Alumni Spotlight: Elizabeth Fannon

Elizabeth graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2014. She now works In Fort Collins, Colorado as Assistant Director and Coordinator of Student Learning at the Colorado State University Early Childhood Center, and Instructor in the Human Development and Family Studies Department. Since this unique role spans both early childhood education and postsecondary higher education, she is able to develop and apply a rather unique lens on learning to her work, which you can read more about below.

Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

I stepped out of the BJS TEP into an Assistant Director position at a nonprofit preschool in Boulder. There I helped foster a partnership with Boulder Journey School to become a practicum placement site. A year later I joined the CSU Early Childhood Center’s Administrative team to begin the next chapter in my life, working with adults and children in a Reggio-inspired laboratory school.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

I moved from St. Louis, Missouri to Boulder in 2013, after being accepted to the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program. I had a long history of experience in St. Louis, working in a constructivist environment with other educators inspired by the work coming out of Reggio Emilia, Italy. For me, the BJS TEP demonstrated a great balance of theory and practice, and how to marry the two. I continually use the thinking I built around this marriage when working with the CSU intern students who teach at the Early Childhood Center.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

Besides the trip to Reggio?! One of my fondest memories is working with BJS Technology Specialist Sam and one of my co-teachers Leslie to explore what technological tools could foster sound exploration with toddlers. We experimented with the Makey Makey tool and spent a couple of afternoons playing with the different possibilities. We played with how to offer these materials in developmentally appropriate and creative ways to children. Based on this exploration, we ultimately installed large panels of foil on the wall in the classroom, and attached metal spoons to serve as conductors between the foil and the Makey Makey tool on the laptop. It was a learning experience for us all and a true test of the importance of “messing about” as adults.

(left) Elizabeth and her colleague Leslie embarking on their personal cultural study after their visit to the schools in Reggio Emilia, Italy. (right) Elizabeth and her colleague Sam playing with the Makey Makey.

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

It’s pretty much a dream job! I really love that the ECC serves as a learning lab for adults and children. The reciprocal learning between the two cannot be ignored, and I get a lot of joy in supporting that process. The ECC is relatively new to the Reggio approach, so it’s energizing to study and reflect alongside the teachers and other administrators on what that means in our unique context. I also love working with the undergraduates in my “Creative Experiences with Children” course. Each semester I get the opportunity to facilitate thinking and questioning on the topics of teaching, learning, creativity, and the rights of children.

Elizabeth working with children at the ECC

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

In Saint Louis I was able to do some educational coaching/consulting at a United Way school in a pretty vulnerable area of the city. Working in collaboration with other colleagues and the teachers at that school, we were able to study the fundamentals of the Reggio philosophy together and embed some practices and ways of being into the classrooms. It was powerful to see the changes happen and the strong sense of self-efficacy develop within the teachers who previously had a much different view of what they and the children could do.

I’m very proud of bringing the ideas around professional learning communities to the last two school systems in which I worked. At my previous school, as well as here at the ECC, there has been tremendous growth in teachers’ practice. These experiences fostered new energy around classroom practice that came directly out of the research that teachers and administrators undertook together.

Successfully teaching and several semesters of an undergraduate class at CSU is a big, and unexpected, accomplishment. I hadn’t considered working in higher education before this role, and it was a big undertaking, but I’m super proud of how things are going!

Currently I’m co-authoring a manuscript for the next Innovations Peer Reviewed publication. I’m super pumped for that to come out in 2018!

Adult learning experiences Elizabeth helped design through the Creative Experiences with Children course she teaches (pictured left) and through Professional Learning Communities at the ECC (pictured right)

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

That’s a tough one. I feel compelled by many things at the moment! I think if I had to narrow it down it would be promoting the work of the teachers and children at the ECC and making it more visible in the community (Fort Collins and beyond). Through this work, we are advocating for the rights of children by engaging in conversation with others about their view of children and childhood.

We are taking more steps to do so in a variety of ways. We continue to partner with more departments at CSU, which brings different professionals and students majoring in things other than education into our spaces. I also like inviting ECC teachers to be guest lecturers at my Creative Experiences class, so students hear perspectives and realities other than mine about the value of a constructivist environment. We have started hanging documentation of children’s experiences on campus and in businesses around town too. This is something I would like to develop more momentum around. I’ve been talking with Sam Hall as well, and it looks like we have an opportunity to screen the Voices of Children Documentary at the school!

