Journal: Sweden Study Group 2015 Day 2

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

Day 2 - May 14, 2015

Today we had the opportunity to spend the entire day at another school and met Suzanne Axelsson.    Suzanne greeted us in the morning and gave us a tour of the school, explaining this building had NOT been created as a school but was a former post office!  Renovations were done to the building where possible to make for a better space for the children but certain things were not able to be removed, such as the huge safe used by the post office.  However, the space had been redesigned very effectively.  Rooms were allocated for large motor movement, an atelier, dining and kitchen areas, a dark room for playing with light, and another area for exploring with natural materials.  Suzanne gave a very detailed presentation about the space and its history, also discussing the flexibility of the space and the many things the staff has tried in taking cues from the children as to how best to utilize this space. 

After taking us to a restaurant to have lunch, Suzanne met us back at the school and discussed a very powerful PowerPoint presentation she had created, focusing mainly on the need to rethink what it means to truly listen, not only with our ears but eyes, heart and brain. She knew that the presentation contained a lot of reading material and assured us that it would be made available on her blog and Facebook page.  She also allowed the teachers to take photographs because she felt strongly if we are documenting the work of the children, then teachers need to document the work of fellow educators.  This was generous of her and the group fully took advantage of it.     

Following her presentation, she divided the group into four subgroups, each one being asked to participate in some hands-on experience with a variety of materials, after which we would reconvene and discuss what we learned.  The four groups consisted of:  rock sorting, labyrinth creation and guiding someone blindfolded through it with verbal commands only, the creation of a group mural that depicted some type of emotion, and the use of the overhead projector to create a forest scene. 

Each of the four subgroups was visited by the entire group to discuss what was gained by the experience.  The final part of the period was spent with each person discussing with what he or she had most taken away as an impression.  The day then ended.

Suzanne’s presentation and thinking is very deep and sophisticated.  It is obvious that she is an academician, has traveled the world with education, and put lots of thought into her work.  She has a wealth of theory behind her but is able to also show the practical application of it come to life.  As with yesterday’s visit, Rick was able to interject points that Suzanne made in relation to his presentation of the theory presented yesterday morning.  In discussing their impressions, majority of the participants mentioned the need to focus more on improving listening and taking cues from the children. 

Being able to access Suzanne’s PowerPoint presentation at a later date is a total gift!  She has put together quite an assemblage of material to read over and ponder after the fact!  The fact that she spent her entire day with us when the school was closed was a true validation of her professionalism!  Providing a hands-on opportunity was a great way to end the day, since people tend to “fade” towards the end of any training session.  She was sensitive to that and placed the event exactly where it should have been in the schedule.  Some of the group members are very interactive and chatty while others are very quiet.  owing to the fact that there are varied levels of English facility occurring, and that causes people to tend to hold back.  It will be interesting when they complete their evaluations at the end of tomorrow what struck them, etc.  

Our plan of combining some straightforward theory presentation with visits is the perfect connection.  Theory cannot exist without practice and vice versa.  It’s the art of bringing the theory alive by examples in the field, and so far, this has occurred over and over again.