Archive for the ‘reggio-inspired’ Category

The Studio at Grauer

Posted on: June 11th, 2017 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

The Studio at Grauer came to be based on a need we felt existed in our district – a space to engage in professional learning experiences for teachers as well as for a learning environment for students that could be left  “set up”. My office partner, Marie Thom, and I have been talking about this for the last couple of years. The notion of a “pop-up” classroom emerged and Andrew Ferguson, the principal at Grauer, was approached to see if we could use one of the school’s unused classrooms.

December 16 2018 – Room 102

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Room 102 was being used as a storage room until we began our transformation of it in January 2017. Blending Marie’s background in learning environments and my understanding of mathematics teaching and learning, we developed a space focused on mathematics, filled with inspiring materials in a learning environment designed for learners K-Adult. Our goal was to create a flexible, responsive and inclusive learning environment.

Room 102 – January 10 2017

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January 13 2017

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The learning environment is set up to create opportunities for choice, collaboration, personalized learning and inquiry. More specifically for mathematics, our hope was to broaden understanding of what mathematics is and what the teaching and learning of mathematics can be. Often school mathematics is perceived as “arithmetic” and mathematics is a much broader discipline that this. We wanted students and teachers to see math all around them and be inspired to think about mathematics in different ways – to see mathematical ideas in the materials, in pinecones, in buildings and structures, in images of our community, in art, in stories.

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As we discussed how we were going to use the space, we decided to call it The Studio, inspired the notion of an atelier, a studio space used in the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia.

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Classes from Grauer, as well as visiting classes on “math field trips” visit The Studio to engage in mathematical inquiry. Marie and I take on the role of atelierista, working with the classroom teacher to facilitate learning experiences through different materials in the space. We have intentionally curated both mathematically structured materials like pattern blocks and Cuisenaire rods alongside materials often known as loose parts such as ribbons, gems, rocks, pinecones, etc. We also have art materials available to the students such as paint, clay, charcoal, yarn and wool so that students can express themselves and think using different languages. Students also have access to various tools to support their investigations such as measuring tapes, protractors, grids and ten frames.

The first class to visit The Studio – the grades 3&4 students from Grauer on January 18 2017

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The learning environment is intentionally flexible with choices in seating and tables available for both students and adults. Interestingly, although we have some chairs available, none of the students using The Studio have used them, preferring instead to stand or sit and lie on the carpet or use pillows. We have observed the flow of movement in the space and intentionally have large open spaces for students to move through. Shelves filled with baskets of materials are open and accessible to students. Students can choose the materials they want to use and take them to where they would like to engage.  We took doors off of some cupboards to create more open shelving. All of the furniture, except for four small Ikea open shelves, was found in school storage rooms and thrift shops.

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Provocations are set up on tables for students (and educators) to inspire mathematical thinking and inquiry. Inspired by one of the students’ interests in optical illusions, the grades 3&4 students from Grauer investigated the mathematics embedded in optical illusions. I gathered materials and tools that I hoped would provoke their thinking about optical illusions and the students also accessed and were inspired by other materials in The Studio.

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As we have more classes through The Studio, we have developed documentation to share in the space. Panels, photographs and photobooks are available for students and educators to engage with, to reflect upon and to inspire new experiences.

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One area of pedagogical intention in The Studio has been on noticing, naming and nurturing the Core Competencies and the Mathematics Curricular Competencies from our BC curriculum framework. A focus has been on both communication and creative thinking in mathematics. We intentionally create opportunities for students to engage in different types of communication and to reflect on how they are doing.

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We have had many groups of educators also visit The Studio. Our District Support Team, educators attending our Playful Inquiry professional learning series and teams from schools in our district. Many BC educators involved with our BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics project have visited the space as well. We have also had visitors from Manitoba and Sweden! We often focus the visits with the questions – what do you notice? what do you wonder?

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We also have a dedicated professional learning library with the teacher resources we recommend around teaching and learning mathematics, the use of loose parts and the importance of the learning environment.

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We had hoped The Studio would inspire similar learning environments in our district but recognize that many schools do not have access to a dedicated room for a studio space – we hope that teachers will be inspired by elements of The Studio for their own classroom learning environments. What has been exciting for Marie and I is that this little project has had a huge ripple effect at Grauer, in our district, and beyond!

