The Dynamic of a Band: Story from a Practicum Site – Boulder Journey School

“In order to act as an educator for the child, the environment has to be flexible: it must undergo frequent modification by the children and the teachers in order to remain up-to-date and responsive to their needs to be protagonists in constructing their knowledge.” – Lella Gandini, “Education and Caring Spaces”

At the beginning of the school year, the children in Room 14 at Boulder Journey School expressed a strong interest in performance and music. The teachers observed the children frequently discussing and engaging in play around performance and instrument design, especially in the outdoor classroom. According to Erin, the mentor teacher in Room 14, “It started with two children using materials to represent different instruments. There was a wooden platform outside that they made into a stage, where they performed.”emergenceofguitarsviashovels

The children used shovels or flat, long “loose parts” to represent guitars; they would play them together in groups. Microphones were represented as fairly tall objects that either stood on their own or could be propped. Erin recalled, “They used tall stable objects, such as shelves to balance sticks or tubes to be hands-free and reach their mouths.”

 

In addition to their interest in representing instruments, the children showed a strong interest in using their instruments to perform songs for others. Erin recalls that many children shared an interest in songs by Jeff and Paige, a local children’s group. They sang these with and to one another. They also sang pop culture hits, and made up their own songs. Ultimately the children’s’ shared interest in music and performance sparked a year-long investigation into the concepts of music, performance, and instrument design.

As an assignment for the Teacher Education Program (TEP), the teachers reflected on the incorporation of technology as an essential learning tool into the classroom. One goal of the TEP is to seamlessly weave together current theory with classroom practices. As the graduate students learned about the changing role of technology in the early childhood classroom, they also engaged in dialogue with their mentor teacher to uncover the ways this assignment would fit with the current work taking place in the classroom. Building on these conversations, the children were offered videos and projections of professional live performances to act as references in their understanding of guitars and microphones. The children were then asked to reflect on and share their observations of the videos and photos.  

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 2.14.28 PMAlongside their digital investigation of professional performances, the teachers worked to deepen children’s understanding and interest in performance and instrument creation through adaptations of the classroom environment. While the children started the year performing their songs outside on a wooden platform “stage”, over time the children and teachers worked together to create a performance stage with open ended materials for instrument design and exploration within the classroom. The performance area is an example of a responsive environment, one which develops in relation to the children’s interests.

guitarstrapstapeThe children also added new elements to their instrument creation. Wire, fabric, and string were used to represent the straps, plugs, and wires of guitars, banjos, and other string instruments. Room 14 teachers continued to observe the children’s interest in music, and offered new materials and provocations to spark further exploration. Teachers introduced tape to the children and supported individual and collective exploration of the properties of tape over several weeks. As the children developed their understanding of the properties of a variety of materials, including tape, teachers presented a question to the class: “Is there a way you can make microphones stand up so you can play your guitar and sing at the same time?”

The children also offered a challenge to themselves: to make a more accurate looking guitar that had a strap so you could let go of the guitar.

 

Over the course of several weeks, the teachers and children in room 14 explored and worked with multiple materials to create their own microphones and guitars. As they worked, they became more aware and intentional about the physical elements of design.

guitarprototype“With trial and error, a design was created that fit the criteria of the children,” recalls their teacher. For example, the children designed a shovel with a wire going through the hand hold and wrapped around the neck as their first prototype for a guitar. Over time, this design was adapted, and the final prototype for a guitar was established as a long piece of wood with tape used to depict frets, binder clips to hold lanyard, and wire to plug into the amp.

TEP mentor and intern teachers worked to scaffold and deepen the process of learning by revisiting and reflecting on the instrument prototypes with children. Teachers presented children with complex materials and questions that encouraged them to engage in the reflective process of critical thinking and learning.

In the children’s process of designing a microphone prototype through open-ended exploration, they considered four main elements: design, height, functionality, and stability.  While many children engaged in an independent process of design, they also tested different designs out with one another, as well as with older children in prekindergarten Room 12, who have an expertise in design and construction work.

Currently there are a few prototypes for microphones. Most involve tape, wire, tubes, and cut pool noodles, with a large container with a weight in it to act as the base of the microphone. Erin noted, “The class now seems to have a fairly strong idea of the elements that they need for each microphone. The challenge of stability is now the biggest obstacle in their path.”

