creating spaces for playful inquiry: October 6 2016

Posted on: October 16th, 2016 by jnovakowski

In the Richmond School District, we have a history of groups of educators visiting the Opal School in Portland, Oregon as it is a school that enacts many of the goals of BC’s redesigned curriculum and the teachers have been researching their practices together for years and share openly through their blog, twitter and visitation days and symposiums. In response to a visit there in January 2015, we have developed a professional learning series in our district to further nurture our thinking around playful inquiry in our school district. Educators who have visited Opal become our district’s “playful inquiry mentors” and open their classrooms to visitors and contribute to professional learning events. This year, our main series is a three part dinner series open to 60 Richmond educators. In September, our playful inquiry mentors met together to think about their role and what their own professional goals are. We thought of a powerful word that captured each of our goals and then wove these words together on a loom.

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We thought about ways to enact and nurture playful inquiry in our classrooms, schools and within the district.

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And finally, we planned our first session of the three-part series. For each session we focus on a big idea or “theme” and after much debate, we settled on the big idea of community for our first session. After hosting this series for two rounds, we have a bit of a structure that works – open with provocations, sharing by educators, a professional learning segment, dinner together, breaking out into interest-based mentor groups and then a closing.

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And so on October 6th at 4:00pm, 60 K-7 Richmond educators descended on IDC and engaged with provocations about community created by the playful inquiry mentors.

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An overview from our BC curriculum was provided as to ways the big idea of community is woven throughout curricular areas and competencies:

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Erin Cammell (grades 4&5 EFI at Dixon) and Kevin Vines (grades 6&7 Quilchena) shared how they began their school years focusing on community, identity and using circle pedagogy. The importance of building relationships was a theme throughout their presentation.

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Sarah Yick (grades 1&2 EFI Dixon) and Carrie Bourne (K-12 French Teacher Consultant) shared how they were both inspired by the responsive learning environments at Opal and are transforming their classrooms (a process…) to better meet their students’ needs and to create access to materials for students to use for thinking and representing their learning.

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Brooke Douglas (VP at Anderson Elementary) led us through the focused professional learning segment of the evening – connecting provocations to the core competencies and using I can statements for self-assessment. Her slides are now available on our site on the portal.

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After a lovely dinner together, educators chose an area of interest and met in small groups to share, ask questions, discuss and set goals. Each group was facilitated by playful inquiry mentors.

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After a few closing words from Marie Thom, reminding us “that we are all researchers of life,” teachers left the event with a large black felt mat and a collection of beads, wire and wire cutters so they could use these materials with their students, mirroring one of the provocations teachers had engaged with earlier in the evening.

We have an open group on our Richmond School District portal so that we can continue our conversations and share between our sessions. And of course, there’s twitter ;)

~Janice

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