~Janice

 

 

creating spaces for playful inquiry: April 2017

Posted on: May 28th, 2017 by jnovakowski

For our third session of our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry dinner series, Richmond educators came together at Grauer Elementary to share and learn together. This year at our sessions we have focused on broad themes or big ideas that cut across curriculum areas and grade levels, beginning with community, then identity and for our third time together this year, we chose to focus on place. Those that attended our Lower Mainland study tour to  the Opal School in Portland created panels reflecting on their experience. Many of our playful inquiry mentors set up either pedagogical provocations or shared provocations they developed to engage their students.

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Four teachers shared their experiences visiting Opal for the first or second time – what had an impact on them and how it is affecting their practice. Thank you to April, Louesa, Laurie and Karen for your thoughtful and passionate presentations!

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Based on feedback from the mentor groups during our January session, Michelle Hikida and I did a short professional learning presentation on playful mathematical inquiry and how we plan around a big idea, use provocations and projects based on students’ interests and curiosities and how we extend and sustain a math inquiry.

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After dinner together, we spent time in our mentor groups, zooming in on an area of interest and sharing and learning from each other.

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We are looking forward to continuing working together next year to support professional learning and building a playful inquiry community across our district.

~Janice

early learning inservice

Posted on: September 8th, 2016 by jnovakowski 3 Comments

Every September, our district hosts an afternoon inservice for our Strong Start facilitators and Kindergarten and K&1 teachers. Our early learning Teacher Consultant Marie Thom organizes this inservice and each year chooses a focus area for professional learning. This year, Marie invited me to share some ideas around early learning in mathematics.

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Richmond educators arrived to inviting tables and displays and gifts. After some welcoming comments, Marie spoke of the importance of infusing joy in our classrooms and to remember to begin with the child in mind.

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It is the only time during the year that all the early learning educators in our district have time together. In many of our schools, there is only one Kindergarten teacher so this is a chance to meet and form collaboration with colleagues across the district. Important to remember is that regardless of which program we teach and learn within – neighbourhood, Montessori or French Immersion, our focus is on the learner. Also, the curriculum is the curriculum here in BC. We all have the same learning standards and are working together towards the same big ideas.

My segment of the afternoon focused on what I describe of the art of teaching mathematics – the intersection between what we are noticing about our students and the curriculum. This intersection is the lived curriculum of the classroom and our role as educators is to focus on a pedagogy of noticing and listening – being present and paying attention to our students and then being responsive. Our afternoon together focused on five key elements of early mathematics: counting, subtilizing, decomposing numbers, spatial sense and patterning.  Pedagogical content knowledge booklets were shared with the attendees. These can be found HERE.

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We looked at big ideas, the key early learning mathematics concepts and how to develop the related curricular competencies through mathematics routines, structures and frameworks. The use of routines is important for so many reasons (and by routines I do not mean the “how we line up” or “how we wash our hands” routines…)…here is the slide where we discussed “why mathematical routines?”

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I shared examples from many Richmond classrooms who have been using three important routines: Counting Collections, Number Talks and Which One Doesn’t Belong.

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Blending the curricular content and competencies, I shared several ideas for mathematical provocations to inspire students’ engagement with mathematics, aligned with the learning standards and goals of the redesigned curriculum.

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We left educators with two questions to think about as they embark on their year with their students:

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~Janice

 

 

 

creating spaces for playful inquiry: January 2016

Posted on: January 24th, 2016 by jnovakowski

Almost 60 teachers came together at Diefenbaker on the evening of January 14th for the second session of our three-part dinner series: Creating Space for Playful Inquiry. This is the second year of this series, with most of the participants having attended this series last spring. This series was inspired by a visit to the Opal School in Portland in January of 2015 by myself, Braunwyn Thompson, Hieu Pham-Fraser and Michelle Hikida.

As teachers came into the Diefenbaker they were presented with invitations to provoke their thinking about light and darkness.

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Three teachers from the series shared what they have been playing around with in their learning spaces – Amanda Chura, teacher-librarian at Diefenbaker, April Pikkarainen, primary teacher at Blair and Karen Choo, intermediate teacher at Blair. We were all so inspired by how they have been engaging in inquiry themselves and with their students.

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Before and after dinner, teachers chose from six interest groups facilitated by our inquiry mentors. Teachers shared ideas, collaborated, posed questions and discussed their area of interest with like-minded colleagues. During the after dinner session time, teachers considered what their plan was going to be for this term and how they might engage their students in playful inquiry in a particular curriculum area – with materials, ideas or language.