More internally, I think we are taking great leaps in making visible to our families the learning long term investigations with children offer. For example, this fall semester our older toddler children and teachers embarked on a journey, focusing on children’s photography and perspective taking. They collaborated with families, documented children’s photography preferences, invited the toddlers to document their peers’ experiences, and are curating a gallery open to the entire ECC community in one of our school’s common spaces.

On a larger scale, several teachers have published articles, sharing stories from their classroom, and I hope with the publication of our manuscript in Innovations, the amazing work coming out of the ECC will be even more visible. Eventually, I’d like the ECC to host the Hawkins Centers of Learning Exhibit, Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child, and develop professional development opportunities for other educators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Alumni Spotlight: Linda Miron

Linda graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2014. She now owns a consulting business, Collaborative Learning Consulting Services, through which she plans and conducts professional development trainings and provides coaching and support to schools and organizations in Boulder County, Colorado. When she enrolled in the BJS TEP, she had already work for about thirty years as an early childhood teacher and director. However, she approached her journey in the program with curiosity and openness. This was not only beneficial to her own learning, it was also beneficial to the learning of the colleagues in her cohort, as well as to the Instructors! We invite you to check out her unique perspectives below.

Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

When I graduated from the BJS TEP, I resumed a full time director role at the school I had been working at previously. In 2016, however, I began a new chapter. I wanted to support teachers, directors, and children in a new way, so I stepped down from my director position, and I began my consulting business. Almost immediately, I began to be offered contracts, working with early education professionals in different capacities. I started teaching and coaching for the Expanding Quality for Infants and Toddlers initiative (EQIT), and I started coaching for other initiatives through the Early Childhood Council of Boulder County. I was able to work with programs who were some of the first in Boulder County to go through the Colorado Shines System. I was able to work with centers and family child care homes with really diverse family populations. I was able to help schools build more family engagement. I was able to lead various large group professional development trainings. The contracts just kept coming, and very quickly I went from thinking this would be a part time business to feeling like I would soon need to hire an employee. It’s been really exciting to build a business from the ground up!

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

When I enrolled in the program, I had been a Director for 25 years, and I had lost a little bit of what it really meant to be a teacher. In that way, the practicum was really challenging and humbling. I absolutely did not realize how much information I didn’t know. The different classes I completed through the program helped me discover such important information, and I find myself really utilizing all of that now in my role as a consultant.

Another piece that I thought was really cool about the program was experiencing personalized learning first hand. I’m not a traditional learner, and it stopped me from pursuing my education for a lot of years. I really wanted to pursue a Master’s Degree, but I was terrified. The more I talked to BJS TEP Administrators, and heard from people who had completed the program before me, I realized that it’s not a traditional way of learning. It’s customized, so that each person can learn through their own style. That has really made an impression on me as I do my work now. Because I was immersed in that style and was able to see all the different ways that my fellow colleagues were learning throughout the BJS TEP, I can now apply that in the ways in which I work with clients.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

I was an Infant teacher in my practicum at Boulder Journey School. It was not an experience I thought I was going to do well with. In fact, I was terrified. I had never worked directly with infants before. As soon as I began in the infant room, I realized that it was an incredible learning opportunity. Just being on the floor with the children and noticing all the subtleties of their communication and behavior was powerful.

The course EDHD 5260: Child Study and Observation for me was probably my most important piece out of the whole program, because it really showed me how you could delve into the life of a child and apply that knowledge to working with other children. Now I’ve come full circle. I’ve been able to do a bit of consulting for Boulder Journey School, and I get to spend time with the group of children I had as infants who are about to graduate from PreKindergarten. Logan was my child study, and it took him just a couple of times of seeing me again, and talking a little bit with him, for him to remember me. Just the other day I was spending time in his classroom with a small group and sharing stories about when they were little. We were laughing, and Logan was sitting on my lap. He put his arm on my shoulder, and I just thought, “Wow! This is the best ever!” So I would say my favorite memory is just building that connection with the infants and getting to feel how meaningful it was for both them and me.

