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Matters of Opportunity… Does Opportunity Matter?

Journals from the Atelier
-Sarah-Luella Baker, Tulip Tree Preschool
Matters of Opportunity
Does Opportunity Matter?

It is interesting to think about where our emphasis lies as co-learners (and by this I mean as adults who work with children, in place of the word teacher).  Does it lie in skills acquirement- physical, cognitive, etc?  Or does it lie in depth of connection?  Are we fundamentally learning, along with young children, to operate on the surfaces of reality? Or is our job to learn, alongside children, the many different layers of being alive?

These are some questions that I jotted down in a moment of deep frustration as we attended this year’s conference with the Oregon Association for the Education of Young Children. As I was writing I reflected on a juxtaposition that I had encountered at the conference for the first time the previous day. The Opal School was presenting this year. They hold many workshops and a symposium at their school each year, but it was the first time that they had chosen to present a workshop at this conference.  After purposefully leaving one workshop by a different presenter halfway through, I went directly to the Opal School presentation, and was satisfied for the rest of the afternoon by stories of children’s learning that captivated my heart, and reflections by teachers who were invested in their children, their stories, and the poetry of their work. This difference was intriguing to me- one workshop that I could not stand to sit through, and another that captured my heart and mind.

I wrote: It seems that we become so culturally obsessed with the fragmentation of everything in our paths, and that our job as teachers who are creative and “deep thinkers” (more on this later), is to resist fragmentation of our selves and our communities. And especially the fragmentation of the growth of our children. 

These two moments of reflection led me to question what we are really doing as teachers. When we use the term co-learner in the field of Reggio-inspired learning, what do we really mean?  If we are co-learners, then we are learning alongside children… The implications for society are two-fold. If we are teaching children to live on the surfaces of reality, then we too, are being trained by ourselves to live on that surface. We are training not only our children but ourselves, to disconnect. If we are disconnected, then we do not care. Likewise, if we are teaching and learning in this way, children do not care. Think about those outcomes…

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Lantern, Lantern

By Laura


Sarah Lu (and a special guest named Silly Skull) joined us for circle today. As a group we talked about the meaning of holidays like Halloween and Dia de los Muertos. The children mentioned scary and spooky things like ghosts, witches and spiders. They also mentioned costumes and candy.  Sarah Lu talked about how some people believe that on these days the veil is lifted between the living and the dead. Several children mentioned animals or loved one who had died. Sarah Lu introduced the idea of building an altar to remember those who have died. Sarah Lu brought out a skull lantern made by WG. In its flickering light Sarah Lu taught the children a lantern song she wrote and we talked about another popular type of lantern this time of year–Jack-o-lanterns. After circle time, one small group worked in the studio with Sarah Lu to make lanterns of their own and another small group did a Halloween themed Story Workshop.



After eyeing the x-rays from across the room for a day and a half, KP took some time during story workshop to arrange and rearrange these materials.

After eyeing the x-rays from across the room for a day and a half, KP examined them closely, lifting each picture up and looking at her own limbs asking, “Is this my body?”


While learning to write the words "Hee Hee" and "Boo" DH invented a new phrase, "Hot Boo."

While learning to write the words “Hee Hee” and “Boo” DH invented a new phrase, “Hot Boo.”

OR found a story in his drawing about a pumpkin that sounded like a witch.

OR found a story in his drawing about a pumpkin that sounded like a witch.

CW's teeny tiny Jack-o-lantern.

CW’s teeny tiny Jack-o-lantern.

Nicks First Visit

by Alisha

Today during circle Laura introduced Nick. For some children this was the first time meeting him. Nick is a persona doll, who is a part of our community. If you would like to know more about his role in our classroom you can read Laura’s blog hereDSC_0035-002

Today Laura told the group that Nick is 4 years old, which many people connected with. He loves to run around and play hide and seek at his mother’s work at the library. Laura told us that Nick lives with his mother during the school days and his father on the weekends. His sister goes with him between their two houses. CPR asked, “How old is she (the sister)?” We found out that she is 7 and her name is April. Many children made the connection sign to connect with nick about having an older sibling.

SD: My sister likes to play hide and seek!

CTG: Mine goes to music class.

CW: Mine lies to read books on the couch in the morning and play hide and seek.

KM: My sister and I like to play games where I’m the fish and she fishes me out.

AG: my daddy is 6 and my mommy is 9

CPR: 6 and 9??

AG: Yep.

Laura: Maybe 26 and 29?

AG: YepDSC_0033-001

Clearly the children are making connections with Nick, and will continue to throughout the year. At the end of circle Laura told the group, “Nick might come to our circle with some problems from his school that he needs help solving . Do you think we could help Nick solve problems??”


“What Are You Playing?”


by Alisha

The children couldn’t get enough outside time on this beautiful day. Everyone was full of ( very active) energy and imagination. Every corner of the commons was utilized today and it great to see the creative use of materials in almost every area. Today I spent my time wandering from person to person or group to ask “What are you playing?”


DH: This protects us from the hot lava. You are in the hot lava!  HJ: This is our bed.


S: Help! I’m trapped!


VH: I’m painting!


CPR: This is our trap. We’re the bad guys


OR: My head touches the branches. What if you could pick all the apples from up here?


O: Hi!! I’m right here!


A: It wants to keep falling over when I roll it. Teacher: You are catching it every time. A: I did it!


RR: Pretend this is our bed


AH: This is for me to lay in. You can’t walk across the top. It’s not sturdy enough. It is just to keep the sun out


A: I want to climb and wing on that, but who will do it with me? DH: I will!


WG: Oh, perfect. I’ll use this for a lever. Oh yeah, that will work.


AG jumps up and lands on a pile of sand multiple times. On the last time he accidentally falls after he lands. He doesn’t get hurt and immediately starts laughing, which makes everyone laugh.

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The Parts of the Face

By Laura

This week we plan to give every child a chance to draw a self portrait. This has become an important tradition at Tulip Tree–a part of a larger study of identity and community. Many of the projects we work on in the classroom are directed by small groups of children who have shown an emerging interest in a topic or idea. However, occasionally we invite all of the children to partake in a particular piece of work because we believe it is valuable for the whole community to have a shared experience. So over the course of this week each child will work in a small group on drawing a picture of their face.

We got ready for this morning by putting together some new mirrors. I simply had to walk into the playroom with a couple tools in my hand and many children swarmed near by to ask if they could help. Once the mirrors were built, LDB and KC stuck around to play with mirrors’ light reflections.

2015-09-21Then at circle time we read a book titled, Two Eyes, A Nose and A Mouth. This book lovingly describes both the basic components of a face and all the differences in these features that make us special and distinguishable from each other.


Our first small group included HJ, CR, VH, OS, and AH. We spent some time exploring the mirrors and how our expressions change when we act out different feelings. We also slowly traced our faces with our finger tips noticing texture and shape. CR said his eyebrows “feel like candy.” And HJ noted that his eyelashes were both “soft and prickly.”


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