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The discussions were rich, vibrant and inspiring. Many teachers commented that they felt “filled up” and inspired to move forward in new ways with their students. Teachers sharing their learning with each other is so important but I also think the community we are building is equally important in providing a support system for teachers to try  new things, take some risks, develop new pedagogical habits – we are truly better together.

An archive of blog posts about playful inquiry initiatives in our district can be found here:

Playful Inquiry in School District #38

~Janice

growing our Reggio-Inspired Mathematics inquiry project

Posted on: October 29th, 2015 by jnovakowski

So the final session I presented at the Northwest Math Conference in Whistler was on the Reggio-Inspired Mathematics inquiry project that began in Richmond and has grown to include six Lower Mainland districts, thanks to the support of the BCAMT.

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Along with our publications, articles and materials, I was happy to share our new blog that was created to archive resources to support educators as they consider teaching and learning mathematics through a Reggio-inspired lens. The blog can be found HERE. There’s a photo album of mathematical provocations, downloadable instructional resources as well as links to archived articles and presentations.

After the session, several teachers from around BC asked how they could be involved. Thanks goodness for an online community and technology that will allow us to connect virtually!

~Janice

how materials inspire inquiry

Posted on: October 15th, 2015 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

Building on our Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry series, there will be several professional learning opportunities in our district this year that focus on specific aspects of playful inquiry. On the professional development day on September 25, Marie Thom and I hosted an afternoon at Thompson Elementary focused on how materials inspire inquiry.

A variety of art materials were presented alongside natural materials found in our area to inspire attendees to think about the changing of the seasons, what stories live in fall and to consider a connection to place and the cycles that autumn brings.

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Some of the teachers attending mentioned that they had never used charcoal pencils or watercolour pencils themselves and this was part of the intent of the session. We wanted teachers to consider the affordances of different materials and what they each offer so that they can make intentional decisions about which art materials they may provide to students. We emphasized the notion that students need to also learn how to use the materials, take care of them and to consider what materials might be more suitable for different projects. Just like with tech “apps”, we want students eventually to be able to have a repertoire of materials that they can choose from to use to help them think about an idea or to represent their thinking.

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By looking closely and observing leaves, nuts, branches and other objects outside or brought into the classroom, inquiry naturally emerges and students wonder aloud, creating an opportunity for teachers to seize the moment and create ways for students to investigate their question, to look even more closely or test their ideas. Working with art materials may uncover new ways of thinking about the object or their questions.

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If this is an area of interest for you, two professional books we recommend are: The Language of Art by Ann Pelo and In the Spirit of the Studio: Learning from the Atelier of Reggio Emilia by Leila Gandini and Louise Cadwell.

~Janice

creating spaces for playful inquiry – September 2015

Posted on: October 9th, 2015 by jnovakowski

Last spring we held a very well attended series called Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry. This series was a result of a visit to the Opal School in Portland by Braunwyn Thompson, Michelle Hikida, Hieu Pham-Fraser and myself in January 2015. We reflected on our experiences and how they connected to what we were already doing in Richmond as well as to the changes in BC’s redesigned curriculum. The group of 50 teachers attending this series wanted to continue the conversation so we have scheduled a three-part series for this school year. We opened the series with an event that welcomed teachers new to this series as well as visiting educators from seven other school districts. With about 120 educators filling the gym at Blair Elementary, it was an inspiring evening thinking about playful inquiry with Susan MacKay and Matt Karlsen from the Opal School.

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Teachers arrived to find a “buffet” of loose parts, most gathered locally. These materials were going to be used during the evening for educators to engage in playful inquiry themselves, to consider how materials might help them engage in inquiry, represent their thinking or consider metaphors.

The teachers also received a small bag of local natural materials to take back to their classrooms.

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When some of our teachers hear “Opal” they immediately think of story workshop, which is one pedagogical structure that Opal educators use to enact playful inquiry in their classrooms. This evening though was focused on playful inquiry more broadly and is very closely aligned with the goals and principles of BC’s redesigned curriculum. Susan and Matt engaged the audience in rich professional thinking and learning beginning with the provocative quote by Carlina Rinaldi:

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Professional learning is not linear and neat but messy and takes time. What are we curious about? What are own own inquiry questions? Just as we want our students to engage in playful inquiry, we need to embrace a stance of inquiry ourselves and see ourselves as teacher-researchers.

Quoting Brene Brown:

“We have to be willing to not know, to figure out – because thats the find of play that brings joy.”

Susan and Matt asked: What new questions are alive within you?

What was emphasized through the evening was a pedagogy of listening – of the importance of listening to children so that we can be responsive and help to develop and sustain their capacities.