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

Last night is a perfect example. I went to a site that, a year ago, was ready to shut down. I worked there for a couple of months last year, and they made some changes that the whole staff seems really excited about. They’re going to go through the Colorado Shines process, and so I was able to meet with each of the three teaching teams last night. These were teachers who previously felt like they had to be doing things in pretty traditional ways. I met with each team for just 25 minutes and spent the time diving into learning through play. We talked, and we played with materials. I tried to help them see the things they were good at and use those strengths as inspiration to set goals. By the end of the evening, I saw so many flickers of excitement. It was beautiful. I got to spark that interest for them, get them excited about it. Now I get to go back and support them through the process. I was driving home last night and just had this thought, “Oh, yes! This is why I do what I do!”

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I think I’m most proud of the fact that I’m capable of conducting trainings. I wasn’t very confident in front of groups for a long time. I have always had trouble with auditory processing, so sometimes, when I say things, my words get all jumbled, and it takes me a little bit to recover. As I’ve been doing more trainings, I find that I can kind of incorporate my challenges and be honest about them. This brings some laughter to the group, but it’s also a platform to talk about the experience of young children when they are first learning to communicate. I realize that the things that I was most fearful about and embarrassed by are things that have been helping me build my confidence, and I love it.

 

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I am most passionate about interactions and relationships. Whether it’s teachers interacting with the children, or directors, or parents, I just love getting to support meaningful interaction and see social and emotional development at all different levels. I also want to leave readers with the words “anything is possible!”. Whatever you think you want to do or be a part of, don’t let anybody talk you out of it. Go for it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Tiana Ibarra

Tiana graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2015. She is now the Right Start Program Manager at Early Childhood Options in Dillon, Colorado, which taps into her passion for professionalizing the early childhood education field. In addition to reading her perspectives below, we encourage you to check out other innovative programs in Colorado mountain communities that are using public funding to support early childhood education.

 

Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

I spent two lovely years teaching 3-5 year olds at Silverthorne Elementary School, part of Summit School District. I became a mother to my little boy, Sage, on May 8, 2017. I was fortunate to be able to stay home with him for four months. Upon returning to work, I accepted a position working for Early Childhood Options. The program I manage, Right Start, is a voter-approved, tax-funded initiative, designed to improve quality, availability, and affordability of early care and learning for Summit County families. Through this initiative, I get to work on issues of recruitment and retention of quality early childhood educators and family child care providers. After completing my Master’s Degree and Teaching Certificate through the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program, it is exciting for me now to get to support other educators in Summit County who are interested in advancing their educations.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

My current role requires me to look at a great deal of data, which has not always been my strong suit. However, the BJS TEP taught me to think outside of the box, think on a grand scale, and think like an advocate. In my short time as Program Manager, I have brought in new systems and ideas. I have also begun finding new ways of marketing the Right Start Project, and I think I built my capacity for this type of thinking during my time in the program.

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

I love that I get to be part of helping teachers feel appreciated and helping them stay in the field they love. I also enjoy that I have a great deal of flexibility in my job, as the folks I work with are very open-minded. I can bring new ideas to the table, and they are always welcomed and encouraged, which helps keep me energized and dedicated.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

By far, I’d say my favorite memory was the trip to study in Reggio Emilia, Italy. It was the first time I travelled overseas, which was thrilling, and it was also incredible to see the schools in action. Leading up to the trip, we learned about many aspects of the Reggio Approach, and experimented with translating those ideas into our various practicum settings. The trip to Reggio Emilia provided us with the opportunity to see how the educators there implemented what we had been learning about. This truly empowered and inspired me!

Tiana and her colleague Amie enjoying Lake Como, Italy, during their personal cultural study days after visiting Reggio Emilia.

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I am definitely most proud of graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program. That was the most challenging and rewarding year of my life, and sometimes I look back and cannot believe I did it. I completed the program while employed at a school in Breckenridge, which required a lot of traveling on my part. I had to stay organized, extremely focused, and take the experience one day at a time, but the program administrators and instructors were really supportive. It was crazy at times, but I feel so proud that I did it.

(left) While enrolled in the program, Tiana and her class of toddlers regularly went on excursions to explore the Breckenridge community, as shown in this photo. (right) Tiana, pictured with her husband, Justin, on her graduation day.

