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.
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!
Our provocations for this session focused on cross-curricular big ideas and provocations that Michelle, Braunwyn and I had provided to students.
For both sessions, a range of resources were shared, many from the Opal School. Opal School publications can be ordered HERE.
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)