On Display: Havergal College

Happy Friday Everyone!

Today's "On Display" post features an interview with my dear colleagues from Havergal College. 

I have visited the Kindergarten program at Havergal twice, and left with my head filled with many questions and ideas to pursue in my own context. Some of their inspiration lead us to our "Beautiful Stuff" project, "The Best Part of Me" project, the Math Learning Carpet, and an overall improvement in our graphic design skills for our student portfolios and pedagogical documentation. 

I thank them for inviting me to visit their school and for sharing all of their insightful and visually rich documentation.  They continue to push my thinking, creativity, and organization further.

Here are their answers to my interview questions:

1.     Could you give our blog visitors a bit of information about your school?

       Havergal College is an independent girls’ school in Toronto.  The Junior School does not align itself with one particular philosophy but rather is inspired by many approaches to learning, such as Inquiry, Harvard’s Project Zero, Philosophy for Children, Reggio Emilia, and other philosophies that build what we believe to be a best practices approach for teaching our students.  The Kindergarten program at Havergal College is a two-year, child-centred program that applies various principles of these philosophies that are most appropriate for our earliest learners. We believe the program is developmentally appropriate, progressive and reflective of the current research surrounding early learning.

2.     What do you find most inspiring about the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education and how have you used it inspire yourselves and your students?

        We are so inspired by the metaphor of One Hundred Languages and this important notion is based in all that we do.  We understand that students show their understanding in a variety of ways, and we aim to provide them with many mediums to do so.  As such, our classroom environment is a purposeful space.  We are very intentional with the materials that we place in our eight inquiry centres so as to provoke our students to go deep in their inquiries and express their understandings in many ways.  It is a space that is natural, calm and reflective of our students’ interests and wonders.

  3. I have visited your school, and seen firsthand how well you collaborate as a team.  What advice do you have for our blog visitors and early years teams? How do you spend most of meeting times?

        We often hear how lucky we are that we have two teachers in each classroom, and we feel fortunate to have this and each be a part of a team.  However, collaborating (team teaching and with another classroom teacher) is not easy.  Differing approaches, values, and philosophies is a challenge, and navigating through that can require much dialogue and negotiation.  We think it’s really important to meet each day, even if just for twenty minutes, to ‘night plan;’ that is, reflect on what occurred throughout the day, and project where the learning can go on the following day and beyond; e.g. Read-alouds, a student sharing his/her learning with the class, placing new materials at a centre, etc. We often find that when we are at a dead end in our own thinking about a particular inquiry or learning opportunity, collaborating and engaging in a dialogue with another early years team member can refuel projects in the classroom that would have otherwise dissipated.  New ideas often come from these conversations that inspire and push learning further.  We believe these meetings are paramount to a successful, collaborative program.

4. Your documentation truly makes all the learning visible from your programs. How do you tackle this important, but often overwhelming task?

       We see this task as greatly important to our programming.  As such, we see the process of documentation as something that a large portion of our prep time should be dedicated to.  Because we are not creating daily lesson plans (but rather end of day ‘night plans’), we are able to spend this time sorting through pictures, reading student dialogue, gathering artifacts and organizing the documentation for presentation.  That being said, there may be a night here and there for each of us when we are documenting on the couch at home while watching a little television.

5. What inquiries are your students currently engaged in?

       Currently, in our JK classroom, we have a planet inquiry and a dolphin inquiry that many of our students are engaged in.  They were both initiated by students and have mostly focused on observations, artful representations, theory building, and using technology and our school library for research.  In SK, there is currently an inquiry in to peacocks and in to making costumes.  It has been exciting to see how these projects evolve and develop over time.

        I look forward to my next visit sometime before the end of the school year! Possibly with my critical friend Marisa Benakis from the York Catholic District School Board...

   Thank you to the Havergal team for answering my interview questions so thoroughly!  I'm sure we will have many comments for you.  I also want to thank them for referencing our blog to all of their school visitors and for following us!

    Be sure to connect with Havergal College through their social media sites:





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Share your thoughts :

  1. I had the most inspiring opportunity to take part in a workshop that these wonderful JK teachers from Havergal College presented at last years E.C.E.B.C. Conference in Richmond B.C.
    They presented so well...and were an amazing inspiration to me.Thank you for posting about your experience with them.
    I absolutely love this blog...it is also so inspiring...thank you so much for such a wonderful resource.

    1. Hi Debbie,

      I agree that they are both wonderful and inspiring educators!

      I'm sure that their conference presentation was equally as insightful, as the one I had the pleasure of attending this summer.

      Thank you for visiting the blog and for leaving this compliment for the Havergal College Kindergarten team. They sure do deserve it for all their hard work, and willingness to share their practice with other educators.

      I also appreciate that you are finding this blog a worthwhile resource!!

      This motivates me to keep blogging!!



  2. I like how they apply various philosophies from various approaches. I am looking forward to my upcoming visit to Havergal College.

  3. I really like the idea of a "night plan" where you can reflect on what happened that day and plan where the learning might go. I truly believe that you need to collaborate with others in order to make the program successful. I am looking forward to seeing the documentation displayed in the classroom.