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I love that I get to be part of an organization like Early Childhood Options because they are so incredibly dedicated to the community. Through this job, I feel like I’m truly making an impact on the educators, families, and children in Summit County. I also have a dream of opening my own early education center someday, and I am learning new skills every day that I believe will help me make my dream a reality. I feel like no matter my next steps, I will be better prepared because of my time with this wonderful organization.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Kyle Mckay

Kyle graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2013. After a bit of time spent on the east coast, he moved back to Colorado, and now we are very proud to call him one of our Mentor Teachers at Boulder Journey School in Boulder, Colorado. Kyle brings energy, laughter, and passion to the school’s faculty. We invite you to check out his unique perspectives below.

Where has your journey taken you since graduating from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

After graduating I moved to Durham, North Carolina to teach at a small private school. There I found the opportunity to grow as an educator, but the experience also gave me a much larger perspective on where my professional career should lead. The leadership style of the school I worked for did not fit well with my personal philosophy, which was very eye-opening for me. Keeping my professional goals in mind, as well as my love for the outdoors and rock climbing, I returned to Colorado, where I was hired as a Mentor Teacher at Boulder Journey School. I jumped in with both feet to work in a toddler classroom (an age much younger than my comfort level). In the fall of 2017, I began my third year with the same group of children as a Prekindergarten Teacher. The opportunity to stay with the same group of children and families for three years has been breathtakingly amazing, to say the least. Together we have built a foundation of love, trust, and development that I am positive will have a long lasting effect on both them and me. This past year, I also jumped into a new role at Boulder Journey School as the Outdoor Specialist for the entire school. This role, while new and developing, allows me to work with individual classrooms across the school to expand our collective thinking about outdoor education.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

Before I entered the Teacher Education Program, I was a classroom teacher for six years. During those six years I certainly held a high regard for the child, their development, and being a responsive teacher, but I was only scratching the surface. While in the program, and in the years since, I have developed a much deeper understanding of early education. The lens through which I approach my teaching is now focused on observation, documentation, and continued scaffolding. Being a part of the Teacher Education Program surrounded me with philosophical conversations, rich in practice and theory, that ultimately shaped who I am as an educator today. I am slower in my practice, allow for a healthy partnership with our school’s teaching teams. I navigate my days with intention and purpose. Realizing where I was before the program and reflecting on my growth as an educator, it is obvious that the Teacher Educator Program played an integral role in my development.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

I am sure that a lot of people who go through the program will say that their favorite part was the trip to Italy. It was rich in beauty and educational dialogue, and of course had plenty of tasty meals along the way. While Italy was amazing, my favorite memory was participating in the Boulder Journey School Summer Conference. Before the conference, I was feeling mentally drained, stressed about my graduate school work, and had slumped into a sense that everything we were doing at Boulder Journey School was normal. At the conference, I was quickly reminded that what we do here is absolutely special. Hearing from my colleagues, exploring the environments of each classroom, and talking with the conference participants was simply amazing. It was as if I awoke with a new breath of energy, at exactly the time that I needed it the most!

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

Each morning I have the right to come to work and be a part of an amazing profession. I get to be present when natural developments occur, laugh and smile about silly jokes and comments, and continue to expand my own mindset about what appropriate care and education truly is. Working in my current role is also a process of trial and error, through partnering with the children in what they think, do, and say. Because of this, my own thinking simply isn’t able to become stagnant, and this really brings me the most joy of all!

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I am proudest of my own personal growth. The way that I approached working with children after receiving my undergraduate degree to now is totally different. In my professional career I have rarely said “no” to an opportunity that would bring me growth, and it has been an amazing journey. It has allowed me to teach all over this country, and most recently, I got to present the work of my classroom at the World Forum on Early Care and Education in New Zealand. I hope that my accomplishments are always growing, adapting, and flowing.

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I am most passionate about outdoor education. I have always been a person who is the most comfortable outdoors, so I am so excited and thrilled to move my professional focus in this direction. I have loved learning and understanding how beautiful environments can be the third teacher while indoors. Now, in my role as Outdoor Specialist, I get to bring that understanding outdoors. Through this work, I hope to contribute to the research on why the outdoors are vitally important in early education. Also, moving in this direction has rejuvenated my energy and focus in my role as Mentor Teacher.

