Rounds at Harvard Graduate School of Education


On October 28th I attended my first Rounds with Steve Seidel, Director of the Arts in Education Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education.  I have heard about Rounds for years and finally I was able to show up to participate in a wonderful morning of professional development with a diverse group of professors, students and teachers from around Boston. 

This is the origin and the thinking behind Rounds as it appears on the Project Zero website:

Education has very few opportunities for the kind of lifelong professional learning that those in the medical community can access. At Project Zero we have been engaged since 1995 in an effort to create a powerful learning community based on the medical model of "rounds", where doctors young and old come together to share knowledge and practice clinical diagnostic skills...ROUNDS is a monthly discussion group giving educators an opportunity to gather and discuss emerging issues in educational practice, to present their personal puzzles about teaching and learning, and to practice looking at student work together... Everyone is considered to have special perspectives and expertise to offer the group, and those who attend engage in serious and spirited dialogue about educational matters.  



The morning that I attended, a question was posed by Mara Krechevsky.  Mara first reviewed some of the current thinking emerging from the Pedagogy of Play research of Project Zero, and then framed her question:

How do you create a classroom culture where learning is seen as an adventure of joy, challenge and the unexpected, also when addressing serious and sometimes troubling learning topics? 

Such a range of thoughtful responses to this question ensued with many examples that demonstrated how this kind of teaching and learning can be put this into practice...often through students making beautiful work that contributes to their communities' health and well being, innovation and problem solving, healing and growth.  

The second part of the morning was dedicated to looking at a collaborative drawing done in a free period by a group of third grade students. We followed the Collaborative Assessment Protocol carefully.  I have facilitated this protocol with many groups of teachers and it was such a joy to participate with Steve who is the author of the protocol and a master at leading it.  The drawing was a Halloween drawing and full of fun and fantasy.  We all learned  much through paying such close attention to what the students had created. 

I can't wait to go back to Rounds. Undoubtedly, attendance will inspire me to spiral outwards with what I learn and to design ever more thoughtful opportunities for learning with the teachers with whom we work.  If you are in Boston on a Saturday morning, check and see if Rounds is scheduled.  I promise you, you will learn in adventurous, joyful, challenging and unexpected ways!  


Thinking Like a Scientist...Thinking Like an Artist

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An early childhood colleague recently emailed me a query something like this:

I've been ruminating on how to get better input from the students for our newsletters. Here's my idea - I’d like to focus on one area a day and have a conversation with children in that area. The purpose would be different than listening for a “story.”  In these brief conversations, we would be looking for descriptions of what children are doing and what they like about the area so that we could include their ideas in the newsletters with photos.

I share my response here because I think it could be useful to others. 

First of all, your newsletter is extraordinary. 

I think the idea to focus on one area a day is a good one. 

You might think of it as a research project.

    What are the children doing in the area?

    What materials are most “fertile” for generating creative ideas?

    As you observe, what connections are the children making?

Remember during our last Skype meeting, we talked about one way to enter into conversations with children…are they:

  • thinking like a scientist (left brain, logical/mathmatical): observations, noticing, sharing, discovering
  • thinking like an artist (right brain, intuitive): poetic language, comparisons, using materials,
  • and in both…what are the connections they are making between two different ideas…are they inventing something new by putting two or more ideas or materials together?

Looking for the scientist and/or the artist may sound too simplistic, however, what I like about your original proposition is that you are choosing a focus for your observations: the areas of the room.  To then look for the scientist and/or artist might further focus your research.

I don’t mean to exclude seeing and hearing other things.  You will always have your peripheral vision open.  It’s just that sometimes the classroom is like forest, or even a jungle, of so many different things going on that you, the teacher, don’t actually see or hear the thoughts being developed.  That’s why I like your idea to chose one area of the room each day.  Over time, you will collect a collage of ideas, a mosaic of your classroom.

* the images in this post are from The St. Michael School in St. Louis, MO and Opal School in Portland, OR

Circles of Learning


This summer and fall I have noticed circles everywhere I turn...the moon, ripe tomatoes on the vine, white round blooms of Queen Anne's lace, and shining red apples ready to pick from our old orchard trees.  I have also noticed circles of Adirondack chairs waiting for groups to sit, talk, and notice the world around them.  Circles put us in a form ideal for dialogue, for meaningful conversations, for delight, for roasting marshmallows and making s'mores, for warmth around a fire, for closeness and friendship and for welcoming new comers. No one is left out. One photograph that I love from this past summer is an arial view of the Middlebury College Organic Garden with a circle of chairs, each a different color, inviting gardeners and visitors to take a break and engage in conversation or silent appreciation of a beautiful hillside in Vermont.  We have dear friends whom we visit each summer in Maine.  As a circle of friends, we have all given our hosts chairs over the years to expand their and our sphere of friendship over time.  Sitting around their fire by the lake is one of my most thankful memories.  Now we have our own fire and chair circle, down by a stone wall where we have been cooking with fire all summer long.

cad collab

In the schools for young children in Reggio Emilia, having conversations with children in the form of dialogue where children's ideas and imaginations are completely engaged is one of the seminal practices that they are well known for.  The same is true for the educators in Reggio Emilia...dialogue and making meaning together, in collaboration, in encounter, in wondering together is at the center of their practice.

cad collab

Recently, our sister-in-law, Kathy Cadwell, received a Rowland Fellowship to study Socratic Dialogue and how to use this way of teaching and learning as the foundation of her teaching and her students' learning in learning history.  A film was just produced about her work and her students' work that features a class she taught last spring at Harwood Union High School as they engage more and more skillfully in the practice of dialogue with the classroom in a circle of chairs.  You can view this inspiring short film here.  You can also visit her website to learn more about student driven inquiry.

