The Storyteller, March 2017
Documentation as a Strategy for Selecting and Designing Projects
“Progettazione is non-linear, interdisciplinary, interdependent, always readjusting. It is a temporary advancement of the knowledge, a strategy that allows us to move the interest during the course of the project—recognizing the autonomy and the provisionality of the paths” (Tiziana Filippini, 2017).
Dear Families and Friends,
Thank you for participating in our February morning and afternoon meetings with teachers in each classroom. The teachers and I very much enjoyed sharing examples of on-going documentation materials with you and receiving your responses to the moments represented by the videos and still images. We hope that the shared documentation of children’s and teachers’ current investigations helps provide understanding of how the investigations are designed and developed.
Also in February, five teachers and I had the good fortune to participate in two mornings of professional development on the topic of documentation with Reggio educator and consultant, Tiziana Filippini. She was presenting at a retreat at Temescal Retreat Center organized by some of our local Reggio inspired colleagues. I think that Tiziana’s presentations further illuminated the role of documentation in the choices we make in framing and designing learning experiences at our school. I would like to share some of these insights with you in this March newsletter.
The Italian educators use the word, progettazione, to describe a process of inquiry. Documentation is an integral part of progettazione as it serves as a means to “keep track” and to have concrete materials that can be shared among adults and children. Documentation is a way to understand, interpret, and frame teaching and learning experiences.
For example, in last year’s Rosemary class the children used the language of photography to observe the seasonal transformations of the beautiful liquid amber trees outside their classroom window as part of our school-wide investigation of Time. As children from the Rosemary class became members of the Lavender and Sunflower communities this year—and because we were listening to children’s words about the connections between the apples explored in the new atelier of taste and trees—we grabbed the opportunity to continue the investigation. Teachers had recorded children’s words so that we could, as teams, consider how to interpret and frame the investigation. Additionally, as a school, we hold an intention to nurture an “ecological sensitivity” within the community.
So, based on observation and interpretation, the choice was made for teachers and children to begin taking walks in the neighborhood to find out what kinds of trees live near our school. Teachers documented children’s interactions with the trees and with one another. In reviewing the videos, notes and photos, we agreed that the children were fascinated by: the size and age of the trees and by characteristics such as branches, leaves, roots and bark. Studio teachers, Valeria and Nathalie, suggested clay as the language to use to continue the investigation. Drawing, too, was a valuable language. And, as collaboration is another value held at our school, children were encouraged to work in pairs or in groups to create “Together Trees.” This phase of the project is almost complete, but we are offering line drawing tools and watercolor for children to consider the trees from an additional perspective—adding color to the representations. Size and roots remain significant interests and we are wondering together about additional opportunities to offer the children in this investigation: perhaps light and shadow as languages to allow children to work with large images and consider size—and also to give space for the elaboration of roots in the representations-?
Progettazione consists of first observing–and then developing an orientation or intention for the work. Next, documentation permits us to continue observing and interpreting, designing next steps—relaunching the project. These actions repeat as part of a circular process of investigation.
This approach to teaching and learning requires the teacher to be well-prepared, but also flexible. As the children’s play and thinking can be very fast paced and multi-faceted, the orientation (or intention) and the documentation together serve to help the teacher “hang in” and continue the investigation—rather than leave the topic completely and follow one of the many possible directions offered by the children in any given moment. However, the teacher is also open to a new possibility related to the topic. In this way, the outcome of the project may remain unidentified along the path of exploration. Progettazione “seeks to create a fluid and dynamic relationship between learning and teaching” (Filippini).
We plan to continue our meetings with parents once a month in the Library to share both on-going documentation and more final documentation of previous work (as this form of documentation, too, is a valuable reflective tool). We hope that you will continue to read and enjoy teachers’ microstories and small group stories—and also join us for the monthly documentation meetings. The more familiar we all become with the role of documentation in this work we do together, the stronger our alliance will become—and our little school will be able to travel its journey as a “hot air balloon,” seeing the world in a different way (Gandini).
With warm wishes,
Teacher Appreciation Weeks
Room Parents in each class have chosen a particular week for the purpose of honoring teachers. Each class has its own week: week of March 6-Lavender; week of March 27-Cherry Blossom; week of May 1—Sunflower; week of May 14—Rosemary. Room parents will coordinate with parents in their class to provide special treats for the teachers during the week. Examples include: coffee/tea drinks delivered to school one day, flower arrangements, or take-out lunch delivered to school one day. Each class has a budget for this initiative and parents are welcome to submit receipts to Room Parents as preferred. We ask that simplicity be favored over elaborate plans. Thank you. Teachers look forward to being honored by the parents in their class and so appreciate your kindness and generosity. Please note: the Teacher Appreciation Luncheon held in June is a separate initiative and has its own committee.
Pajama Night Fundraiser
On Friday, March 10, the children are invited to return to school in their pajamas from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. While children are having fun in our classrooms and eating a pizza dinner, parents are encouraged to have a night out! All of our teachers and directors will be present to share the fun with the children, playing games and reading stories together. If you are not sure if your child will be comfortable in this novel situation, please consult with us. While most children do enjoy the evening, some of our younger children may find the change of routine a bit overwhelming—or the timing of the event may be too late for them. (If they miss this year’s event, they can participate in next year’s PJ Night.) Please see Karen to purchase tickets for $50 each. Larger donations are also welcome. The funds will go toward the cost of purchasing a new Mag Wall for the outdoor spaces. Thank you for your participation!
Raffle for A Date with Teachers
In conjunction with the Pajama Night fundraiser, Karen will be offering raffle tickets for sale for children in each class to win an after-school date with their teachers. Generally, children and teachers enjoy ice cream or frozen yogurt after school for this occasion—arranged between Karen and parents on behalf of teachers. The cost of the tickets is $20 each. Winners will be drawn the week of March 13. The children love this opportunity to spend time with their teachers outside of school!
- March 3—Evergreen teachers visiting PPS—regular schedule observed
- Week of March 6 —Lavender Teacher Appreciation Week
- Tuesday, March 7—Tandy Parks meets with parents from 9:15 to 10:15 in the Library
- Thursday, March 9—Parent Tours
- Friday, March 10—Pajama Night from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, March 12—Daylight Saving Time begins
- Monday, March 13—Preschool closed
- Monday, March 20—Teacher work day, Preschool closed
- Thursday, March 23—Board of Trustees meeting at 5:30 p.m.
- Week of March 27—Cherry Blossom Teacher Appreciation Week
- Wednesday, March 29—Fullerton College students and instructor visit PPS at 5 p.m.
Pictures from School Events
Afternoon with Teachers