Opal School closed in 2021. You can continue to access these resources for free at teachingpreschoolpartners.org/resource-library/.

Creating new memories of what is possible

It's the last day before winter break, and I spend a chunk of the morning dropping into classrooms. Exciting worlds are being created amongst children, teachers, and parents.

In the preschool, Story Workshop is in full force. A group of children spin stories with the observation drawings they've rendered from photos taken during their trip to the zoo.


In Opal 1, visiting parents share the story of Mandela and the way in which their voice for justice parallel his. 


Two children in Opal 2 share wish-drawings they've completed for one of their classmates' brand new baby sister.


In Opal 3, children and parents celebrate the publication of their new books, stories which reveal places they love.


The Opal 4 classroom is filled with Wampanoag and Separatist peoples, celebrating their new treaty and peacetime.


Opal School is a tiny school: 37 children in the preschool program; 87 in the elementary school.  Our goal at the school is create an incredible experience of learning and wonder with those children and to use that work as a way for others to, as Susan often puts it, create new memories about what is possible.  Over the last week, I’ve watched that happen in different ways:

  • The curriculum coordinator from a neighboring district described the tension her visit to Opal inspired within her. She found herself challenged to move from restrictions based on standards and test scores to “what we know is beautiful and most important to create full human beings.”  
  • The development director of a nonprofit organization was visibly moved as he reflected on the huge divide between the nature of the relationships he observed in the classrooms at Opal and what he has sees elsewhere.
  • An editor wrote about how her day at the school led to a “joyful blowing of [her] mind,” resulting in returning home feeling energized, inspired, and hopeful.
  • Former Opal School teacher Zalika Gardner, fresh from excellent news for KairosPDX from both the PPS School Board (which granted the charter) and the Oregon Department of Education (which awarded a major grant), talked about how she is driven to show how relevant Opal School’s work is for every single child.

Teachers at Opal School often talk about how lucky they are to work in a place where adults share a high image of the child – and where the children regularly explode that image by surprising us with their ideas.  They talk about how unfortunate it is that so many of the people making decisions over children’s lives spend so little time with children.  We recognize that our work takes place in a specific context – and hope that the stories and meaning unfolding in that context inspire those influencing the contexts of other children in other places to consider the implications of our work to their settings.  We'd love to be a part of those conversations!

Want to see Opal School in action?  Come to Visitation Days January 29-31!

December 20, 2013