The value and practice of collaboration is a central component of the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP). At Boulder Journey School, teachers are encouraged to reflect on the meaning of collaboration and practice it daily through their work with co-educators, children, and families. Depending on the collective interests and strengths of the school community, collaboration can take many forms.
Recently, educators at Boulder Journey School have engaged in research around the school blog and how teachers can effectively utilize their classroom’s blog to encourage active participation and collaboration among the classroom and school-wide communities. Each classroom has an online blog that serves to share daily, documented experiences and ongoing investigations with the wider classroom community.
The BJSTEP offers graduate students an opportunity to engage in hands-on, action-based research in their classroom throughout their year-long teaching practicum experience. They are guided by a mentor teacher, who typically works every day of the week, while intern teachers, who are in the classroom part-time, often alternate days of the week, having either a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday schedule. With teachers’ schedules as full as they are, it becomes imperative to establish a method for communication and planning. At the beginning of the school year, Amy, BJS alumni and current mentor teacher in room 9, expressed her interest in utilizing the blog as a planning tool. She invited her co-teachers to read the blog frequently, as well as post and reply to comments on entries throughout the week, utilizing the blog as a resource for emergent, collaborative curriculum planning.
Through the BJSTEP, graduate students and mentor teachers meet weekly to discuss current research and theories in Early Childhood Education and to reflect on how to incorporate research and theory into the daily practice of the classroom. Dan-Vi, a current graduate student and teacher in room 9, posed the question: “How can we use the blog to build curriculum and deepen our research in the classroom?” Room 9’s current investigation of construction sites is one example that highlights the ways in which educators and families can utilize the blog to support collaborative investigations in the classroom community.
At the beginning of the school year, room 9 teachers observed children’s interest in construction sites that developed in their classroom as well as in the surrounding community. Teachers and parents observed that construction themes frequently arose in children’s dramatic play. They also noted a strong interest in construction themed books. In October, many children noticed and communicated their interest in the “construction site” taking place outside of the school. These experiences were shared in the classroom blog, which inspired Meredith, a graduate student and teacher in room 9, to extend this construction theme by connecting children’s work in the classroom with a community expert, her husband Chris, who is a local carpenter.
One day, two children in room 9 expressed curiosity about the construction of the stairs leading up to the diaper changing table in the classroom. In a conversation with Meredith, they wondered how and why stairs are constructed. Meredith asked the children if they would like to learn more about how things are constructed out of wood from her husband, Chris. The children expressed their excitement about this opportunity, and as a result, Meredith invited Chris to work with children in the classroom. Coincidentally, on the same day that Chris came to school, one child and his parents expressed that he would like to visit the construction site outside of the school. In an effort to extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom, teachers took a small group of children to explore the construction site outside of the school. A group of children also worked with Chris throughout the morning to build lego structures and to learn how to build boxes and shelves with minimal tools. On the walk to the construction site, children and teachers observed the different elements of the construction site and concluded that the construction workers were “building a sidewalk”. Throughout the walk, children and teachers discussed the possibility of building something for their own classroom. Ultimately, the children decided to create new building blocks and also decided to construct a window bench that would allow children to safely look outside of the window to view the outdoor space.
One teacher’s blog comment reminded the classroom community of the construction and tool experts in room 12, a pre-kindergarten classroom equipped with tools and ongoing construction projects. This comment inspired teachers to invite some of the child experts from room 12 to share their knowledge of tools and construction with the children in room 9. The following week, a few children from room 12 worked with a group of children from room 9 to share their knowledge about tools and construction . Room 12 children described the differences between different types of glue and taught room 9 children about screws, hammers, nails, and screw guns. Room 12 children also worked with room 9 children to brainstorm different ways to build blocks and a bench for the classroom.
These experiences were shared in a blog post that was read by teachers and parents who commented on the blog and expressed their excitement about the investigation of construction sites. Parents expressed their appreciation for the ways in which the blog offered insight into the daily experiences of their children in the classroom. Teachers, in turn, used the running threads of the blog to plan future provocations relating to construction and community. Thus, the blog was effectively used as a tool to spark a conversation among teachers and families, which in turn served to support collaborative, emergent curriculum planning.