  4. An emergent curriculum is more evident in our classroom since my involvement in the Part 2 Kindergarten AQ course. Thanks to Joanne and the AQ participants who continue to INSPIRE ME. Provocations…learning materials…questions…writing opportunities infused throughout the learning environment and classroom design are some of the changes presently guiding me. I am genuinely excited about being a life-long learner and my students are helping me understand the value of co-creating new learning possibilities; therefore, the notion of “night planning” resonates most profoundly. Havergal’s mention of “Beautiful Stuff Project” has been discussed within our AQ PLC and I am excited to explore this project further. Following our book study discussion, The Power of Emergent Curriculum - Chapter One, The Power of Emergent Curriculum, I read The Hundred Languages of Children, for the first time. The “metaphor” of this poem has reaffirmed the importance of creating opportunities for the learner to express their thinking and knowledge in a variety of forms. Also, the use of “intentional materials” has been acknowledged by the children and colleagues too. The children are curious and colleagues are making inquiries about provocations…their function and purpose. Meaningful learning and professional dialogues are beginning to happen.

    Really excited about the journey…J

  5. My visit to Havergal a few years back was inspiring but also somewhat overwhelming. It was my first step on this new journey to transform the way I teach FDK. I was, quite simply, impressed by their use of space, materials, colour, to make the environment inviting as well as documentation to make the learning visible, I am so looking forward to my second visit this Tuesday. I will be observing things through a new lense and I know I will see/learn many new things as I now have a better sense of what I am looking at/for. Cannot wait! Thanks for providing us with this valuable first-hand experience.

  6. I completely agree with the comment from Havergal about team teaching, and ‘night planning’. I generally plan my week, but due to events, inspiration, or sparks/excitement from the students that may happen during the day, some things are altered, changed, moved, or deleted entirely from my day plans as a result. My D-ECE and I do not ‘night plan’ every single day, but we have definitely been doing it more than we used to. I appreciate her insight and her expertise in different areas, and sometimes she sees/hears things that I do not, which helps us to plan our next steps with our children. I do wish there was time built into our school day that allowed us to confer and plan, but that might be something we can work into our schedule for next year.

    Our weekly K planning meetings are always helpful in keeping us on track with where we are in the curriculum and our long range plans, housekeeping items, and our own explorations of inquiry and documentation in our own rooms. I enjoy the conversations about everyone’s classrooms and their inquiries. The suggestions, ideas, and questions that come from other members of our team are eye-opening, inspiring, and always welcome. I am grateful for the time that we spend together and the opportunities and ideas that we gain during these weekly meetings.

  7. I am excited about our upcoming visit to Havergal - a school I have heard many positive things about. I am inspired by the school's history and philosophy of learning. Thank you for sharing comments and suggestions. The idea of night plans makes sense - I have been rethinking several things including collaborating with my DECE briefly at the end the day to focus on the day's documentation, posting a comment about the students' learning on our classroom blog (or perhaps starting a new Twitter account), and reflecting on each day's documentation that same evening.

  8. I am so excited to visit Havergal College this Tuesday! I look forward to seeing and hearing more about your philosophy into early childhood education!

  9. I am very excited for our visit to Havergal College this week as part of our Kindergarten AQ course. I am very interested to see their inquiry centres and the materials that they choose to have at each one in order to provoke their students' inquiries and enable them to express their understanding. I am also very intrigued to hear about their night plans as it seems to make a great deal of sense to me if we are to follow our students' lead.

  10. Watching your PP presentation and reading – From Policing to Participation- in Carol Anne Wien and Karyn Callaghan’s book The Power of Emerged Curriculum made me reflect on the rules we have in our classroom around bringing artifacts or toys to school. The learning that unfolded in your classroom was amazing. To see the children so engaged and Julie and you as such knowledgeable observers and facilitator is incredible. I think by opening your classroom to bring in toys from home allowed you to see the children in your class in their entireness. You fostered the home- school connection on a new level. You two are always very inspiring and make me reflect on my practice. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  11. I am so excited to be visiting Havargal along with other teachers in my Kindergarten Part 2 AQ course. This will be my third visit to Havargal. The beauty of the building with all its character and history is only part of what is so amazing about Havargal. The principal, teachers, and students made me feel like I was part of the staff on each occassion. The excitement in the school was infectious. I left each time filled with many "wonderings". Some of their inspiration lead me to want a Math Learning Carpet, which I have just recently received. What I witnessed a Senior Kindergarten student doing was brilliant. I could not believe she was only 5 years old. I implemented their morning "Ten Frame" activity and several of their documentation practises. I can't thank them enough for all that they have so willingly shared with me.

  12. I have been fortunate to visit Havergal three times thus far. Each visit has been unique and inspiring in its own way, however, two aspects have been dominant each time I have visited the school. First, the educators at Havergal are true collaborative contributors - warmly welcoming visitors to their classrooms and making them feel a part of the Havergal family. Second, the documentation on display is always changing and growing and the educators are enthusiastic about sharing their own processes and learning journeys, as well as any resources that they have come across or created. I have left each visit inspired to rethink aspects of my own classroom environment and pedagogy - they always push my thinking forward. I look forward to my fourth visit this week and to seeing where some of their projects have taken them since my last visit in December.

  13. I have yet to visit Havergal and am excited for the opportunity to do so with such an inspiring group of participants in our course. I look forward to the rich discussions and new learning that I know will take place!

  14. I liked the idea of a night plan. It would be a lot easier to plan activities around what the students are interested in. I really enjoyed my visit to Havergal College to learn more about documentation.
    B. Lee

  15. After visiting with the kindergarten team at Havergal, I now have a new perspective on documentation. Before my visit, most if not all of my documentation involved combining all of my data into a learning story binder format. However, it wasn't until my visit that I realized how beautiful documentation can be and therefore should be displayed for all to see especially the students who were involved in the inquiry. I still use the learning story format but I now also consider which pieces of student work, photographs, dialogue and documentation help tell the story of our journey and create a documentation panels for our classroom. I believe that documentation panels provide student authenticity in the classroom as the students work and experiences are reflected back at them and any others who may visit the room.
    Melissa Walker

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