In August, I posted information about a remarkable opportunity for museums to join the North American Study Group in Reggio Emilia (IT). Responses to this and to other invitations to participate were enthusiastic. Fifty participants from 11 museums along with partners from higher ed, libraries, community organizations, early childhood, and preschools will gather in Reggio from November 10-16 for presentations by early childhood specialists, educators, and studio teachers; visits to infant-toddler centers and preschools; and tours of the Documentation and Educational Research Center.
The planning team for the museum teams group consists of Julia Bland (Louisiana Children’s Museum), Bobbi Rosenquest (Wheelock College), Ben Mardell (Lesley University and Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education), and me. Coordinating with Reggio educators and US Liaison Angela Ferrario, we have been building an agenda around incredible study tour opportunities and participant input. The emerging agenda reflects participant’s interests in and questions around three themes.
- Seeing the city as a system that supports children and families
- Engaging parents and community around seeing children as full of capabilities and ideas and as citizens
- Using documentation in museums: its role in creating experiences and environments, making children’s thinking and learning processes visible, and in advocating for children
Our time together will include facilitated discussions and reflections to help connect the Reggio educational pedagogy and practices with museums (children’s museums in particular) as well as support alliances among each city’s museums, higher education, and area early childhood professionals. These conversations will be natural opportunities to make visible the Reggio way of working with rigor and reflection in an environment where colleagues share perspectives and learn together. To this rich mix of possibilities, Wheelock College is bringing an incredible resource by facilitating documentation of our learning in the context of the group, capturing thinking and connections with the day’s experiences. Documentation material will be available for follow-up after the tour to support, for instance, on-going collaboration among museum teams.
Preparation: Traces and Documentation
|Traces of children on Cape Cod (Photo: Ben Mardell)|
Preparation among participants for the study tour is taking many forms with a focus on sharing and learning from each other. Participants have shared their interests related to the three themes. More than forty participants joined a conference call on which Ben Mardell and Julia Bland talked about their preparation in looking for traces of children in the community now in the US and soon in Reggio. They suggested participants also look for examples and images of how their city supports children–reflecting the first theme, supporting teachers as researchers, and collecting provocations for thinking and discussion.
In one sense, my preparation for the study tour started in 2000 when I participated in a study tour. Recently I found my notes and began rereading them, thinking about what struck me then, what has been significant and stayed with me, and what I want, in particular, to follow up on now. Hearing Carlina Rinaldi present Pedagogy of Listening on Tuesday, May 30, 2000 was pivotal for me. Re-reading my notes over the last 13 years as well as reading other versions of this piece in books and articles continue to yield new insights on children as researchers; documentation as a tool of observation and interpretation; making thinking processes and ideas visible; and reinforcing a democratic stance that infuses Reggio pedagogy.
|One in a series of panels from Xu Bing: Phoenix at MassMOCA|
On an on-going basis, these areas are reflected in my museum planning work and in blog posts on seeing children, children as citizens, and the public value of museums. They also align, in particular, with one of the museums’ group's theme–documentation considered in the context of museums.
Over the last few months some of my preparation has focused on expanding my awareness of documentation beyond schools in Italy and the US. I have also been looking for documentation-like examples from settings that share conditions with children’s museums and that might provide guidance in ways to bring documentation into museum settings.
|Josie's Drip from Learning Stories|
In this preliminary phase and in my upcoming explorations in Reggio, my interest lies in identifying informal starting points for documentation in children’s museum settings. With collaboration, creative thinking, and persistence, documentation in children’s museums could involve staff from across the museum in thoughtful observation and asking and exploring questions about children; could capture children’s understanding and interests about exhibit topics and concepts; and could help make children’s thinking and learning processes visible to parents, children, staff, and decision makers.
This is one departure point for a journey to Reggio, among many–my own and others'–starting now and unfolding over time. Over the next 3-4 weeks I will be writing and posting about and from the Reggio Museums Teams Study Tour sharing my own explorations and learnings and those of our museums teams learning together. Ciao!