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Participating fully

Participating fully


Child from a Reggio Emilia municipal preschool at the opening ceremony of the 2012 International Photography Festival. Downloaded from Project Zero Timeline Photos

In our classrooms, we see all young children as capable, competent, and full of gifts that the world needs now. Outside of our classrooms, though, children oftentimes appear diminished: cute, small, incomplete, a future resource.  As early childhood educators, how can we support a connection between child and city that advances citizenship and equity?

On January 29, 130 people from across the region joined together to discuss this question.  Project Zero’s Mara Krechevsky and Ben Mardell shared stories derived from their involvement in projects responding to this problem in Providence, Boston, and Washington DC.  The program was supported by a grant from Ashoka Changemaker Schools, whose mission is to enhance empathy and agency in schools, awarded to Opal School and Portland State University.

Opal School and PSU’s Helen Gordon Child Development Center are committed to engaging in a project that helps us see how children interpret their city, in turn connecting the city to children and building the case for equity as we advance the rights of all children to high quality educational offerings.  We imagine convening a small, diverse group of preschool and primary grade teachers that would gather regularly to support each others efforts (once in May, then about five times between August 2015 and March 2016).  We project culminating demonstrations of the children’s thinking at Portland Children’s Museum and other spots around the region so that the children’s ideas are shared with each other and with their fellow citizens. We imagine that we’ll have to keep the group small and geographically concentrated in order to be able to meet and maintain a collaborative environment, but intend to support similar efforts of other group’s through sharing our process on an ongoing basis.
If you have a group of preschool and/or k-2 teachers who are interested in committing to joining this project, we’d like to hear from you: please share your information with us through this form by February 28.   From the collection of teams that express interest, we’ll assemble a diverse group.  Because we anticipate the likelihood that there will be more interested teams than this project will be able to serve, we’ll work to connect the rest of you to each other so that there can be parallel efforts taking on this important work.  If you’d like to contribute to this work in ways other than participating in this project, we hope that you’ll be in touch to discuss those gifts.
If you didn’t attend the presentation, you can get a taste of it from the article Engaging City Hall: Children as Citizens and  this presentation Ben Mardell gave in Tacoma in September.
As we said January 29, this work will require crossing many borders.  We look forward to crossing those borders with you.