The Portland Children’s Museum is home to a Portland Public Charter School called Opal. Opal is a school inspired by teachings from the schools of Reggio Emilia Italy. Reggio Emilia, and in turn, Opal, subscribe to a social constructivist teaching philosophy. One of the central practices of this school is the idea that studio materials can act as languages for learning. Thinkers, especially children, work in many different languages (not just writing, not just numbers etc.) If we can provide children with materials in the process of working through a question, the materials themselves can be generative and add to the child’s critical thinking.

This is a big idea and opens many doors for deeper thinking and for truly honoring the ideas of students.

The poem “No way. The Hundred is there” by Loris Malaguzzi is often used to explore this idea.

The big picture of this project is that we are trying to make it comfortable to use the arts as languages of learning in Woodlawn school. We are trying to create a culture where art materials are not only used in the art room but are also used within the classrooms as well and are integrated into the thinking that is already happening in the classroom.
We have a cohort of 8 teachers (including Woodlawn’s Art Specialist) who will take part in a series of professional development workshops at the Children’s Museum. At the same time, a teacher artist from the Museum will be visiting Woodlawn for classroom sessions and meetings with the teachers.

Through conversations with teachers, we have also established the need to have a system that makes materials more physically accessible. In addition to the classroom visits and PD workshops, we will also be providing each participating teacher with class materials and setting up a system for larger material checkout.

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