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

Synthesis Thinking, Materials Work, and the penultimate week of school!

This was a four day week, but so much is happening in Opal 4, I had to share.

Practicing our songs for graduation with Carrington (above)

IMG_5390Making sense of the text of the Declaration of Independence… who were those men and what did they declare?

IMG_5448Working with Judy H:  Stand on the line to show what you are concerned or not concerned about as you think about starting middle school.

A great synthesis conversation – zooming out to see how colonization progressed as we moved in history from 1492 to 1776 –

Levia:  When Alfie came to visit us, he gave us a special gift – he looked around the room and said, “I see you guys are studying colonization.”  And I was like, “We are?  Hmmm, maybe we are.”  It shifted my brain.  The idea is you can look at something for a long time and see it one way and then someone sees it a different way and a door opens up in your mind that allows you to see it through a new perspective.  So looking back now through this lens – the lens of colonization – we’re going to put on these colonization glasses and wonder, what happens to colonization as it moves from 1492 to 1776?

?:  It speeds up

RC:  It slows down

WK:  It evolves

BK:  It changes.

BK:  In 1492, they colonize like finding out that the world is round – bring the base of colonization – planting a flag.   In Jamestown, it evolves too…  Wait, did Columbus have a fort? In 1607, colonization spread to wanting to colonize the natives. In 1776, they…

WK: I kind of disagree that it evolves.  The entire time, they’re kicking out the people who are already there.  It’s the same.

RC: It slows down.  We’ve seen the entire planet from space, so…

WK: The main idea stays the same.  They’re kicking out the people who are already there.  Making the land their own.  It changes how they do it.

WK: But they’re using the same ideas.  In 1492, they had this piece of paper that said, “We have the right to be here.”  In 1776, they have this Declaration – that’s still a piece of paper – that says “we have the right to be here.”

ER:  Read Amelia’s quote here on the wall, about piece of paper.

Obviously the Spaniards have some sort of signed paper from the King and Queen so they can do these things to the Africans and the Tainos.  Wouldn’t the Africans and the Tainos have some sort of thing that says – some rule as well that – Why would the Spanish overpower them?                                                             -AA

RS:  You change the names every time there’s a new thing.

WK:  They’re always building

RS:  They’re tearing down what was already there and building something new

BK:  Every time they build a fort, something stays the same and something changes

SBM:  If the natives had come up with their own piece of paper – they didn’t think it was necessary because they didn’t have a lot of wars between tribes and didn’t come up with a piece of paper to end the wars.

RC:  They didn’t think people could own land

Levia:  Let’s put the colonization glasses on with a European perspective

WK:  In 1776 they’re not actually colonizing – the Europeans – it’s the other people (the Americans) who are colonizing.  They think of it as treason.

Levia:  They’re not European?

WK:  They’re European.

SBM:  It didn’t stop, but there were no new Columbuses out there determined to find new land.

ER:  No new Bostons or New Yorks.  It filled up when the Declaration of Independence was signed, then it filled up and flowed over the levy and that’s when Lewis and Clark came.

Levia:  Let’s stop and grab the mental image ER is painting for us.

ER:  There is the land that’s already colonized.  There is the land to the west that isn’t colonized.  There is a giant levy sitting between those areas.  The water is the colonized places.

SBM:  In that water, there are all these people – like Lewis and Clark – and when it overflows, all those people go out and colonize the west.

ER:  With every step Columbus took, the levy moves back and back.  The Declaration of Independence made the water rise.

WK:  Then there was the idea of Lewis and Clark and the levy cracked

ER:  And then Lewis and Clark came back and: Dynamite!  Isn’t that when it was the Oregon Trail?

WK:  It lapped over them and splashed, like an eddy

Levia:  Wow!  The reason we could have that conversation in 10 minutes is because we’ve done all this thinking about colonization all year.  But the problem we’ve got now is that we need to communicate all of this information to the world.  Your job is to zoom in and see if you can figure out how to show people through your image – through your journey map – how that water got there to start with.  How did this go from being America, filled with natives – tribal people living their lands – to – what are you picturing in 1776?  a lake?

SBM:  a 500 foot wall of water

Levia:  Go back to your seats.  See if you can draw a picture about – write about – how colonization progressed from 1492 to 1776.  If it started out in 1491 in the place Columbus was about to land with just some indigenous people and mostly wild habitat – and then Columbus came – how did it become America with this huge dam that’s about to break?


IMG_5558TJP’s Thinking:

It starts with this land that nobody is interrupting.  The red is the natives and all of the animals.  The green is the trees and bushes and jungles and plants.  In my first drawing it’s really beautiful – there’s all this green, – the plants and all there is all this blue – the water and there are so many red, which is the natives.

But then in my next drawing, here comes Christopher Columbus sailing on his big ship and the purple is the colonists.  I chose purple because purple is a really royal color and their doing this for the king and the queen.  And red is a really savage color.

So here they are, they sail on this ship.

In one drawing, there are lots of natives with no colonists.

In the next, there’s fewer and fewer.  They maybe took some, so I drew some red on the ship.  I drew a light color for the jewels that they found.

And the third drawing, there is so many purple and not a lot of red.  And there’s a flag in every picture that the colonists are on.  That’s my idea about how we got to Boston – how the water is going to overflow.  Now there is all the purple and fewer reds.

They didn’t realize the beauty of it all in my drawing.  There was so much green, but the green got fewer because – I don’t want to say it’s magic, but it’s kind of – because the natives weren’t really taking care of it, they believe that it didn’t belong to anybody, that the land was alive, so I guess they did take care of it.  It was kind of a symbolic [symbiotic?] relationship because they took care of the land and the land took care of them.  In my next drawing, it’s going to be all purples because that’s what Boston is – very few reds – and I’m not going to draw much green.

In the first drawing, the purple was the people.  In the later drawings, it’s not so much the people – it’s where they set the camps, made houses…

I’m going to draw the natives in the trees because they might be hiding.  They know what happened.  They want to protect the land – even though they don’t believe that anyone owns it.  They’re scared of the colonists – I mean, I would be too.

IMG_5475Student Led Conferences



IMG_5502A surprise gift for every graduate from a classmate

IMG_5505Creating maps collaboratively that show how colonization progressed from 1492 to 1776


IMG_5554and remembering how we want it to feel while we are working with materials…

I asked the class, “What does it feel like when you use materials?”  As they shared ideas we decided if they were attached to your head, your heart or your hand.  They started with the head words, “control, powerful, independent, ownership, and then it went to “like, proud, and care.”  AA said, “uncertainty, you’re not sure if it will turn out the way you see it in your head,” but, SD said, “mistakes are opportunities to make something new” and someone else added, “the materials will tell you what to do.”

I reminded them that the materials can tell you what to do when you have a lot of schema about the materials you are using.

Then I asked them, how should your body feel while you are working with materials to make sure you get to experience all of this?  SBM said, “use slow movements, and you should be stopping and thinking.”

Ah, they remember!  So I sent them back to work with a wish- that they would get to experience all of the things our person on the board was experiencing and that they would go back to work with the intention of slowing down and loving the process.

Then, of course, they exceeded my expectations and created these amazing images.  Of course.




Of course.

One response to “Synthesis Thinking, Materials Work, and the penultimate week of school!

  1. I am sure I speak for all of the Opal 4 parents when I say — your blog posts have been fantastic! Besides providing a precious glimpse into the classroom, they always give me new things to think about. From this one, I’ll be carrying an image of colonialism as a five-hundred foot wave of water.

Comments are closed.