In a recent visit to the Co-op Family Center, in Eugene, Oregon I was inspired by the ways community are represented and the documentation of authentic work that reveals collaborative processes of learning among children and their teachers.
Community History: In the school lobby a collection of binders is visible to newcomers. These include annual documentation from each classroom/age group, wobblers, toddlers, infants, and school age. A unique feature is the reframing of this classroom documentation into a quarterly synthesis of the project work in a spiral binder that sits on the top of the shelf to welcome visitors. It is carefully organized by teachers to share the essence of prior inquiry with visitors and to assist the teaching staff in their planning for future investigations.
Roots and Ideas of a diverse Community: There is a map in the hallway that really inspired me. I was told the map is one way of welcoming families into the community of the center. When each child enrolls in the school, the child, with his or her family, are invited to mark their place of origin on the map with a pin. Children’s ideas and comments about community are also documented on this map. A few examples include:
Chilld 1: “Community means the whole world.”
Child 2: “Community is our town of Eugene.”
Child 3: “A community is basically a group of people that come together and learn to love each other in a way.”
Mirroring experiences of the Local Community: In the community of Eugene I saw people outdoors everywhere, gardening, biking, and hiking, by the Willamette river and beyond. It is clear that children at the Co-Op Family Center share this love of the outdoors. They spend a lot of time in their natural playground, with its areas of sand, with grasses trying to grow in a wild fashion, with rocks and logs, and, native trees. A dirt bike path frames the perimeter of the older children’s play space, providing opportunities for biking that mirror the biking they see in their city.
Documentation: In one classroom there was evidence of a study of babies that led children to consider the ways that babies grow. Exploring ideas about what babies do as they grow and what they think became important ideas that linked to the children’s theory that the brain is central to these processes of thinking and growing. When I visited in June, this documentation from the previous school year remained in the classroom to possibly inspire the children entering the classroom for the upcoming school year.
Ideas for schools: In a staff meeting divide into groups.
- Ask each group to wander through your school taking photos of elements in the environment that represent the distinct character of your community.
- Discuss the findings.
- Did you find that the school has clearly represented the community of children and families, the community philosophy, and the region?
- How do you value and represent the history of your community?
Posted by Jane Broderick
Learn more about the Co-Op Family Center at coopfamilycenter.org/