Last weekend I was visiting my sister in Minneapolis and read a heartwarming article in the Star Tribune Sunday paper about the mayor of St. Cloud, Minnesota, Dave Kleis, who invites a diverse group of citizens to his home every week to share a meal of chili that he makes and pays for out of his own pocket. He wants to encourage conversation and a place to feel at home for a group of people who have never met before but live in the same city.

cad collab

And just before I went to Minnesota, dear friends, John and Rita Elder hosted a morning renga session for 9 of us at their home in Bristol with tea and muffins. Renga is a practice of collaborative haiku, spoken rather than written, of short phrases of images, seasonal references, without personal pronouns.  Here are a few snippets from that morning.

Darkened white streetlamp light

awaiting night.

Circle of the year,

circle of our lives—


Circle of muffins gets eclipsed,

carrot, coconut, raisins—

morning glory.

Here's to circles of dialogue, learning, friendship, wondering and making meaning together of our life on earth...where everyone and everything is included. Nothing is left out.

cad collab

I Need you to Write the Curriculum for a Reggio School...


I need you to write the curriculum for a Reggio Inspired school. That was the request by a good friend and colleague, an architect who is charged with designing a new early childhood center where the benefactor/founder wants it to be Reggio Inspired.

We have requests that are similar to this one from time to time.  For example, this blog in a response to an email query addresses how to start to make learning visible, and this one explores how to compose student work in a book form for a public audience.

My written response to the request to write a curriculum for the Reggio approach follows:


Let’s be clear that there is no “written curriculum” to be followed for “The Reggio approach;” though there are: architectural patterns for setting up aesthetically pleasing learning environments, lists of highly recommended materials and their organization, ways to integrate different disciplines, the 3 R’s and all the others including all the arts in skilled and inventive ways, methods for developing authentic and meaningful experiences that generate deep learning, mediums for documentation and assessment of learning in ways that make the learning visible, protocols for collaboration between teachers that results in evolved and advanced practice.

In fact, this way of teaching is a paradigm shift…something completely different than what most of us have experienced as the norm. It’s a bit like the difference between jazz and classical music…while both require fundamental knowledge of the instruments and the ability to read music, jazz has only a skeletal outline, a melody (not a complete score) that is an open “provocation” for each player to innovate…and much of the innovation is inspired by each player’s attuned listening to the others in the group.


All that said, can teachers learn to teach using the Reggio approach? Absolutely, but in our experience it requires systemic changes in thinking and ways of doing.

First: hire teachers who believe in their hearts that this is the right approach. Before their interviews require them to read The Hundred Languages of Children, and Bringing Reggio Emilia Home. In the interview, ask open ended questions like: What in all this makes sense to you?; and What do you wonder about? From their answers you’ll know which ones are really “on the bus.”

Second: with the new teachers, convene a series of collaborative discussions around shared readings…to develop thinking about and context for the work of creating a classroom and a school community.

Third: set up the classrooms and common spaces with well organized, beautiful materials, in aesthetically pleasing ways.

Fourth: plan/outline/map a series of authentic and meaningful experiences…”provocations”…and prepare to listen to the children and to document their thinking.

Fifth: schedule regular meetings of teacher teams for collaborative reflection on the dynamics of the classrooms, the specific experiences recorded, the composition of documentation of the experience (making the learning visible), and ideas for next experiences.


Sixth: schedule learning experiences for the teachers throughout the year.

This is clearly a simplified and synthesized outline of how to think about a curriculum inspired by the work in Reggio Emilia in a new and transformed way.  To launch this work is a challenge and a great journey as well as an enormous contribution to children and families and communities.  This way of thinking about and creating school honors our intelligence and creativity as human beings on the planet and creates the context for real, engaging, lasting learning for everyone. Let's do it!


*the images in this post come from archives of the St. Louis Collaborative, The College School and The Principia in St. Louis and Buckingham Browne & Nichols in Cambridge, MA.

The Arts and Community


This week we are with our grandchildren in Boston helping out while their mother and father go to work and the children’s schools are not yet in full swing. We are looking forward to this time to be with them for two full weeks of adventures! A few weeks ago we posted some images in gratitude for trips, hikes, family and friends, gardens in our backyard and views of the sea and lakes after long upward climbs.  Now, as summer comes regrettably to an close, we continue to reflect on the many blessings of this bountiful and beautiful season.

In this post, we want to take a moment to think about the importance of friends gathering and celebrating the arts.  One of our friends, Anni Mackay, owns two galleries in two different small Vermont towns, both called Big Town Gallery.  We enjoyed splendid occasions this summer orchestrated by Anni and Big Town Gallery…several openings, and dinners, and celebrations of books and cooking.  It is inspiring the way Anni reaches out to her communities and creates occasions to honor the arts, to present beautiful food and the chance to mingle and talk with other community members and friends in a setting surrounded by the best of what human beings create.


One evening, Anni suggested that we gather for a dinner after an art opening in her tiny rectangle of open ground behind one of the galleries.  Anni has created a magical place there, where you can peek up to see the stars while surrounded by buildings, where there are long narrow picnic tables and benches and twinkling lights.  All guest brought contributions…smoked chicken, spinach and strawberry salad, bread for the French bakery next door, fruit pies.  We enjoyed a most delicious and celebratory meal.  No one wanted the evening to end.


The arts bring communities together and provide us with sustenance and inspiration.  We can follow Anni's lead in schools where we celebrate beautiful student work that contributes to the health and vibrancy of communities everywhere.  We can make schools centers of culture, innovation, beauty and connection.

Thank you, Anni, for all that you do to inspire and uplift everyone around you with the work of artists who see what is possible and strive to make it visible…and for envisioning and creating a generative, generous and beautiful world.