 

 

 

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: Sorrell Redford

Sorrell graduated from the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJS TEP) in 2016. She is now the Pre-K/Early Childhood Director at Estes Park Elementary School, part of Estes Park School District R-3. This rural Colorado public school has an extremely diverse population, and Sorrell has used this as an opportunity to create really interesting and innovative learning experiences that involve the entire community. In addition to her perspectives, offered below, we encourage you to follow her journey via Instagram @reggio_love_colorado

Where has your journey taken you since graduating the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

Since graduating from the BJS TEP I have been on a journey to find a career that I love! During my time at Boulder Journey School I realized that I wanted to work with children in my own community. My husband and I live in the mountains outside Estes Park, and I wanted to work with children that I saw in my everyday life and children to whom I felt connected. There is only one public elementary school in Estes Park, so I set my sights on getting hired there. I went through 5 grueling interviews and was finally told that I would not be offered a job as a teacher until I gained special education experience. However, the school hired me as a special education paraprofessional, which was indeed a beneficial experience because I had not previously worked with children with special needs. Three months after I started work as a Paraprofessional, the preschool teacher quit unexpectedly, which opened the door for me to be hired for the job that I initially applied for.

I began as the Preschool Director just three months after being hired as a Paraprofessional. This is the position I am currently in, and I absolutely love it! I have a morning and afternoon class with 13 students in each, 4 days a week, with Mondays for planning. It is a public preschool program, so there is a lot to know, but I am navigating my way through Licensing, Teaching Strategies Gold and the Colorado Preschool Program. I have a huge amount of freedom. I have implemented the Reggio approach into our daily lives, and I am having so much fun with it. I re-designed the environment and am seeing the results. The children are thriving! Our program is play based and our classroom environment plays an important role in the children’s learning.

How did your education in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program help prepare you for your current professional role?

My education in the BJS TEP prepared me for my current role in ways I could never have foreseen. I learned that my power as an educator lies in my strengths, which I have identified as creativity and advocacy. I use these strengths every day in my career, and these were traits I did not know I possessed until my time at Boulder Journey School.

During the BJS TEP, I was encouraged to take professional risks, which helped me discover my teaching style. Advocacy is something I had not considered to be part of a teaching role until the Teacher Education Program. Learning about advocating for students, for preschool, and for yourself as a professional was very powerful. Being an advocate includes being professional and treating other teachers as professionals. Creating mutual respect between all educators is really important if you want to raise up the profession and make positive changes in education.

The BJS TEP also taught me how to bring creativity into every aspect of my career. There are many ways to view creativity. It is easy for me to be creative in the classroom, whether I am setting up provocations, designing art projects or putting up documentation, but it can be difficult for me to be creative in other, less obvious ways. For example, being able to think of creative ways to communicate and engage parents is essential, as is thinking of creative ways to reach special education students and communicate with the various specialists with whom I work. It is difficult as a teacher to take on so many responsibilities, and I feel like creativity is essential for problem solving, which is a large part of my job.

What is your favorite memory from your time in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program?

My favorite memory from the Boulder Journey School program are from the course ECED: Introduction to Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum. During this course and at the end of a long day, I was trying to think of an engaging provocation. I decided to fill a plastic container with water, leaves, and rocks. The next morning, the children found it and turned it into a pond. The children played in the pond every day for several weeks, and I studied engagement as part of my DAC. It was incredible how the pond grew and changed. It started in a tiny container, and then grew into a larger container. The children filled it with all different materials. Some days it looked like a real pond with turtles, frogs, and leaves. Other days, they added sand and dinosaurs, and it looked like a scene from Jurassic Park. I learned so much from observing the children’s play in the pond. It was a sensory experience, it encouraged empathy, it encouraged social play, it created opportunities for imagination, it provoked sharing, and through this play children built friendships.

What brings you joy in your current professional position?

The children bring me so much joy! Every day there are special moments where my heart feels full, and I don’t think I would feel this way in any other profession. Last week I watched a 5 year old girl cleaning the face of one of the 3 year old special education students. It was such a gentle and kind exchange, and it made me remember why children are so amazing. They don’t judge each other or label each other. My students remind me to be a kind person, and I think working with children makes me a better person, more reflective and less judgmental. The children also make me laugh, even when I am feeling frustrated, sad, or exhausted, which is pretty wonderful!

