The Beginning School Team 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?
“Great ideas have legs. They can take you somewhere … with them, you can raise questions that can’t be answered. These unanswerable questions should be a source of comfort. They ensure you’ll always have something to think about. Puzzlements invite the most precious of human abilities to take wing. I speak of imagination, the neglected stepchild of American education.”
— Elliot Eisner
At Opal School, we hold a strong image of children: We believe that children are competent, creative and resourceful. In our culture and the field of education — where children’s capacities may be minimized or ignored — children are not valued for having questions, stories and ideas that the world needs. Our school’s mission is to challenge this diminished belief of childhood.
As teacher-researchers, we ask:
How can we nurture our relationship with children by making the quality of their thinking visible? How can we expand our understanding of children’s capacities for connection, understanding, empathy and social justice?
One of the ways that we hope to influence the world’s commitment to the rights of children is by inviting them to chew on a “big idea.” When playing with possibilities for this year’s curriculum, we looked for a concept with the power to connect our learning community. We seek to frame these ideas in ways that are simple yet profound, include an element of surprise, are open-ended, and feel inviting and engaging.
In Cedar and Alder this year, the big idea that children and adults will be co-researching is transformation. We have started brainstorming threads tied to this idea. So far, we can imagine many possibilities related to self and others, the arts and sciences, and the natural world.
This is a snapshot of our intention for the year, a sneak peek into what we’ve been thinking as we prepare our classroom environments and reflect on our school’s values. We will offer many windows into the children’s learning experiences and evolving theories of transformation as we share stories, dialogue and images on our blog. We look forward to playing with you around this idea too.
Finally, we’re eager to reconnect with old friends and welcome new friends to our school community! We’ve been working hard to prepare for your arrival next week and it feels incomplete without you.
Amy, Kimie, Leslie, Caroline & Tara
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