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

What if?

What if?

Yesterday, a few hundred of Tacoma’s civic-minded adults (including its mayor, school district representatives, early childhood folk, business and non-profit leaders, children’s museum staff and university folk) thought about building a child-centered community.  The Symposium on our Youngest Citizens was something I hadn’t seen before and extended my idea of what is possible in 2014 America: Adults who don’t work in professions focused on young children gathering for three hours and discussing their image of children and how they might extend it.

Highlights included:

Attention to working with children – not just for them

A call by a business leader to creating an educational stystem that imagines children as naturally joyous, curious, and collaborative: one that not only thinks outside the box, but questions the origins of the box itself

An interest in a city guided by interactivity, imagination, exploration, and whimsy

Ben Mardell sharing stories of projects in Reggio Emilia, Boston, and Providence that mutually engage and benefit cities and children

Alfie Kohn asking how we might reach out to help people to deeply question the role of children in society – and how to parent and teach to develop that capacity

The person sitting next to me asking, What if all adults had a child mentor?

I was surprised to encounter this in Tacoma.  Should I have been?  Is anything like this happening in your city?

Our work at Opal School seeks to transform public education by starting with an image of the child as capable, competent, creative and collaborative – as a full citizen with rights and ready to make vital contributions to the world today.  Yesterday, I was challenged to see that thinking about public education – a domain that seemed pretty big the day before – is too small: That my neighbors may be ready to shift our attention to making a city that serves all of its citizens, regardless of age.

Who is ready to follow Tacoma’s lead and join us for a conversation about how to turn Portland into a child-centered community?  Expect to hear from me soon if you don’t call me first.

2 responses to “What if?

  1. This idea of revising the question to focus the attention from public school to the community is intriguing and leaves me hopeful. Thanks for sharing news of this gathering of interested people.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Robin. One of the surprising things about the gathering was the mix of educators and non-educators thinking about the role of children in their city. Is anything like this happening where you live?

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