What professional accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

I am extremely proud of completing my Master’s Degree and then pursuing a career in early education. I use what I learned through my Master’s everyday, and that is a really great feeling. I am especially proud of how professional I am when communicating with families. I have to interview every family who applies for a preschool space at my school to make sure they are eligible for public preschool. I have to ask difficult some questions. I have had conversations about why families moved from Mexico to Estes Park, I have had conversations with parents who use drugs, and I have had conversations with openly racist families. However, I am proud of how the BJS TEP prepared me for this, and I am constantly thinking back to all I learned in the course EDFN 5010: Social Foundations and Cultural Diversity in Urban Education. I also think back to the 100 Languages of Children and how this relates to parents, not just children. It helps me look at situations from parents’ points of view and try to understand their situation, which can be very challenging, but also very rewarding.

In terms of your professional life, what are you most passionate about right now?

I am currently working on transforming our playground into a natural outdoor classroom, which I am very excited about. Our playground is currently an old plastic structure which has been vandalized. I believe the children deserve a higher quality environment, so I met with my Principal and the Head of Maintenance to present my ideas. I was very nervous, and to prepare, I researched playground safety, maintenance, and cost. I successfully persuaded them that a fully natural playground was the direction to go, and they gave me the go-ahead to have the old playground torn out and to begin working on creating a new one made of wood and stone. I have applied for two very large grants, and I should hear about them very soon. I am also involving students in the design of the new playground, and the company who will hopefully be installing and helping design the new playground is the Natural Playgrounds Company. They are amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

An Evening of Discussion on Children’s Rights

November 20th is Universal Children’s Day, a day to honor the rights of children. It is also the date in 1989 when the UN General assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Boulder Journey School (BJS) collaborates regularly with Hawkins Centers of Learning to hold evening workshops, open to the community as well as all members of the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP). To learn about and register for upcoming workshops, click here.

This month, in honor of Universal Children’s Day, we held An Evening of Discussion About Children’s Rights.


“I think it is a topic a lot of people don’t think about, including myself. I know people and children are the same, but I think we don’t know how to offer children the space to exercise their rights.” – Kourtney, Denver Public School educator

On Tuesday, November 14, educators from Boulder and Denver gathered in the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Room to view The Voices of Children, a short documentary composed of children sharing their lives and experiences through a series of “listening sessions”. The viewing and subsequent dialogue were facilitated by Sam Hall, Member of The Voices of Children Production Team.

The Voices of Children documentary project was initiated by the World Forum Foundation Working Group on Children’s Rights, formed at the 2011 World Forum on Early Childhood Care and Education, in Hawaii, USA. The following year, in Moss, Norway, members of the Working Group, Voices of Children committee, defined their primary goal and the means to achieve it. The goal was to articulate the rights of children worldwide, from the child’s perspective, rather than from the viewpoint of the adult. One means of accomplishing this unique goal was the creation of a video documentary that would capture children’s voices directly, without filtering them through adult interpretations. – From The Voices of Children Documentary Project Background Information Sheet 

 

Following the viewing of the documentary, we engaged in dialogue around the rights of children in our personal contexts and how these contribute to our understanding of children’s contexts around the world.

One of the big questions we examined was the grey area between honoring a child’s right to protection, and honoring a child’s right to participate.

When we protect a child from realities that may seem scary, are we prohibiting them from offering their viewpoints, their understandings, and their solutions to the community?

When we offer children experiences that require their voices, does this take away from the protection of their childhoods?

As a group, we discussed that the answers to these questions lie deeply embedded in the cultural contexts in which the children live.

In the film, we saw children stirring steaming vats of food to be served for meals, cutting branches with machetes, and digging with pickaxes. This is in contrast to the protected experiences many of us from Colorado engage in with children. Three girls from Kenya, who appear to be between the ages of seven and ten, explain to the camera, “The reason kids rush to help and do some of the work, the reason we don’t just sit like this, it is because children cannot just sit while the elderly people work. We can help with everything.”

Photo by The Voices of Children documentary team.