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“Our microphones keep tipping over.” – Adam, age 3.5 

As the children continue to explore the concepts of stability and functionality through their design process, they also express a passion for innovation and creativity. In addition to the elements of design, room 14 continues to explore and incorporate the various social aspects of performance into their classroom culture.

microphoneprototypeErin recognizes that the goals of the class have evolved, “We have started to look into the

different elements of performance, including dance and music, and consider the children’s interests relating to these elements. The dynamic of a band is really interesting to them right now. The social negotiation of who is going to take on what role in the band is very interesting.”

As the children continue to delve into the social aspects of performance, the teachers in room 14 hope to continue to support children’s social-emotional, cognitive, and physical learning around the art of music, instrument design, and performance.


Gandini, L. 1998. “Education and Caring Spaces” in Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. The Hundred Languages of Children. Greenwich, CT: Ablex.

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Conversations with Robots: Story from a Practicum Site

OPENair Academy is located in Taxi, an intentional live-work community in the heart of Denver’s River North (RiNo) Neighborhood. Because OPENair Academy is located right in the center of this vibrant community, children and teachers from the school often venture out to explore.

OPENair Academy‘s LoDo school is located in the innovative mixed use community, Taxi,  in Denver’s River North (RiNo) neighborhood.

img-rinoOne particular class of preschoolers and their teachers have been engaged in research around the Taxi community. The teachers in this class are part of the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program (BJSTEP) community as both current graduate students and alumni mentors. The goal of several courses in the BJSTEP is to deeply study the intersections of theory and practice in the classroom, and this particular research began to blossom when one of the teachers was enrolled in the “Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum” course in the fall of 2015. Since the teachers first observed the children’s excitement about the neighborhood, the project has blossomed into a rich and complex study, and continues in the 2016-2017 school year, with one teacher graduating from the BJSTEP in August and another graduate student teacher joining the class in August of 2016.

The following story is a look into one small part of the neighborhood investigation, and begins with teachers’ observations of the children’s interest in a large robot they often encountered in one of the buildings on their walks around Taxi.

“I like the color of it.” -Lillian 

“Maybe it’s not working today…maybe because it’s broken?”- Jack 

“Maybe we could like take a picture of this robot.”- Leighton 

“Can you turn on the robot please?”- Vaughan 

“Maybe they like put cool stuff on it and press a button.” -Leighton 

“Why there a shoe on there?”- Dylan 

The teachers decided to reach out to the business that owned the robot, BOA Technology, and arrange for the children to visit with the employees. The employees were happy to host a visit from the children. They answered questions and gave an up-close demonstration of how the robot works.

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copy-of-communication-with-parents-6-2Upon returning to school, the children expressed a desire to build their own robot. After gathering materials, discussing their ideas, and sketching their plans, they worked together, using cardboard and other loose parts, to construct a robot that would live in their classroom.

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During the weeks that followed, the robot was explored in numerous ways. It was more than just a visual reminder of the BOA robot, it was a member of the classroom, with its own personality. However, both children and teachers noticed that the robot lost some parts over time. Rather than throwing it away, teachers saw this as an opportunity to challenge the children to think about how to revive the robot. The children had many ideas: 

“We have to fix it.” -Hadley

“With tape.” -Lio

“With lots of tape.” -Hudson

“Paint it.” – Leighton

“Horsie stickers on it.” – Lillian

“Purple marker and pink on the side and stick some things on it.”-Leighton 

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Teachers recognized that the children were engaging in the design process, ideating, creating, and testing prototypes, reflecting, and then starting the cycle over.

As the children enjoyed their new iteration, teachers wondered how to continue the process. They had been sharing documentation of the robot experiences with families, and they invited them to send materials to school that might inspire the children to continue to add parts to their creation.

One family sent some new parts, which resulted in the children engineering a working “garage door”, adding new functionality to the robot and increasing possibilities. 

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This project began with courses taken last year by one teacher enrolled in the BJSTEP and is now enriched by another. The group, however, functions as a unit. While some are children, some are alumni, some are mentors, and some are current graduate students enrolled in courses, they are all learners together. They are not only studying how the Taxi community offers possibilities to the children, they are also studying how the children and teachers offer possibilities to the community.

The class looks forward to collaborating with BOA in the future, as well as other companies and businesses based in the TAXI community. Not only do these interactions help the children understand their community, they also remind the adults of the community that children are vital parts of all communities and have unique ideas and perspectives to offer.

What potential collaborators exist beyond the walls of your school?

The Blog As A Tool for Collaboration: Story from a Practicum Site

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.  

Continue reading “The Blog As A Tool for Collaboration: Story from a Practicum Site”