I hope that teachers were abel to consider the notion of playful inquiry and deconstruct and unpack what that means for them. What does playful really mean? In talking about “play” I remind parents and educators that play isn’t only about playing with “things” but that we can also play with ideas, concepts, language and story. Susan and Matt reminded the audience that play is not an “activity” but a disposition or a strategy.

How are you nurturing a playful stance in your learning environment?

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Susan and Matt showed an excerpt from a DVD about a year-long inquiry from their school. The young students were curious about wild animals and spent months thinking about their relationship with wild animals. The clip that Susan and Matt showed revealed just the very final part of the inquiry, when the students visit the neighbouring zoo, wearing animal masks they had created. This short clip seemed likely out of context to me, for the teachers in attendance who did not have a sense of the whole inquiry. Having seen the whole video a few times, once presented by the teacher involved, I was very inspired by the inquiry as a whole and wonder what questions those in attendance had. What more do they want to know? What was the journey that took the students and teachers to this point? Both Marie Thom and I have the DVD “Inquiry into Wild Animals” – please contact us if you would like to borrow it so that you can see the whole story!

More information about the Opal School of the Portland’s Children Museum Centre for Learning can be found HERE.

Opal school’s blog can be found HERE.

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Because the evening was scheduled on the same night as some of our school’s “meet the teacher” events, we had the session video-taped by media students at Hugh Boyd and we will be hosting some after school sessions for teachers to view and discuss the presentations by Matt and Susan.

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We are looking forward to continuing this conversation through the series and other professional learning events this year.

~Janice

summer professional reading and opportunities

Posted on: June 24th, 2015 by jnovakowski 2 Comments

Thought I would share some of the professional books I have on my summer reading list and yes, of course I hope to dive in to some fiction as well!

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Learning by Choice: 10 Ways Choice and Differentiation Create an Engaged Learning Experience for Every Student by A. J. Juliani

50 Things You Can Do With Google Classroom by Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller – I follow Alice Keeler on twitter and she always has great tips 

Let’s Find Out!: Building Content Knowledge with Young Children by Susan Kempton

Building Proportional Reasoning Across Grades and Math Strands, K-8, by Marian Small – I read anything by fellow Canadian Marian Small, always learn something new

Doing What Scientists Do: Children Learn to Investigate Their World by Ellen Doris

Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding, Grades 4-10, by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker – Number Talks have taken off in our district and I’m looking forward to reading another perspective on this practice

Intentional Talk: How to Structure and Lead Productive Mathematical Discussions by Elham Kazemi and Allison Hintz – we bought a set of this book for teachers in the district to read over the summer and participate in a slow chat on twitter, using the hashtag #intenttalk

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica – it’s Sir Ken, enough said

Math is a Verb: Activities and Lessons from Cultures Around the World by Jim Barta, Ron Eglash and Cathy Barkley (NCTM)

Critical Maths for Innovative Societies: The Role of Metacognitive Pedagogies by Zemira Mevarech and Bracha Kramarski (OECD)

Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools by Ron Ritchart - a group of Richmond educators attended a series with Ron Richart this year and I am looking forward to reading his latest book that continues to focus on thinking.

Another new book that is not in the photograph is Creating Thinking Classrooms, published by the Critical Thinking Consortium here  in BC. I have a long history with TC2 and respect the work of Roland Case immensely. I’m looking forward to making connections to our redesigned curriculum with this book.

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There are all sorts of professional learning opportunities over the summer. Check in the External Pro-D Opportunities conference on Richnet for more information. I have listed two that may be of interest below:

As part of the Festival of Forestry, there are two Forestry Tours this summer, one on Vancouver Island and one in the Lower Mainland. More info can be found HERE.

There is a K-3 Institute at the University of Victoria from Augsust 17-19. More information can be found HERE.

And for those of you that are thinking ahead to the Provincial PSA Day in October, you can check out the BCTF site HERE for more information.

Specifically, the BCAMT is hosting the Northwest Mathematics in Whistler – for more information and to register, go HERE.

The BCScTA is having their annual Catalyst conference in Richmond – more information and registration can be found HERE.

Have a restful and adventure-filled summer!

~Janice

BCAMT Reggio-Inspired Mathematics Cross-District Inquiry Project

Posted on: June 16th, 2015 by jnovakowski

With growing interest in Reggio-inspired practices in BC schools, neighbouring school districts expressed an interest in collaborating with Richmond teachers as they explored mathematics through this lens. A grant proposal was submitted and accepted by the BCAMT. The grant supports cross-district inquiry by providing funds for dinner meetings and materials.