 

Taylor, a Denver-based Early Childhood Education teacher and BJSTEP alumna reflected, “Anyone who works with children knows they don’t want to just sit around. There is a connection between work and feeling a sense of pride. Offering children the opportunity to do meaningful work, not work that we just make up, but work that they can see why it is important, why it matters, helps children in the long run develop a sense of pride in their contributions to the community.”

Elizabeth, a Fort Collins-based educator and BJSTEP alumna built on this reflection, “Do the children who were cooking and contributing feel a stronger sense of ‘I’m a citizen’ than children who are offered arbitrary experiences, such as a teacher ‘letting’ a child clean up all the red blocks?”

We wondered whether children who have to do work feel more a part of the community because they are responsible for the well-being of the community.

We reflected that affluent cultures tend to value protection over participation. Does that shift in values strip children of their sense of self and community, and their sense of responsibility to the communities in which they reside?

We wondered how we, steeped as we are in our own cultures and contexts, might actively seek to move beyond our own biases. There may not be universal answers to these questions. We must seek to listen, just as the documentary team listened to children, to help us honor the rights of children in the contexts and cultures in which they live.

We cannot afford to ignore situations because they make us uncomfortable.

As we drew to a close on the night of the viewing, filled with questions, wondering whether we had said the right things, asked the right questions, or listened intently enough, Gwen, a Boulder-based educator shared, “With all the discussion, I feel that I want answers. I don’t like the questions. I want answers. And what I’ve taken from tonight is that the conversation is where the answers come from. It is valuable just to have the conversation even if it is uncomfortable. I appreciate that.”

 


If you are interested in screening The Voices of Children, please contact Sam Hall at sam.hall@boulderjourneyschool.com for more information. Be sure to include your name, city and country, so we can direct your request to the correct team member.

Mandalas in the Classroom: How PD Influences Classroom Work

Boulder Journey School classroom teachers, mentors, and interns compose blog posts for the families in each classroom 3 – 5 times weekly. These blog posts offer reflections on daily experiences, question possibilities for future research, and form connections between home-life and school-life.

In a previous blog post, we shared educators’ experiences in a workshop on mandalas. Here we explore classroom work inspired by that workshop.

The following reflections are from a classroom blog post shared with families, composed by Kirsten Zimbelman, Boulder Journey School mentor teacher.

 


Last night I had the opportunity to co-present a workshop on mandalas and their role in mindfulness practice in early learning. We worked with educators from several schools to discuss ways in which we could incorporate this kind of intentional work into our days with young children. Today, we decided to bring our research into our classroom.

Mandalas are best known for their use in the eastern religions of Buddhism and Hinduism. The word mandala is a Sanskrit word, and the literal translation means circle. However, if you break the word into parts its translation can change. Man is the Sanskrit word for mind, while the word da in Sanskrit can be translated as maintenance. So mandala can also mean maintaining the mind.

What does this have to do with preschool? Well, according to research, mindfulness has been linked to children being more positive, having better moods, and increasing their ability to focus. It has also been shown to help children build empathy and connections with peers by helping them process their own feelings. These are both crucial pieces of toddlers’ development, as they, like all of us, are developing their understanding of how their actions affect one another.

We began by looking at images of mandalas composed of natural materials and found various items. We also looked at a mandala built by teachers in our studio.

We discussed the shape of the mandalas as well as the materials used to make the ones in the images.

We offered the children materials such as leaves of varying colors, shapes, and sizes and a collection of man-made loose parts.

We intentionally selected circular boards to offer as a base or frame for the children’s work.

We observed forty uninterrupted minutes of children busily working on their own or collective mandalas.

Tuck, age 2, selected a frame and grape leaves for his work.

Linnea, age 3, added leaves to her composition.

Yana, age 2, and Tuck worked together to build a mixed media mandala.

Throughout the morning, several mandalas were built. Then, in the true spirit of the art, they were wiped clean to begin again.

During their work the children were always in motion; however, the motion was one of focus and intentionality. While we have not yet introduced the word ‘mindfulness’, or the language that accompanies conversations about mindfulness among adults, the children remained focused and engaged throughout the time spent in this endeavor.

“The Mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the self” ( C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 1957, pp. 401 – 402).

In what ways do you observe your children being mindful?