Journal: Sweden Study Group 2015 Day 3

Sweden Study Group 13 - 15 May 2015
Facilitator: Rick Ellis
Coordinator: Alyna Chong

Day 2 - May 15, 2015

For our final day of our programme, we visited the Katarina School, where we met the Director, Anna and two of the teachers, Maria and Erika.  We spent the morning here and began with an overview presented by all three of the teachers about the history of the school.  We learned that it was begun by a group of mothers  who lived in the building but needed a programme for their children while they went to work.  The teachers have participated in professional development through Reggio trainers.  

We began the tour with a view of the space on the first floor for the youngest children.  The teachers very openly shared how many changes the space has gone through, based on observing the children and allowing themselves to be vulnerable to the need to change to respond to the children’s needs.  They initially divided the room into distinct areas but soon realized that children wanted to move some of the equipment around to create their own playscapes. 

They described in detail how the art and music areas were separate but now children can flow freely between them.  They reminded us that it’s important to keep the mind and body working together. They have been very happy with the new developments this allowance has caused. 

Maria and Erika also discussed their wrestling with the inclusion of technology into the classroom, and admitted that it is very controversial.  They explained that they offer technology in tandem with hands-on traditional materials.  The technology is NOT presented as a toy or the focus of the provocation, but just another way of self-expression.   They demonstrated several apps that they use, and the teacher group was very impressed and definitely wanted to try some of these techniques out themselves in their own settings!  

We moved to the upstairs part of the building and observed activities that had been done in one of the art studios, as well as had the chance to examine lot of documentation that had been put on the walls of current projects.  We also observed some video clips and Powerpoint information that Anna presented showing the children mixing art and movement, using the entire floor, which had been covered with paper.  

It was incredible watching the change in behavior when the room changed room changed from only art to the addition of music, with behavior changing accordingly! Teachers were then afforded the opportunity to move around and examine and photograph any displays they felt they wanted to capture.  Maria also allowed everyone to photograph her iPad screen where the app names were displayed.  

What was unique about the visit to Katarina was the impression the staff made on us with their very well thought-out use of the inclusion of technology.  I know that most of the research does not support any use of technology until around age six, yet these people had really found that win/win situation! Emphasizing that the technology was NOT a toy unto itself, but just another tool amongst many tools, made total sense.  I believe that all of us felt fine with the way these teachers had very creatively infused technology into early childhood! 

Also, by seeing children in the video actually combining art and music was another piece of incredible evidence that we need more cross-cultural instruction and NOT more of the “splintered skill” type of teaching so commonly found in most of our public schools today.  Children learn by making connections and when we separate out all of the disciplines, people assume that they know how to put it all together, when in fact, they do not.  We have to keep the mind and body together in learning, and Reggio is the perfect vehicle for doing so.  

We had a lunch break after our inspiring visit to Katarina.  We had lunch at a cozy Italian restaurant in a mall near the train station.  After lunch, we traveled back to the city and continued the second part of our day.  Rick led the group in coming up with what were the “common threads” of any Reggio-inspired school, and the teachers did a commendable job doing this. It provided a firm foundation to use as a barometer in checking themselves when they return to their setting.  

Once again, the examples and discussion during the presentation at Katarina dovetailed with the foundations Rick had presented during the morning of Day 1.  Each time a piece of their program unfolded, it touched on the theory of Reggio.  Again, the balance of theory and practice is so important!

It was also important to have that culminating section of the day to bring closure to the three days of work together, as psychologically this is necessary in order for people to feel complete.  In reviewing our evaluation forms, it seemed clear that for the most part, people were happy with the experience. 

While some thought that we should have had even more site visits, this would have caused way too much mental stimulation.  People need to take home whatever occurred in these three days for them and mull it over, picking and choosing what was meaningful for them and what they might want to do professionally to grow in their next stages of development. 

Rick showed them the DVD entitled “It Takes Time To See”, which again reinforced the whole process from provocation to the follow-through and how projects grow and change.  While it was a thirty-minute video, it was well worth showing as a culminating piece.  Rick then discussed the Italian belief that “addio” means goodbye, and that the Italians prefer “ciao for now”, because we may meet again---who knows?  He gave everyone the lyrics and a letter from him to them, while a video of a woman singing the actual song “Ciao For Now” played.  

Following this, the teachers created kaleidoscopes, which Rick explained were allegorical to the philosophy of Reggio, in that nothing stays the same, there is no end to learning and exploring, in the same way that the elements in the kaleidoscope are ever-changing.  Labels had been printed that said “Sia La Luce” which means “Let there be light” to apply to the kaleidoscopes and teachers had the opportunity to decorate these in any unique way they chose.  We closed the meeting with hugs and handshakes and “Ciao for now”!

We have encouraged the participants to connect with us in the future and to take advantage of the strength in numbers in learning from each other.  We felt that this three-day programme was very successful in the end!

A visit to the school in Norway was brought up and planned for 2016!

Stay tuned for more information!


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