The Storyteller, January 2017
“The Pattern that Connects:” A search for relationships “Expression through the arts was considered by Gregory to be the most honest and pure form of human communication. It’s easy to forget that when we find meaning in a story or enjoy the beauty of a piece of music, we are engaging in the realm of thinking that is most in sync with nature. Metaphor is the language of relationships, the language of natural systems, in which there is room to communicate in spectrums of possibility, instead of tightly defined cul-de-sacs” (Nora Bateson, 2010, filmmaker and daughter of Gregory Bateson).
Dear Families and Friends,
As individuals and as a community, the New Year offers us an opportunity for reflecting upon and renewing our commitments to values we hold meaningful to our shared experience. At Palisades Preschool, 2017 offers us an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to better understanding the relationship between aesthetics and ethics.
In our continuing study of the Reggio Emilia approach, we discover (repeatedly) the importance of systems thinking. December’s Storyteller included a description of Bronfenbrenner’s systems-based theory of child development valued by Loris Malaguzzi: human ecology theory (1979). Another of the great thinkers whose ideas Malaguzzi highly admired was Gregory Bateson—anthropologist, biologist, psychologist and philosopher. “Bateson was one of the most original thinkers of the late twentieth century . . . He would often move himself across the boundaries of disciplines, and do so in highly innovative ways” (van Boeckel, 2011). Bateson believed in the importance of an aesthetic sensibility. He asked, “What is the pattern that connects the crab to the lobster and the primrose to the orchid, and all of them to me, and me to you?”
“His approach was radically different from conventional science, which is often more preoccupied with taking things apart. Bateson was a voice crying in the wilderness. ‘Why do our schools teach us nothing about the pattern which connects?’ he asked in despair. There was another side to this, and a cause for great concern. ‘Break the pattern which connects,’ he stated, ‘and you necessarily destroy all quality” (van Boeckel, 2011).
How do we nurture children’s developing aesthetic sensibility—their developing sense of the pattern that connects? Beyond the important role of children’s hundred languages in supporting dispositions of mind such as focus, perspective-taking, and critical thinking, Reggio educators show us that it is through children’s hundred languages that we enter into a dialogue with them about nature, beauty, community—ethics.
In many of our hallway panels and documentation books, the unifying topic of the investigations is beauty as a way of knowing (Vecchi). Our ongoing explorations of The Tree, The Traveling Voice, and Time are about patterns, communication, connections, transformation, and beauty. If we hope for children to become stewards of the earth —of its natural and human resources—we must first nurture their relationships with nature and with one another. Taking care is a metaphor for being “in relationship”—for feeling connected. Bateson asked “What is the pattern which connects?” not because he believed that there is a single answer, but because he believed in the necessity of searching for relationships.
The atelier, the outdoor spaces, the ateliers of taste, of storytelling, and of construction—along with our classrooms, our homes and our neighborhoods—can be places of “listening,” of caring. Using the hundred languages to dream, to create and to appreciate together is one channel we are choosing to better understand the relationship between aesthetics and ethics.
As we begin a new year together, we invite you to join us in our commitment to children’s hundred languages—and to applying them to the context of caring. “An aesthetic response is a response to relationships” (Bateson).
Sending warm wishes for a healthful, joyful and peaceful New Year,
School-wide Intentions, Curriculum Choices, Professional Development and Aesthetics and Ethics
During the past few years we have had the honor and pleasure of working with two amazing early childhood educational consultants and two very provocative visiting experts from beyond our field as we seek to understand relationships. Visiting specialists from the Japanese American Cultural Center of Los Angeles, Ritsuko Akamatsu (President of the Ikenobo Ikebana Society) and Hirokazu Kosaka (Master Artist in Residence) each helped us to understand the search for the pattern that connects through their presentations and workshops: “The flower will tell you the best way to place it to show its beauty” (Mrs. Akamatsu), and, “Haiku is about sensitivity to things around us” (Mr. Kosaka). Lella Gandini and Harold Gothson also placed emphasis on relationships: “When a child makes a choice in the outdoor spaces, it is like a little bird looking for a seed” (Gandini), and, “In this photo of two children and one flower, there are three protagonists” (Gothson).
Our choice to investigate children’s sense of time and to create an atelier of taste both relate to the investigation of relationships. Please take a few moments to read the hallway panel documenting last year’s Time installations in our outdoor spaces, as well as the documentation introducing the atelier of taste. And, the Way of Tea panel, the Shoe Investigation panel, Living Organisms panel, Table and Chairs and Compositional Research panels all have to do with the search for relationships.
Ongoing explorations: Spatial Relationships, Bridges, Buildings—Inside and Outside, Storytelling and Puppets, What is a Machine?, Trees, Eco-Dying, The Restaurant—Roles in Dramatic Play, The Sky, The Traveling Voice, and Catching the Rain are all related to the understanding of relationships.
