owls Turn