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: