On Display: Richland Academy

Friday, February 8, 2013


A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune of visiting Richland Academy for the first time.  I could not help but smile at the aesthetic beauty that surounds the school and the plethora of natural materials available for their students to engage with.  The staff very kindly welcomed me into their inspiring environment and I got a personal tour with their dedicated and knowledgeable leader, Marlina Oliveira.  What stood out for me during my visit (to name a few), were their planning process for inquiry-based learning, ethics of excellence, and how they created a culture of critique with their students.  The documentation around the school was also extremely impressive!

I am so pleased to display the remarkable work and commitment to learning and inquiry that are occurring at Richland Academy.  I hope that this post warms your heart on this freezing Friday!




Here is what Richland Academy collaboratively wrote to include in this post:

Thank you for including us in your “On Display" feature this week.  We are grateful for the opportunity to share the work we do with you, as well as your audience.  Project based learning provides children with an explorative opportunity to use their minds and delve deeply into a topic of interest.  It is intrinsically motivating for children, as they initiate their own learning through exploration, discovery and investigation.  It synthesizes both new and unforgettable experiences.   It’s exciting for us to collaborate with you.
Below please find summaries for the three areas of interest you identified.

Richland Academy Planning Process: 
Our planning process at Richland is true to the Reggio Emilia philosophy, in that we let the children’s interests direct their learning.  Through intent listening and thoughtful analysis, our teachers plan responsively to shape the learning.  Children carry out their own valuable and engaging research and chosen projects.  The children take ownership of their learning because topics covered are relevant, meaningful, and real to the children.  As professionals, our teachers have expected outcomes and bench marks to ensure curricular expectations are being met.  Our experience has been that Richland students meet, and often exceed, those expectations because they are engaged deeply in the learning, and the content is not pre-determined.  This backward design planning model is highly successful because of the expertise of our teaching staff to guide the learning through the students while delivering on curricular expectations.

Ethics of Excellence: 
At Richland we foster a spirit of perseverance, resiliency, reflection and improvement to develop performance and moral character – the pathways to excellence and ethical behavior.  Students are encouraged to strive for mastery of subject and knowledge through high levels of work and play.  In its simplest form, Richland students endeavor to do their best.  This value is embedded in our school culture, and the ethic of excellence is both recognized and challenged on an ongoing basis, permeating all we do at Richland.

Culture of Critique:
In order to achieve excellence, we must develop the resiliency and reflective skills necessary to improve and better ourselves and our work.  At Richland, our students are taught a shared language of critique; and are given a safe and supportive environment for giving and accepting feedback.  Below are examples of the language our Senior Kindergarten students have been learning and practicing in order to develop those critical skills:
      I was inspired by...
       I notice...
       Another way you could do it is...
       I wonder...
       Maybe...
       How did you...
       What if...




On behalf of the Richland team, many thanks Joanne.  We look forward to future collaborations!


 

Thank you to the Richland Academy staff for their contribution to our blog.  We were so honoured to display their thinking, and I especially look forward to my next visit to their school!

Be sure to visit Richland Academy through the following social media:

Twitter https://twitter.com/richlandinquiry @richlandinquiry

32 comments:

  1. What an honour it was to have you visit us. It was truly an inspirational afternoon. This posting is very touching and we look forward to further collaborating with you in the near future. I too, am looking forward to your next visit to Richland Academy.

    Have a wonderful weekend,

    Lisa Abreu
    Prekindergarten Teacher

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    1. I love your forest learning carpet! The colours are much more natural than what you usually find in learning carpets! Where did you find this?

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    2. Lisa,

      I was also greatly inspired by your school and classroom. It was so wonderful to see the possibilities available for children as early as three years of age. Please keep us all posted about your chicks! Maybe my class can learn from your students discoveries along the way. We don't have an incubator in our classroom, but we could share about our experiences with a rabbit and discuss the connections of living things.

      So lovely to meet you Lisa!

      I really appreciated your patience and kindness in answering my questions.

      Your pride in your program was so evident!

      Sincerely,

      Joanne Babalis

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    3. Thank you Joanne. It was a pleasure speaking with you and I was more than happy to answer all of your questions. I look forward to further collaborating with you. I appreciate your kinds words, very touching! Have a fantastic day and we will touch base soon regarding our collaborative exploration with our classrooms. I have sent you an email and look forward to your response. All the best,
      Sincerely,
      Lisa Abreu :)

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  2. Thank you for sharing our work, Joanne! We take great delight in collaborating with passionate educators, like yourself. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

    Best regards,

    Laura Murgatroyd
    Director of Community Life

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    1. Laura,

      I am happy my passion shone through during my visit!

      I would be delighted to continue collaborating with all of you too!

      Sincerely,

      Joanne Babalis

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  3. We thank you Joanne for featuring us on your blog this week. It was an absolute pleasure to have spent time with you, dialoguing and sharing our love and passion for the Reggio philosophy. We look forward to collaborating with you. Keep up the brilliant work you are doing in your kindergarten class.

    Sincerely,

    Marlina Oliveira
    Head of School, Richland Academy

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Marlina!

      The honour is all mine!

      It was lovely to get to know you better and meet your staff. I appreciate your hospitality and openness to share your thinking with me. I'm still smiling and reflecting about my visit to your school. The pedagogical documentation everywhere made my little heart sing!

      Thank you again for your time and encouragement,

      Joanne Babalis

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  4. Dear Richland Academy,

    On behalf of our blog visitors, I would like to ask you which resources you would recommend for someone who would like to begin their work in the following:

    1) Inquiry-Based Learning or PBL
    2) Ethics of Excellence
    3) Culture of Critique

    I'm very intrigued by what I saw at your school!

    Thank you,

    Joanne

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  5. Hi Joanne,

    Thank you very much for your question. Much of our time goes into researching and exploring the areas you have indicated above. Please leave this request with us, and we will be in touch with regard to recommending resources.

    Yours truly,

    Laura and Marlina

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    Replies
    1. That would be wonderful!

      Thank you very much and I look forward to your response,

      Joanne

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  6. It was so good to see you at Richland, and to share what we do. Collaboration is something we very much value at Richland, and it was lovely that you gave us an opportunity to make visible to you, and to all that follow your blog, all the wonderful learning that takes place in our classrooms. Our Reggio journey is a truely magical and transformational one. Thank you for continuing to inspire so many other educators, including myself!
    Kate Daniel
    Reggio Lead Teacher/SK Teacher
    Richland Academy

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Kate!

      I couldn't wait to visit your classroom, especially after seeing your documentation at the ORA sessions at York University. Your project work sounded so interesting and it was great to see it live!

      I agree that following a Reggio-inspired approach is magical and transformational! It has certainly changed me and my teaching.

      Thank you for your kind words,

      Joanne

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  7. Dear Joanne,
    It was with pleasure and pride, that we welcomed you into our Reggio inspired world at Richland...I have followed your work on your site for a while now and find your work, research and postings most intriguing. I have no doubt that you are leading your 'pack' and, most inspirational to other teachers and administrators at your school.
    I do hope to have the opportunity to visit you in your classroom and school in the near future.
    Jane Buckley-Black
    Primary School Director
    JK Teacher
    Richland Academy

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jane!

      It was lovely to meet you! Your classroom is so inviting and beautiful.

      Thank you for following our work online. I appreciate your encouragement and positive feedback!

      I will let you know when it becomes possible to schedule a visit. :)

      Thanks again,
      Joanne

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  8. What an incredible school! The photographs are simply beautiful! Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

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    Replies
    1. I agree whole-heartedly!!

      Glad that I could share the experience with a wider audience through my blog!!

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  9. Could you please tell me where you got your beautiful carpet with the stream and stepping stones. I love it. thank you

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    Replies
    1. Hello,

      I am not sure where the Richland Academy staff purchased their carpet from. Hopefully they can respond to your question!

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  10. It was such a pleasure to hear from a few of the educators from Richland to hear about the rich documentation and work that is being done at their school. I am thankful for the sentence starters to help promote critical thinking in the classroom. I will be beginning to implement these in our discussions.

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  11. I had the chance to visit Richland Academy with Joanne's Kindergarten AQ class, I was taken aback by the beauty of the school and classrooms. The children's learning was evident throughout the classrooms and school. I loved all of the natural materials and the outdoor playground was incredible!

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  12. I had the wonderful opportunity of listening to some of the educators from Richland Academy discuss Pedagogical Documentation this week. I found the presentation to be enriching and thought provoking. What stood out to me was thinking about "why" I document and the importance of forming a study group to discuss documentation. Collaborating and engaging in a diaglogue with another educator can provide a different perspective. I also had the opportunity of visiting Richland Academy and was amazed by all the documentation that was displayed. They do an excellent job of making thinking and learning visible !

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  13. I agree with Melissa's comments regarding the importance of having documentation dialogue with colleagues. Sharing perspectives with a teaching peer/s makes documentation meaningful. Inviting students to re-visit, reflect and comment on documentation is also powerful.

    I am struggling with the concept of Long Range Plans. Our school team submits LRPs in September. They highlight the learning that will take place. The notion of "pre-determined content" hinders learner-driven initiatives for inquiry-based learning. I believe emergent curriculum is more evident in our classroom because I am making an effort to be an effective listener. During student-teacher engagement my new focus is to watch…listen...validate…clarify...pose questions...prompt dialogue...look for sparks...and co-construct based on student interests and feedback.

    Really excited about the journey…J


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    1. We struggled this year with our long range plans. We decided to divide the curriculum expectations into three categories: Progress Report, Term 1, and Term 2. We tried to follow a logical sequence of expectations, but we also allowed ourselves the flexibility that if anything came up naturally, we would encourage it and follow through, even if it was supposed to be covered in a "different term". Joanne introduced us to "Inquiry -Based Learning Planner Organizers", which we also included in our plans. A few "completed" ones were submitted as examples of how we would use them for inquiry and how they encompass the curriculum. I did a search on the blog, but I do not see a link/posting about it. Maybe Joanne can help? :)

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    2. You can locate the templates in the section 'Resources for Educators' (http://myclassroomtransformation.blogspot.ca/p/blogs-to-browse.html)

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    3. I struggle with the concept of long range plans as well. It's hard to follow when you believe in following the children's lead.

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  15. I feel I missed out on a very interesting session last Tuesday at the AQ Course..but thinking back to the visit at Richland Academy with the Kindergarten AQ Part 1 course I was very impressed with how the educator teams used documentation to make learning happening in their classrooms visible ,and steps of planning transparent for children, parents ,collogues ,and interested visitors.
    When talking to teachers at Richland I appreciated the openness to share their experience when it came to questions about collaboration between teaching partners and grade partners. They stressed the importance of having protocols in place to make sharing and collaboration a safe and reciprocal learning experience for all participants. This made so much sense to me that I brought the idea back to my school and we are now investigating different models of protocols to integrate in our planning sessions.
    Joanne, do you have any resources when it comes to the use of protocols?

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  16. In the fall, I had the opportunity to visit Richland Academy with the kindergarten AQ course. It was inspiring to see the children inspired environment. All aspects of each room clearly showed the children's influence on their learning. It is clear that the children are very involved in what they are learning. I learned a lot on documenting their work so it is meaningful. Thank you for the inspiration.

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  17. Based on my visit with the Kindergarten Part 1 class and this blog post, I find the environment and staff at Richland truly inspiring. The presentation last week really had me reflect on my way of documenting and how important it is to develop a safe place for sharing and collaborating with other professionals/educators. Less is always more.
    "The pictures that stir your heart are the ones you enlarge!" -Kate Daniel at Richland Academy

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  18. I feel like I was very privileged to be able to be part of Richland's presentation to our Kindergarten Part 2 AQ course this week. The four educators are very genuine and approachable and make their documentation practice seem attainable and not so overwhelming to someone just starting out. Some points that stood out were to focus on an area of learning and reflect on that, rather than do a retell. I also valued the idea that documentation should make learning, not skills, visible.

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  19. After having the opportunity to visit Richland Academy, listen to the educators presentation on documentation, and read this blog post, it is evident that they strive not only to make learning visible, but also to make the children visible through their learning. It was inspiring to see the time, energy, and care they put into developing documentation that is meaningful to the children, parents, educators, and wider community.

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