Author: Susan Harris MacKay

Mar
31

Materials as Metaphors

My recent post, Say What You Mean, began as this post — but I got so tangled up in thinking about the relationship between knowledge and meaning and learning and relationship and power and vulnerability that I realized I’d better split these posts in two. In this post, I’ll share the experience I had recently […]
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Mar
31

Say What you Mean

We’ve been infected with this kind of pathological impatience that makes us want to have the knowledge but not do the work of claiming it. I mean, the true material of knowledge is meaning. … And the only way to glean knowledge is contemplation. And the road to that is time. There’s nothing else. It’s […]

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Mar
02

Constructing Identity

Because it’s Opal 4, we knew we would deeply explore the complexities of perspective this year. Because it was a presidential election year, we knew we would be thinking together about the issues and the process. Because 4th and 5th graders have a right to know their state’s history, we knew we would focus on […]

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Feb
26

Dear Future School

It’s that time of year when our oldest students start seriously thinking about the schools they’ll go to next. These transitions are always bittersweet. It’s so hard to go, and at the same time, everyone is eager to know what’s in store. We always wonder what the children will take with them into the world. And […]

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Dec
08

Is it playful inquiry?

Matt and I have been puzzling over this photo this week. Is this moment of questions posed and children deep into their research and writing representative of playful inquiry? Delight isn’t a quality that immediately jumps to mind. But joy? Perhaps. Play is not the opposite of work. There is joy in work. Especially as […]

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Nov
04

Being Safe to Risk

What lives between the comfort zone and the danger zone? It’s a place where you feel safe to risk. It’s the zone we work to stay in at Opal School. It’s the zone we believe that Vea Vecchi might call the Aesthetic Dimension. The place that Elizabeth Gilbert might say is where you find what […]

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Sep
19

Public Gardens

As a big fan of the work of both Alison Gopnik and Peter Gray, a post written recently by the latter about a new book, The Gardener and the Carpenter, by the former, got me thinking. In summarizing some of Gopnik’s main points Gray writes: We adults can help them best not by teaching, but by […]

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Jun
10

Sharing Strawberries

In the spring, because our third graders had become so engaged with statistics of our global population, we decided to share some of the Material World photography collection with them. This powerful project documents the disparity in material possessions around the world. Here is a sampling: COPYRIGHT:© 1994 Peter Menzel www.menzelphoto.com Material World Photograph © 2004 […]
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May
24

All under one roof

To readers of Opal School Online, it might be easy to forget that Opal School is a project of the Portland Children’s Museum. To Portland Children’s Museum visitors, it’s not always visible that Opal School lives within it. It’s an unusual organization, doing so much under one roof – exhibits, programs, an elementary charter school, an […]

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Apr
11

Why we don’t do art in school (and why we should)

This post by Susan Harris MacKay first appeared on the Living in Dialogue blog. In these times, when the demolition of a place as historic as Sesame Street can be thwarted by editing for shorter attention spans and conversion to pay-per-view, it can be difficult to remember what all the fuss was about during the […]

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