“Green” Practices at PPS
Woven into our daily life at the school are several practices we hope are beneficial to Santa Monica’s efforts to support sustainability:
- Blue recycle bins for clean paper, cardboard and plastic trash placed in classrooms, studios and outdoor spaces
- Compost bins for extra food from snack, lunches and atelier of taste explorations
- Organically grown foods for snack, lunch and the atelier of taste explorations
- Eco-friendly sprays for surfaces (except during the nightly cleaning when stronger materials are used)
- Eco-friendly soaps for hands and dishes
- An organic garden in our outdoor space
- Recycling of ink cartridges used in school printers
- Rechargeable batteries when possible (we use very few regular batteries these days)
- Purchase of many furnishings and toys approved as eco-friendly
- Use of many recycled paper goods (copy paper, paper towels)
- Use of real plates, cups and utensils for most snack and lunch settings
- Use of compostable bowls and plates when teachers are absent and dishwashing is not possible
- Use of many natural materials in children’s investigations
- Use of many “loose parts” (recycled materials) in construction activities
- Appropriate recycling of paint and any hazardous materials used for school maintenance
We invite our Green Committee to meet during the first part of 2017 to review these practices and make additional suggestions.
Santa Monica residential hazardous waste disposal info: http://www.stericycleenvironmental.com/santa-monica/
Mornings with Teachers / Afternoons with Teachers /
During the coming months, each classroom community will be invited to join teachers, atelieristi and the pedagogista to look at recent documentation and to share interpretations, insights and ideas during A Morning with Teachers (Cherry Blossom and Rosemary) or An Afternoon with Teachers (Lavender and Sunflower). For the morning meetings, children are at play outside. For the afternoon meetings, children go to Stay & Play free of charge while parents meet with our faculty from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. The first meeting is planned for the Rosemary parents and teachers on Wed., January 25—from 9:15 to 10:00 a.m. These meetings are in addition to the recently initiated Documentation meetings held in our Library which are open to parents in all classrooms. The next Documentation meeting is planned for Thursday, January 19, from 9:15 to 10:15. The topic will be THE SHOE STORE—a long-term investigation from the previous two years. We are choosing to share this work because it showcases the development of a simple observation into a long-term project that included literacy and mathematical thinking appropriate for 5 year old children in the Sunflower room. Parents who are making the decision about TK versus a third year at Palisades Preschool might be interested in attending this meeting. Please rsvp to Karen.
Applications and Admission Agreements for the 2017-2018 School Year
In December, preschool applications for returning children were distributed to Cherry Blossom, Rosemary, and toddler Explorations families along with the new Schedule of Tuition and Fees for the 2017-2018 school year. Parents of current Lavender room children with summer/fall birthdays also received applications and new tuition information.
The applications will be due to Karen by Friday, January 13. Karen will then create Admission Agreements for returning and toddler Explorations families and mail them to each family. We ask that current Cherry Blossom and Rosemary parents submit the signed Agreement, registration fee and June 2018 tuition payment by Monday, Jan. 31. Toddler Explorations parents who are new to PPS are asked to submit the signed Agreement, registration fee and the May and June 2018 tuition payments by Jan. 31.
The signed Agreement, registration fee and tuition deposit secure your child’s space for the coming new school year. New families not currently enrolled in any of our programs will be contacted on February 9, according to our agreement with other local preschools. Please let us know if you have any questions about this year’s enrollment/admissions process. Thank you.
Financial Assistance for the 2017-2018 School Year
Applications for financial assistance for the new school year should be submitted to Karen with the preschool application by Friday, Jan. 13. We have a process in place for the award of financial assistance to returning families and will notify families of the amount we are able to provide to qualifying applicants by early Feb. Please speak with Nancy if you have any questions about this process and if you would like to obtain a copy of the financial aid application. Thank you.
After-School Small Group Classes for the Winter Session
Please speak with Karen to inquire about space/cost and to enroll your child in:
- Wednesday—Percussion & Movement
- Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 5 & 6—Preschool closed for teacher work days
- Monday, Jan. 9—Preschool classes resume—Stay & Play is offered this week
- Tuesday, Jan. 10—Tandy Parks mindful parenting meeting in Library from 9:15 to 10:15
- Thursday, Jan. 12—Parent Tours
- Friday, Jan. 13—Preschool applications due for returning and toddler parents
- Friday, Jan. 13—Toddler classes resume
- Monday, Jan. 16—Preschool closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday
- Tuesday, Jan. 17—After-school classes begin
- Thursday, Jan. 19—Documentation Meeting (parents in all classes invited) in Library from 9:15 to 10:15—rsvp
- Wednesday, Jan. 25—Morning with Teachers for Rosemary community from 9:15 to 10:00 in Rosemary room
- Monday, Jan. 31—Admissions Agreements and tuition deposits from returning and toddler parents due Calendar change for
Pictures from School Events
Aesthetics & Relationships