Articulating our intentions

Articulating our intentions

Opal School has two primary classrooms, Maple and Magnolia, which include kindergartners, first graders, and second graders.  The teachers from the two classrooms function as a team.  As a first collaborative effort, the Primary Team composed and sent this letter to parents before the first day of the 2016-2017 school year.  We’d love to hear the reflections of Opal School Online members:

  • What do you notice?  What do you wonder about?
  • How do you imagine the process of composing this letter will influence the work of this group of teachers?  
  • How might it influence the experience of children?
  • What might be the experience of parents receiving this letter?
  • What connections do you see to your work?

A child’s most sought after goal is to recognize himself in others, and to find in others (objects and the natural world as well) parts of himself. This is a most complex and delicate process in-as-much as a child’s cognitive, affective, and social network is constantly changing. This sense of self, of one’s own self which is a vital component of self-esteem, learning and development, even if it is part of a never-ending process, is a quality that the child must set in motion, with adult help and cooperation, as soon as s/he can.

-Loris Malaguzzi (founder of the pre-primary schools of Reggio Emilia)

Dear Primary Families,

At Opal School, we see all children as competent, creative, imaginative and curious. We believe they come to school full of experience and wisdom, eager to make meaning of their lives and everything that surrounds them. This year, the Opal School Primary Team of teachers are particularly curious about the children’s growing understanding of themselves. We believe understanding of self is foundational to all relationships – relationship to one another, to the environment, to materials, to the world and so on.

One goal and expectation for Opal Students is to develop strategies that contribute to the quality of the community by having a keen sense of place, identity and belonging while respecting the rights and of identities of others.

With this goal in mind, we wonder:

What is the relationship between self-knowledge and taking action as mindful citizens of the world?

We see play as a natural learning strategy and are curious how, through playful inquiry, we might support understanding of self and development of mindful human beings. Some of the questions that we imagine framing our work this year are:

• What becomes possible when we know ourselves?
• How might better understanding ourselves help us better understand others?
• How might understanding our own gifts support others to discover theirs?
• How might understanding of self support the development of community?

As a team, we have begun considering threads related to this idea of “self” including relationships to identity, culture, emotions, how the body works, ownership and sense of place, just to name a few. We have begun imagining ways five, six, seven and eight year-olds might connect, explore, wonder, discover, question and play through the lens of this “big idea.” We see this study playing a vital role in our work as a community, our studies within the arts and sciences and our relationship to the natural world.

This is a snapshot of our intention for the year, a sneak peek into some of our thinking and possibilities that we’re imagining while preparing classroom environments, reflecting on our school’s values and developing curriculum together. We will offer many windows into the children’s (and adult’s) learning experiences and evolving theories of self and identity through stories, dialogue and images on our new website each week (more information to follow). We also look forward to including your voices and experiences as we dive deeper into our study of self, including the many relationships in our lives through all parts of our day.

Finally, we’re eager to reconnect with old friends and welcome new ones to our school community! We’ve been working hard in anticipation of your arrival tomorrow- the classrooms feel incomplete without you. We can’t wait to welcome you.

Warmly,

Angela, Heather, Lauren, Nicole, Amy, Bethany, Kathryn Ann, and Mary Gage

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