Structures we have used to collaborate and make our professional learning visible include a google doc, a Pinterest board, blogging and the use of twitter, using the hashtag #BCAMTreggio.

We hosted two dinner meetings, one in February at Annieville Elementary in Delta and the second in May at Thompson Elementary in Richmond. During the first meeting, Richmond teachers shared examples from their classrooms and reflections on their learning. Teachers were provided with planning time to consider who they would move this project forward in their districts.

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During our second meeting, we created some materials and reflected on our project with teachers from Surrey, Delta and West Vancouver sharing examples and reflections.

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We have been able to share our professional inquiry at the Richmond Elementary Math Focus Day, at the Surrey Teachers Convention and the Vancouver Primary Piazza.

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A group of teachers from Burnaby came together with Angela Meredith (Early Learning and Literacy Consultant for Burnaby), Ron Coleborn (BCAMT President) and I one day after school on Monday to discuss the project and how it would connect to their ongoing inquiry into Reggio-inspired practices. The Burnaby team is interested in looking at mathematical thinking in the Reggio-inspired classroom and how different teachers may take that up and have different entry points into the project.

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We have been able to do some cross-district visits as well. I have visited classrooms in Delta and West Vancouver and teachers from Richmond have visited in Delta and Surrey teachers have visited in Richmond classrooms. It is always rich and inspiring professional learning to be in another classroom environment and think about what you see and what that makes you think about in terms of your own practice.

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Two articles about this project have been submitted to the BCAMT journal Vector as another way to share our professional learning with others.

Big themes that we are continuing to look at are:

1) the affordances of materials, particularly loose parts, to support and represent mathematical thinking

2) the design of provocations to inspire mathematical thinking, inquiry and to uncover curriculum 

3) the tension between an emergent, inquiry-based approach and having a required curriculum

4) opportunities for cross-discipline, co-constructed inquiry

5) the conditions needed for the teaching and learning through these practices 

6) the pedagogical content knowledge needed by teachers to teach in this manner

7) assessment tools to support teaching and learning and that support students in showing what they know, can do and understand

With a second grant from the BCAMT, we are looking forward to a second year of collaborating with teachers from a growing number of districts.

~Janice

playful inquiry dinner series

Posted on: June 14th, 2015 by jnovakowski 1 Comment

This spring we held a two-part dinner series, sharing our stories and experiences inspired by our visit to the Opal School in Portland in January. Braunwyn Thompson, Michelle Hikida, Hieu Pham-Fraser and I facilitated the series which involved us sharing what we noticed at Opal and what we took from our visit and investigated in our context.

The series was called Creating Spaces for Playful Inquiry in the Classroom: Teachers’ stories inspired by Portland’s Opal School and the sessions were held in the Diefenbaker library on April 18 and May 7. Over 50 educators attended the series including K-7 classroom teachers, teacher-librarians, learning resource teachers and administrators.

For the first session we prepared documentation panels of our experience at Opal focusing on learning environments, questions and mathematics. We prepared provocations for the educators to engage with as they came into the space. After each of us shared our stories about playful inquiry, we enjoyed dinner provided by The Healthy Chef and then we broke out into facilitated inquiry groups. Each group was mentored by a Richmond colleague who has visited Opal School. Areas that educators were interested in exploring were – morning meetings, intermediate provocations, including all learners (non-enrolling teachers), provocations in K and early primary, learning environments, inquiry questions with curriculum in mind and outdoor learning spaces.

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The educators left the first session with the goal of trying one thing with their students and bringing something back to share for the next session. We provided a small kit of loose parts and some acrylic frames to place questions in.

For the second session, after a short introduction, we broke out into our mentor groups to share what we had tried. All of the groups reported back to to the whole group and all were very inspired the richness of the inquiry experiences and provocations that had been provided. We are still trying to figure out how to compile and collate our ideas so that we can be inspired by each other!

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Our provocations for this session focused on cross-curricular big ideas and provocations that Michelle, Braunwyn and I had provided to students.

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For both sessions, a range of resources were shared, many from the Opal School. Opal School publications can be ordered HERE.

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We wil be continuing this series during the 2015-2016 school year and are excited to announce that Susan Harris MacKay will be a presenter at the launch of the dinner series on September 24, 2015. Registration will be available through Richnet in early September.

An article by Susan Harris MacKay on the principles of playful inquiry (click to link to pdf)

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~Janice